Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Summer is finally here — not that I couldn't wait. I don't like the heat. I was happy when it was 60 degrees and raining a week ago. As time's gone on, I've come to believe what we had earlier in June is my ideal kind of weather — a vestigial preference from my Northern European ancestors.

Whatever. It's going to be hot today. Erika is watching Ella solo. We have two very effective ACs in the house, but I hope she can get out a little so she won't feel cooped up. She's doing a great thing, watching the baby by herself. I wish I could be there to help her right now.

Our baby is a wonderful little person who grows more and more each day. As she matures and exhibits more autonomous behavior, I feel a growing need to shield and shelter her, making her existence as pleasant as possible — the childhood cocoon we've all seen manifested in toy stores, amusement parks, on TV. A place with no unhappiness and total wonder, where each day, each minute is one of joy and excitement. The kind of excitement she shows when she wakes up in the morning.

My, is it me or was that a cold assessment of a carefree state? That's what you get here at Woundup: cold assessments. Well, anything to push that mercury back away from 90.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Woundup will never die

Man, it's dusty in here. Time to clean off the cobweb-covered keyboards. The seven-person content team is on their annual summer retreat — this time to some dump in the UP. Normally they go to Mexico, but you know … These Tough Economic Times. … I'm sure they've got a lot (of reefer) to (smoke) talk about up there.

The Woundup family had fun in Wisconsin, and we are gearing up for our weekend's visit to Michigan, the fourth partner in the new pan-Chicago Geographical Zone. That's right, southwest Mich. is officially a part of Chicagoland because one little county, where our hideaway lies, now is included on the Channel 9 weather forecast map.

Ella still is a little too small to ride on a bike or in a bike trailer — one of our favorite pastimes in Mich. Perhaps on the next visit. Ella, however, is rapidly advancing in the eating/drinking department. Mom fed her lentil soup last night, and she can now drink out of a glass, which is a lot of fun to watch.

Lunch beckons. Woundup breathes deeply. … The afternoon is a blank canvas of (sleeping under my desk) all possibilities.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Visibility 1500 feet. That's the Mars Cheese Castle on our left, sir.

We must be on summer hours here at WoundUp Corp. Actually, we truly are. Fridays are off mandatory, comrade. No questions.

Still, this is one of the busiest non-busy weeks I've ever had at the ol' Cracker Factory. What does that mean? Well, I suppose it means having the most amount of work possible that still does not cross the bar set by a normal fall/spring work week when we actually have issues of the magazine going out. I guess you could call it garbage time. And let me say that I'm a garbage time all-star.

Tomorrow we head north through the 58-degree mist to Green Bay to visit my parents and youngest brother. We'll be bringing Ella with us, and that will make them very happy. Ella has been a little more rambunctious lately, so much so that she kept waking up last night. This baby thing is a trip because when you think you've got a pattern set, they change it up on you. Well, that makes life more interesting, no?

All in a day's work. I'm going to get some M&M's. Talk to you next week!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Reset button

Wow, a two-week break here at Woundup Corp. It was our early summer furlough. But now we're back. Last week's playwriting conference was a blast. I'm sorry it had to end in some ways, but I'm very happy to again be with my family. The weather in Chicago is mellow and bright, and we have plans to visit Green Bay and our little Michigan hideaway very, very soon.

Now is the time, June, to ready and launch the next marketing campaign. I've almost got the synopsis for the new play polished off — never an enjoyable task. Soon I'll be spending a lot of time at the Fort Dearborn Post Office. I'm happy because we've drifted apart these last three months.

Speaking of furloughs, we're into our summer slate of forced three-day weekends here at the Cracker Factory. Not all that bad, as the salary hit is negligible and they're encouraging us — imploring us — not to even look at our work e-mail. Fine by me. I'll be taking care of the baby solo tomorrow, which I love to do. We'll have some fun.

Welcome back, Woundup! Welcome back, Woundup fans!

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Tomorrow afternoon I'm heading out of town to a playwrights conference in Omaha. I'll be gone for nine days. I'm excited about the opportunity, but I'm really, really going to miss Erika and Ella. At least I'll be able to talk to them on the phone.

This is a kind of symbolic last event of the spring — and what a crazy spring it's been. I hope the rest of the year calms down and people without employment can find it again. America needs a break, in general.

I should be posting from the road. I'll let you all know how it's going.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I finished my third play today. I started it last June. As I've said before in other posts, I've experienced many more changes and ups and downs during the writing of this play than with the last two. I know some of that went into it over the course of things.

What's left to do? Relax for a month. I'll probably work on some marketing materials next week, but for now I'm going to crack open a cold one and toast this play. It's earned its place at the table.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday night

Phhheeewww … The high tide of work stress has receded. Tonight I'm going to format-check my new play, drink beer and watch the "Gossip Girl" finale with the ladies. Hold my calls.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lay down your sword, noble warrior

This month I retired my second play from active submission. My MO is that after a year passes, I stop. I've done about all I can do to let people know it exists. This play, in turn, has performed heroically on the field of marketing combat. I only hope someone takes a real chance on it soon.

