Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sick of Banquet Chicken

I've been away at business conferences for five days now. If I see one more boneless, skinless, banquet-style chicken breast, I'm going to shriek.

I knew I'd be eating on the road this week and have banquet chicken shoved at me all week. At one of the banquets, we were given the option of having a vegetarian or vegan meal. So, I opted for the vegan meal, mainly for some variety and out of curiosity -- I wanted to see what they came up with.

I was pleasantly surprised. It was the normal side of steamed veggies, but the entree was a pretty decent vegetable curry over brown rice. Fresh fruit was the dessert instead of the ubiquitous cheesecake-cum-blueberry topping.

Other than that, I've had boneless, skinless chicken breasts coming out of my ears. I've attended a total of eleven presentations. If I'm presented with one more person to "network" with, I think I might throw a fresh fruit medley in their face.

I've got one more function here in Springfield on Friday afternoon and then I can go HOME.

My metaphorical ruby slippers are clicking together right now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Winkel, Illinois

This afternoon, I drove from Peoria down to Springfield. It’s about an hour’s drive, south.

I had planned a little excursion along the way.

You see, I live in Chicago which is the third largest city in the country. Also, I live right in the middle of downtown Chicago which has just about the densest population in the country.

So, I thought that a really unique thing to do would be to visit the smallest, most remote, town that I could find in Illinois.

I looked on the map and found none other than Winkel, Illinois. It was at the end of an un-numbered road that was off another small road that was off another small road off of Interstate 155.

I had to visit Winkel, Illinois. Had to.

I followed the roads along the map, went through a small town, turned off onto another road that undulated across dried cornfields and turned onto a smaller road. . .

. . . and, finally, there was a little sign that said Winkel Road.

But there was no Winkel that I could see. Only a couple of houses, which, I suppose, was all that's left of Winkel.

Not wanting to take a photo of someone’s house, I stopped the car, got out and snapped a photo of this little barn in Winkel, Illinois.

Where I live in downtown Chicago, there is the constant noise of the city; sirens going by, car horns honking, the EL rumbling across the bridge.

The silence in Winkel was astounding. The dried corn had been recently mowed so there wasn’t even the sound of wind blowing across the field.

I wonder what happened to Winkel.

How was it founded?
Who founded it?
How did it get its beginnings?

Does anyone long to return to Winkel, Illinois? I was reminded of that sweet movie called Trip to Bountiful. Winkel reminded me a lot of it.

It’s ironic that I live in such a stimulating environment like downtown Chicago, but was really captivated by Winkel, Illinois – a place that’s hardly even there.


Goodbye, Peoria

I'll be leaving the sweet little city of Peoria in a little while and heading down to Springfield for two days.

I'll be SO glad to be back in my own apartment after that.

While growing up in my little bitty home town in Texas, I would have been thrilled to venture to a city like Peoria. Really, I would have.

I was sixteen when I had taken my first trip to New York City as part of a theatre tour with the American Thespian Society. Of course, that was incredibly exciting for me, for I had hardly ever been outside the state of Texas at that point, much less to New York.

On the way up there (by bus) we first went to a theatre workshop at Ball State University in Muncie Indiana for some reason. The thing was, I was very excited over getting to be in Muncie Indiana.

Really. It was a big city compared to my little bitty hometown and it was also sooooo far up north compared to south Texas

I thought that maybe, someday, I'd get to live in a city up north like Muncie.

Imagine how thrilled I would have been over Peoria.

Anyway, here is one last photo. Obviously, this used to be the county courthouse. (Now the courthouse is in a sleek, modern building -- boo.)

An autumn day in downtown Peoria. . .


Morning Scene - A Room Without A View

Here is the breathtaking view from my hotel room in Peoria

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Madison Theater

Day Three in Peoria.

Actually, the more I see of downtown Peoria, the more I’m impressed with it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a town as clean and tidy as this. All the crosswalks have the squeaky-chirpy sounds to alert those with sight impairments when to cross and when not to. Toronto is the only other city I’ve seen (heard) those in.

Here is a pic of an old (abandoned?) theater called The Madison Theater in downtown Peoria. I miss these old theaters like the Madison. Nowadays, we have the huge, sterile mega-plex with lots of parking.

I can only imagine the type of things The Madison Theater has seen in its heyday.

There were probably lots of young guys making their first tentative “moves” on young ladies here back in the day when that involved just putting one’s arm across the girls’ shoulders.

I should imagine that there might have been some controversy back in 1960 when The Madison decided to show Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho when movies like that were rated "M" for mature audiences. Perhaps it even showed The Exorcist back in ’73.

I grew up with theaters like this one.

But now it stands forlorn and forgotten; a remnant of days gone by.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Morning Scene - Twin Towers in Peoria

You know me. I can't help but notice and appreciate buildings like these. These two 30-story office buildings are the tallest in Peoria.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Business Travel

It’s Sunday night. I’m traveling for work and have just arrived at my hotel in the exciting metropolis of Peoria.

Actually, I’m staying at a rather nice hotel downtown and must admit that Peoria is a pretty unique looking town. Did you know it’s the second largest city in Illinois?

Frankly, I think most business travel is a colossal waste of money. In this modern world of webinars and tele-conferencing, do we actually need face-to-face contact to accomplish the objective?

Sure, the personal touch is always nicer, but does the expense of it really justify the benefit?

If I were King of the U.S., I’d eliminate 99 percent of business travel. But my workplace is making me do this, my satellite TV at home has conked out, so at least I have TV in my hotel room. I shouldn’t complain.

