Wednesday, December 31, 2008

We hardly knew ...

There are more than a few people here today at the Cracker Factory. It makes it feel less lonely. But with so little to do, I find myself swiveling around in my chair toward the heavily marked 2008 calendar behind me.

It was a memorable year, in terms of events in the outside world. In the personal sphere, it was a bit of a blur, going by much more quickly, in my perception, than 2007. I got a new job at the beginning of last year, we bought our house at the end of it, so a great deal of change and newness permeated things, which I think slows down one's perception of time. I also finished my first full-length play and undertook my very first marketing campaign for it.

But looking at the 2008 calendar, it seems as if it never even started or that we are still stuck in January. I have to think back much harder on what happened. … The biggest event was/is Erika's pregnancy. I also finished my second full-length play. We went on a great, long road trip to New York. And I saw a couple of Cubs games in there. But mostly it was dominated by the unremarkable routines I so often swear by, and the downside of them is that they can make large blocks of time seem quick and featureless. I remember a few months ago crossing Hubbard at State for three consecutive mornings and each time the traffic light turning yellow at exactly the halfway point of my crossing. That might sum up 2008 best for me.

The year to come, like last year, will bring unexpected and unprecedented change, as our little daughter will join us in the outside world. I have no idea what my life will be like at this time 12 months from now. I only hope it continues to include the love of my wife, a good book, a ball game here or there and my writing. Add the baby, and that's all I'll ever really need. Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

High note

Man, it's been a rough week for the arts. I just heard Freddie Hubbard passed away. I've been a Hubbard fan since college and own many of the records he played on. He definitely was one of the best hard/post-bop trumpeters. Serious jazzbos may not like his crossover jazz/funk work on CTI (great album covers) in the '70s, but they should never forget that he played on "Ascension" and "Free Jazz."

Tonight I'll put on my copy of Blue Note's Hubbard collection in Freddie's honor. And for those of you afterlife believers, you most definitely can be assured he will join a mind-boggling jam session in Jazz Heaven: Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Lee Morgan and Clark Terry in the trumpet section, among others.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

What's left

I knew there was something up yesterday during the ride to Green Bay when I heard that retrospective-sounding snippet about Harold Pinter. Sure enough ... But we knew he had cancer recently. Still, it makes me sad. Seeing a tiny film snippet of "The Birthday Party" more than seven years ago made me want to be a playwright. His work has been a part of my life since then and will continue to be. If I'm being brief here, it's only because I believe he now joins the ages, and his work stands as a kind of symbol of his immortality … and my appreciation of it is too personal for this space.

Today my mother showed me my baby book, which I've seen before but not in a long time. I was struck by how she so thoroughly filled it up to its designated limits (six years old) and how some of her personal feelings slipped into it. I thought a baby book would be more a piece of family propaganda, only focusing on positives. But my mother let her worry and sadness creep into it, and now that I notice that, I'm grateful. The fact that she chose to express herself in this mass-produced blank book using all the space that was alloted is some kind of testament to how we, of the common population, are only afforded so much time and room to do anything. This isn't a sociological, political or psychological exercise I'm admiring. I just admire her thoroughness in the face of time's passing and the world's indifference. If you can't take a minute to record what your child has done, what's really the point of anything you're going to do? I will follow her example.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

H-Hour

A lull in the snow. I hope if holds up for the next 1.5 hours. I bought a frozen pizza to eat when I get home. I will then wrap more presents.

Pushin' too hard

It looks like another snowglobe in the Loop today. I think we're all getting a bit sick of the winter. If we can hang in there, the weather people are saying things will warm up above freezing Friday and get sunny beginning Sunday. Erika is out there driving on the streets. I really hope this eases up. We all could use a break.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Old grudges are the best grudges

The Vikings did in fact lose the game, so tomorrow night's Bears-Packers match takes on significance beyond the usual (somewhat faded) rivalry. I'll give you two reasons to remember why you hate the Packers and a bonus link to raise your anger level even further. Never forget any of this.

One

Two

Three

Siberian League dispatches

I think it probably was two years ago I was sitting somewhere, at home or maybe at a restaurant, sipping a 10% alcohol brew and lamenting a little that such cold weather warmers were wasted on Chicagoans because of the recent string of wimpy winters. I probably was wishing it were five below zero so I could get the "correct" experience. Well, folks, sometimes the universe listens. This cutting, brutal cold has me crying out for one of those 2006 45-degree Decembers, when people used to say "It was so much colder when I was a kid." Screw that noise.

A good furnace and plastic on the front windows can only do so much in this situation, and living in a hundred-year-old house doesn't help. At least I've got some quality NFL action to occupy me. Nice. Tarvaris Jackson just lost the snap and scrambled backwards 15 yards before three Falcons fell on him. The Bears might have a shot at the playoffs after all.

In other sports news … Well, really this is old news because I was eliminated from my fantasy playoffs two weeks ago. I thought the triple-barreled attack of Peterson, Jones and Cutler would carry me to glory. Ah, well. My brother, who is leading big in the title game today, warned me about fantasy first rounds. Sure enough, that's where I got bounced. Terry is en route to his second straight championship. His acumen frightens me. (He benched Peyton Manning this week in favor of Matt Cassel and was right.) He's a cold, calculating manager, kind of like the Bill Belichick to my, hmm, Jim Mora Jr.? … Yes, I think it's time to end this post. Stay warm.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wuzinnaname

At Thanksgiving my father confided that he wished he had my youngest brother's name. It was a bit of a shock. I never knew he was unhappy about this, and it left me feeling a little sorry for him. He actually goes by his middle name, which was used to differentiate him from my grandfather.

By contrast, aside from some teasing I got in the '80s for my last name — which thankfully faded with time like most bits of pop culture (and no, my name is not Erasmus Thighmaster) — I've been 100% happy with my own moniker. I have one of those names that, for some reason, people like to address me by in full. Perhaps it's a pleasing or striking group of tones — or maybe it just sounds funny or ponderous or businesslike. I don't mind. I feel like I've been given a winner, truth be told.

Soon Erika and I must give someone else a name, and I want to avoid creating any resentment like my father's. We have our list; we've even tried it out, week to week, with the baby. At this point, we're going to whittle it down to our three favorites, and then, well, I suppose it's that greatest test of any name: What does the baby "look" like when it's born? Does any baby ever really look like a name? Maybe they do. I only hope she'll like it. And we will do our best to not stack the deck against her with an esoteric choice.

Byzantia Thighmaster may have to wait.

The natives called it "Wind That Howls Through Glass Bus Stop Enclosures"

All the buildup over the coming super storm naturally has left me skeptical, like most two-bit blog writers. But though a similar warning went by without incident two weeks ago, there is no reason this one won't deliver. The best-case scenario would be that the storm would miss us. Second-best would be that it hits, but it's not so bad. Third-best would be that it hits hard, but we get to leave early and not come to work tomorrow. I'm crossing my fingers for this last one, though I don't know if Chicago could take two crippling rush-hour snowstorms in the same week. It's starting to feel a little like Buffalo, except with way more cars and angrier people. I think there's a potential chamber of commerce ad campaign here, but I'm not sure for which city.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wranglers

Thank you, oh lord, for the sun today. And thank you, Cracker Factory, for the free pizza. Gino's East always puts me in a good mood, and frankly I needed the blood sugar boost. I'm ready to tackle the rest of my day (or at least chop block it). Erika brought our car to be fixed and is mopping up Xmas shopping. She took a well-deserved day off.

For me, the funk may be lifting. I don't know if I believe everything happens for a reason, but if I can borrow from our French friends, I try to put reason into the things that happen to me. Sometimes you need a kind word. (Really, you always need a kind word.) And sometimes you need time to put things in perspective. I think I'm getting there.

If I get upset from time to time, it's only because I care. Without caring, what is there? We all experience how that care intersects with the rest of the world, and it is not always congruous. My only promise to you, Woundup reader, is that I won't become cynical. I enjoy having a smile on my face, if it's only just in my head.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We can't win, no way

I don't want to rehash all the details, only because they would fill me with exhaustion and rage. Erika should be the one who's mad. She spent five hours between leaving work and getting to our front door after a flat tire and a bad spare tire followed. The streets were in horrible, horrible condition.

It's turned into one of those weeks for many reasons, but that's why god invented Black Flag. When you feel like the world and its many inhabitants are a load of shit, just turn those Greg Ginn solos all the way up.

I guess I'd better go to bed. They teased us at work, implying we might get the day off tomorrow if the snow continues to accumulate. I'm not getting my hopes up. This all makes me want to live in a cabin next to the lake. Not Lake Michigan, either.

Blurf

Forgive me if I forsake my Northern and Eastern European ancestry, but this is a definite work-from-home day. Of course, I had to go to the office, and now the flurries are swirling between our building and Trump's tower like pieces of white lucite in a snowglobe. At least the management company provided a free breakfast this morning. That takes the edge off. And there's a rumor we might get out a little early to beat the snow that all meteorologists are predicting will hit the city after noon. December has already been a bitch, and it's technically not even winter yet. I fear if this cold, dark weather stretches over the next two months, we'll be reenacting the birth sequence from "Eskimo" at the hospital in February.

This weather really makes me want to drink, and I think I had a touch too much red wine last night, which Erika permitted me after I started whining. Well, tonight it's going to be NA beer and probably a shovel session at some point. Man, sometimes I wish it were 2004 again, if just for the global warming.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday grab-bag

My desktop thermometer says 6 degrees outside this morning. The wind-chill made it feel a lot colder an hour ago as I made my way west down Armitage toward Kimball. There was a cutting breeze, and my eyes started to water as I neared the Mexican bakery. I felt like I didn't want to go on. But I went on. Metaphors r Us.

We're approaching the holidays, as well as the baby-advice-giving days. The reality of the situation is sinking in for everyone, and the old mothers and grandmothers are starting to polish their admonishments and out-dated advice. The Internet has done wonders for parental nagging. I'm going to keep a smile on my face. I promise.

