Friday, February 10, 2012

December 27, 2011 The 2008 Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone from your favorite or more likely least favorite senders of Holiday Cheer. As usual I’m scrambling to get this done before Christmas. It is five below zero with a -30 degrees wind chill today, now I believe that global warming is happening but how does it get hotter in the arctic and colder in Chicago? I just had to drag my two screwball dogs inside; they love it out there. Oslo wanted me to play ball with him, when the tennis ball hit the tree it split in half (the ball not the tree). Anyway, I’ll try to brighten your day with a few stories about our year. It was a rough year for all of us and the consequences of incompetent leaders will continue to bring bad news. But you’ve already read about all that crap, so now you can read about all my crap instead. This newsletter reminds me of the Robin Williams joke about lining his parakeet’s cage with the National Enquirer and the bird refuses to shit on it because that would be redundant. So enjoy this and when you’re done, line your birdcage with it and see what happens.
   When we put Glacier down last Christmas, Fluffy went into a severe depression. So in January, Fluffy & I went to the Great Pyrenees Rescue and picked up Bernie, a huge year old puppy. We officially renamed him Oslo. But that goofy bastard got a nickname faster than any of our other dogs; he is now known as “The Fanook”. It is a derogatory Italian slang word. Google it if you really need to know. Fluffy perked right up with Oslo around. He has some issues being left alone but he is such a goofball you can’t stay mad at him for too long. I thought he would continue to grow, but he’s gained only about 10 lbs this year. He has a huge head, long legs, weighs 105 lbs and loves to sit in your lap. I can wrestle with him but unlike Thunder, our first dog who loved to play fight, he bites too much, and when I’m on the ground with him he loves to straddle me and try to sit on my face. The three phrases I say to him the most are “No Biting”, “I love you Oslo, but not in that way” and “God damn it Oslo, get your dick out of my face!”
   The sun did not appear the whole month of January. It snowed every other day. In early February, we figured some place warm would be nice, so we invited ourselves to stay at my Aunt Nora’s house in Miami. We had a great time. The weather was incredible, 80 degrees and the ocean was bath water warm. Unfortunately the biggest waves were caused by me jumping up & down screaming “Where are the fucking waves?” We spent a day in the Everglades and took a fan boat ride to see alligators. Afterwards, there was an alligator wrestling show. Then the MC picked my cousin Karen to wrestle the gator. He showed her how to approach it from behind and grab its mouth as you straddle the gator. He also described how to wave your hand through the gators open mouth without making contact. The MC explained that since gators can not see in front of them, they only snap their mouths shut on contact. When Nora questioned whether her daughter should do this, the MC said Nora could do it instead. Nora quickly decided it was okay for Karen to do it. Then he took Karen by the hand to lead her to the gator while Nora yelled “she has 10 fingers now and she better have 10 afterwards.” The MC starts laughing and says there is no way he’d let Karen wrestle the gator. He sold it so well that everyone in the crowd believed it was going to happen, including me. Karen is pretty brave; she never backed down from getting in there with the alligator. She must get that from the Ott side of the family…LOL.
   In April, I flew out to SoCal to finally take my mom and brothers to a Bruce Springsteen concert. On the way to the show we stopped for burritos and if my mom, the nurse, could have scored some medical marijuana we could easily have been a carload of slacker kids partying on the way to the big concert. The highlight was Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine playing a blistering guitar solo on “The Ghost of Tom Joad”. Ma was happier when Bruce played “The Rising” (his tribute to firefighters on Sept 11th). She didn’t even care when security took Georgie away for shooting video of the show during the encores. The LA Police beat him like Rodney King but Ma still didn’t care and offered me to the cops as an accomplice.
   The next weekend I went to Ft. Lauderdale with my friend Todd. It was a guy’s weekend of fun in the sun. Once again the weather was great, the talent on the beach incredible and no waves. We even found a NYC style pizzeria open until 2am. We spent a beautiful evening with my Aunt Nora, Karen & her husband Ken at an outdoor German bar just off the beach drinking and telling stories that probably guarantee I won’t be invited to stay at Nora’s house again. One night after showering, I hear Todd talking on the phone. As I walked into the room I realize he is practically having phone sex, for those that know Todd, you know my presence doesn’t deter him at all. He continues describing what he would do to her if he was there. When he is hangs up I say “Hey man, I can’t believe your wife enjoys that stuff.” And Todd says “Vicki hates that, I was talking to your wife.” Now some people may believe Todd was just joking. But a few weeks later Chrissy decides to compete with Vicki’s sexy Christmas cards by posing sexy on a bed for Todd’s 40th birthday card. The night of the party, she wore a low cut dress showing off what her mama gave her. Todd said it was his best present. Vicki must have thought so too because after a few hours of drinking, she straddled me and began dry humping me with a huge smile on her face. Do I even have to write that I had a huge… too?