Sitting here in the comfort of a hotel room, I just cannot understand why anyone would deliberately go camping.

In a hotel room, you’ve got little bitty soaps and shampoos to keep you clean. Maid service provides you with a tidy room every day. One can access adult entertainment by punching a few buttons (not that any of it probably interests me).

Why would anyone give that up by going camping? You can never get as clean as you want, meals have dirt and bugs in them and going to the bathroom takes a lot of negotiating with unforeseen forces.

To me, “camping” is when room service closes down at 11 pm or when I can’t access wireless internet. Then, I’m forced to huddle by the glow of CNN on the TV.

I’ve brought my camera, so I’ll try to provide “morning scenes” from Peoria. I’ll be here until Wednesday and then I have to go to Springfield for the rest of the week.

Oops. Room service is here with my chicken Cesar salad.

Friday, October 24, 2008


OOOoooo. I’m busy, getting ready for my exciting trip to Peoria and Springfield.

Soon, I’ll be dining on the fine cuisine of chain restaurants in the heartland. The Applebee’s in Peoria just rocks.

I make fun of these places just because I’m a snooty Chicagoan, which is precisely what people in the rest of Illinois don’t like about us.

Actually, Peoria is a pretty neat little city. There’s this huge river that runs through it (I don’t know which one it is), and you enter the city over this monster of a bridge (I don’t know the name of it). I really like big bridges, so I always look forward to that.

Oh, I found a nice photo. Here is Peoria at night:

There are lots of riverboat casinos in Peoria which folks seem to enjoy. Frankly, I just don’t “get” gambling. I can honestly say that I’ve never gambled in my whole life. Not once. So, I probably won’t be on the riverboat casino.

I joke about the food in all these chain restaurants, but I have to admit there’s one food item that I really look forward to on these trips. And that’s getting a double Whopper at Burger King. (There aren’t any Burger Kings in downtown Chicago that I know of).

I’ve finally learned how to order a double Whopper the way I like it.

You see, their Whoppers come with mayonnaise, which I like. But I also like mustard on them too but they don’t come with mustard. They have a Mustard Whopper, but that doesn’t have mayonnaise, hence the name.

I want both mustard and mayo which, apparently, causes incredible mayhem and confusion amongst the Burger King staff:

Here’s how it all went down at the drive-thru:

“I’d like a double Whopper with mustard, please. That’s all” (I always end with “that’s all” because they always try to peddle something else with it like fries or a drink “Would you like to try a Whopping Pudding with that tonight?”)

“You only want mustard on it? Nothing else?”

“No, I want mayonnaise on it too. Thanks”

“Only mustard and mayonnaise”

“No, I want everything on it too. And mustard too”

“So you want a Mustard Whopper?”

“No, a Double Whopper but with mustard. That’s all”

Only mustard?”

“No, I want everything on it. But I want mustard on it too.”

“Oh! Then that would be a double Whopper, ADD mustard.”

“Yes! Thank you.” (at that point, I want to reach in, grab her hand and put it on my nodding face like Anne Sullivan did with Helen Keller - - "Yesss!!")

“Would you like to try some fries with that tonight?. . . . “

So, apparently I enjoy a double Whopper, ADD mustard.

Also, in Springfield there’s this fantastic seafood restaurant called the Chesapeake Seafood House.

I know!

Seafood in Springfield Illinois; which is really surprising seeing that Springfield is in the middle of a state that’s in the middle of the country which is just about as far removed from the source of seafood as you can get. But it’s there.

They have a seafood platter to die for, and it’s a really nice place too. So, I’ll be there on Wednesday night. I’ve got it planned.

So, tomorrow I’ve got to pack and re-charge all my toys; the iPod, the laptop, the camera, the cell phone.

And rehearse my line for when I hit that drive-thru at the Burger King.

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Morning Scene - Illinois

The first thing I see each morning when I walk in my office is a big wall map of Illinois that shows where all my staff members are located.

Speaking of Illinois, I have to be all over it for the entire next week. From Sunday through Friday, I'll be in various Holiday Inn Expresses across the state.
Let the mayhem ensue. . .

So, next week’s “morning scenes” will be from breathtaking locales like Peoria.

Fasten your seat belts, folks.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

At the Workplace

I’m really busy at work after having been away on work-related hoo-ha for the past couple of days.

So, having spent many years in the workforce, I shall give you my quick-n-dirty rules about the workplace.

It will serve you well. . .

1. Never have more than one drink with your boss

2. Never say anything about a co-worker you wouldn’t say to their face

3. If you make a mistake, don’t cover it up; If you mess up, ‘fess up.

4. Avoid office romances (i.e. “Don’t get laid where you get paid.”)

5. When the boss says it’s “crunch time,” just walk down the corridors and hallways really fast.

Morning Scene - Balcony View

Here's the view from my balcony, looking north.
I've been away for a couple of days on bidness and it's good to be back in the noisy city.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Morning Scene - Vincent

There’s this notorious guy in Chicago named Vincent. He lives in my building and has this strange habit of always wearing these brightly colored suits.

He’s sight impaired but doesn’t use a white cane or any other assistive device. In the summer time, he likes to stand on this bridge over the Chicago River and wave to the tourist boats below while also giving a little dance.

He's even been featured on the local news.

I often see him leaving the building around the same time I do, so I thought I’d provide this snapshot of a Vincent sighting for you.

Oh, and he’s wearing a shiny pink shirt under that pea-green suit.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Raw Repast

I tried some more of my “raw food” thing this weekend.