I'm proud that the Iraqi shoe-throwing journalist is of my generation. That might be the most significant public thing our generation has done so far. (We've got a lot of years to go.) It's certainly one of the ballsiest moves of all time, as our president commands the strongest, most technologically advanced army in human history, as well as a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons. I wondered aloud to Erika a few weeks ago whether or not we'll all start to feel nostalgia for ol' Bush as the years go on, as we might associate him with a certain time in our lives, and our view of him will soften. But this incident reminds me that thousands of people on both sides have needlessly died because of the events he set in motion. I must never forget that.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Coming and going

Oh, baby. I own all of this stuff in individual editions, but man does it look good all in one place. Who would buy this? Me. I'm sure there are others out there. Erika, please don't get me this for Xmas. I just want to ogle it a little. It's also fucking expensive. Where does that money go — gravestone polish? I have a picture of the gravestone. He's in the same cemetery as JP Sartre and Baudelaire. I should post it some day.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Kinda Town continuum

Well, the new president today said he and his aides did not discuss his empty Senate seat with our governor, though the NYT story mentioned that his campaign manager said in late November that he had done just that. The Trib also noted that new chief of staff and long-time Dem apparatchik Rahm Emanuel was not at the "We didn't do anything" press conference today. He's had past ties to Rod Blagojevich.

If I'm being snide, forgive me, but it would be a huge disappointment if this went any deeper with the new administration. My guess is Barack Obama will pull away with maybe just a few specks of mud and perhaps light a couple of aides, who would be forced to resign for shenanigans in a worst-case scenario. I don't think they'll touch the man himself.

It's just a shame that the local merry-go-round of corruption pseud-news (does the excessive coverage ever really solve the problem?) has now become what the rest of the country is following. The NYT and Trib main sites are nearly identical at the moment. Obama and his campaign did a good job of tamping down his connections to the Chicago political machine (Blago is just a machine creation in Springfield) — though that's also due to the McCain campaign. Perhaps they thought the Rezko link was too weak or too small potatoes ("Chicago Corruption" is kind of like a carnival ride now, which no one takes seriously) or perhaps they just didn't take the time to understand it. But a situation like this begs the question of just how deep and complex the ties are.

Blago is the X-factor: what he knows and what he will reveal. If he's gone mad, as some people are suggesting, he might spill the beans as an act of revenge. Wouldn't he have done it by now? Maybe. Would he take down others with him? Who knows. Would it hurt Obama greatly if there was in fact some kind of back-room deal between the two camps? Well, Bill Clinton survived a lot worse.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Nutso Town

This has been one of the craziest years I've lived through, between the economy, politics, culture and sports. And it seems Chicago more and more is taking the crown as the capital of insanity as 2008 closes. First the Trib goes bankrupt (perhaps using the recession as a cover to come clean about older debts) and now our governor gets arrested for essentially trying to sell Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat and wheeling and dealing for the Chicago Cubs (a Trib property). Despite existing intense scrutiny from the U.S. Attorney's office, Gov. Blagojevich thought it would be a good idea to continue acting illegally. (I honestly don't know how he could even walk straight with Patrick Fitzgerald so far up his ass.)

Does this mean Pat Quinn will be our governor tomorrow? Pat Quinn of the signature Pat Quinn Photo Op (c)? That would be the icing on the cake this year for our city and state.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Goodbye to all that 2.0

Tomorrow one of the last baseball links to my boyhood will move on. Greg Maddux is going to retire after 22 years in the game. I was 10 years old when he began his career with my team, the Chicago Cubs, and I will always associate him with the improbable playoff run of '89. It was perhaps the team's most boneheaded move (even more so than the Lou Brock trade) to let him go after the '92 season when he won his first Cy Young award. He would go on to win three more and serve as a pillar of the Atlanta Braves powerhouse of the '90s, which reached its peak with a World Series victory in '95. Following Maddux's departure, the Cubs floundered through the decade, with only a flash-in-the-pan boost from Sammy Sosa and Kerry Wood in '98.

I don't agonize over what could have been had my team kept one of the greatest control pitchers of all time, but rather I only feel the sweet sting of time's passing, as the oldest of the old guard resign themselves to their final places in the big tome of baseball's history. Yes, they are now gone, and perhaps with it the living remnants of my youngest days, but at least I'll be able to remember what they did for the game and its fans. (I'm am comforted by the fact that another old Cub, Jamie Moyer, is still playing and just helped the Phillies win a title.)

As the Cubs were losing Game 1 of this year's National League Divisional Series against the Dodgers, Joe Torre called Greg Maddux, a 355-game winner, out of the bullpen to face his old team. Great irony, certainly, but also a wonderfully strange and poetic returning that I would hope everyone in their own lives could enjoy. I don't know what Maddux will do next, but in my mind he already has joined the eternals — a Cub, always our guy.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The insider

I didn't lose my job yesterday, thankfully, but I do seem to have picked up some kind of bug — my other fear from two days ago. I'm not sure if it's flu or a cold, but I'm feeling crappy. Rats. Well, I'm not missing much outside. Right now it looks like a textbook example of winter. Instead, I'm sitting in comfort in my house shoes, with central heat and the Alabama/Florida game. I'm thankful for all of these things.

I think Erika's sleeping right now. She had to do some grueling extracurricular work that involved carting kids yesterday from the South Side to Evanston, coming home around 1 this morning, getting up at 7 and doing it all over again today.

Does it get much more interesting than this? Wait, I almost forgot to say that I'm going to reorganize our filing cabinet system. This is why I don't usually write weekend dispatches. … Well, pleasant evening to you.

Friday, December 05, 2008

TGIF

I don't mean to get melodramatic, but the boss is in the office after being out all week. Friday is the day you're most likely to get fired/laid off, perhaps because then you just go home for the weekend, and, well, at least you have the weekend to collect yourself (and not come back to the office). I would think our boss would give us some warning about upcoming cuts. One person was laid off about two months ago, and the higher-ups stressed it was a redundant position long for the chopping block. They then said they foresaw no more cuts ahead.

Today's grim unemployment news makes me wonder how much cuts on the part of companies are the result of real financial needs and how much have been because of hysteria — and whether it will affect our company/group. I recently read a columnist I trust who believes the 24/7 news cycle is overcooking the financial crisis, creating more fear and paranoia. But this job news is hard to ignore, and with a baby on the way in about two months, I'm feeling a bit nervous. Thankfully, my wife has a recession-proof job that pays her more than me and provides health insurance. (She's kept hers as an emergency backup.) I would like to think my skills and training are very marketable, but I worry what the actual market will be for them. Are there electronic tumbleweeds currently blowing through the editing/writing section of Craigslist?

Well, all I can do right now is sit tight and count off the rest of these 6.5 hours till I can go home (hopefully still employed). Then I won't have to worry again — till next Friday.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Whirling hall of knives

Seems I'm now surrounded by sick people at the Cracker Factory. Not sure what I should do — perhaps close my door. Let me do that. Okay. I need to formulate a plan: how to get out. Feeling a little off. Christ, I'm getting sick, too. I have to get out of here. I don't think these floors are very thick. I have a spoon in my bottom drawer — maybe I'll dig down to 22. Yes, I'm definitely getting sick. If I stay here another hour, I'm done for. Wait … I have a 2009 plastic, erasable wall calendar still in the box. I can wrap this around myself to fend of the germs and make a run for the door. … But I can't touch the handle because everyone's touched the handle today, including the infected people. I'm going to have to cover my hands in 20 sheets of kleenex each — that way I can open the front office doors and press the — Fuck. The down elevator button. The worst disease-harborer of them all. What am I … I know. I'm going to tape these five pencils together, so I can stand as far away as possible from the down elevator button and safely press it without using any part of my body. Then, I'll step into the elevator … But what if I breathe in germs through the air? I'll have to wrap my head in toilet paper. Yes. Then I can run through the office, my head wrapped in toilet paper, covered in a 2009 plastic wall calendar, holding five taped-together pencils, press the down elevator button, jump inside and go down to the lobby.

You'll see someone fitting this description running across the Wabash Ave. bridge in about five minutes. I'm heading straight to Maxim's Oxygen Bar on Hubbard. He has a mitochondrial reabsorbtion chamber there that you can pay for by the hour. God knows I'm going to need it.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The taped dollar

Sunday night while coming back from the hair place, I stopped at Foodsmart on Armitage, between California and Sacramento. Rain mixed with sleet had been falling all day, so I hoped to get a bag of sidewalk salt before it turned to snow (which it did later in the evening). Sure enough there was a stack of heavy, yellow salt bags right next to the newspapers up front. Lacking cash, I took $40 out of the ATM. I then brought the bag to the counter and set it down.

There was a middle-aged woman behind the register, and she was very slowly and methodically taping together a one-dollar bill down the middle with clear scotch tape. She did not look up and did not hurry herself to finish this job. If we had been in a small town, the woman most likely would've apologized, put the dollar down and rung me up. Not so in the City of Big Shoulders. I really took no offense; I was in no hurry. I paid for my bag of salt (five dollars and change) with one of the twenties from the ATM. She broke it and gave me back the difference.

This morning I looked in my wallet for a dollar to feed into the Coke machine, and I found the scotch-taped bill. Apparently I was in more of a hurry on Sunday night than I thought because I failed to notice that the woman gave it to me as part of my change. I don't know if any Coke machine will accept this dollar, and I'm even wary a convenient store like Foodsmart would refuse it. I guess you could say I got screwed twice: having to wait and getting back damaged currency. For a retail transaction, that's a impressive feat.

I console myself by saying that it's all a big give and take. … Though maybe there is no system. Or maybe you're always on the receiving end. Or maybe it's just Chicago. … Or maybe I should just forget it. … Yes, that's probably the way to go.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Living memory

I, perhaps like many readers of Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column today, was saddened by news that legendary Sports Illustrated football writer Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman was recuperating from two strokes suffered two weeks ago. King did a great job in his column of letting us younger readers know about Dr. Z's long-form print writing. Most of us under 35 only know him as the man who does SI's preseason picks of playoff and Super Bowl teams, as well as power rankings and other smaller stories on the magazine's Web site.