I've almost wrapped up my third play — probably by early next week. I look forward to seeing how it will do in Das Grinder. I'm not a great talk-talk salesman. Who knows. Maybe it won't matter.

Monday, May 11, 2009


My Grandmother died a week ago. She was 95 and had developed lung cancer in the last year. Erika, Ella and I saw her some 12 hours before she passed away. The thought of her being relieved of that kind of suffering made the loss a little easier to swallow, but still I'd rather have her here, healthy and forever. As we all know, that can't be done.

There was a memorial service at a South Side cemetery on Saturday. Many of her friends are gone, too, and many of our relatives — already a small group — were out of town and couldn't make it. Still, I was happy to see who I saw. We all agreed that Grandma was a great lady.

Since I moved back to Chicagoland in 2002, I had helped Grandma with her finances, bringing cash once a month for her home health care worker to buy groceries, etc. — but more so to spend time with Grandma. I also called her once a week. I really enjoyed speaking with her, and we shared experiences as Chicago residents, homeowners and baseball fans that I didn't with the rest of my family.

She was my last remaining grandparent and the living link to a part of my life that now only exists in my memory. At least I can keep her there. Sundays will never be the same. Goodbye, Grandma. I miss you.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Today everyone at the Cracker Factory was forcibly given a pay cut. It applies to about two weeks of work days spread out over the three months of the summer. The good news is that I'll now have a bunch of Fridays to spend with the baby and take three-day weekend trips. The bad news is, well, that's pretty obvious, but it's not crippling, and Erika is gainfully employed, too.

The refrain for these times has been "At least you still have a job." I'm getting sick of hearing that, as they chop off more pieces of us, week by week. Now's probably the time for a good Karl Marx quote about worker exploitation, but that's too much effort to dig it up right now. I'm tired. We still have to sail on through this week, patching up all the holes they punched in our ship.

I'm pretty sick of talking about work, so I'll stop. What I'd really like to do right now is get a drink at the bar at the Chicago Yacht Club and stare drunkenly at the nautical maps on the walls. Or better yet, I'd like to get a drink with Charles Barkley. Can someone make that happen?

No? Well ... I'll settle for comics in bed. However, I don't have anything to read on the bus tomorrow. Maybe I should go with Karl Marx. Or the Marlene Dietrich story, which I actually own. Yes. I don't know. … It's time to go to bed.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Never relent (circa 2009)

Tomorrow begins Painful Writing Ordeal 3.0. This play has gone through more rough waters than the two before it, and still it has persevered. Reading back parts of the last revision, I've begun to develop an affection for it hitherto absent. In my own personal awards ceremony, I will give it a medal of honor.

I've also begun to realize that I'm soon going to toss another virgin play into the maw of the Theatrical Industrial Complex — a machine mostly indifferent to new work. It doesn't help I have a writing style the majority of its officers seem unmoved by.

I'll run this poor play through the gauntlet, and if it, too, does not win a full production by next fall, I will have to consider other options. Wearily I wince, knowing that means self-production. I see how others in my shoes have done it, and perhaps I will have to follow them. I'd rather just write these things and have someone else take care of it. But that someone may not be in existence.

All I can do at this moment is apply massive heat and pressure to the last draft until it is a finished piece. Though it's painful, I enjoy this process, and I honor that thing its creates. To me, that thing is unassailable.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Three things

1. The rough seas at work now are calm. And as I look out from a 23rd-floor perch at the great Lake Michigan, I'm filled again with a desire to steal away to our favorite vacation spot. I have some new schedule leeway, so getting there will be even easier this spring. … Two years ago we went for the very first time, and when we go next it will be Ella's first. I'd love to move there — sometime in the next 10 years but hopefully sooner.

2. I've become obsessed with the English Civil War. I think seeing "Cromwell" on TCM in Iowa earlier this month got me pumped up. I believe this was the first time in history (let me say "European history") a regent was overthrown for an alternative form of government. It certainly set a tone for the next three centuries.

3. I don't really have a third. Uh. Lunchtime's almost here: leftover BBQ seitan, roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes. I eat like a king (or a Rump Parliamentarian).

Friday, April 17, 2009

Job rap

What a week at the Cracker Factory. It started out mellow but harshed by Wednesday morning. Now, well, I guess it's almost over. We've had a lot of people leave here, a lot of organizational shock-waves and still no clear structure in the aftermath. I guess the same could be said for many (most?) businesses across the country. Dad just needs to keep his head in the game, though understandably it can be hard. Some of this static was externally applied, but two problems were of my own creation, based on snap decisions. I need to better question my choices before I make them. (How about that for job commitment?)

Seriously though, I do take pride in my work here. I know it's not my life's work, but I'd like to think I do it well and help those I'm in with. Recent circumstances have made it a bit harder for all of us to truly take as much time as we'd like on all of our tasks. I only hope that by year's end we'll get some kind of relief.