I had a combination packet of beans – I think there were about fifteen different kinds of beans in there. I soaked them over night then pureed them with some lime juice, olive oil and macadamia nut butter. It tasted pretty good, so I stuffed it inside a red bell pepper and that’s what I had for lunch on Saturday.

I had had a flu shot the day before, which, they say gives you a touch of the flu. I don’t know what made me feel so badly and gave me so much “intestinal distress”; the raw beans or the touch of the flu, but I was not a happy camper.

So, rather than healing myself, I went out for Ethiopian food on Saturday night. If you’ve never had Ethiopian food, lets just say that it contains just about every spice known to humans. I love Ethiopian food and this place was fantastic, but it was not the most prudent move to make.

The raw beans, the spicy Ethiopian food, combined with a touch of the flu. . . .

You know those over-the-shoulder harnesses that roller coasters have these days?

My toilet could have used one of those.

Not wanting to be beaten by the raw food experiment, I decided to try another raw food recipe on Sunday.

I still had a bunch of bell peppers and a gazillion grape tomatoes, so I decided to go that route. I began slicing the little tomatoes and was going to mix them with diced zucchini, fresh basil, diced carrots and stuff that in a bell pepper. All raw.

Then, I thought, “Aw, the hell with it.”

I had a can of garbanzo beans and tumped that in with the diced veggies along with some pesto and freshly-grated parmesan cheese.

Here’s what it looked like raw. Pretty, huh?

Then, again, I thought, “Aw, the hell with it,” drizzled it with olive oil and shoved the whole thing in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Holy mother of god, this was good. Especially served over some jasmine rice.

Cooked jasmine rice.


Morning Scene - Aqua

Across the street from my workplace is the construction site for the new building called “Aqua”. This soon-to-be 87 story structure is just about the most unique building I’ve ever seen; certainly in Chicago. Each balcony has a different design, thus giving the whole structure an undulating effect.

It will be a combination of retail stores, offices and condominiums. The architect is Jeanne Gang.

Here’s what it will look like when completed.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Octogenarians Needed


Here’s a heartwarming story about this waitress, Rose Donaghey, in the Bronx, New York. She’s from Ireland and is 88 years old.

She doesn’t need to work. She does it because she enjoys it. She also draws customers to this eatery with her charm and wit.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all of us didn’t have to be employed, but worked anyway just because we enjoyed it?

My dear sweet grandmother, Budgie, worked well into her eighties. A more charming woman than Budgie would be hard to find.

She worked part time as a tour guide at a Spanish mission in my little-bitty home town in Texas. Since this mission was in a state park, she wore this cute uniform consisting of a brown skirt and official-looking beige shirt; sort of like a park ranger or something.

Budgie was a staunch Southern Baptist. Whenever she’d give a tour, she’d point at the crucifix above and announce, “You can tell that’s a Catholic cross ‘cause it’s got a Jesus on it.”

She never used a computer in her life. She had a manual typewriter on her desk at work and I still have many of her type-written letters to me.

Here’s a pic of Budgie and me, taken about ten years ago. Isn’t she adorable?

My great-grandmother, “Big Mama” lived to be 98 years old. I can still remember arriving at her house when she was well into her eighties and finding her high on a ladder in a pear tree, spraying it with insecticide; a tank of it strapped over her shoulder.

I think one of the most unique octogenarians I’ve ever known is a woman named Lucy White. She was an avid member of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (so was I) and would often visit Six Flags Over Texas in Dallas where I used to live. Her grandchildren lived there, so we’d often meet up with Lucy to ride the biggest, baddest coasters.

She always had to sit in the very front seat, arms high in the air. The woman was amazing.

Here’s a pic of her at Six Flags Over Georgia, in the front seat of course. At 88 years old!
Women like these are incredible. They’ve held families together, been through good times and bad, and have acquired staggering amounts of wisdom along the way.

Whoever is elected president, he’d be very wise to fill his cabinet with the Roses, Budgies, Big Mamas and Lucys of this world.

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Morning View - Gone

Okay, here was the morning view from my balcony a few months ago, looking northwest.

You can imagine what it looked like at night.

Here’s what it looks like now.

At least I still have the pretty view to the west. But I sure feel sorry for the folks that live on the northwest side of the building.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Morning Scene - Trump Tower

Okay, this was really taken yesterday evening, but it was such a cool shot, I couldn’t resist.

The 94-story structure of the Trump Tower is completed and is already occupied up to the 60th floor. A friend of mine is a construction engineer for the project. See that construction elevator on the side? He said he might be able to take me up there for a view from the top.
Waivers would need to be signed.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

McCain Stuns Political World -- Replaces Palin

WASILLA AK -- In a last-ditch effort to appeal to the coveted base of evangelical voters, the McCain campaign has replaced vice-presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, with that of her daughter and pregnant teen, Bristol.

“We realized that any appeal Sarah Palin had with the evangelical sector, Bristol could easily surpass,” reported McCain’s chief campaign advisor and strategist, Steve Schmidt.

“We regret making such a dramatic change at this juncture, but frankly, Bristol’s attributes far exceed those of her mother’s. At this point, we can’t afford not to capitalize on that.”

Focus on the Family President, James Dobson, was elated at the change in line-up.

“Originally, we were thrilled that McCain had chosen a hockey-mom who had decided to continue her pregnancy upon learning that her baby, Trig, had Down syndrome. However, many more of our constituents can relate to an unwed, pregnant teen like Bristol than they can with her mother,” said Dobson. "Especially those who are advocates of abstinence-only education."

“The fact that Bristol and her fiancé, Levi Johnston, won’t be completing high school makes it very easy for most evangelical households to identify with them," Dobson added.