Dr. Z, who has covered the game since the '60s and has experiences of it from well before then, is a link to pro football's gutsier, less glamorous, less commodified past, when the game was really just a game, not an entertainment experience — and to those of us who started watching the NFL in the '80s, that past always seems like it was a lot more fun and heroic. I hope we can continue to read Dr. Z's wranglings over the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame nominees. He has strong opinions about players most of us never heard of or have forgotten. And I don't know what I'll do if he doesn't issue his annual grades of TV football announcers at season's end. Late winter will certainly be grayer and colder if it goes missing.

I, somewhat selfishly and like many others, hope Dr. Z can return to writing for SI as soon as possible. But more importantly, I just hope he can recover. I'd hate for that powerful link to the past to be extinguished.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The sorrow and the pity

What is this steaming bowl of vomit before my eyes? The Bears game, of course. I have crossed the threshold of mere anger — as my body at this point cannot handle a full-throated expression of my agony — into a kind of blackhole of fan pain, the outward signs being deep sighs, long breaths and hollow whispers. I feel like crawling into a cold hole. If they lose this one, the season is done, and we get six months of Bulls rebuilding and Cubs uncertainty. A wretched menu, for sure.

NBC has shown Adrian Peterson come off the field every single time tonight, with further shots of him staring back at his teammates while a disembodied hand squirts Gatorade into his mouth. I can't remember any player getting covered this closely. … Now there's a shot of him coming back in. Madden is twitching and salivating. … Touchdown. I hate the Vikings. I've hated them my whole life. I think I'm going to kill myself now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Men of Buffalo, heed the call

Today, my brother Matt is wending his way through the Rust Belt — probably somewhere around Toledo by now — to pay us an extended Thanksgiving visit. We're looking at upward of 20 people from both sides of the family for this year's feast at our house. Erika, naturally, will be the star of the show with her pregnant stomach. (By the way, we're calling the baby Olivia Jane this week, or O.J.)

It's always great to see Matt. I only wish we lived in the same city — he in Chicago or we in Buffalo. Well, we'll just have to make the most of the celebratory itinerary we've been handed. Yea and there will be much song and feasting — and microbrew and import beer consumption! (And cursing of the NFL Network, though I love it so.)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thoughts from the holding pen

The entire power structure that was in place when I was hired at the New Cracker Factory is gone, including the two people who interviewed me back in December 2006. I've tried to figure out why, but I don't have enough real information to come up with a satisfying answer: Either the people, who were long-time colleagues, felt it was some kind of end of an era and inspired one another to leave or all of them sensed the company was in trouble and decided to jump ship. I have a feeling it might have been a combination of both.

Our company, like many others, is facing economic uncertainty, particularly in our specific group. It's not the most reassuring thing with a baby on the way in two months, but I'm confident the brass will hang tough for us. I told myself in January 2007 that I'd start looking for a new gig in two years. That time is almost here, and I think I will stay true to my promise, more out of curiosity than necessity. (I pray it stays that way.) This job is good, but we're all kind of frozen in place. It would be nice to work somewhere with a chance to make more bread, if I may be honest. It's something I now have to think about.

Erika and I both have left jobs in the last two years that were our first real gigs out of college. We had/have an attachment to them, for better or worse, that I don't think we'll ever find in our current or future gigs. Well, I shouldn't speak for her, but I know with myself that I've begun to feel more mercenary as time has gone on. It's a liberating feeling, and it's also an empty feeling — one of temporariness and not caring. I'd like some job down the road to prove me wrong that this feeling is now permanent.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Arch Stanton

Something's definitely up in my sinuses and nasal passages today. Irritation from central heat dryness? Impending sickness? I have been blowing my nose a lot. I also feel a little fatigued, but that could be from hunger just prior to lunch. Who said the hypochondriac's life isn't exciting?

I think the computer really promotes a wandering attention span, as I'm writing this while jumping back and forth from some work work and the affairs of a tiny electronic village I'm presiding over as part of an online video game. It's time to focus. Like we used to back in the late '80s. Remember?

All signs point to sickness and its attendant dementia. It's time we made watching "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" a new Thanksgiving tradition along with drinking Bitburger beer. Case closed.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Another nordnik proclaims his love for radio

In an effort to not bow to the power of TV — though last night we notched another full hour of "Frasier" on our tube-watching axe handle … Let me start over: Erika and I don't have cable. And I don't think we're going to get it, even in anticipation of the DTV switch-over in February. (Our child will never know the joy of analog television.) It would just suck us in. Well, really it would suck me in.

Precedence exits: While Erika was taking her class near Morristown, N.J., in August, I was back at the hotel allowing toxic levels of ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN News to seep into my eyes. I shudder thinking about what could happen here at home when ESPN Classic is thrown into the mix as an obligatory part of a cable package. ("Bills-Oilers '92 playoff game? I've got nothing better to do.")

So … in light of this, I've had to feed my sports fix with radio during those hours when football contests are usually shown on pay TV. I like to think I'm the only one following the game this way outside of truck drivers, pizza delivery people, people who work in downtown parking lot shacks and shut-ins. I know that's not true, but it's a fiction that enhances the romance — that old romance of the radio.

Really, I only wrote this post to proclaim my love for Westwood One's football coverage. If you're like me and are in the same fix, you have undoubtedly become familiar with Westwood One, the nationally syndicated radio network (which I believe is an arm of CBS) that carries the Thursday/Monday night games. My week doesn't seem right now without at least a 15-minute visit with Boomer Esiason and Marv Albert on Monday night or gravelly voiced Dennis Green on Thursday.

I've been listening to Westwood One for more than five years now — over four residences and countless nights. Its existence reinforces the warming idea that somewhere, everywhere a game is on the radio for you to listen to while you unwind and forget your problems, if just for a few moments. Sometimes when you're alone, that's all you really need.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Man, an imperfect animal

Christ, I'm bored today. The last issue of the year went out last week. I have some Web site duties, but between that and my commute (detailed yesterday), there's little to pass the time. I've amused myself with Internet games, sent out some more submissions and even written in a journal to my unborn child.

At least I'm not anxious. Wait, who said that bit about anxiety and boredom? The two states of humankind. I think it was Pascal, but I'm not going to rely on the Internet to provide the answer. Well, man also is a bit of an asshole. Erika was nice enough to take me to work this morning, and I criticized her driving. This situation, I've found, moves me to criticize her driving skills more readily than any other, and I always forget this fact before going into it again. Now I'm thrashing about with guilt.

I did finish up another draft of my new play yesterday, and I've sent it to the Feedback Processing Factory. I'm confident I can wrap this whole thing up by March, April at the latest. My goal is to do it in fewer drafts than the last two, which I hope spells an improvement in my skills (and a break for my sanity).

But none of this is helping my boredom. I can't even listen to the song "Boredom" because my Sprial Scratch 7" is in Detroit. I think it's time to sleep under my desk.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

At least he was doing what he liked

I was especially careful this morning crossing the corner of Homan and Grand. I was nearly hit by a pickup truck there yesterday while trying to catch the 65 bus. This is perhaps the most pedestrian-unfriendly intersection in Chicago, with vehicles making blind turns under a Metra bridge right into the designated crosswalk. I don't think it's really meant for foot traffic, being in a kind of no-man's warehouse land between Humboldt Park and the West Side.

Whatever. I was too reckless, running out on Grand like that. I don't want to die before my child is born — particularly in such a stupid fashion. Getting killed as part of a CTA commute might make a kind of poetic sense (the system always wins), but you'll probably be viewed as an idiot as the years pass, until you become a joke in your great-grandson's stand-up routine …

"I can't say I come from a lucky family. My great-grandfather was hit by a bus."

(Now appearing Thursday at the Comedy Hovel.)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Wigs, come and gone

Flexing some fantasy muscle today. Our league is starting to shake out, and it's looking like my youngest brother and I are going to be gunning for the coveted Culpable Cup. (That's what I call it, at least.) There might be a couple other dudes in the mix, but I truly feel a hermano y hermano championship match-up is imminent.

Cold day and a cold evening. Eagles/Giants on TV. I'm in the right place. We saw old friend (and old Woundup fan) Vanessa this morning. Always good to see her. She lives in a really sweet apartment now, too. That reminds me that we were roommates six years ago when I first moved into this wonderful city of ours. I just talked to Ted, and I halted in saying I moved to NYC just prior to the great 2000 election flap to spare an old friend a reminder of the passage of time. But now I've said it anyway. Sorry, Ted.

What to close on. ... Last night Erika and I cracked open HBO's "John Adams," and I am still confused about 18th century men's wig protocol. Sometimes they wore powdered wigs, but they also seem to have worn their hair long and braided it like the powdered wigs, but then Adams was bald and wore a natural-colored wig in this style because he was bald(?), but then he also wore the long white wig of a lawyer in the English court system. Someone really needs to help me out with this, and I don't want a Wikipedia answer. I want someone who actually knows this from a history class or a fashion class or something. Please.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Day after day after day

Two hangovers in one week's time. Seeming a little more like the old days around here lately. We, like many of our ilk, were out at a bar last night watching the election returns. Erika also watched me put away four beers — which is a lot for me. I didn't get the ideal amount of sleep, either, but now I've had orange juice, Powerade, Coca Cola, orange juice again, McDonald's breakfast and water, and it seems more likely I'll be able to limp through the rest of the day. I can see my bed at the finish line.

If you were expecting more profound thoughts on the election, I can only say that my positive vibes are tempered by questions about what's going to happen next. Just how much change are we going to see? I've vacillated between feeling hopeful for true restructuring, with the progressive organization of the Democratic campaign as one early indicator, and feeling wary of a possible watering down of campaign messages when the new administration is confronted with the realities out there now. Time will tell, I guess, as it always does.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Weequeend Wrappup

November's upon us. Today is my brother Matt's birthday. I suppose it's officially time to put on one's holiday running shoes. We're going to be hosting Thanksgiving at our place, as we did in 2006, for both families. We're still not sure what will happen at Christmas.

