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


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.


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.