Schmidt continued to extol the attributes of the new running mate.

“Additionally, Bristol has quite a bit more knowledge about her Russian neighbors than her mother,” he said, citing a two-page book report Bristol had completed during the 8th grade, titled The Chukchi People of the Russian Penninsilla [sic].

“Obviously, her knowledge of international affairs far exceeds that of her mother’s.”

Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcast Network was equally pleased with McCain’s choice.

“What this country needs is the fine example of a young lady like Bristol who has obviously chosen life and will soon be partaking in the marriage of one man and one woman.”

Robertson added, “Additionally, Levi will be a fine model of athleticism and manhood for our nation’s young men to admire and emulate.”

In keeping with the theme of children’s names the Palins have chosen, the young couple reportedly plans to name their baby either ‘Algebra’ or ‘Burlap’.

Upon the advice of her mother, the newly-named vice presidential running mate has also decided to refrain from any and all press interviews for the foreseeable future.

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Warmed Cockles

Okay, this story will certainly warm the cockles of your heart.

(What is a ‘cockle’ anyway?)

Anyway, this senior with Down syndrome was elected as Homecoming Queen in a small town in Texas.

I love this story.

Get out the tissues, folks.

God, I love this story. . . .

More Money!

The City of Chicago will be implementing several new implementations in order to gain more revenue in the next few weeks.

In case you’ve been living under a dead weasel recently, “revenue” has practically become non-existent these days. So, The City has decided to put the following revenue-inducing items in place.

Frankly, I’m all for them.

CTA increase:

For the past four years, one could buy these CTA “smart cards” from the Chicago Transit Authority. When you got on the train or bus, you’d just wave the CTA card across a panel, it would deduct $1.75 from your card and let you through.

When your CTA card got down below ten dollars, it would automatically add twenty dollars to it by charging your credit card. You’d never have to fiddle with cash or buy tickets from the machine. Pretty nifty.

If you didn’t have a CTA card, you had to pay $2.00 per ride rather than $1.75. Essentially, CTA card holders got a free ride on every tenth ride. It was a pretty good deal.

So, in order to raise revenue, these discounts that CTA card holders get will no longer be available. We’ll get charged the same as everybody else.

And, frankly, I’m all for it even though I use a CTA card.

It seemed that the CTA cards were somewhat “elitist,” being that one had to have a credit card in order to use a CTA card. The folks without credit cards have been shouldering 13% more of the cost compared to credit card holders for the past four years.

CTA is also raising the fare to $2.25 per ride - - a 12% increase. (A 23% increase for CTA card holders) Compare that with how much gasoline has increased recently.

Parking Fines:

Have you ever been driving around and seen a car with one of those yellow parking boots on it? Apparently, if you have more than three unpaid parking tickets, your car is subjected to being booted. Then, you have to pay something like $200 bucks to get the boot removed. Eventually, your car gets impounded if you don’t.

Well, the City is lowing this to two unpaid tickets rather than three.

If you’ve ever been blocked in by an illegally parked car, you’d be cheering on the boot putter-onners. Besides, parking illegally can be a safety hazard.
Boot ‘em, I say!

Traffic Fines:

In many of the busy intersections, there are cameras that automatically take a photo of your license plate when you run a red light. Then, a traffic fine is sent to the license plate holder.

The City will be installing a lot more of these cameras in the near future.

I know it’s kind of Big Brother-y, but again, running a red light is awfully dangerous. I’d be a lot more conscious of stopping at yellow lights if I knew I’d automatically get fined for running a red one.

Parking Taxes:

The City is going to tax the fees on parking garages. Yes, I know. We don’t like higher taxes in this country.

So, take the CTA into downtown. It’s still a heck of a deal.


Now then. If I were King of Chicago, here are a few revenue-producing ventures I would implement:

1. Enforce fines for littering on CTA trains and buses. No one wants to sit on your discarded chicken bones.

2. Theatres should figure out a way to implement a fee for anyone “saving” seats for a whole row of friends.

3. Doctors should reduce their fees - - say, $20 for every fifteen minutes they make you wait past your appointed time. (Okay, that’s revenue in MY pocket)

4. Internet providers should add a fee anytime a subscriber sends an email in all caps.

5. If a subway passenger wants to sprinkle every sentence with f-words, then they should have to pay more to ride in an R-rated car. I know that sounds prudish, but really!

. . . . I want to be King of Chicago

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Morning Scene - The Aon Center

The Aon Center used to be the second tallest building in Chicago. That is, until a month ago when it was topped out by the Trump Tower.

It’s also where I work.

Constructed in 1973, its 83 floors rise 1,136 feet tall. Its construction is very similar in design to the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Subsequently, well-choreographed fire drills are conducted. Regularly and frequently.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Ken Kream is Gone. . .

Oh my goodness. . . . I learned today that the local eatery in my little-bitty-hometown in Texas is no longer there.

This was not a Dairy Queen or Burger King or any other chain. This was the Ken-Kream in Kenedy Texas. It had been there since the 1940s and survived into the 21st century.

During the mid-60s, my younger brother and I would always get a Kiddie-Burger that contained only “meat-n-mustard”. The Kiddie-Burger was about 30 cents and we’d each get a little basket of tater-tots with it with lots of ketchup (never French fries).

We got so used to that burger with only “meat-n-mustard” that we continued to order burgers that way for years. Only, as teenagers, we’d order two of them with fries. “Just meat-n-mustard”.

The Ken-Kream also featured a unique item all their own called a Frito-lada; sort of a bastardization of enchiladas; a variation on a Frito pie theme.