   We went to NYC this summer. I spent a day at Coney Island from sunrise to sunset taking pictures and enjoying the beautiful freaks that inhabit the beach & boardwalk areas. The local artist community is attempting to save this wonderful slice of Americana from developers. Check out and support their cause if you believe beach front amusement parks should be preserved. We went to a party at the Valentino’s (my Aunt MaryAnn’s family). Her nephew Paul cooked up an impressive menu for everyone. He also had an amazing garden growing in the backyard. He had 6 ft tomato plants on July 4th growing in NYC. Our tomato plants were about 2’ at that time. We also met my friends Debbie & George (they were in NJ visiting George’s family) in Manhattan for a day of shopping in Soho & dinner in Greenwich Village, then off to see Nathan Lane in “November”. A real New York day for us Chicagoans. Since the Yankees are moving into their new stadium in 2009, we went to Yankee Stadium one last time with my Aunt (Yankee fan) & Uncle (Met fan). About the 5th inning my Aunt is yelling about something and when I turn toward her I see the centerfield scoreboard says “THE YANKEES WELCOME GREGG & CHRISTY OTT”. She had her neighbor; Mike who runs the scoreboard put the message up there. Mike was also nice enough to e-mail us a picture of it. That was a very cool thing to this lifelong baseball fan.
   My cousin Patty and her younger daughter, Cori came to visit us in August. We shopped in Wicker Park and Bucktown, had dinners on the west side, saw a Cubs game, took an architecture boat tour down the Chicago River, went to the Indiana Dunes and I got them both on the ice after one of my hockey games. But seeing Wicked is what we will always remember. The main characters are Galinda (the bubbly air headed blonde witch) and Elphaba (the dark haired misunderstood green witch). During intermission, Cori says that she is like Galinda (because everyone loves her) and her sister Karissa is just like Elphaba (because nobody likes her). We all laughed probably because we thought Cori was like Galinda and not because everyone loved her. The rest of the trip she was affectionately known as GaCori.
   Also in August, I DJ’d Debbie Drescher’s 40th birthday party. During the party a cute little girl about 5 years old shyly asked if I could play some god awful song for her. I played it & she kept requesting songs. Chrissy & Bernie (Debbie’s brother in law) were sitting by me when I asked the little girl where her parents were. She says my dad is on the deck. There were several men on the deck so I ask which one is your dad. As cute as could be she says, “HE’S THE FAT ONE”. We all fell out of our chairs laughing.
   In late September we drove to the Badlands, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons (stop laughing Mom. I guess some Frenchman named the mountains the Grand Tetons which translates to Big Tits.  When the National Park was formed they must have decided that Big Tits National Park just didn’t sound right. I bet it would have been the most visited park in the country with that name.) We wanted to disappear for 3 weeks and we succeeded. We wandered aimlessly through some of the most beautiful and wild natural places left in this country. Some quick highlights were…peeing in 4 states( IL,WI, MN, SD) in one day … arriving at the Badlands for a beautiful sunset…our first night relaxing on the front porch with hundreds of bats swarming around us…sunrise at Big Foot Pass, hiking up Saddle Pass to Medicine Root & Castle trails, hiking up the Notch Trail and having a pissed off bat chase us back down…seeing bison, prairie dogs, coyotes, pronghorn antelope, mule deer & avoiding rattlesnakes…driving scenic highways from the Badlands to Yellowstone… stopped at Mt. Rushmore for a few minutes, Chrissy made me leave when I observed that it was filled with a busloads of  slovenly Americans who knew very little about the four men enshrined on the mountain. Then off to Devil’s Tower. This is a special place. The local Indians have religious ceremonies there and leave prayer cloths in the trees. As I was telling Chrissy about feeling the mystical power of the place, she started laughing because she watched an old Mexican man reach into his pants to scratch himself then put his hand into his grandchild’s bag of Fritos. She began singing “I am the Frito Bandito”. I left immediately, my special moment was ruined.
