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.