Thursday, June 30, 2011

Morning Scene - "And Your Little Dog, Too!"

A women's bicycle with a wicker basket on the back? Where was Elmira Gultch? I found myself wanting to rescue Toto.
This had to be a prop for a Wizard of Oz production.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Flying the Friendly Skies

On Saturday, I’ll be flying down to Texas for a week of visiting with family and friends. This flight will take me from Chicago to Houston, then on the little bitty scary airplane operated by Aero Horroroso (i.e. Colgan Air) that connects to my home town.

Flying always makes for great blog fodder. I’ve flown quite a bit over years and have some fun stories to tell. I don’t think any of them are quite like the passenger who recently decided to pee in the aisle during a flight, but some come close.

Once, I had just taken my seat when a young girl threw up right next to me. She was walking down the aisle with her parents and, blorpp! out came her lunch right there next to my aisle seat. She was probably scared about flying. I feel sorry for parents who have to go through things like that.

While waiting for a departing flight, I noticed a chipmunk crawl out from under a young woman’s sweater who was sleeping nearby. She woke up, thankfully, and put the little rodent into her carry-on. I'm almost positive it was, indeed, a chipmunk. Maybe she had a disability that required the use of an assistance-chipmunk.
One never knows.

While waiting for my plane to take off out of Houston, seated in my preferred aisle seat, the flight attendant escorted a young boy to the window seat next to me. I noticed he was crying a little bit.

However, when the plane took off, he really let loose and began wailing. I was in a quandary. How do I assist the little guy without crossing over into a stranger-offering-candy situation? (A couple of thoughtful questions seemed to calm him down.)

And I remember my very first flight. I was twenty years old and flying back to college on Southwest Airlines from San Antonio to Dallas. The student fare was nineteen dollars back then. I sat in the back where I could smoke.

Can you imagine that?
A passenger smoking a cigarette?
Next to you on an airplane?

I’d almost prefer a guy peeing in the aisle.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Noon Scene - "Taste"

Chicago's giant food-fair called "Taste of Chicago" opened today and I snapped this photo out of our office window just after the crowd flooded in.

Typically, right on schedule, Chicago is due for blistering heat in the forecast. "Taste" and "hellish temperatures" seem to go hand in hand. The idea of fighting my way through sweaty crowds to stand in a long line to get a puddle of goat curry  . . .
mmm . . . not my cuppa tea.

Here's a shot of Millennium Park where "Taste" is held.

Did you know that Millennium Park is the world's largest rooftop garden? Seriously, it is. Much of its 24 acres sits atop parking garages, streets, and railway lines.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Arts & Crafts

A have to admit that I have an aversion to “Arts & Crafts”.

I think it all started when I was with a friend of mine who wanted to “just stop by” Hobby Lobby because she wanted to make a Christmas wreath. It seemed like hree hours later and we were still in there. By that time and she had selected a Styrofoam ring and had finally moved on to the actual decorations.

I was dying to get out of there. A trip to an oral surgeon would have been less unpleasant for me. I still cringe whenever I pass by one of those places.

I remember making a bird-house-shaped thing out of a Reader’s Digest while in Vacation Bible School when I was nine. I spray-painted the finished product with orange paint and thought,

“This is . . . well. . . .

. . . stupid.”

So, yeah, the Arts & Crafts bug escapes me.

That is, until I learned how to make home-made envelopes.

My dear friend and blogger-buddy, Speck, developed a template that enables you to turn any sheet of paper into an envelope. It’s pretty ingenious and I don’t know how she came up with the formula, but here it is, step by step.

Thankfully, she also gets a thrill out of providing detailed, foolproof instructions. Thank God there are people like her in the world to make up for the people like me.

So, I made the template and am now able to turn any 11 x 8½ piece of paper into a 6½ x 4½ inch envelope.

After you make the template, here’s how it looks.

Draw around your template: (In this case, I had swiped a catering menu from Au Bon Pain.)

Cut it out

Fold it up

And you have an envelope! Isn’t that incredible???

I became a man unchained. I began turning everything into envelopes. Cereal boxes, magazine covers, book jackets, music manuscripts, maps - - everything was a potential envelope.

I refrained from ripping the Heimlich maneuver poster off the wall at work.

But isn’t this the coolest think ever? And besides, in this age of texting and emailing, how many people receive a hand-written letter in the mail these days?

I told Speck that I was still uncomfortable with the Arts & Crafts thing. She said I could call it “Office Paper Engineering.”

I like that.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Former Football Star Enables Gay Marriage

I have to admit, the moment I read David Tyree's comments about gay marriage, I had this satire piece waiting in the wings.