   Yellowstone is like Nature’s Hall of Fame. The park has mountains, canyons, wildlife, rivers, prairies, forests, high desert, waterfalls, geysers, hot springs, hoodoos and lakes. As we hiked through the park, it was like the old Monty Python show’s tagline “and now something completely different”. Each day showed us something new. We spent time with the wolf fanatics who line up on a ridge with their spotting scopes overlooking Lamar Valley, the geyser geeks who radio eruption times to each other from the hundreds of geysers in the park and the hikers who want to get away from everyone to spend quality time with nature but are always willing to share stories of hidden treasures with others on the trails. Some quick highlights were hiking on Beaver Ponds Trail where several female elk walked right by us…seeing the remains of many kills hiking along Hell Roaring Creek Trail and searching for the animals responsible…hiking westbound on the Mary Mountain trail and being forced off the trail by bison strolling eastbound…hiking up Mt. Washburn (our first 10,000 ft peak)…hearing the elk bugling and seeing males battle for the females (it was rut season)…seeing about a dozen waterfalls and being face to face with a bison on the way to Fairy Falls…the Grand and Castle geysers were more impressive than Old Faithful. The geothermal features were incredible to see the Upper & Lower Terraces at Mammoth, prismatic springs, bubbly mud pots. I don’t have the time to cover all of the amazing things we saw. You really should visit this place at least once in your lifetime. But I do have a few stories that need to be told. In the Badlands, we drove the gravel Sage Creek Rim Road to look for bison and prairie dogs. There are a lot of cattle ranches out West, which means there are a lot of fences and metal grates across roads so cattle can’t escape. We parked at such an area to look for bison. I saw one up on a hill and Chrissy walked back across the grate into a fenced area to get a close look at a bison down in the valley. I suddenly feel the ground shaking as the bison by Chrissy is charging right at me. FYI, I enjoyed watching You Tube videos of assholes getting stomped at Yellowstone by bison. Now I was about to be one of those assholes. I just froze. Luckily it ran past me on the other side of the road. After seven amazing days in Yellowstone, Chrissy was pouting about not seeing any bears. On our last night in the park we were in Hayden Valley, watching a herd of bison and listening to the elk bugling as the sun set. Then on a ridge, a black bear walked toward the forest, Chrissy bolted out of the car with her binoculars faster than I ever saw her move. The next morning we drove over Dunraven Pass at sunrise looking for a grizzly bear. No luck. She finally gave up. On the way back we passed a couple of people way out on some rocks looking down into a valley. I turned back around figuring they saw something important to walk out that far. Sure enough, a brown bear was right there about 100 feet away. After that Chrissy said we could leave Yellowstone now. Off to the Grand Tetons. The fall colors were at their peak in the Tetons. Oxbow Bend had amazing colors with the Teton Mountain Range in the background. We saw a brown bear sitting on an elk kill near Jackson Lake and a black bear sitting on an elk kill near Jenny Lake. According to the ranger onsite, the elk died after being speared while battling another bull for a female. Now that’s one hell of a price to pay for a piece of tail. We spent an afternoon hiking along the Snake River watching otters play then go fishing while eagles were perched above the river looking for food. While hiking around Two Oceans Lake, a female moose startled us by popping up just off the trail.  She just stood there, checking us out. We warned an older couple with a young boy about the moose as they passed us on the trail. On our way back they were stopped about where we saw the moose. The old man says to me a bit pissed off, “are you sure that is a female moose?” And before I can answer he says “that moose has a huge rack, balls and a penis!” I look down the trail and see one angry bull moose. I told him we only saw the female earlier. We helped them bushwhack off the trail and up the hill to avoid the moose. Unfortunately, I wanted to get a picture of the big guy. So I crept back down the trail, the closer I got, the more pissed off he got. All of a sudden, I hear twigs snapping and branches breaking. I start running uphill, my heart racing, high stepping over the fallen trees, dropping moose pellets of my own and thinking I’m going to die for the second time on this trip. Then I hear Chrissy yelling “HE ONLY BLUFF CHARGED!” I ran straight to the car and changed my underwear which by coincidence were boxers with a bull moose & a big breasted female moose with both saying “Nice Rack” to each other..