They’d pile Fritos corn chips onto an oven-proof plate, pour chili con carne over it, top it with Longhorn cheddar cheese and onions, then blast it under the broiler. My dad usually got a Frito-lada and it cost a whopping 95 cents.

Years later, I’d sing Iron Butterfly‘s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and change the words to “Gimme-A- Frito-Lada”.
- - - - - Hey, it was what I grew up with.

My mom often ordered a “Sissy-Burger” at the Ken Kream. The Sissy-Burger was a regular burger with only mayo, lettuce and tomatoes; that is, no pickles, mustard or onions. Thus, a “sissy” burger.

Sometimes, we’d go to the other lesser-known hamburger place out on the highway called the Kree-Mee. Even though the Sissy-Burger was a Ken-Kream item, if you ordered a sissy-burger at the Kree-Mee, they’d know not to put pickles, mustard or onions on it.

If my brother and I were good during dinner (which we always were) we were given a nickel for a small ice cream cone afterward.

We’d plop our nickel on the counter (sometimes it would be a buffalo nickel dated in the 1930s and I remember those not being unique enough to collect – but just barely common enough to spend) and we’d watch them draw-and-swirl our little ice cream cone.
Man! Those were good.

The ice cream cones came in several sizes (soft-serve custard): 5 cents, 10 cents, 15 cents 20 cents and 25 cents. We always got a 5-cent cone. That was automatic.

For special occasions, or if we’d pitch in our own extra nickel, we’d get a 10-cent cone. Wow! That was double the size.

I don’t ever remember ever seeing a 15, 20 or 25 cent cone. Only the big high-school kids ever ordered those. To this day, I cannot even imagine how big a 25-cent ice cream cone at the Ken-Kream would have been. That’s just unimaginable.

I remember going there soon after the Kennedy assassination. Our town was spelled ‘Kenedy’ while the assassinated president had two n’s in the middle of his name instead of one. I was just learning to spell and thought that it was really strange that he spelled his name incorrectly with two n’s.

Forty years later, I stopped by the Ken-Kream back in ‘05. I don’t think they’d changed the speckled Formica on the tables in the past 50 years.

They still had the Frito-lada on the menu board. I think it was an unimaginable $4.95 by then. I forget how much the ice cream cones were. One could still get a Sissy-Burger as well.

Not surprisingly, there was a big Wal-Mart close by. . . .

So, the Ken-Kream is gone now, just like so many other privately-owned businesses.

I think I might make a Frito-Lada for dinner tonight, in honor of Ken Kream’s demise. It this day and age of financial uncertainty and penny-pinching, the Frito-lada might even be the order of the day:


Tump some Fritos Corn Chips onto an oven-proof plate

Top with chili con carne (Wolf Brand from a can is fine)

Top with shredded cheese (whatever you’ve got is fine)

Top with chopped onions. Place in a hot oven until bubbly.

Add jalapenos or salsa if you’ve got it.

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Morning Scene - Wicked

The musical, Wicked, continues to be a hit here in Chicago.

Or maybe attendance is waning.

Whatever the case, there are now these cute advertising globe-things lined up along the street on my way to work.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Morning Scene - The Unpacked Suitcase

Keep in mind that I do live alone. . .

. . . And I do enjoy a tidy apartment.

When one has a little bitty flat of 560 square feet (720 including the balcony), the least little bit of clutter does become a bit amplified.

Workout clothing strewn about, a couple of dishes left in the sink, or even some DVDs left on the Tivo makes me "grrr!" about my living space.

Don't even get me started on that old bottle of Old Spice Body shampoo in the shower that won't get thrown away. . . .

This unpacked suitcase was the one I took to Seattle and has been left on my living room floor for five days now.
(And yes, those are boxer-briefs; the underpants-hybrid of My People)



Friday, October 10, 2008

Raw Food Lunch

I’ve always been interested in all kinds of food.

Lately, I’ve been intrigued with the “Raw Food” movement. That’s where you eat only foods that are raw; no animal products of any kind.

(Sushi would not really be “raw food” since it contains fish. Also the rice is cooked).

When I first heard of raw food, I envisioned some veggie salad-head type of person, nibbling on a stalk of raw broccoli – preferably with bits of dirt clinging to the root hairs.

However, once I read some of the recipes, I was pretty intrigued with the creativity involved. After trying some of them and was even more impressed.

What really persuaded me was the fact that every raw food recipe ingredient is stuff we should be eating. Think about it. Take a hamburger for example. We know so well that beef, white bread, and mayo are known to cause distress. The only things in a hamburger that we should really be eating are the lettuce, tomatoes and onions.

Whenever I made a raw food meal, any hunger was really satisfied with just a small portion of it. After all, it’s pretty packed with lots of nutrients. If you want to pig out with a heaping portion. . . . all the better.

Can you say that with any other diet?

What raw foodies like about it is that all of the natural enzymes remain and are not destroyed by cooking. That sounds nice. But in reality, I think the acid in our tummies destroys a lot of the enzymes anyway.

But still, can any other food programs actually advocate eating more food that less?

I’ve been fiddling with my own ideas and recipes. Here is my lunch that I brought to work today. (See pic below) It’s my raw food version of lasagna.

For the “noodles,” take a zucchini, a yellow squash and a carrot and shred them with a vegetable peeler. Toss with olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice to “cook” them.

For the filling, soak black eyed peas overnight in water (in the fridge). Drain the peas and puree them in a food processor with olive oil, a few golden raisins, lime juice and a little salt. (The sweetness of the raisins takes away any of the bitter “beany” flavor of raw beans).