We had fun at the beer bar watching one of Chris's bands and the two that came after. I had a little too much Robert the Bruce Scottish-style ale and paid for it on Sunday, but I don't regret a thing. Erika said the baby was moving around a bit, which could indicate a musical tendency — though what person doesn't enjoy music?

I went to a playwriting class yesterday. I don't know what to make of these things anymore. It was nice to hear a playwrights-first viewpoint on writing stage directions, working with actors, etc. So often I have heard the other side of the equation, which can be a bit of a bummer (i.e., less freedom for writers). It was supposed to be a big feel-good session, which I guess is good, but it left me feeling depressed and alone as a writer. In some strange way, I was reminded that my work is really nothing more than programming, that no one knows/remembers my name (save a few) and that my work is often interpreted as crazy by others. And after I've been reminded of this, I have to go home and continue working alone for months. What exactly am I supposed to feel good about?

Well, today is the proverbial new day. It's warm and sunny outside. I have my tea here. I'm going to eat lunch soon. And after that, I will get back to work. Last week I made some significant headway in my latest draft, and I was proud of myself for coming back to it each day and not relenting. That makes me feel good. That, I suppose, is all that should matter.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

No Xmas for John Quays

Scene from the fantasy football trenches, Week 8

Holding on to a wafer-thin lead late in Sunday's action, the Logan Square Squires looked to close out week 8 against high-powered foe Tokyo Terror. Thanks to some inspired play from back-up runner Jamal Lewis and the Colts defense, the Squires were up 90.06 to 88.52 with all combatants done for the week, save Squires (and Steelers) QB Ben Roethlisberger, playing a tough one in the real world against the New York Giants.

With the Giants leading 21-14 late in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh looked for one last miracle drive from their daring passer. (TV stats said he's lead 14 Q4 comebacks in his four-year career.) However, Ben had already thrown three interceptions — depriving me of two fantasy points each — so far, as the Giants brought constant heat at the line of scrimmage. One more pick and I'd be down two more points, losing this week's fantasy matchup.

The Giants bring more blitzes: incompletion, incompletion, incompletion. Fourth down with about a minute left. One more chance for the Steelers, and there's no doubt it's going to be a Hail Mary. A vision of Nate Washington jumping for the ball downfield surrounded by six Giants defenders flits through my head. The snap. Ben evades the blitz and throws it long. Interception. Real-life game over. I'm now down 88.06/88.52. Fantasy game over. … I think I just started bleeding out of my eyeballs.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Nostalgish

It's strange to think that a baseball stadium built in your conscious lifetime could be considered stylistically outdated (or even retro), but sure enough, watching the World Series, I've gotten the feeling that the Tampa Bay Rays' Tropicana Field is truly out of its era — though that era (the late '80s) is something I can distinctly remember.

True, parks such as Wrigley and Fenway are very out of their eras, but their old feels are a link to a past — echoed in the newer "neighborhood-style" parks of the '90s and '00s — teams want to cultivate. A purer time, so they believe. But the Trop — one of the last cookie-cutter stadiums of the '70s/'80s — is a different kind of reminder: one of lower attendances, the unsettling first decade of free agency, the mercenary nature of the DH and of general fan unfriendliness. (It's even media unfriendly, offering a high and off-center location for the center field camera.)

But when I see those blank, high pads against the backstop — an area that would now be filled with premium seating at places like PNC Park and Petco Park — I'm filled with a kind of strange nostalgia. And when Fox cuts away to full-stadium shots of the Trop, I can't help but think that it does looked outdated, though for such a long time that was what baseball looked like to me: a fixed dome, fake grass and multiple, vertiginous decks miles in the distance. Can you be nostalgic for something ugly and poorly planned? Definitely. And I'm growing to really like the Trop.

As a side note, it's very ironic that, years later, the Phillies are battling in the World Series in a fixed-dome stadium. Their last October visit had them facing the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993 at that king of '80s era baseball venues: the SkyDome.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Quiet village

You know, I never did buy the copy of "Quiet Village" like I wanted to back during the lounge/exotica revival of the '90s. I remember having a copy in my hand at a Hamtramck record store the day after we played a show in Ann Arbor in 1998, but I put it back in the bin, probably because it was a 180-gram reissue that cost $25. Ah well …

We watched "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" last night (and enjoyed it). Maybe that has me thinking about Hawaii and its dreamlike music. Also, the Cracker Factory is a bit mum today; the shifting seasons have muted my normally chattering co-workers. I felt pretty dog dang tired myself Monday night after a full slate of 50 degrees and grayness. But I think this is actually my kind of weather — I'll call it "minutes before sleep." The overcast maritime climate of Continental Europe beckons. I just have to learn French (or brush up on my German).

Some friends read the latest draft of my new play on Sunday. It turned out well, and I'm ready to kick off the next revision with their comments in mind. The pay-to-play service I've used the past two years didn't come through, even though I, yes, still paid for it. But I liked our home reading better. It was very insightful and refreshingly without the usual whining from the kitchen sink crew.

… Listen to that quiet. Just the faint hum of lights and the cycling of the building furnace. Perhaps elevators in the distance. Someone lets out a sigh down the hall … Time for a banana.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

This kind of helps, too

A tradition unlike any other.

Uncertain time-suh

Looks like I need to take my own advice, as the stress factor has gone up about 10 notches since I last posted. Let's hear that theme, shall we?

Best TV theme ever. I think we need this for the whole office today — or at least our department. I figure I've got about 1.5 to 2 hours to go before I can be at home drinking a beer and forgetting about this bullshit. Hang in there, Woundup.

Serenity now

I don't know what it is about the theme from "Taxi," but I find it very calming. With all the stuff I've read recently about in-utero communication and memory-forming, it makes me think my Mom watched the show while she was toting me around in 1976 — that or we all watched it together before my faculties fully kicked in.

That said, I find that on a stressful day, such as today, playing the "Taxi" theme in my head relaxes me quite a bit. I'd even advocate for pumping it in over the office's emergency PA system, but not everyone may enjoy the same effects I do.

It all makes me wonder what Bob James is up to right now. Probably hanging out in the Florida Keys. Cue that theme.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

(More than a few) Moments of peace

Navigating the rough waters of backed-up work: the price to pay for a three-day weekend of fun. But I've managed to keep my ship afloat and relatively dry since 9 a.m.

It's a price I'll always be willing to pay. Erika and I had a really nice time in Three Oaks. The weather was absolutely beautiful, with bright sun glinting off the area's many multicolored trees. Our little hideaway was cozy, as always, and we stocked it well with food and drink. I admit I watched a little more DirecTV than I should've (MLB playoffs, college and pro football), but Erika managed to get me out of the house for a couple of bike rides, including a 14-miler, numerous walks downtown and an evening visit to New Buffalo, where we sipped our beverages by the small harbor facing west (back toward Chicago) before adjourning to a microbar indoors to keep the friendly young bartender (a local actor and musician) company. Later, Erika stopped with her well-buzzed husband at legendary Redamak's for some cheese fries (mine) and a veggie flat-bread sandwich (hers), enjoyed greatly back at the house.

Three Oaks thrives on seasonal tourism, and it was still in full effect this past weekend, perhaps because of those beautiful leaves. We saw lots of Illinois license plates on Audis and Lexuses, as foursomes of gray-haired flatlanders cruised the farm fields, stopping at overpriced antique stores. I don't know if that will be us someday, but we do want to bring our child(ren) to this wonderful place. When the grind of dark, dreary Chicago starts getting to us, we can remind ourselves of this other world only an hour and a half away: the warm house on a quiet street and the feeling that the city isn't everything.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Procrastinatown

Finding it hard to get going this morning on my work, both professional and personal. I've had my infusions of orange juice and Pepsi. ... Perhaps this poppyseed muffin will help. ... See even the Mechanical Man, Woundup, finds it hard to push forward from time to time. ...

I wonder if the city of Akron, Ohio, has ever officially honored Devo. Like a giant bronze statue of Mark Mothersbaugh in a crib with the baby mask on. ... That would be awesome.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Don't go to southwestern Michigan

Just keep reading that subject line. Meanwhile, Erika and I will steal away to Three Oaks this Friday evening for an extended weekend of fun. I've been looking forward to it for months, and I'm going to get some very good beer at Whole Foods in anticipation.

Why am I being so secretive? Dutiful Woundup readers will be able to locate my gushing SW Mich. report from a while ago (though I won't point you in its direction now). It seems interest in our little hideaway has increased over the past year. I won't pretend this blog has contributed to that, though write-ups in the Trib and Time Out most likely have.

We only discovered the area a year and a half ago ourselves. I'm sure we look like interlopers to the long-time visitors (and all of us invaders to the locals). Such is the nature of humankind, played out year after year over centuries. I don't really need to get into all that. I only want to drink my Belgian tripel in peaceful seclusion. See you at the cottage! (Well, see me, not you.)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Quiche can't fix everything

Christ Jesus. We just found out Erika's step-father, who's been remodeling our baby's room, fell off a ladder in Palatine while helping a friend build a haunted house and broke his leg. That just sucks. Please keep John in your thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery. He's an old veteran of job site injuries, but a broken leg is still a broken leg.

Well, that really puts a damper on the rest of this Friday. To recover, I would need some Bulls preseason action. Is that going to be available? I was looking forward to killing off the last two Brooklyn Pennant Ales in the fridge, as well.

I don't really know what the weekend holds beyond paying Erika's folks a visit. Maybe a few unexpected drops of sunshine into our lives will fall. Barring that, I'll take a slice of quiche at Vella.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Oh baby

My guy Eric Asimov tackles Oktoberfest bier.

I'm picking Oktoberfest as my drinking holiday of choice over St. Patrick's Day and Cinco De Mayo. Seems like it's getting a little more buzz this year, too. You just can't beat the Germans on lager (though some U.S. craft brewers are coming close).