Of course, I don't ever have it as tough as Erika, who had to go on a field trip to Champaign this morning against the wishes of her boss. She'll get back by 10 p.m. tonight. I cannot wait for the weekend to start. I plan on spending it exclusively with my wife and baby. It makes me very happy to know we'll all be together at this time tomorrow. Hang in there, Woundup.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

His jumper's like a Pound Canto

Hmm … Scanning the headlines here. … Something to write about. … Well, I was reading from the newest issue of SI with Ella — one of my favorite things to do with her right now — and I was struck by the erudition of the Houston Rockets supporting cast, as evidenced in the feature about Ron Artest. Brent Barry used the word "idiosyncrasies" and Shane Battier made a James Joyce reference. Once in awhile you'll get one cultured nugget in a sports story, but two? This piece really raised the bar for years to come.

Of course, Ron Artest remains a bit of an idiot savant. Great player and maybe he's mellowing out, but he'll always be remembered for … well … you know.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Walking the line

When curling comes on the TV is it instantly time for another beer, no matter what time of day? Truly one of the toughest questions that confronts humankind. I'll say no, though it's tempting.

I've been indulging myself with the ol' converter box tonight, nearly overdosing on WTTW Prime big blocks of documentaries. Now I've turned to the 24-hour NBC winter sports channel and here the grand game is. There's one beer in the fridge. Ah, but it's too late. Erika, Ella and Suzi are getting in after 9 tomorrow morning from Florida. (Wait, the French play this game, too?) I don't think I should tempt fate. What I should do is TURN OFF THE TV.

Well, not just yet. SNL, Antiques Roadshow, Burt Wolf. Did you know Burt Wolf has a Cedar Rapids P.O. box? I think that's the most interesting thing I've learned all day. See, that's the line I walk: between sound mental health and television-induced temporary insanity. … It's probably time for bed. Yes.

P. Allen Smith's Garden Home.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Fade away

Wow, Ken Burns' "The Civil War" is nearly 20 years old. I remember very distinctly watching it with my family when I was 14 years old. They're showing it now on the new WTTW Prime on the converter box.

I loved "Baseball" and "Jazz," but I believe this documentary is Burns' best. And how good is Shelby Foote? When Foote says the bit about the North fighting with one hand behind its back? It feels tremendously anti-climactic at first, but he has such a understated way of conveying Southern resignation to their loss you feel bad for the Confederacy, if just for a few seconds.

Tonight is 1865 and the end of the war. Burns has footage of the remaining vets marching in the 1920s as old men. Seeing my own grandmother now at the end of her life at 95, the idea of "living memory" is a powerful one, as links to the distant past leave us. I feel for people in these positions, who daily lose those they could truly reminisce with, unable to fully convey what they've seen to a world that can never fully understand it.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Rebels are we, born to be free

Back in Chicago, the sun is shining, and though it's a bit busy at work, a great deal is now behind me and I'm breathing easy. The residency at the college last week went really well, and I was very happy with the staged reading they did. I'd like to bring some of those people to Chicago if anyone ever doubles down on this play. We'll see.

Erika has the week off, so she's enjoying it at home and out and about with Ella. Tomorrow, the two of them are flying down to Ft. Lauderdale with Suzie, whose mom has a time share there. Dad will be left home alone. … Sniff … I've got a great picture of Ella by my desk at the New Cracker Factory, and it really captures who she is. When I look at it now, I wish she were here. It's going to be tough to be apart for nearly five days. I expect they'll find me in my underwear covered in Thai takeout boxes and the hard ends of pierogies, the TV on, Okocim empties all about. It's not going to be pretty.

Well, if I rent "Bananas," I'll probably make it thru the week. Yes, that sounds like a plan. Let's make it happen.

Monday, March 30, 2009

He do the police in different voices

This accursed month's almost over, my friend. I'm looking forward to adventure in April and … mirth-making? in May. Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. April, after all, is the cruelest month — in terms of having to do your taxes. Wait. Maybe that's not what he meant. Dammit.

All kidding aside, I've won a playwriting award sponsored by a college in Iowa, and I will go there later this week as part of a short residency, which culminates with a staged reading of my most recent play. That play has served me well, and I'd really love it if it could get a god's-honest, real-life production in 2009-2010. We'll see. In the meantime, I will enjoy this opportunity. I was a little shocked it came long, but … "enjoy when you can"

There's another accolade coming my way in May, but like I said, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Mazel tov.

Friday, March 27, 2009

To mein readers

Well, at the end of a long week I suppose I should put in an appearance. What a week it's been. I found out, officially, that I'll be keeping my job here at the New Cracker Factory. We've also had both my mother and Erika's mom staying with us to help with baby care. Now I'm looking forward to some peace and quiet this weekend — just me, mom and baby.

March is almost over. One of the roughest months I've ever gotten through — although February might've been rougher. I'm thankful, though, for having family to help us and for gainful employment. And, of course, for our beautiful baby, who is getting bigger every day. It's pretty amazing to witness first-hand.