Use flaxseed oil if you like. Use more of it if your budget allows. It will only make the filling richer and is packed-and-pure omega-3s.

For the sauce: Soak cashews in water for a couple of hours. Reserve some of the soaking liquid. Drain and puree them in a blender with some sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, (or flaxseed oil) a few golden raisins, lemon juice, fresh basil and garlic. Add a bit of reserved liquid as needed. As it emulsifies, you really will get an incredibly rich and creamy sauce.

Assemble in layers with sauce on top.

Ta-daahhh. . .

. . . Yeah, I know.

It sort of looks like when my beagle would throw up.

But it’s really very good. And it even contains a complete protein since it has beans and nuts and is packed with omega 3s. The black-eyed pea is just about the best legume around; low in fat, packed with protein and contains more minerals than any other food source, including significant amounts of the trace element, selenium, (which we really need).

Because this recipe combines the proteins of legumes (black-eyed peas) with seeds (cashews), it results in a protein complementarity that is more complete and useable than any other animal protein. In other words, the parts are greater than the sum.

And, when you think about it, have we ever known of any primate to obtain sustenance from eating animal flesh or from sucking the milk of other species? . . .

. . . It’s Saturday.

I’ll probably have a big honkin’ Chicago style pizza delivered tonight. With anchovies.

After all, what other primates have evolved to deliver Pizzeria Uno?


Morning Scene - Chicago Fire

One of those wooden buffer-things by the State Street bridge caught fire this morning.

Who knew that the Chicago Fire Department had a fire engine boat?

Thursday, October 09, 2008


About five months ago, I came across a really good program on the local PBS station. I forget what it was, but it was really interesting; something having to do with the history of sewers in Chicago I think.

Since it was actually entertaining, of course, it was being broadcast during the annual pledge drive. Just as I was really getting into this program, the host of the pledge drive came on and began his plea for money. These breaks in the program seem to last about five hours before the really good programming resumes.

Why is it that the only time PBS broadcasts anything really good, it’s always during a pledge drive? Whenever the pledge drive isn’t going on, PBS’s normal lineup of programming consists of two-hour, four part documentaries like “Nepalese Operas of the Late-17th Century” or equally riviting, “The Formation of Dew.”

They were giving out a really cool gift if you gave a sizeable donation and I wanted it. Of course, I would have donated to PBS anyway . . . . it’s simply what My People do. We're absolutely bonkers over donating money to PBS.

Like I said, this was five months ago and guess what I received in the mail yesterday? My really cool gift.

I don’t even want it anymore now.

Speaking of PBS pledge drives, I can give you an inside scoop here.

I once volunteered to work the phones for an afternoon during one of those pledge drives. I’m sure you’ve seen it - - - the jovial host is telling you what an absolute cretin you’ll be if you don’t donate while the phones are ringing away behind him. The camera pans to the volunteers who are smiling away, answering the phones as they ring and take pledges.

Here’s the scoop - - - Have you ever seen a pledge drive where the phones weren’t ringing away? That’s because most of the phone-ringing is caused by the volunteers calling each other. We were told to do that while on camera to make it look like lots of pledges were rolling in.

Mostly, we were telling dirty jokes to each other; thus the smiles.


Morning Scene - Two Prudential Plaza

Simply titled Two Prudential Plaza, this 64 story building is 995 feet tall, making it the sixth tallest in Chicago. It’s a thoroughly modern building, yet was designed in classic skyscraper style of the early 1930s similar to the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.

Which, frankly, doesn’t quite work in my opinion.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Ten Rules

Okay, I was on a plane for a total of nine hours during this past weekend.

I have developed the following ten rules for fellow passengers.

1. If you’re a small woman who stands all of four-foot-three, you do not need to lean your seat all the way back. You just don’t. Especially if the guy behind you is six-foot-three. Have a little consideration.

2. You do not need to speak to your wife next to you in your loudest voice during the entire four hour flight. Especially if you’re an annoying redneck with a mullet speaking to your redneck wife. You just don’t. You’re annoying the entire cabin. A lot.

3. Just because you’re a guy, that doesn’t automatically give you permission to sit with your knees spread four feet apart. No one will think you’re less of a man if you sit with your knees close together. Well, they will but just get over it.

4. You don’t have to constantly gaze at what I’m doing on my laptop during the entire trip. I’m not watching porn. I’m watching back-to-back episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond. That’s it.
(Okay, that was actually me watching my seatmate’s laptop the whole time).

5. Please go pee before you get on the plane. You know that the flight attendants will have the aisles blocked with their beverage carts the moment we reach our cruising altitude. You’ll have the next three hours to pee all you want, so just hold it.

6. If your seatmate (me) has his nose in a book, that means he probably doesn’t want to visit with you. If the book is a 700-page biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, that probably means he’s a very boring person to visit with anyway. Please find something else to occupy your time.

7. When exiting the aircraft, do not suddenly halt the moment you reach the end of the gangway, causing ten passengers to tumble over you. Please proceed just a little further into the terminal before readjusting all your baggage or figuring out where you need to go.

8. The flight attendants are mainly there for our safety in the event of an emergency. Requiring more peanuts hardly constitutes a flight emergency.

9. The airplane is there to fly you from point A to point B; not to provide a fine dining experience. If you find yourself wanting to complain about food, ask yourself this question: “Can your kitchen fly?”

10. If your baby is screeching at the beginning of the flight so loud that it sounds like a psychotic pterodactyl and you’re able to quiet the little one for the rest of the four-hour flight, the airline should award you and yours with free round trip tickets. Period.