Monday, September 29, 2008

Oh PBS ...

Well, I really don't know where to begin about "Spain — On the Road Again." Being a fan of NYT food writer Mark Bittman, I figured I'd give it a watch when it was on WTTW last night. I liked Bittman's "The Best Recipes in the World" show. In it, he would travel to exotic locales to, say, watch someone's grandma make gniocchi. And though it wasn't a straight how-to cooking show — Bittman did flash back to his kitchen to make something once in awhile — the food was always at the forefront.

"On the Road" seems to be more about the journey: an aimless, bloated, wine-sodden journey. Bittman tools around Spain in a Mercedes convertible with superchef Mario Batali, big-time starlet Gywneth Paltrow and Spanish actress Claudia Bassols, stopping at little towns to eat local delicacies and, most importantly, sample local wine.

We're never shown how to make any of the food. I could live with that (I'm not much of a cook) if I didn't have to endure Batali's obnoxious, know-it-all posturing, Paltrow's vapidity or the general decadence of the whole thing.

American foodies like Batali and Bittman are obsessed with getting back to the source of European cuisine, the gastronomic terroire — soaking in the sun, sniffing the soil, licking the rocks, etc. But this show just makes it all look like what it really is: an update of the Ugly American tourist. Only now he's got even more money, and he's pretending to be an expert on your culture. (I wouldn't feel too bad for Spain, though — one of the Top 5 Oppressor Nations in history.)

I also was a bit creeped out by the middle-aged-dudes-hitting-on-hot-young-chicks subplot. I apologized to Erika that there wasn't sufficient young man meat to feast her eyes upon. Straight women must make due with the hoggish Batali and the husk-like Bittman.

I'm sure Batali would call me a prude, more content with "America's Test Kitchen" and NA beer, but it's just really hard to watch millionaires and their buddies get drunk and eat blood sausage for an hour. For Bittman's sake, I'll check out one more episode. There's always the chance one (or all) of them will end up in a Spanish jail.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's a girl!

We're having a girl! A girl? I wouldn't have believed it, either, after all the old wives' tales and armchair genetics we've been hearing the past few months about boys. (I just copyrighted that term, "armchair genetics," by the way, so hands off.)

Erika and I went in for the more intensive ultrasound yesterday. The equipment was pretty amazing. Our technician could measure the little bones in our daughter's arms and legs, see all the chambers of her beating heart and even look at her brain. And when we saw her little mouth move, well, that was just the best.

I grew up with two brothers and no female first cousins (no first cousins at all, actually), so this is going to be a very interesting experience for me. I'm so happy, I'm tearing a little as I write this. Our girl had her little legs over her head in a yoga pose, looking a lot like her mother. Maybe that will be the case. Nothing would make me happier than to live to 99, listening to two Erika-like people yak back and forth. =)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Week 3 reflections

I hate to be one of those people who says, "We should be 3-0," but, well, we should. The Bears frittered away strong chances to win the last two weeks, particularly today against Tampa, when Charles Tillman was called for a fighting penalty in overtime that kept the Bucs' drive alive.

The city is always happier when the Bears are winning, so it's disheartening when you come to the realization that our boys will probably turn in another 2007-, 2004-, 2002-type effort. Thankfully for the local sports fan, our baseball teams are both poised to continue their seasons in the playoffs.

And at least I've got my fantasy team — though it looks like they'll need more than a little help this week to eke out a win. Rats. Uh … how about the Cowboys/Packers Sunday night game? Ah yes, that should soothe the hurt of the Bears loss a bit — some pure football appreciation. I feel a little bad I missed last Monday's "King of All Fantasy Games," but we're still going cable-free, at least for the moment.

Where is this all leading? Well, me on the couch in a couple hours. Not a bad place to be. Enjoy yourselves on this, the rest of your Sunday, Woundup fans.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Time to wield the blade v2.0

We had Al, Suzi and Chris over for faux meatloaf last night. Great dinner. And naturally, after a couple brews and some wine — and three old rockers in the room — the conversation turned to metal. I put on some Motorhead, and Chris revealed that a former classmate now drums for King Diamond. A distinguished metal accomplishment.

I sometimes wonder if what Neil Meredith said — essentially, "once a metalhead, always a metalhead" — is true, in that my formative years of constant listenings to "Ride the Lightning" affected my tastes even to this day, be it for freaked-out free jazz or menacing absurdist drama.

I'd like to think it can't be summed up so easily. I've got a sensitive side, after all: I enjoy still life paintings, professional golf and the Modern Jazz Quartet. I even bought a "Best of America" record in 1999. I suppose if metal represents anger, dissatisfaction, frustration, then, yes, certainly that streak is there. But isn't it in everyone in some way? It's just some of us choose to express it by, say, listening to "Overkill" at top volume. Great record, by the way.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A snob concedes

We received the film version of "Look Back in Anger" somewhat accidentally, as I let our Netflix backlog of classics creep up into the top three, normally reserved for contemporary indie movies about disillusioned, balding literature professors and their damaged families. (I think we've seen about eight of these so far.)

Being a snide neo-absurdist, I've harbored a slight disdain for John Osborne for, you know, all the stock reasons. But watching "Look Back" last night, I was shocked out of my abstract stance by a work that strikingly concentrated on the here and now, without any artificial accentuation of hope or despair: a true piece of realism. And I was struck by the excellence of Osborne's writing. It really made me want to read the thing again.

As a snob, I used to scoff at this play for being what seemed like a long personal political rant tacked on to a stock love story. The film version gave it air, moving a lot of the action outside the flat and put some of Jimmy Porter's snarling in different locations that made it seem more varied and even stronger.

Is it better than a play where you don't know anyone's name or their names change or you never find out why they are where they are? I don't know. High marks have tended to go, at least in the last 60 years, to those writers who give less. But Osborne's naked, loquacious work struck me right in the heart last night. And that may be all that matters: what echoes the challenges, with equal sadness and joy, that we face in our lives.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Eagles/Cowboys: Genet takes the points

From today's "Sports Guy" column on ESPN Page 2. …

Bob: "Thanks, Bill. I'm here with Cris Collinsworth, Jerome Bettis, Tiki Barber, Dan Patrick, Keith Olbermann, Peter King, Olympic hero Michael Phelps and a homeless guy we just found on the street. Get ready for one of the most confusing, choppy and incoherent pregame shows in the history of television. Although there is some good news — we finally have enough people on this show for a complete softball team."

Cris: "Actually, Bob, you can have 10 guys on a softball team."

Bob: "Really? Then let's bring in our new humorist, he's going to do some predictable comedy segments for us, and more importantly, he's the man who finally realized Dick Ebersol's dream of spending $100 million on talent for a "Sunday Night Football" telecast when you include what Madden and Michaels are making … please welcome to the show our old friend Billy Crystal."

Billy: "Bob, I'm confused — is this a pregame show or a bar mitzvah?"

(Everyone laughs uproariously.)

Thank you, Bill Simmons, for writing what many of us were thinking: Why did "Sunday Night Football" add Dan Patrick to an already overstuffed pre/post cast? How much airtime can you possibly give him to be effective? This brings even more confusion to SNF, which boasts a staging as complex as Jean Genet's "The Screens." (I like to think the "players' table" of Cris Collinsworth, Tiki Barber and Jerome Bettis actually exists in Bob Costas' mind whenever they cut away to it, as it has kind of an inner sanctum feel being offset from the main stage and enclosed in walls of TVs.)

I know NBC is trying to capture some of the '90s DP/KO magic, but can you graft together a SportsCenter broadcast, a former players' analysis show and an Olympics-style anchor-at-the-desk thing (Costas) and call it a coherent pre-game? Guess we'll just have to see how these goofballs do this week.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tudorized

Erika and I are rapidly approaching the saturation point for Henry VIII-related historical drama, having recently plowed through all available "The Tudors" DVDs as well as "The Other Boleyn Girl." I'm not saying I've grown weary of the timeless tale of Henry Tudor, Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Mary Boleyn, Thomas Boleyn, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell and Cardinal Woolsey, but it might be time to take a break before that happens.

Some other points in British history I'd like to see recreated, for a change of pace …

• The Restoration
• The Glorious Revolution
• The reign of George I

I particularly like the last one, as the prospect of an English king who speaks only German has a high comedy factor. Get Ricky Gervais involved and you've got a hit on your hands.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

But what's the storyline?

That sullen, sunken sound in Al Michaels' voice somehow makes it all worthwhile.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Are you ready for it, the football?

I need hardly remind you that the 2008 NFL season begins tonight in the new millennium fashion with a Thursday contest: Redskins/Giants. Seems like just yesterday that the last season ended, you say? Well, it was less than seven months ago that Erika and I braved a blizzard to catch the breathtaking action of Patriots/Giants at Russ and Mary's. Yea, and the beer did flow freely. (I drank Brooklyn Lager.)

Too soon? Never, says I. Football can never come back too soon. Baseball is the king of games; hockey the prince — but football is the strongman with the army on his side. And that army is 100 divisions deep with pickup truck, Coors Light and IT equipment commercials in constant rotation from tonight till the second week of 02/09.

I've scoured a number of preseason primers, including Sports Illustrated's wonderfully exhaustive preview issue. SI's Dr. Z has the Pats besting the Eagles in Superbowl XLIII. It could happen, depending on the Eagle receiver situation. Interestingly, ESPN.com's Sports Guy, Bill Simmons didn't even have his hometown (Boston) team making it back to the big game. He went with … Jacksonville over Dallas? I don't know about that one. My pick is Dallas over San Diego. Yes, passing on the Pats is in season this season, though there's certainly no reason they couldn't win it all anyway.

Ideally, I'd be enjoying tonight's action with an Old Style tallboy and the company of old pal J. Stockton, but since he's flown the coop to New York, I'll have to fly solo … and sans booze. I'm still sick. But don't worry, our doctor phoned in an airstrike (antibiotic prescription), and that should put us on the mend. Who knows, maybe I'll have that Nyquil a little early tonight, too.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

1-800-DIAL-A-COAT

Geezus, it's cold in the Cracker Factory. I heard we hit the hottest mark of the year yesterday. You wouldn't know it today.