Next week I get to do some special writing stuff. I'll fill you in then. Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Have you seen the inside of Tacitus's vomitorium?

I've staged a complete recovery from last week's food poisoning. It's good to be able to eat, say, fresh mozzarella that was sitting out a little in its own water, or bagged lettuce getting brown around the edges, or a room-temperate cheesy-bean-and-rice burrito from Taco Bell (with hot sauce) or week-old hummus. Yes, all the things I love.

I think this WeBLoG needs some direction, don't you? Getting a little aimless as the weather warms. That's really because the seven-person content team all went on a spring break–style vacation to the official Woundup resort property in Tutacahana, Mexico. There are going to be some workshops, but we really know it's just an excuse to try and score cheap cocaine and maybe act depraved a bit before coming back home, feeling guilty and recommitting to the gym and sobriety (for a couple of weeks). God bless the liberal arts.

Time for a wilted-lettuce and room-temperature sour cream taco.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thank you, converter box

Zelig is on 26.4 right now. This thing just paid for itself.

I cry, I throw up, I cry again

Another baseball season is nearly upon us. Remember the Cubs' "super rotation" of 2004? Unfortunately, I do.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The many moods

Mommy took pictures yesterday of Ella at the Lincoln Park Zoo. I think this one sums things up best.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Take a number

The line at the great automat in the sky is really backing up: Harold Pinter, David Foster Wallace, John Updike, Horton Foote and now James Purdy.

I first heard of Purdy in a New York Times article about Raymond Carver's break with Gordon Lish. D.T. Max said Lish was influenced in his editing of Carver by Purdy's spare style. Not long after that I picked up "Malcolm" (which was adapted for the stage by Edward Albee). I can't say I thought it was great, but he certainly knows how to depict the fringe, and I kept thinking of "Fur" as I read it.

Well, I think I'll give him another shot. R.I.P.

Ghost town downtown

It's been a rough month at the ol' Cracker Factory. My immediate supervisor recently was struck down as part of budget-related layoffs. We were shocked because he's a 13-year veteran of the company. That's a lot of experience to let walk out the door, but it's happening nonetheless. At least we're sending him off in style tonight after work, though I still can't believe it.

Who does that leave? Me, the budget option. There still might be more cuts in our group, but my editor seems to think they'll happen elsewhere. Who knows. It all makes me question my choice of career. Sure, the economy eventually will swing back, but what about print journalism (read: print advertising)? Thankfully, I've gotten my share of Web experience in this gig. That's the direction it's all going.

Here's to hoping the rest of month moves by quickly and without incident — and that terminated positions everywhere are recreated soon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's new to me-uh

Damn, this new Fall record sounds kind of like Men's Recovery Project in places. Some rough earlier Providence stuff like Thee Hydrogen Terrors. I think I might have to buy it. If I can survive March unscathed, I'll treat myself.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

In like a lion

If there's only one positive thing I should remember at the start of this day, it's that it's going to be warm outside. And I will be back in this spot in 12 hours, alive. All bets are off about everything else.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Another day in the Protectorate

Another day, another trip to the Daley Center to attempt to get copies of Ella's birth certificate. I like to laugh at everyone I know who lives in suburbs and small towns, but this is one area where they have the advantage. I'm willfully entering the record-collecting center for Cook County, Ill., which encompasses more than 5 million people. There's going to be a line no matter when you go.

I got scared off Friday by the wait. I tried to go yesterday, but the building was closed for Illinois' favorite celebration: Casimir Pulaski Day. Today, I will not relent. I only wish I had an iPhone, so I can read more Brit history on Wikipedia. It's always a good time to revisit the English Civil War. Wish me luck.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Daddy's on the drink again

Now that we have a converter box and get WYCC without static, one question has dominated my mind more than any other: How could one country (Canada) produce both the funniest TV show of all time ("The Kids in the Hall") and the un-funniest TV show of all time ("The Red Green Show")?

Still, I think I'd hang out at the Possum Lodge if I had the chance.

Wild weekend

Actually, I don't want to have a wild weekend (but I would like my Teengenerate records back). A bit of peace and quiet is more preferred.

It's already been quite a week in the world of current events, with all the national budget stuff flying fastly and furiously. Also, Norm Van Lier and Johnny "Red" Kerr both died yesterday a la Adams/Jefferson. Bulls fans, such as myself, will miss them. I've sung the praises before of Norm's pre-game raps on WMVP, and things just didn't seem right when they took Red off the air at the start of this season.

I remember a few years ago standing in the bar at Schuba's before a show, watching the Pistons play some East Coast team. I was next to a young guy who was rooting for the Pistons, and somehow we got to talking. "I've always hated the Pistons," I told him. "I've always hated the Bulls," he said. It made me really happy to hear him say that. I don't know what this illustrates except that being a Bulls fan is wonderful because of the rivalries and tradition. Red and Norm were a big part of that.