Now, please turn your attention to the flight attendants for a safety demonstration. . .

Morning Scene - The British Place

Actually, it's called "Elephant & Castle" but I can never remember the names of people, places and things. So, when Miss Healthypants asks, "Where do you want to eat tonight?" and I say "The British place," she knows I'm referring to Elephant & Castle.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


I got a call from American Express this morning at work. They were suspicious of three transactions on my credit card. Here’s why. . .

They had sent a new credit card to me recently - - you know, one with an updated expiration date. Apparently, I never got it.

But someone else did.


This person had somehow activated a PIN number on this card and took out a hundred dollar cash withdrawal from an ATM machine. They tried it again and were blocked from doing so.

Then, they filled up their gas tank. Twice.

I knew these weren’t my transactions because I ONLY use my American Express card for car rentals (It comes with car rental insurance).

The nice woman at American Express wanted to send a replacement card to me and needed my social security number for security purposes.

“I’m not comfortable giving out that information on a call that I didn’t initiate,” said I.

She understood. Actually, she thought that was pretty smart of me.

I called them back, cancelled the account and they’re sending the necessary papers for me to sign, gave documentation to me to file a police report, etc. Of course, I’m not responsible for these charges. I never even received this card, nor did I activate it.

I had other questions. What personal information did this person need in order to activate the card and assign a PIN ? Apparently, they had my social security number.

I filed a police report and relayed that info back to AmEx fraud dept. I also put a protection alert thingy on my social security number.

I have an idea how this happened.

Next to the mailboxes in my apartment building, there's a big recepticle for paper recycling. I get so much junk mail that I'm pretty haphazard about tossing everything in there. That container would be a gold mine for any maintenance worker wanting stuff like this.

More than likely, I tossed the new credit card in there.

But still, just knowing someone did this. . .


Here’s a lesson for you folks. . .

Don’t ever think this stuff can’t happen to you. Keep a close eye on your bank accounts. Online banking enables you to monitor it. Every day if you need to.

And also, don’t give out any personal information unless you initiate the call.

And be very careful about shredding your mail, especially credit card offers and any other items with identifying information.

I feel dirty and violated.

Okay, I'm going in for a Silkwood scrubdown now.

Weekend in Seattle

It goes without saying that I had a fantastic time in Seattle with Lorraine, her family and friends. There was food, incredible food. To say “that woman knows how to cook” would be the biggest understatement ever.

I was truly honored to partake in her annual Autumn Feast on Saturday night. To say that the food was incredible would be the biggest understatement ever.

However, the best part was getting to shop for everything with Lorraine and cook with her in her kitchen. Cooking with Lorraine has got to be one of my favoritest things to do.

I arrived on Friday evening. Lorraine met me at the airport after coming straight from work. She looked all corporate-y in her work attire. Hugs and kisses were exchanged.

The Child was at her first high school dance which is exactly where a high school freshman should be on a Friday night. She arrived later that night and I was shocked to see how much she had grown! That kid is definitely going to be breaking the hearts of many a high school boy.

Next day, Lorraine and I spent about five hours shopping for her Feast. While we were shopping at Pike’s Place Market (which Seattleites simply call “The Market”) there was a panhandler who had this fat little guy with him:

His name was Tubby and if you look closely, you’ll see that he is actually sporting two sweaters. The one underneath was argyle. So cute.

Of course, I had to get a couple dozen oysters from a vendor there. A very nice wine merchant (who Lorraine knew) made some wine suggestions for our meal. Fresh flowers were procured.

And then we got to cooking. As I was helping with this-and-that, doing sous-chef things, The Spouse gave me the title of “Kitchen Bitch”; a moniker I was proud and happy to accept.

The guests began to arrive. Tim and John, as per tradition, always bring an appetizer. They arrived with a gorgeous mushroom tart to be enjoyed with a fine bottle of fino (a dry sherry). Here is a lovely photo of Lorraine, enjoying her fino while she puts the final touches on dinner; sauteeing the butternut squash gnocchi in butter:

I took photos of the dinner which I just emailed to Lorraine. I’ll let her tell you about the dinner. Needless to say, it was incredible. I never knew there could be that many astounding food items in one meal.

While I was there, Lorraine turned me onto the Wii game called Guitar Hero which I pretty much sucked at. She can play a mean Barracuda on Guitar Hero, let me tell you. Here’s a photo of her and The Child in action.

We went to Mass at the cathedral downtown. The Neighbor sings in the 80-voice choir there and the music is heavenly. I love going to church there. We had brunch at a neighborhood place called Saffron. Of course, I had eggs with salmon. When in Rome. . .

Sunday afternoon was a good time for naps for the adults, then more Guitar Hero and three rounds of Speed Scrabble.

Sunday night, we had The Neighbor over for another wonderful meal. More hugs and kisses were exchanged. I just adore The Neighbor. A more gracious woman on this earth would be difficult to find.

Lorraine made her salmon which is cooked on hot plates served with a chipotle cream sauce.

And the oysters were featured. I had bought two dozen sweet little oysters at The Market.

The Child tried her first raw oyster and actually liked it. That's pretty impressive.
I had later found some huge honkers at another fish market so I bough a dozen of those too.

See how big they are? I didn’t know oysters came that big.
The big oysters were really too big to eat raw, but we tried one tried anyway.

The Spouse fried them up and they were delish. Fried oysters are, hands down, my favorite food item.

I flew back to Chicago yesterday morning. It was a little bit sad because I really love being in Seattle with these lovely people.