Here you go: (It was fun)

BUFFALO NY - Former Giant's Star Enables Gay Marriage.

Evangelical Christians across the nation are casting blame and sole responsibility on ex-Giant’s receiver, David Tyree, for New York’s  Senate passage of same-sex marriage bill due to his winning catch during the fourth quarter of Superbowl’s XLII.

Earlier in the week, the former Giant’s superstar explained that he would gladly “give up” his Superbowl win in order to see the gay marriage bill defeated.

The retired athlete took it even further last week when he said he would have traded his iconic catch and victory over the Patriots if it meant that gay marriage would be banned.

The New York gay marriage bill was passed by the Senate, 33-29, and was immediately signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in Albany.

Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcast Network attributes the passage of gay marriage in New York solely on Tyree’s shoulders: 

“The fact that this outstanding Christian athlete would have given up such a victory to see gay marriage defeated only shows that, had he not made that winning catch, we would be seeing the defeat of this abominable law being passed in the great state of New York.”

Robertson sighed and thought for a moment. 

“Clearly, the fact that this man said he’d trade his winning of the Superbowl so that gay marriage would be defeated, but went on to catch the winning pass, has indeed brought on the ability of men to have anal, matrimonial sex in this country.”

Governor Rick Perry of Texas, while speaking to a large delegation from the Fellowship Of Christian Athletes explained that, “All across this Christian state on every Friday night, millions of high school football fans offer prayers for the victory and the benevolence of God on their teams."

"While David Tyree was willing to give up a championship interception in order to thwart gay marriage . . . "

. . .The governor hesitated for a few moments, and continued,

"I feel confident that none of my constituency would prevent their sons from being anally assaulted in a state of matrimony for the sake of giving up state-division playoffs!"

Sudden cheers and a deafening applause bolted from the crowd of over twenty thousand.

Gay Pride parades are typically held on the weekend of June 29, the date of the Stonewall riots that signaled the beginning of the Gay Pride movement in 1969.

Due to David Tyree's recent statements in influencing a positive vote for gay marriage, the former Giant's star has received over eight hundred  invitations to be Master of Ceremonies in various Pride parades across the nation scheduled for June 25 and 26.

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Lunchtime Scene - Tempura Ass

I recently stopped in on a Chinese buffet for lunch near my workplace. Check out the labeling on the sneeze-shield: 

Yes, ha-ha-ha, the ten-year-old in me had to come back the next day to get a photo of it for you. 

If I was a new restaurant owner in China, I wonder how many people would be making fun of my Chinese labeling and blogging about it?

At least these folks knew to place a period when abbreviating "Assortment."
That's pretty impressive when you think about it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Morning Scene - Anticipation

Boy, these folks are sure anxious about their bus arriving. Seeing that they’re all dressed alike in navy slacks and blue shirts, my guess is that they’re all employees from an out-of-town company.

If they were from Chicago, they’d all be looking at their smart phones on the CTA Bus Tracker application. It’s a really cool application (and online service) where one can see when any bus will be arriving.

Actually looking down the street for one’s bus is SO last decade.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Ya gotta admit, the “street view” function on Google Maps is pretty amazing. Once you become adept at working it, you can find all sorts of things.

I went back and found places from my past. Some of these elicited great memories; others, not so much. Life is like that, you know.

Here’s the house we lived in back in the sixties.

I loved this house. It had a sunken living room with dark blue carpet. One of my Facebook friends from childhood knows the people that live in this house and she’s going to contact them to see if they’ll let me come over for a visit when I go down to Texas in a couple of weeks. How cool is that?

Here’s an areal view of the lake that was on our family property.

It’s pretty much dried up now, but back in the late sixties we had a boat and would actually go water skiing on this lake. Well actually, I went skiing once and it scared me to death. Imagine a shy, skinny nine-year-old flailing behind a boat at five hundred miles per hour. It was not pretty.  I remember watching Neal Armstrong walk on the moon in the house you see next to the lake, drinking this new drink called GatorAide and listening to Simon & Garfunkel a lot. My first cousin-once-removed now owns the place.

Here’s the dorm where I lived in college.

Butler Hall was the first co-ed dorm on campus; boys in one wing, girls in the other. But we shared a common lobby and laundry room which was so radical for 1978. I was an R.A. in this dorm and lived on the first floor which was partially underground, like a cave. The first floor of Butler Hall was known as “The Pharmacy”, evidencing the fact that I was quite useless as an R.A.

Here’s the house in Toronto where I lived when I was a seminarian.