I can't tell if they're running the AC or if they turned it off and are piping in the cooler outside air, but I'd give just about anything for a coat or a jacket or a sweater right now. I just heated up my lunch, and I was warming my forearms over it. Wrong day to wear a short-sleeved button-up.

There are two chairs opposite my desk. Maybe I can skin them with a letter opener and use the rough fabric covers as a kind of pelt. Seems we're a little closer here today to nature's knife edge of survival than I thought. Might have to burn the Red Eye.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Class dismissed

I am hugely hooked on Beer School, a monthly-ish podcast you can get for free from the iTunes Store. Erika loaded a few of them on our 'pod for the long ride to and from NYC. The hosts, Motor and John, have a theme for each show and sample beer throughout each episode. Yes, they start to get a little off-topic as they drink, and it can be pretty funny. They're based in San Francisco and, from what I can gather, work in the IT business. Motor, who sometimes punctuates the dialogue with belches, seems like the kind of guy who's ripped his shirt off at an outdoor party after a few brews more than once in his life.

Some highlights include the guys drinking skunked Landshark beer ("Leftovers") and Motor guzzling that horrific Budweiser/clamato 22 oz thing — and loving it ("Weird"). But most of the time they just sample quality brews from around the world. If you love good beer or are curious about the whole craft beer movement, I encourage you to give it a listen.

Happy anniversary!

A year ago today, Suzi, Erika and I bought our house. We did the closing on S. Wacker, right across the street from the Old Cracker Factory, and then piled it home to do a power move in the evening. Erika found these great movers on Craigslist that ended being from Carpentersville, where her folks live.

I was a bit bent out of shape that day. I guess that's to be expected, but if I could do it over, I would try to enjoy it more. That could probably be said of just about everything in life — well, some events more than others. I'd like to think I enjoyed getting married or graduating from college when they were happening.

A year has passed that's seen us bring in tenants, plant a huge garden, host a good number of parties and do some emergency repairs. Largely, it's been mellow, and it's really starting to feel like home. In our second year, we'll add a new occupant and continue down the home improvement path. I plan on enjoying it all a little more.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Luck, karma, randomness?

Wouldn't you know it? I caught some of sort of flu-like bug, and I'm laid up at home. Felt worse yesterday. Hopefully, with continued hydration and rest, I can stave this off just in time to return to work on Tuesday. Dammit.

Until then, I think I'll fire up this amp Erika bought me for my birthday. Looks like a winner. I just had my guitar fixed at that place off the corner of Augusta and Western. The guy, Fred, did a nice job. Check him out if your axe needs some care.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Let's call it a week, Woundup

This Labor Day weekend looks to be a pleasant one: beautiful weather, faux salmon steaks, O'Doul's Amber and college football (sorry, Erika). I also plan on cutting up the two branches that fell from our diseased tree in the backyard during the near-tornado earlier this month. The way that thing has been shedding limbs, we should probably invest in our own chainsaw.

Before I head home early, I'm going to toss some submissions in the mail at the Ft. Dearborn Post Office. I haven't sent out anything in more than a month. Sadly, my first play seems to have died an ignoble death on the marketing battlefield — though I have a feeling it will rise again to fight sometime in the near future. I only hope the new play can go further. It seems to be making bigger strides so far.

Happy Labor Day, everybody!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cape Cod-style, kettle-boiled, sea-salt-encrusted ...

I went downstairs to the commissary with an intense craving for potato chips. I've returned with a packet of Deep River Snacks salt & vinegars. I see here that the company is located in Connecticut. Is there something about New England — some air of authenticity — that's supposed to make us want to pay more for chips? (I paid $1.33 for these suckers.) Maybe I'm not up on my potato chip history, but I've seen other brands that play upon the New England angle.

I've always thought more of Pennsylvania as the home of strange, "authentic" chips — albeit with a mass-produced feel. These Connecticut chips are all right, though relatively mild. I bought a packet of Herr's salt & vinegars in the Poconos, and they were most intense chips I've ever eaten. I couldn't finish the bag. Kind of wish I had them now.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Goodbye, Jim Rome

We did have fun this past birthday weekend. Now August is winding to a close, and with the first chill of autumn, feelings of a different way of life return: school days, leaves to rake, new TV shows and football.

I should note that this is the two-year anniversary of the start of my time on the night shift — a chapter in Woundup history readers may have found either compelling or annoying. Regardless, when it ended, my life changed in many ways, and I was able to break free from four-plus years of feeling bad about myself on the job. If you have any inkling to retrace what happened, you can begin here (start Aug. 28, 2006, and end Jan. 5, 2007).

Friday, August 22, 2008

Birthday Bash Blammo!!!

Happy birthday, Erika! And happy birthday, me (tomorrow)! It was meant to be — our birthdays, back to back. But I am happy Old Baby will join us in a different month, for some variety.

Tonight we're hosting a dinner party. Beforehand, as a good Catholic, I will be paying my penance for horrible car passenger behavior this morning by doing hot and painful yard work. Erika was nice enough to drive me downtown, and all I could do was bitch about cars, trucks, bikers and her party-planning skills. Woundup, you're such an asshole!

What else ... Fantasy draft. I'll be pulling my best Alvy Singer and sneaking away from the Dissent/Commentary discussion tonight for a few moments.

What was that: You want a continuous "Jeeves and Wooster" tape loop on a TV in the bathroom? You got it! Now it's really a party!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Blurf

I think that subject line says it all. I haven't slept well the last couple of nights. I suppose I'm getting used to the work schedule again after being off for a week and a half. I suppose there could be some stress thrown in there, expecting the baby, etc.

Speaking of which: Erika heard the baby's heartbeat for the first time at the doctor's today. (I was stuck at work.) The doc said it sounded particularly healthy and that the baby had started to move around, which is unusual at this point. I told Erika the baby must take after her.

There's nothing I'd like more than to go to sleep right now. Or, barring that, go home after work and coast right into bed. However, I have to run to Oak Park tonight, with writing after that. Then, THEN, I can cease my tasks — I'd say I can shut down activity in about ... eight hours. I'm already looking forward to it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Q3 is looking up

It was good to see old friends this past week; it was good to eat so much wonderful vegan food; and it was good to watch so much of ESPN First Take I think Skip Bayless' silhouette might be burned on my retinas. But it's also good to be back in the Midwest. We hit the flatlands outside of Cleveland — yes, we drove straight back in 12 hours yesterday — and something just felt right. I was thinking the other day that I've lived here nearly six years, which might be the longest of any place I've ever lived in my life. I only wish all my best friends could be here, too. There are so many people I've met in life that I would like to see on a daily basis — a side benefit of moving so much, I suppose.

I kind of viewed this East Coast trip as the crest of the wave of summer. So what's on deck for the ... uh ... roiling tidal pool of season's end? Well, we've got our birthdays coming up this weekend, some home improvement projects, time with the niece and nephew, time in the garden and in the yard, a new job for Erika, a new play to hack away at, the writing group, fantasy baseball playoffs and ... a fantasy football draft. No, that last item is not the most important to me, but I am primed for what I hope is a successful 2008 campaign — so much so that I'm going to spend the next few hours ranking NFL defenses. Sounds like a good time, right? You better believe it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Greetings from New Jersey

Hello, Woundup fans! It's been too long. Well, I don't know if I should inundate you with a blow-by-blow update, so I'll just say we're having a very nice time in New Jersey. Erika's AP English training at picturesque Drew University is going well, and I'm enjoying all the amenities of the Morristown Hyatt. (Erika got a steal of a deal on Hotwire.)

Oh, it hasn't all been sitting around the hotel room, though I have been watching an unhealthy amount of ESPN — particularly "First Take." The real reason we came out here was to see New York again — our last visit was in 2004. So far we've had smash-up vegan brunch in Ft. Greene, bowling in Williamsburg, dim sum in Chinatown and a German beer garden in the Lower East Side. It's been great to see Tim and Ted in their natural habitat. We even got to see the Viva Radio headquarters in Park Slope. And we reconnected with Jonathan and his new lady friend. Sounds like he's loving the city.

Tonight Tim is hosting a dinner party in Sunnyside, so we'll be off in a few hours for more high times with friends. We're hoping to sneak in the beach tomorrow, but that depends on the weather. In the meantime, keep Chicago clean for us, and if you could hold onto our mail, we'd really appreciate it.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Turning a page in the blue book

Today is Erika's last day at Wells Community Academy High School. She's worked there since the fall of 2005, when she started as a student teacher. From there she became a permanent sub then a full-time English teacher for two years.

I've come to view the happenings at Wells as a significant part of our life together, from hearing Erika's first reports about the school after work on our back porch on Walton, to meeting Erika and her teacher friends for drinks, to helping her chaperone school dances. Wells caused Erika a lot of headaches and nearly ground her down at times, but she always persevered. She also made some great friends there, with whom she'll keep in close contact.

When I was on the night shift in late 2006, I walked down to Wells nearly every weekday to pick up the car for various uses before returning it by 2 p.m. to catch the bus into the Loop. I'm going to leave work today in half an hour, and when I get to the Wells parking lot, I'll be closing a chapter of sorts.

Ah, but I shouldn't be so melancholy. I have a feeling we'll be meeting Rita in that same parking lot some time in the fall after school or after a dance. With all the contemplations of endings lately, it's time to refocus on the here and now and beginnings: a new life and a new school for Erika, which sounds light years ahead of Wells.

I'm a bit more sentimental than my wife, so I'm sure she'll chuckle at my dampening eyes (though not maliciously) when I stare "one last time" at the old place. Who knows, she might join me in some tears this time — she's going to especially miss her students. But she'll always have memories of the many kids she's helped, and we'll always have the back porch at Walton, the skyline in the distance at night, Erika's cigarette smoke wafting around us, the stories of the strange school filling the air.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Confessions of a lazy man pt. 356

Over the years, I've heard different people expound on what the "real" value of college is. I once had a co-worker who believed that the ancillary responsibilities of college — signing up for courses, writing checks to the bursar, showing up for class, etc. — were more important than what actually went on in the classroom. They taught you, so he said, how to pay your bills, follow a schedule and generally keep up on the operational aspects of life — important skills, certainly. (Cue Woody Allen quote.)