I miss being a Kitchen Bitch.

It’s good to know one can have friends like that.

Morning Scene - The Post Party

Every morning when I cross the Chicago River, I notice that there are always several sea gulls just sitting on this post in the water. I don't know why they prefer this spot.

I call it having a "post party."

Friday, October 03, 2008

Morning Scene - A Fire Escape

When I was a little kid, I was sort of obsessed with these types of fire escapes. Whenever we’d go to the Big City (San Antonio), I’d just oooooh and aaaaah whenever I’d see one of these contraptions on the side of a building.
I would have loved this one.

I have no idea why I was so “into” fire escapes. I was sort of a weird kid.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I'm Leavin' on a Jet Plane. . .

. . . tomorrow afternoon.

Tomorrow (Friday) I’ll be in misty, moisty Seattle visiting Lorraine and her lovely family and friends.

(Does a happy dance)

This means that I have a million things to do tonight which I’ve put off until now.

By a “million” I mean “five”.

1. Get a haircut so that I don’t arrive looking slovenly. Airplane-hair is bad enough in itself.

2. Do laundry so that I have clean underpants. Those high-falutin’ Seattle folks probably wear clean underpants.

3. Get my prescription refilled so I don’t, . . . well, . . . die on them.

4. Pack my just-laundered underpants.

5. Most importantly, download new music for my iPod. It’s a four-hour flight and I need all the distraction I can get.

Don't Text Me

For a guy whose in his late forties, I’ve kept up pretty well with technology.

I update my cell phone every two years. I need high-speed internet. I do all my banking online. I’m the go-to guy for Mom and Dad’s computer questions.

But one thing I don’t think I’ll ever understand is texting.

I mean, it’s just so inefficient.

For example, I took a typing class when I was a freshman in high school. Mind you, this was back in the day when we didn’t even have electric typewriters in the classroom, much less a computer keyboard.

The letter “Q” hadn’t even been invented yet.
The word for “fire” was ‘ga’.

We had these huge, ancient Royal typewriters from the 1940s to learn on. The pic here is exactly the same model we used. Can you believe that?

Every day, we were subjected to a five minute speed-typing test and we’d work so incredibly hard to get our typing speed up. I remember when I finally got up to 80 words per minute, which, let me tell you was quite a feat on these old clunkers.

So, I just don’t understand why so many (young) people use texting. It takes three keystrokes just to input one letter. Heaven help you if you want to use the % symbol or proper punctuation.

I know these kids can text much faster than I, but still, they might manage ten words per minute at best. And most of these are "R U 2"

We speak at 225 words per minute. That is, unless you're from the South like me, then it's about half that. If you're from Wisconsin like Miss Healthypants, then it's more like 5000 wpm which causes me to end up saying "Whaaaat?" every other sentence.

225 wpm is twenty times faster than the best texter. Doesn’t it make sense to pick up the phone and just call someone or at least leave a voice message?

When I was home visiting family in Texas recently, I noticed that my 20-year-old first-cousin-once-removed was texting her dad. I saw this as an opportunity to find out about this mystery and asked her why she didn’t just call him.

She said she really didn’t feel like talking to him.

I can understand that. I love using email at work, especially since I really don’t want to actually speak with anyone unless I have to.

But remember, I broke the 80 wpm sound barrier on a pre-historic typewriter. I’m probably buzzing along here at 120 wpm on a computer keyboard. However, I can probably manage only 2 words per minute texting from a cell phone.

Also, with texting, you don’t really know if the person actually received the communication. I barely know how to even read a text I’ve received, much less compose and send one. I’m sure I’ve received messages that I’ve never even read.

If anyone can tell me what the appeal is with texting, I’d love to hear it.

But for now, I just don’t get it.

Morning Scene - The Pee Stand

On the way to work every day, I’d notice this newspaper stand that said “PEE” on it in big white letters. I never paid much attention to it, just thinking it was a foreign publication like from Thailand or the Philippines.

Finally, I noticed what the real deal was.

Here’s the other side of the newspaper stand. Someone with a juvenile mind thought they were being clever.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Here’s an interesting tidbit for you. . . .

Have you ever cooked rice in a rice cooker and come across that brown, somewhat toasted rice at the bottom of the pot?

Well, in Korea, people love that crusty, toasted rice stuff. As a matter of fact, they’ve even got it as a flavor of ice cream.

But in Japan, it’s highly undesirable.
They don’t like it at all.
It’s called “okoge”.

Strangely enough, “okoge” is also the word for a woman who spends lots of time with gay men.

That would be like us engaging in the following dialog over the phone:

"I can't get this okoge out!"

"Use some Comet on it."

"On Miss Healthypants? I don't think that'll work."

"No! On your rice cooker, silly."

"I was referring to Miss Healthypants-okoge. Not rice-cooker-okoge. She won't leave!"

"Well, try some Comet anyway. . . "


Morning Scene - Marina Towers

I’m blatantly stealing this idea of posting “Morning Scene” photos from another blogger; only he lives in New York City and calls it “morning view”.

Each day, there will be a photo (taken in the morning) of something in Chicago.

I say “each day” when I really should be saying “each day when I feel like it or until I get tired of doing this.” There are some Saturdays when I don’t get up until the crack of noon.

Here is today’s Morning Scene photo. Marina Towers, or rather the towers at Marina City (where I live). I took this photo as I walked out of the building this morning and thought it was pretty cool.

Designed in 1959 and completed in 1964, they rise 61 stories, the first 20 of which are for parking. I live on the 49th floor and, fortunately, don’t face into one of the other towers.