In other news, they're closing the Borders on Michigan. If that wasn't a wildly successful book store, I really don't know what to think anymore.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Moving toward morning

Dad maybe had a little too much wine at the upstairs Oscar party last night. Dad is me now, of course. Mom was much more sensible, and baby, who was wearing her first pink dress, fell asleep at some point before Best Song.

So, I'm snake-bitten this morning, but that's okay because I survived. I survived a layoff scare on Friday. And I guess I've survived the winter, which seems to be coming to a close.

Since taking this job more than two years ago, I've experienced some acute moments of disbelief following events I've drummed up massively in my head as world-altering. You mean life continues after I: get a new job, have a reading, buy a house, have a baby? It does. It goes on after layoff scares and winter, too. The fact that the sun is out today makes this "after" time seem that much more new/different — makes it feel like we're moving toward morning. I can't yet imagine warm weather and working in the garden, but sure enough that will soon be here.

Unless, I'm hit by a bus. But don't worry. That's not going to happen.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


It becomes pretty clear by age 32 that there are two types of people in life: helpers and hindrances. Granted, if you're some kind of international terrorist who's looking to blow up the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind., (search engine teaser) and the "hindrances" are those trying to stop you and the "helpers" are your abettors, well, then that might knock the whole model out of whack. But generally, you can expect certain people to be quick with a smile, a kind word or helping hand and others to be self-centered emotional/spiritual drains.

It doesn't always shake out so easily, yes. Even the best of friends who would help each other to the end don't always agree and can get in each other's way. I guess I'm talking about consistency — for good or bad. My boss at my first job here in Chicago told me to view my function as a gate through which information flowed freely and easily. Those who had performed the position badly, he said, were more like big rocks that information flowed around — obstacles.

Erika spent some of her day dealing with such obstacles out in the suburbs. I ask you to keep her step-father, John — a good man who has helped us so much with this house — in your thoughts and prayers as he prepares for a major surgery. There are some who didn't quite grasp the gravity of this situation, preferring to attempt to wrestle the spotlight for themselves in some perverse manner. It saddens and angers me that Erika had to spend even one second today dealing with these kind of people — hindrances.

Maybe this is more succinct: It's not always about you. When someone's life is in danger, don't be a fucking dickhead. Grow up. … Yes, I think that'll work for 11 p.m.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Welcome, Ella

It's over — the pregnancy, that is. Erika gave birth last Wednesday, February 4, at 9:40 p.m. to our daughter, Ella Rose. She was 7 lbs. 6 oz. and 20.5" at birth. We stayed a couple of nights at the hospital then came home Friday afternoon.

I took a week off work and have to go back Thursday. I'm dreading it, not because of any waiting backlog, but because I won't be able to be around Ella all day. These last three days have been fantastic. The birth was fantastic, too. I'm just going to enjoy this remaining time and remember that I'll get to see her in the evenings and all weekend. I am also going to look into work-from-home options. Even one day a week would be great.

It was a little hard to believe Erika wasn't pregnant anymore the first couple of days after Ella's birth. We first found out June 1, 2008, and we've been through a lot together in that long time, about 10 months. I feel it brought us even closer, and I will always look back on it very fondly. Of course, I'm glad Erika doesn't have to tote that weight anymore, doesn't have heartburn, doesn't have to pee a million times a night …

So what's next? An adjustment for ol' Woundup. Don't worry. You can check back here for baby updates as well as all the laffs you've come to love. Ella might even provide some new material. She's got a lot of personality.

Monday, February 02, 2009


This might be the most burned out on sports I've been in recent memory. Granted, I was pulling for the Cards, so that probably made me even more reluctant to read the game wrap-ups and usual laudatory afterbirth passing through the Web canal. But a greater sense of football weariness is definitely there, Steelers victory or not. Two weeks ago I was lamenting the quick passing of pigskin season. Now I'm fanning myself, a cold compress on my forehead, glad to see it go.

More and more, I think that postseasons are becoming less significant, even anticlimactic, because more time is spent in the 24/7 sports journo universe hyper-analyzing what's already happened and trying to predict what's yet to happen, squeezing out the here and now. When an actual game occurs, it often seems lumpy and imperfect — even boring — given the propaganda surrounding it. Plus, with another week of matches on the horizon, analysts quickly sail off toward what surely, positively will be football perfection next time.

Applied to a full season, it seems network talking heads can't wait for things to end before they can begin next year's predictions. And with 31 of 32 teams out of luck, more viewers have experienced losing seasons and very much want to hear about the future: the draft, the new schedule, off-season concerns. Media coverage feeds into this, so much so that, lately, the actual outcomes of games and seasons seem more inconsequential or, worse, unscripted. With so much energy devoted to speculation about what should/could happen, when that doesn't happen, it seems we've been slighted in some way — at least in the eyes of experts who lament that "the better team lost" or "it's all about who gets hot late." (Conversely, you could celebrate the fact that life rarely goes according to script — and if it did, what a terribly bland life it would be.)