In the classroom, I often lamented how the usual mixed load of 15 credit hours per semester lent a hurried feeling to learning, forcing students to juggle multiple tasks under pressure and time constraints and, alas, not allow them to truly sink into a subject and get the full experience. Just try to remember your college classes (if you went to college) and the books you had to read. I took a senior-level course on the Metaphysical Poets, and I only have (had) a cursory knowledge of them. To learn more, I would have to do it on my own. (Cue Frank Zappa quote.)

I've come to a point in my life where I either wish I had more time in the day to devote to things or I wish I could clone myself to do a more thorough job of the many tasks pulling at me. I don't know if this feeling is associated with a particular time in/part of a person's life, as if on a schedule itself, so I'll refrain from making blanket statements in that vein. But I will say this feeling markedly increased when Erika, Suzi and I bought the house.

If Erika is reading this, she's probably laughing right now, as I opted to lie on the couch and read Monday night instead of helping to install the pot and pan rack like we planned. (See, this is where the clones would come in.)

There's that old quote — forget it, I've tried searching — about people being able to only have one true "passion" in life, at least as far as occupations/hobbies go. That might mean you only have so much time and energy to go whole-hog on one task. A part of me really wants to be a compost mixing expert, or a plaster wall expert, or an insulation expert, or a gardening expert and especially a child expert, as a father. But you also need time to rest, relax, reconnoiture with loved ones and generally listen to your breathing, as the Buddhists say.

(Pause.)

Now that Erika has caught her breath from laughing, I believe I've found the answer: (Mark,) make a to-do list week-to-week and (echoes of my old co-worker) stick to it. It begs that eternal question, "Could you have been doing something more productive during that hour of Frasier last night?"

One of those expecting fatherhood books I bought said that there are second chances in fatherhood (as well as third, fourth, fifth, sixth, etc. chances). So, too, I believe are there second chances in home repair, gardening, house painting, compost mixing, tree branch sawing, basement insulating, exhaust tube caulking ... Okay, take a breath. ... I won't (and can't) be an expert at all of these things, but the fact that I'm doing them at least opens my experience up a little further and makes our house and our life together better.

That's more than I can say for 100-level statistics.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Somewhere Hegel is laughing at me

Wow. The whole U.S.-NBA-players-jumping-ship-to-Europe trend has hit a fever pitch.

On the one hand, as a Leftist, I enjoy seeing American hegemony challenged, on the other, as an NBA fan, I don't enjoy fur'ners fucking with my game, a la the NHL. I don't think LeBron playing in Greece will benefit basketball globally, as he'll only be some billionaire's hood ornament in an inferior league full of jibronis.

Yes, the Russians have a lot of oil money now, and the Euro is stronger than the dollar, so this issue may not be going away. It sounds like David Stern is not oblivious and wants to expand the league overseas in the coming years. Perhaps that would make this all more palatable — if true quality players were spread out across the globe.

But do you really want to see Carmelo Anthony playing for the Moscow NKVD All-Stars? The progress of history is a bitch — just ask the U.K. At least we never tried to poach ol' George Best.

The ACPP never sleeps


Lately, I've been doing some of my best work at Target. Another Pre-Raphaelite Erika.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Numbers Man

It's that time of year again: fantasy football season. Yes, it doesn't actually start till the real games do, but July and August are when thousands of players across the world prepare their draft lists: crunching numbers, banging heads a few times against desks (Maurice Jones-Drew or Fred Taylor?) and generally trying to predict the unpredictable.

Well, there are some things you can be sure of in fantasy football — LaDainian Tomlinson's production and the Colts offense — but most of the fun and excitement comes from making big gambles to best your buddies. When you draft that receiver who bounces back from an injury or that third-year QB who takes the next step, you smile a little more broadly and quietly call yourself a football genius for separating the wheat from the chaff.

But like life, there is a lot of luck involved in fantasy football (more so, I feel, than in other fantasy sports, such as baseball), and for every Derek Anderson or Wes Welker, whose success you presaged, there is a Peerless Price, Kyle Boller or Cedric Benson, whom you quielty dropped mid-season in disappointment.

Let that temper your hubris, fantasy player — but not too much. If we couldn't gloat, well, why would we play at all?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Green means growth

Do you like this shamrock shake layout? I felt it was time to ditch the Crainium-themed scheme I've had since 2003. Because we'll be using green in the baby's room ... Well, there you go. Additional tweaks may occur in the coming days.

Also, thanks to J.R. for linking up to us again!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Gettin' results

Erika's writing success keeps rolling! One of her poems will be published in Quarter After Eight in the spring. The journal is affiliated with Ohio University. It doesn't look like they have readable e-versions of their issues, so you'll have to take my word that it's a fantastic prose poem. It's Erika, so that goes without saying!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Watching the slopes out the window

If you like dividing the self up (a la "Herman's Head") into distinct, humorous parts, then I ask you to visualize this: My writing part has been sitting in a ski lodge, his foot in a cast, sipping brandy the past two months. Yes, it's a been a "writer's vacation" of sorts. I did squeeze out the first draft of a new play last month, but when I faced draft No. 2 -- and the assembly line system I used for the last play -- I blanched and cried "uncle." I guess I hadn't recovered fully from that grueling June to June stretch run.

I have a dream of completing one play a year from age 30 to 40. I am 31, and I have two to my credit. One extra month off, I reasoned, won't kill me. I think I was trying to do a mid-/late-period-style revision off the bat, and that was too much to ask. With the past two plays, I rewrote the whole thing for drafts 1-4ish, which lent some freshness and a more relaxed feel to the proceedings. I then buckled down for 5-10 (11). It's my goal to go a little easier on myself this time around. Maybe I can wrap the play up in 8 drafts. I think that's a good number to shoot for.

Perhaps I've said too much about my process, which is either an amateurish or gauche move. I don't really care. I just received a very nice "thanks, but no thanks" from a local theater I had some shot of getting produced by. And you know what? That's all right. I know my time will come. Frankly -- at least based on how I feel right now -- I'd rather people leave me alone so I can work, relax and spend time with Erika and the baby, who'll be joining us this winter. Rehearsals, auditions and rewrites sound like a huge hassle. For once, I'm not straining for recognition. I want to be left alone. And I might actually start to enjoy my writing more for what it is: an enriching creative pursuit. Beyond that, who cares?

Pour another cup of hot chocolate for that writing part and turn on SportsCenter. It's earned the R&R.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Role reversin'

My folks are in town right now. They've got a busier social life than we do! They were out late last night partying by a lake in Hinsdale, and they're doing a Southwest Suburbs tour today that will go well into the evening with drinks and dinner. What about me? Well, I'm looking forward to paying the bills later and reading up about our insurance coverage for baby. I'll be lounging on the recliner with my slippered feet on the ottoman, newspaper in hand, pipe in mouth, when those two whipper-snappers get home at 11. They're going to have a lot of explaining to do.

But in all honesty, I'm looking forward to spending the rest of the day with Erika, as I did on Monday -- nice bookends to the week. In that regard, this summer has been very nice. I feel the work and avocation stresses that constricted us in the spring have loosened. What we do today will be anyone's guess, but at least we'll be together.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mr. Skin

What the heck was that? (See below.) I think I was a little fried after a long day on the road and in the suburbs. Otherwise, the weekend was pretty relaxing ... well, aside from that skin medicine that made my heart beat faster. Yeah, ol' Woundup is finally attending to a dermatological issue brought about by years of wearing tight thrift store clothing. It was just getting too unsightly (and starting to turn Mrs. Woundup off). TMI? Sure. But the oral med the doc gave me made my heart beat like I'd drunk a Red Bull, and the damn things kept me up all Sunday night. I haven't had that little sleep in years. Not fun. Well, the doc told me to forgo the pills and just stick to the topical treatments. I feel a lot better today, and I slept like a rock last night.

What's the moral of this story? Be sure you do your research on medications before you take them ... and always, always, always wash thrift store clothes before you wear 'em. And always shower after you work out. Okay, gross.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The male brain is also affected during pregnancy

Listen, folks, Woundup frequently writes about sports radio and other such lowbrow pursuits. Un-ironically. Fine. I make no apologies there. But please don't bring your weak-ass middlebrow shit in here. What is this Panic at the Disco bullshit? And what is this bullshit Christian Slater NBC show where he's talking to himself through a laptop, presumably from the future? Listen, I'm a 31-year-old man; I'm about to become a father; I sit around on Saturday nights now and watch TV and hope to not be angered by something. SNL is angering enough. Why am I even watching this? I saw this episode a month ago, and it was terrible. Panic at the Disco. I stand by my belief that Iggy's belch that opens (the song) "Raw Power" is more rock 'n roll than the entire careers of almost all other bands rolled into one. If I had my copy, I would listen to the belch from (the song) "Raw Power" over and over again for a half an hour every morning before going to work. And I would never, ever, ever go anywhere near Panic at the Disco. FUCK YOUR STRING SECTION. And please ... No more prime time TV shows with quaint, contrived, novel or gimmicky non-realistic premises. The kind of "surrealism light" that's infected TV and drama makes me want to listen to the opening belch from (the song) "Raw Power" over and over again until it all goes away. And I'm talking about the original album mix done by David Bowie. The one where he turned the James Williamson solos ALL THE WAY UP. Fuck the Iggy remix. Anyone who writes one of those shows should be forced to listen to this album every morning before they go to work until they stop being writers. 2008: ONE LESS WRITER. Good night.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Fung

Yes, I'm listening to Boers & Bernstein, but I have to say that the team of Jonathan Hood, Jeff Dickerson and Carmine DeFalco has been great in filling in the afternoon drive slot on WMVP. They normally appear together a shift later on "The Show" and "Chicago's Baseball Tonight." I've always liked these guys. You've already heard my big-ups on Carmen's job as part of Chicago Bulls pre-game; JD is perhaps the best Bears reporter in broadcast media; and I'm an old J. Hood fan going back to 2003, when he did a great solo evening show on the Score. They can talk any sport knowledgeably, including college. (You might remember Hood and Steve Silverman's old Saturday college football on 'MVP a few years ago.) That's something Mac, Jurko and Harry have trouble with, particularly during Bulls season. "The Show" dudes are in the 30-35 demo -- my age bracket -- so that doesn't hurt, and they're Chicago guys who bring a little of the South Side, North Side and suburbs to the table. Sound like a ringing endorsement? So why haven't I switched back yet? Okay ... there we go.