   In late October, Chrissy went to Churchill, Manitoba to be the Polar Bears International lecturer on the Tundra Buggys. Check out PBI to learn about helping polar bears at  Polar bears congregate near Churchill waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze over so they can hunt seals again. People come from all over the world to take the Buggys out to see the polar bears. Chrissy had a great time and took some amazing pictures of the bears. She said besides polar bear questions, everyone asked her about our upcoming presidential election and who she wanted to win. Not surprisingly, everyone up there wanted Obama to win. The whole world was paying attention to our election. I don’t even know when any other country has their elections, do you?
   Most people know I’m a big music fan. Some people ask me for my favorite bands or songs so here’s my top 5 CD’s of the year. Just for a reference point, I like all types of music and lyrics draw me to a song before any other aspect. #5 Jamey Johnson’s “That Lonesome Song”, outlaw country music, best song “In Color”, it’s about looking at old pictures with his grandfather, something I did with my grandfather. #4 Conor Oberst’s “Self Titled”, a young Dylan for his generation, tough comparison but he lives up to it, great political & social commentary, best song “I Don’t Want To Die In A Hospital”, neither do I , he pleads to be taken outside to die, sounds like something I would do. #3 Kings of Leon – “Only By The Night” hipster rock band that delivers the goods, esp. in concert, best song “Crawl” I think it is about the Bush Administration destruction of America. #2 The Gaslight Anthem’s “The ’59 Sound” just solid rock n roll songs, best song “The ’59 Sound” about friends dying too young, I love the line about the moment they die “did you hear your favorite song one last time”, that would be cool. #1 My Morning Jacket’s “Evil Urges” nothing but great songs by amazing musicians about the shape of America today. Best song “I’m Amazed” but these lyrics are from Evil Urges and I dedicate them to my cousin Mary “It's all the same, we’re tired of waiting come on then, And dedicate your love to any woman or man, No racial boundary lines, no social subdivisions, If you want it, you can”.
   November 4, 2008 2:45am After peeing with my dog Oslo in the backyard, a miracle happened. I looked up to the sky and said, “Dear God, I don’t ask for much but.” then I heard Oslo laughing. I looked down at him and he said in a booming voice “Gregg, who you crapping? Don’t lie to me! I’m God, I hear everything.” ME: You finally answer me and you talk to me through my idiot dog. GOD: If he’s the idiot, why are you having a conversation with a dog? Remember, I work in mysterious ways. ME: Well where have you been the last eight years? This country is a fucking mess. Can you please have Barack Obama win tonight? GOD: This prayer will get answered. Now I have to go. I’m helping the devil track down Dick Cheney. ME: Why? GOD: The devil wants to give Dick his soul back because he got screwed in the deal and I can’t believe that motherfucker ever had a soul. ME: Thanks God, I owe you one. BTW, have you seen the bumper sticker that says “Dear God, please save me from your followers”? GOD: I sell them on my website
That’s how I remember the encounter but I had a shoulder injury and took some hillbilly heroin (OxyContin for you Rush Limbaugh fans) so maybe I don’t remember all the details.

Well that’s our year. It had its good moments but I doubt I’ll look back on it fondly. But I have hope that better things are coming our way. I’ve always said letting big corporations control everything is not good for America. The idea that you must conform to some “standard image” to succeed is ridiculous. Somehow being an individual or doing things differently became something to mock in this country. White men in expensive suits have run the country for a long time and look where it has gotten us. The only upside is a mulatto man in an expensive suit gets a chance to try new ideas. We’ve all seen that kid with the tattoos, pierced eyebrow and dreadlocks. And you probably rolled your eyes or muttered something unkind. Maybe he’s the one who will change the world someday or maybe he’s the one selling pot to your kid. Let’s learn which one he is before we dismiss him because we have to make changes right now to make the world a better place. Back in 1872, instead of destroying the Yellowstone area for its natural resources, President Grant decided to preserve it for future generations. We had better start preserving something for our future generations. Otherwise, we might be the first generation in a long time that had a better life than our children.
Here’s to PEACE ON EARTH. And like Tiny Tim (the Dickens character who had no health insurance, not the fat Ukulele playing hippie) said “God Bless Us Every One”.  

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