There also is a recent tendency in 24/7 sport culture to immediately crown a just-played championship game "the greatest ever" or a play in that game "the greatest play ever" less than a day after it's occurred. It happened last year with David Tyree and this year with Santonio Holmes. It's almost as if the networks feel their lavish coverage (witness NBC's this year) automatically equals a historic game. "Greatest" talk is admittedly good grist for the mill because it generates strong discussion, but history is something that shakes out over time, and these instant coronations seem to cheapen championships even further, they're applied so liberally.

Well, I'm looking forward to using February to heal up from football overload. I might peek at the NBA and college basketball a little, but I won't strain myself. Maybe there's a reason football season is so brief. For the players, it's because their bodies can't take any more punishment. For the fans, it's because we can't take any more publicity. Phew.


It turned into a bit of a beery weekend, on my part at least. After the reading Friday evening and last night's Super Bowl, I'm ready for a brew break. I was compelled at the Super Bowl gathering, naturally after drinking, to make my opinions on football loudly known to all in attendance, none of whom were football fans. I snarled, grimaced and frequently flipped off the TV screen. I hope it was at least entertaining. I promise to behave better next year.

Now what? A new week, a new month. More of the same and some things never before seen.

Friday, January 30, 2009

White wine did him in

Just when your faith in humanity … ah, I'm not even going to finish that. It's been a heckuva week. First there's the Super Bowl. Okay, it hasn't happened yet and it's not actually the most important … My second play got the nod for a main-stage reading at a national conference. But what's better is that my co-workers threw me a dad-only shower today, complete with cupcakes, brownies and prosecco Yes, I'm buzzed and dammit, it feels great. Humanity's best on display. Just like the scrappy Arizona Cardinals … Better stop there.

And … some good friends are going to oblige me tonight by reading the most recent draft of my third play. I'm buying hoppy beer for the occasion. Hey, I haven't had a drink all week, folks. LET'S FZRKLING CELEBRATE!!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Man, it's cold in here. I need to throw a few briquettes on the fire to warm things up. Snow is lightly blowing outside the windows at the New Cracker Factory. The seven-person content team is working from home to help save the company on lighting and heating costs. They do that three times a week now. Still, we like to have someone check up on things while the staff is away. Did I mention that CEO Tom Blister filed for a deadline extension on his 2008 year in review? All I can say is that it better be done by Feb. 1. That would be an embarrassment if it were to come out later than that. 2008 already is a fleeting memory for most of us, save the companies announcing fourth-quarter earnings. Not pretty.

There. It's getting warmer. I'll just put my hands … We've gotten some criticism for having an old, coal-fired stove in the work area, but it really makes a difference this time of year. … Well, seeing as how no one's going to make it in today … I might buy myself some Beck's tall-boys at lunch and watch some Dominican winter league baseball on the MLB Network, which we now get in the employee lounge. … Maybe I'll place a few long-distance phone calls. No sense in running my own bill up. No harm there. … And I'll order a pizza. I might even be able to get the pizza guy to bring the beer so I don't have to go outside — give him a little extra for his trouble.

That snow's settling down now. If I play my cards right, I'll have a nice, manageable buzz going by 5. I can head back to the spot and maybe fall asleep on the couch for a few hours, wake up, watch Letterman and polish off the rest of the tall-boys, which I'll stow in my coat on the bus. … Yes, that sounds like a good idea.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Grab bag

Remember the Woundup Thursday Grab Bag? Neither do I. I just made it up. Anyway …

1. It's official. The city is telling hillbillies to stop putting plastic chairs in the street to mark spots — at least for now. I've followed stories about this for the past two weeks, and about 75% of reader comments have gone against the chairs. The ones for feel they've either earned the right to mark spots because of "sweat equity" or they are people who say this is just part of the "Chicago experience." Y'know, like it's an amusement park.

2. Last Friday Dan McNeil was shit-canned by WMVP. I generally liked "Mac, Jurko and Harry" and would often tune in after I got home from work. At its worst — and Mac was perhaps the chief offender in this department — it was a hot-air fest with the hosts trading quips about the previous night's dinner at a more expensive Loop restaurant, the VIP access they received at a local sporting event or the details of their latest endorsement deal. At its best, it was a very funny show. I'm sure, as Ted Cox says, Mac will land somewhere else. But is 'MVP so bereft of talent that his leaving is a kill shot? I'd like to think the younger guys at the station — Defalco, Dickerson, Hood and Silverman — will step up and be heard. Mac isn't the whole Chicago sports talk scene by himself.

3. I don't really have a third item. I'm rooting for the Cardinals in the Super Bowl. If anything, I'm a little surprised the hype machine hasn't yet swung into full gear. Budget constraints? Uninteresting match-up? Uncharacteristic restraint on the sports media's part? It's something to ponder, if just for a few seconds.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Late night raps

I've just about finished Studs Terkel's "Division Street: America," which is one of the finest non-fiction books I've read. It's a collection of transcribed interviews done in 1965 with people from Chicagoland. Terkel devotes the last 25 pages of the book to interviews with young people, aged 18-21 — a kind of "voices of the next generation." I find this very interesting because my parents at that time, both aged 20, were a part of that group. It's a little strange to think of your parents as untapped human fonts of potential, yet to truly begin living their lives.