One more sports talk point: The Score needs to bring back Joe Bartosch. Bartosch, now the producer for Bears radio broadcasts on WBBM-AM, was one of the Score's best personalities, but was taken off the Sunday night slot in 2004 during the North/Murph shift. I've been jonesing for Triple Play Trivia ever since. It was perhaps the most Internet-proof call-in sports quiz ever. Bring it back!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Well, a preliminary test has shown that Erika is amused by "Jeeves and Wooster." We finished up the "Pearls" episode last night before bed. I enjoyed it as well, but that's only natural. I don't know if we'll watch any more together any time soon, but it's nice to know they're there. We were really getting into "The Tudors" a couple weeks ago and should have more on the way from Netflix.

We've certainly had our homebody nights, as habits of the long winter and Erika's stressful second semester (where she often had hours of work to bring home) have carried over into the warm months. Sometimes you just want to plop in front of the tube, zone out and relax. Don't worry, though, we have been more active lately, going out to dinner and such. And we're getting our bikes fixed as I write this. Should have them late today or tomorrow.

In truth, there are some big changes coming up for us. Most of you who read this already know, but if you don't: Erika is pregnant. We found out in early June. We couldn't be happier; it was something we were thinking about for awhile. Naturally, your narrator is a Nervous Norvous, and must work to keep his irrational anxieties in check during this experience and just enjoy it. But that's not the story by a long shot. The story is that we saw the baby's heartbeat for the first time this past Friday. What an amazing, unexpected surprise. Erika is nine weeks along, and I wasn't sure we'd be able to spot it.

So, you can look forward to more reports in the family way vein. I'll spare you the gory details, but I'm very happy to relate the many joys it will bring us in the coming months/years. It's going to be a change, but one I think will pay off in ways I can't begin to imagine. Wish us luck!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mark has a revelation

Okay, I'm officially old. I want to buy a CD I heard on NPR.

Took a cab home through the rain after work. To my good fortune, the cabbie had 'BEZ on, and I heard the interview with the Homemade Jamz Blues Band. They're three siblings: The singer/guitarist is the oldest at 16, the bass player is 13, and their sister, the drummer, is NINE YEARS OLD. And they made their own guitars out of CAR MUFFLERS.

Sound like a gimmick? I thought so, too, till they started playing ... C'mon, folks, you know my impeccable music taste. This was like the classic Alligator catalog: Hound Dog Taylor, Son Seals. It was the real deal. I know you've heard all that Kenny Wayne Shepherd crap that makes you think the real Blues is gone. No way. Just listen to "Penny Waiting on Change." He's 16 YEARS OLD.

Dynamic duo

Okay, that was a little too good to pass up ... Since becoming part of a home-owning team, I've seen my share of house snafus: dead water heaters, broken furnaces (right before Christmas), bizarre wiring, malfunctioning lights, to name a few. The man who's always been there to help us has been John (mentioned below). And I, as man the of house, am always his assistant on his repair calls.

It's a study in contrasts, for sure. You'd be hard-pressed to invent a better team of opposites. But I like to think we have a lot in common. (We both like sitting in basements -- at least I do. I know John is just there to work.) And I don't let any window dressing get in the way. We're both human beings, and we both like to joke around.

So I'm happy to report that John is making a repair call this weekend to look at the second-floor sink. It's been too long. Granted, I probably won't do much more than hold the flashlight or, if I'm lucky, keep a pipe in place, but the experience is still enjoyable. I sit in front of a computer 40 hours a week, and when I'm writing, 7-10 more at home. It's nice to do something different.

I know I'd make John happy if I would actually complete the projects he recommends to me: insulating the basement furnace area, weather-proofing the basement door, caulking the furnace exhaust tube. I think I'm gonna try, as a half-year resolution, to make these a reality. I'm feeling the call of the house ... and I'm excited.

Green thumbin'

We now have a garden. More than a month ago, we tilled a large patch (I'd say about 15' x 15') in our backyard and surrounded it with a fence. A side note: Prior to this, my father-in-law John (I have two fathers-in-law, for you grammar detectives) told me about the drag bar on a rototiller, and what was the first thing I removed when we rented one from Home Depot? You guessed it: the drag bar. I totally forgot what he said and thought it was some kind of kickstand. Naturally, that made tilling much harder, but we still got through it. (John was amused when I told him I forgot what he said.)

After some intense weeding, the ladies planted tomatoes, beans, peppers and herbs. We also invited the tenants to plant. Things are progressing well so far; Erika spotted the first green grape tomato yesterday.

I also water our house plants and the flower baskets on the our back porch. After a long brutal winter, and considerable, unforgivable neglect, I decided to become a better parent to our plants. I even get excited when I hear about rain -- for our garden and for the flower baskets. I can almost hear them sighing when the drops fall. Okay ... maybe not really, but I like to think they're happier. And that makes me happy.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

It's 80 degrees and he's wearing the jacket

Hawk without DJ? That sounds a little like ... Farmer without Rooney. But sure enough, just as future Ford Frick Hall of Famer John Rooney can be bounced by the Sox, so too can Darrin Jackson. Yes, I'm referencing a recent story in the Trib that said DJ might be replaced in the Sox TV booth by future Ford Frick Hall of Famer Steve Stone (would he be the first analyst?). Now, Steve Stone is the greatest color man of all time, but I've grown to love Hawk and DJ's easy-going, Texas League vibe that's as summertime as city sticker renewal. Sure they have their detractors, but I think they ultimately enhance the game and provide some variation from cookie-cutter broadcast teams such as (gulp) future Ford Frick Hall of Famer Joe Buck and his buddy Tim McCarver. Hawk and DJ are baseball like it used to be: played in gigantic, empty American League parks in the middle of July.

Speaking of Ed Farmer ... I was relating to Erika, while walking through the Home Depot parking lot, that Farmer might be feeling a bit blue now that his favorite uniform infringement target, C.C. Sabathia, has left the AL. Farmer is constantly irked by players and coaches who wear their uniforms, hats and sunglasses incorrectly, according to his standard, which he has never fully articulated. Sabathia, a large man, wears an extra baggy uniform with, most offensive to Farmer, his straight-brimmed Indians cap slightly askew. You can't really top that for aggravating the old-timers. So who will Farmer set his sights on next? I guess there's always Manny Ramirez.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sanguine Swiss stopped by spasmodic Spaniard

Wow, what a match. I left the house at 10:30 a.m., went to the gym and watched there into the third set, as Nadal was taking the edge off Federer's lead and seemingly sealing his doom. I went to my Grandma's, and after bidding her goodbye at 2 p.m., I popped on WMVP and heard they were in a rain delay -- the match was still alive. Federer had fought through two tiebreakers and things were locked up at 2-2 in the fifth set. I regret missing the rest of the action; I had to get groceries. When I got home at 4, Federer was hoisting that silver plate in the dusk at center court. He was the runner-up. Nadal had finally beat his greatest rival and claimed the cup. (I wish I knew the actual names for these things. That's the men's cup and women's plate there.)

I would love to watch the whole match if someone had it TiVo'd, but it's bittersweet knowing the Fed Man lost. I'm a fan, for sure. How can you not like a guy who does ads like this?

Here's hoping for a rematch in '09, and, hey, by then I'll have a little spectator to join me on the couch.

Moment, enjoy the

It looks like Rafael Nadal might finally have ol' Roger Federer on the ropes at Wimbledon. I wish these two could spar in major finals for 10 more years, the matches are so good. They've become a real part of this decade. I remember sneaking peeks of last year's French Open showdown between them in my father-in-law's trailer (he had satellite TV) near the beach in Zion. No matter where you are, Federer vs. Nadal calls.

In other news, I'm taking my monthly trip down to Mount Greenwood, Gateway to the Southwest Suburbs. After that, I'll haul it back up to Trader Joe's on Clybourn and get the groceries. Just trying to stave off boredom, folks. Erika returns late tonight. Then ... it's back to work.

That went rather quickly -- the weekend. I guess I should stop worrying about the all stupid things that have occupied my mind lately and, yes, enjoy the here and now. After all, what else do we have? I mean besides satellite TV in a trailer near the lake.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Scenes from the bunker

The armies of noise are gathering for tonight's offensive. For some reason, last year saw a particularly loud Fourth of July in the Ukrainian Village. I anticipate something similar, if not worse, tonight in our new 'hood near Kedzie and Armitage. Ah, but it's only one evening, right? I can climb into bed at 11, turn on the fan to block out the explosions and go to sleep.

The real challenge, dear reader, is what I will make for dinner. I'm determined not to order out or drive somewhere for food. I want to make something myself from what we have here -- something that isn't a veggie burger. I'm not much of a cook, though I can at least whip up some pasta. Yes, maybe I'll do that.

The Cubs will battle their natural enemies, the Cardinals, in about half an hour, so you know where I'll be. I doubt, however, that the outcome will affect the intensity of tonight's festivities. Would you want to blow up things more or less after a key Cubs win or loss? My thinking is that if you went through the trouble to drive up to Wisconsin, buy the illegal fireworks and mow a staging area into your back lawn, you're going to blow off all the damn things no matter what.

Now where's that marinara?