Let’s just say there was a whole lotta dysfunction going on in this house and leave it at that. My room was on the tippy top on the left. See my window?

And yes, I Google-stalked my ex. He now owns a big house in a fancy neighborhood.


You see, when he broke up with me 24 years ago, his life should have spiraled downhill and he should be homeless and penniless now – not owning a house like this.

Google-stalking your ex from 24 years ago. How sad is that?

Don’t any of you dare say you haven’t done it.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

More Nostalgia

When I was a kid, my favorite toys were the ones that “did” things with a lot of mechanical movement. G.I. Joe or Lincoln Logs left me completely uninterested, but give me an electric train, Hot Wheels, or an Erector Set, and I was one happy kid.

When I was seven, one of my favorite toys was a board game called “Mousetrap.” The thing was, the board game itself was boring. The real fun was setting up the mouse trap mechanisms and watching the thing in action. You’d turn a crank which kicked a bucket which dumped a ball bearing onto a course which activated a bigger ball which fell onto a see-saw which caused a cage to tumble down to trap the mouse.

Here’s a hilarious (and accurate) video about the Mousetrap game:

Isn’t that fun? Do any of you remember the Mouse Trap game?

Like I said, I loved mechanical toys. As I thought back on the ones I liked best, I happen to remember a race car set that didn’t use electricity, but was gravity-propelled. I loved that race car set. You would shove a lever which caused a hook to propel the cars really fast up an incline. What was the name of that race car set?

After some googling, I found it!

The Johnny Lightning 500

Here’s a video of it. (They guy operates it toward the end of the short video, so you get to see it in action)

Isn’t that neat-o?

I got my Johnny Lightning when I was about ten or eleven years old.

But the next year, Johnny Lightning upped the ante and came out with some cool variations. There was one I had to have. You would propel the car down the track, it would race straight up about two feet in the air, go through two loop-the-loops and return back down to the course circuit.

Again, I couldn’t remember the name of it. A Hurricane?

Googling . . .

It was the Johnny Lightning Rocket 500 Cyclone Set

And I found it on eBay. This had to be THE coolest race track ever!

I was about twelve when I got this set. It was one thrilling toy to play with, let me tell you.

I can see why kids nowadays have an obesity problem, sitting on their butts with an X-Box the way they do. Back in my day, we actually had to crawl around on shag carpeting, retrieving toy cars that had flown off the track.

The eBay seller says it still works. Hmmmm.

Sure, I’d love to play with it again, but it’s pretty pricey. I think I’ll save my money and just enjoy the memory of being twelve again.

You can’t put a price on that.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

M Burger!

We Chicagoans are pretty lucky folk when it comes to food. Yes, we have Chicago deep dish pizza (a heavenly creation if there ever was one) and just about every other type of cuisine this world has to offer. 

But recently, we got "M Burger."

Some folks that I sing with at church choir treated me to my first M Burger after church the other day. They were amazed that I hadn't had one yet. 

Apparently, when M Burger opened in Chicago, it caught on and there were lines around the block. The thing is, there are only two MBurger establishments in Chicago and both of them are teeny-tiny places. 

So, what makes an MBurger so incredible? 

First, the meat is fresh and it's char-grilled to order. Next, it's topped with sharp cheddar. It also contains their own special sauce and (here's the clincher) slices of thick, sweet, smokey bacon. Aside from all that, the M Burger employees are always super-duper friendly. They know they're onto a good thing.

You put all that together, and you've got the M Burger experience.

I was singing for a wedding this afternoon and during the ceremony I realized I had hardly eaten anything all day. I was one hungry puppy. Then, I realized that one of the two M Burger places was on my way home. Finally, the couple said their "I do's", I shucked my choir robe and headed to ground zero of hamburger heaven. 

See? It's just an inconspicuous, tiny place.

 Once inside, there's probably only room for about eight people to sit. (I was standing by the front door when I took this photo.)

I rushed home with two M Burgers - - 
And here they are:

(Que heavenly angels singing here)

So, if you're ever in Chicago, visit the Sears Tower, go to a Cubs game, eat a deep dish pizza.
But also have yourself an M Burger.

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Friday, June 10, 2011


Have you ever longed for items from your youth? My teenage years took place in the 1970s which was a decade that saw a lot of strange fads come and go. And yes, I took part in them all. I was recently cruising on eBay and thought it would be fun to obtain some of the following items I enjoyed during the Seventies:

Pet Rock

Yes, I had a Pet Rock. Its name was Sebastian. I don’t recall whatever happened to him. Rocks stay around for millions of years which is comforting. Somewhere, somehow, I’m sure Sebastian is around.