Terkel shows us young people preoccupied with fitting in, with being independent, with separating themselves from their parents — many of the usual concerns for people of this age group. They, of course, were also concerned with having to go to Vietnam, though it seems to be only a distant drumbeat to them. What permeates these final interviews, from what Terkel chose to include from his transcripts, is a sense of both hope for a new, untainted generation and fear of these young people with beliefs and ideas a few shades apart from their parents and grandparents.

More than 40 years later and my dad, as a career counselor, grapples with how his office can better communicate with the newest generation of young adults — the people who now are in the position he once was at the time of "Division Street." Perhaps a little like Terkel, he sees confusion, laziness, vapidity and self-indulgence in them. But I'd like to think he sees the positive, too. He often mentions some of his favorite counseling sessions with students.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, with my daughter close to being born, I realize tonight that my own time as the next unsullied generation is coming to a close. At 32, perhaps it already had passed me and this merely makes it official. But if I may, I would like to shed a tear for my generation's time as the next crop of untapped talent, before we had to leave school and get jobs and generally confront how the world often conspires to frustrate our dreams. We place new generations — my parents in the '60s, me in the '90s — on these sacrificial altars, symbols of what could be better than what came before. I understand this in part because preceding generations like to remember when they were young. But in part I don't agree with it. I think our culture — maybe human culture — does a poor job in assisting its subsequent generations through transition periods: adolescence and young adulthood. In childhood, we indulge our children to enjoy themselves, but when they hit 12 or 13, they are told immediately to grow up. In college we indulge our kids to learn, enjoy college, join clubs, etc., then we tell them to get a job. And before you know it, there's a new group of young people, unsullied, ready to be exalted and examined, minutes after the preceding group was hurried out the door.

As someone who recently went through this, I hope to always carry with me a modicum of the boundless potential once seen in me by others — not to please others, but to prove I have worth to myself. And though we're quick to hustle the post-college person off into the sunset to make way for the new young, we should never forget that post-college person is us. In a way, we will never stop being him/her. It's something I hope I can express to my daughter — that she should never completely lose a feeling of childhood and should never lose a feeling of young adulthood. You lived these things, and they can never be taken from you. As an individual, I feel my potential is only becoming realized. I feel I have a long way to go. And I feel the young time in me, 18-21 — the one I share with my parents, whom Terkel analyzed — will never die. Will always be in a process of becoming.

Page turner

Well, everything's ready for the new baby. She's got a new room, new clothes, new blankets, new toys and a new president (in a couple of hours). The sun was out this morning. It felt almost warm. I haven't seen the sun without accompanying negative temperatures in … I can't remember how long. It felt like winter was almost over.

Eight years ago, I went to D.C. to protest the departing president's first inauguration, months after the 2000 election and the Florida debacle. I say "protest," but really I went on a whim with some friends just to see what would happen. And not much happened. We spent the day standing in the rain, watching military units and high school marching bands trudge down Pennsylvania Avenue. I did like it when the protesters booed the marching bands. It's perhaps the highest purpose an East Coast pinko can attain: to bum out a plastic cowboy hat–wearing 16-year-old from Abilene, Texas.

Eight years later, I can't place too much hope in another politician taking office — particularly one from the Big Two parties. I just can't. But I'm willing to give him a chance. From history we've learned that wholesale change doesn't happen overnight — unless guns are involved. I can only hope the new president will have an open ear to more progressive ideas and help in their institution, making them seem inseparable from American life much like, well, the cell phone and HDTV. Barring that, it would be nice if fewer people were unnecessarily killed in the world in the coming four years. I guess we'll see what happens.

Friday, January 16, 2009

For the love of the game

Do you think we've all grown a little closer in Chicago living through the cold these past two days? It's a nice thought, but kind of a silly thing to believe. I'm not afraid to call myself silly … or stupid. The older I get — yes, it's time for the granddaddy of all cliches — the less I know. Or rather, the less I'm willing to pretend that I know everything. It's very liberating.

Sometimes you have to just — cliche No. 2 — let go. Let go to the cold. Let go to the fools clogging up your block with lawn chairs. Let go to workplace miscommunication. … Monday I thought I wouldn't make it, between the weather, work, home repair and neighborhood strife, but here I am, still kicking on Friday. Someday we'll all be gone — this city might be gone — and no one will remember how bad the parking was on our block or how good a job we did on the newsletter rollout. They won't remember us at all. But we have the sun; we have weather; and when the cars are finished passing at Trumbull and Grand on a cold morning, it becomes very silent. To me, that's the true sound of life. It doesn't ask anything of you except to listen.

It's very liberating.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hold for the party line

Pro sports playoffs are anti-climactic. If you're like me, you've spent the whole season following all 20, 30, 40 teams, and suddenly only about a quarter of them are left, and each week that number dwindles. In the NFL, it seems to go even faster — a blur of finality. Two weeks on now and we're left with four teams. Soon it will all be over and then … the Pro Bowl, an agnostic's kind of all-star game (definitely not what you were expecting at the end).

However, I tried to remain in the present and take pleasure in this weekend's action. Three of four underdog teams won in the divisional round. There now are no clear-cut favorites for NFL champion, unlike last year. I'm going to listen to the national sports radio guys tomorrow morning to see whom they're leaning toward. You could make a compelling case for each of the remaining four. Talking sports heads don't like to do too much work or stand apart from the cognoscenti, so it'll be fun to hear them squirm. I imagine many will glom onto Pittsburgh because they like big, simple classifications such as "No. 1 defense."

I won't go as far as to root for Baltimore against the Steelers next weekend — I don't really like the Ravens either. I'm just for any scenario that further confounds the pundits and bums out ESPN and NBC. That most likely will mean an Arizona appearance in the Super Bowl. Hey, it's anyone's trophy this year; I'll go with the Cards: An aging, multiply concussed Bible-thumper jumps off his funeral pyre to try to recapture a whiff of his former glory from a decade ago — how can you not like that?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Get ready

Blister here. That's right, the year in review is on the way. What's that? Yes, Wound-up Corp. took a giant shit in '08, no question. But we're still solvent. That's the motto I printed out on one of those old dot matrix printers and put above Sales' cubicles: WOUNDUP CORP. — STILL SOLVENT.

I'm not afraid. I know what it means to start with nothing. I had to work my ass off to get here. All that hanging around the Westchester Yacht Club, cruising for debs. Then convincing my first wife to marry me, after all the things I made her do in the sack. She was offended, yes, but ultimately she respected a man with conviction: the conviction to get my hands on her inheritance. Her old man had his head blown off running grenade launchers to neo-Marxists in Honduras, and sure enough that money was hers (mine). With that bread, I built this company. It was a fuck of a lot of hard work, folks, as I said.

Looks like I'm giving you gold before the goose ... uh ... I forget how that one goes. Whatever. No more for today. You have to tune in later to read the full report. A lot of heads rolled this year, and the seven-person content team was pissing its pants daily over lay-off rumors. There's nothing scarier to a liberal arts wastoid than the prospect of having to get a real job. God, I'd love to fire 'em, but this site is all we have right now. Doesn't mean I can't whip my Bud empties at the backs of their heads, bunch of fruits.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Checkout at 11

I'm not having a particularly good day for a number of reasons. Right now, I'm feeling like I want to be carted off in a stretcher at 5 p.m., a la Steve Malkmus in the "Painted Soldiers" video.

Looking at this map on my office wall, I wish I were in Madagascar right now. Somewhere warm. I would settle for Cocoa Beach, Florida. I can almost picture myself standing in the surf. Yes. I'm there …

Friday, January 02, 2009

State of the WeBLoG

Well, 2009 already is blowing the doors off 2008 in terms of unintentional Google search hits thanks to my mention in yesterday's post of two local broadcasters and their New Year's Eve behavior. I'm glad I wasn't the only one who demanded a little more back story. (Though I've yet to find any good explanations.)

The 2008 unintentional Google search hit winner undoubtedly was my post mentioning the Roger Federer coffee-maker ad, with its echoes of Joe DiMaggio and Mr. Coffee. The international demand for a Federer-endorsed cup of java left numerous footprints across my sitemeter.

I don't really know what else the new year will bring for this WeBLoG. The seven-person content team will keep on doing what it does best: smoking pot before going to work, bidding on rare Fripp & Eno records on eBay and masturbating in the office bathroom. But they give us a gem now and again, and that's why we keep them around.

Oh, and expect soon the 2008 Year in Review from Woundup Corp. CEO Tom Blister. He didn't say much last year, but that won't stop him from trying to pack it all into one post sometime in the next week.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Hair of the Dog Inc.

You know, I never thought that shop-worn expression actually worked, but only because I never tried it. Sure enough, a nice big glass from the Bitburger pony keg Jonathan brought over last night and I'm feelin' good. Hey, it's New Year's; a little hedonism is all right. Anyway I brought the rest up to Suzi's late, late brunch.

Oops, I cracked open an Old Style. It was hanging around in the back of the fridge. Just trying to keep the spirit going. In all seriousness, we had a nice time last night with J-Dog and Marie, Joe and Lily, as well as the other J-Dog, little 14-month-old Jordan. Erika made a vegan beef wellington, and we sailed thru winter warmers, red wine, pilsener, champagne and chocolate stout. Oof.

ABC 7 had the local ball-drop. We almost missed the final countdown, we were having so much fun. It looked as though Janet Davies and Mark Giangreco had finally found love. Good for those two crazy kids.

Once again, happy New Year! L.H. Puttgrass signing off and heading for the tub.