During lunch hours on any school yard in 1972, one would hear the periodic klack, klack, klacky-klacky-klack of these ceramic-like balls on the end of strings that you’d clack back and forth. There was many an urban legend about these things shattering. Everyone knew a friend of a friend of someone who was blinded by these things.. I don’t ever recall seeing any news report about that actually happening or that they were recalled. Most likely, we just got bored with them. My brother threw mine high up in a tree where they remained for years.

Mood Ring

For about a month, we all had mood rings. For a 16 year old, it was a bona-fide way to detect if your girlfriend/boyfriend was horny.
Or not.

8-Track Tapes

Oh, the joy of slapping in that pink square of plastic into your tape deck as you roared off from the school parking lot to the wailing, screeching sounds of Led Zeppelin. And then hearing that jarring *cha-click* as it changed tracks right after Stairway to Heaven.

1976 Honda Civic

Yes, that was my first car. I loved that car. I had a blue one just like the one in the photo. Price? $3,300 brand new. That's a lot of hours working at Dairy Queen. I still have dreams that I’ve somehow kept it after all these years and am still driving it. I even installed an 8-Track tape deck in mine which blew out the electrical system.

Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill

The first alcohol I ever drank was this stuff. It was the epitome of pink bubble-gum wine. I loved it. Back in 1975, it was a dollar a bottle.
Stairway to Heaven never sounded better. . .

Sigh . . . Good Times . . .

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Monday, June 06, 2011

New Luggage

When one travels as much as I do for work, having the perfect piece of luggage can make you exceedingly happy. (And no, I don't get to travel to anyplace exciting. In two weeks, I'm off to Peoria once again.)

I often have to wear a suit during my travels, so it's necessary to have a garment bag. I bought a rolling garment bag a few years ago and got pretty thrilled over that. That is, until the telescoping handle wouldn't telescope down anymore and I couldn't take it on airplanes.

I'm a guy, so I don't need much in the way of luggage. A suit, a pair of cargo pants, couple of shirts, socks. I've been known to stuff clean underpants in my laptop case.

So, the garment bag was a bit "much". What to do?

A friend of mine called me with the solution. (She was as excited as I am now.)

Lookie here at my new piece of luggage.

First of all, it will fit on the airplane as a carry-on. That's nice.

Next, it's a pretty color of blue. That's a HUGE prerequisite for me with just about everything I own. It has to be blue.

See? It opens up and has lots of room and pockets for things.

No more underpants popping out of my laptop case during presentations in Springfield.

But wait! Are you ready for this?

The inner lining of the top is also a garment bag!
Oh. My. GOD!

My suit fits perfectly.

And it is expandable, so you can fit lots more stuff in there. A small child, perhaps.

If you want one of these (they also come in black) you can order it here from Amazon.

For those of you who know me, you know I can't stand having anything superfluous in my apartment. I'm the opposite of a hoarder. So, my old garment bag and my carry-on have already been placed in the stairwell of my apartment building.

The maintenance guy will take them away if someone else doesn't.

Man, I can't wait for my trip to Peoria now!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

You Just Never Know . . .

My morning got off to a rough start. I had trouble sleeping the night before which caused be to wake up groggy and grouchy. My hair looked like a sea creature striking a defensive posture.

I ambled into work and trudged into the break room with my coffee cup only to find that someone had drunk the last of the coffee and didn’t bother to make anymore. That meant that I had to make a pot of coffee!

Oh, the humanity!

I initiated the launch sequence of the coffee maker, left my coffee mug on the counter by the machine and returned to my office to check my emails. When I returned for my fresh cup of coffee, my coffee mug was gone! It was my favoritest mug. (It was big and had a pretty blue interior.) I had paid ten dollars for it at Starbucks and someone had taken it!

I was really upset. There are about three dozen bastard mugs in the cupboard, but someone wanted mine and took it. I had to use one of the smaller, non-blue coffee mugs.


I started to email an all-points bulletin labeled “High Importance” to “All Staff” about my mug, but restrained myself.

Later in the day, I went back to make my daily mug of jasmine green tea and noticed that someone had left the dishwasher open. (The nerve of these people!)

As I went to slam it shut, there was my mug in the dishwasher – placed right where a dirty mug left on a countertop should have been placed.

I’m sure whoever took the time to place it there did so, begrudgingly, thinking that one of their co-workers was an inconsiderate slob.

It just goes to show – prejudging a situation is seldom accurate or productive.

Anyway, I’ve got my beloved coffee mug back.  Life can continue.