Friday, February 27, 2009

February 27 Slacker Girls

The temperature dropped all day as the wind picked up. I worked 12 hours in that crap, my truck broke down in my driveway and this is what I came home to. Chrissy sitting on the couch eating bon bons with Fluffy. So what's on TV, fucking American Idol. This is another example of why America is declining. No "welcome home sweetie", no dog bringing me my slippers but wait...Chrissy did make calzones for dinner. OK things are looking up. How about dessert? Chrissy made cookies earlier in the week, they are in the cookie jar. How 1950's, Ozzie & Harriet-like. How about a little after dinner action? Whoa, I must be dreaming, was that a possible gleam in her eyes. NOPE. She has to watch the results show for American Idol. She DVR'd the shows from earlier this week. OK no sex again. But at least she's thinking by recording American Idol, because if there ever was a show that should be fast forwarded through the crap, it's American Idol.

February 26 Today's Forecast...Foggy

Sure this is a picture of a foggy road. And yes it was extremely foggy this morning. But I'm not referring to the weather here. It was foggy in my head. After winning our hockey game last night, about half the team decided to celebrate at Jimmys Restaurant. This is a strange name for a place without a food menu. You can only imagine how shocked we were to find out it is a strip club. We were so shocked we stayed until 3am. So now you know why the fog in my head today was thicker than the fog in this picture.

February 25 Our Walk Downtown

Today was one of those days that gives you hope that winter is coming to an end. The temperature rose all day long. By late afternoon the sun came out and the temperature felt like 60 degrees. We decided to take the dogs for a walk and support our local downtown merchants. We got carry out dinners at the new Mexican place. While waiting for the food, I ran to the liquor store to pick up beer for my hockey game. It was my turn to fill the Stanley Bucket with some post game drinks. Oslo spotted a dog in one of the parked cars. It was a huge bull mastiff with a head twice the size of Oslo's giant melon. He was just sitting in the back seat of the car as mellow as could be. His owner told me he weighs 140 lbs, which is about 35 more than Oslo. For those sports fans out there, we won our game 8-1 and finished the season in third place.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

February 24 The Fat Man Salad

OK, the picture gives it away. Here's the story. Years ago, I was on the phone with my friend, Rick Voss. He says, "Hold on a minute, I gotta order a fat man salad." Then I hear him at the Dairy Queen drive up window ordering an Oreo Cookie Blizzard. When he gets back on the phone, I'm still laughing my ass off about the Fat Man Salad. So let's give Rick credit for renaming the blizzard. Since it is Fat Tuesday, I decided to put my "Commitment To Excellence" on hold for a day and have a Heath Bar Fat Man Salad. Damn, a thousand calories never tasted so good.

February 23 Easy Money

6 lbs of aluminum cans
18 lbs of sheet aluminum
58 lbs of copper wire
8 lbs of cast aluminum
29 lbs of brass
320 lbs of iron scrap
That is what I recycled today at Metro Recyclers. I got enough money to pay for a dinner for two at Café Borgia. Every bit of that would have been thrown in the garbage. For the past few years, I have taken anything recyclable from my house or my job and filled up several cans with this garbage. When the cans get full I take them to the scrap yard and make a few spare dollars. It doesn't take much time or space and I can feel like I'm doing something productive. Try it yourself and I'll meet you at Café Borgia which just happens to be across the street from a former garbage dump.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

February 22 My Dog Day

It has been too long since I took my dogs out for a walk in the woods. So early this morning, they realized I wasn't going to work. The each took turns trying to wake me up. I eventually gave up trying to get some sleep and bundled up for a day with my dogs. It is a beautiful sunny day so I brought my camera for the walk. We hiked through Brownell Woods. (Note to Cook County Forest Preserve, why are all the parking lots blocked off in Thornton?) Oslo found fresh deer tracks in the snow and was frantic to follow them. Fluffy did her usual slow pace about 20 feet behind us. There was a sign that spring is coming, I heard birds chirping today. During the winter, I only hear the occasional woodpecker at work. I did see a woodpecker going at a tree last year on a bitterly cold day. I don't know enough about birds to know if they usually migrate or not. The only other sounds I hear are the twigs snapping when the deer run or the train whistle from nearby tracks. Today we walking along the tracks then through a field back to the car. The picture is of the backside of the Thornton Quarry. I think it is the biggest limestone quarry in the world. After we got home, both dogs passed out in the living room, so I took a nap on the couch. I'm going to spend my day just like my dogs. So goodbye for now, I gotta go pee in the yard. Happy Birthday to my German Grandfather, he would have been 92 today.

February 21 My Blustery Day

Old man winter decided to visit again. The local weathermen hyped it as a big winter storm. Overnight we got about 2" of snow but that was it for the whole day. The wind did pick up to about 30 mph which made it feel much colder than 20 degrees. It also caused the snow to blow around all day. I had to run an emergency call with a pipe fitter, Rich. We had to find a leak in the pipe to a diesel pump and replace it. This job wouldn't have been too bad except it was in Bumfuck, IL and the wind blew across the open fields surrounding the station at what seemed like gale force winds. We saw small farm animals flying by in the wind. I kept looking for that asshole from the Weather Channel to do a live shot standing in the road. So to passed the time, I sang this song from Winnie The Pooh's "Blustery Day".
Hum dum dum ditty dum
Hum dum dum

Oh the wind is lashing lustily
And the trees are thrashing thrustily
And the leaves are rustling gustily
So it's rather safe to say
That it seems that it may turn out to be
It feels that it will undoubtedly
It looks like a rather blustery day, today
It sounds that it may turn out to be
Feels that it will undoubtedly
Looks like a rather blustery day today

When I got home, I sat on the couch and ate a pot of honey.

Friday, February 20, 2009

February 20 Today's Exciting Delivery

I'll admit I may have jokingly overstated today's title. But it is fun to come home from work and see a big package on the front stoop. I was expecting this one because I ordered it several days ago. Still, it's exciting to get something new delivered right to your door. The suspense must be killing you. I got my new shredder today. This one cuts the paper in 2 directions. AMAZING. It is jam proof also. God damn exciting if you ask me. It also has wheels so I can roll it out from under the desk. How cool is that? Lord knows lifting the old plastic container full of cut paper was beginning to be a difficult task for me. I just made myself laugh while typing this blog. I feel like Steve Martin in the movie "The Jerk". Remember how excited he got when the new phonebook arrived on his stoop. He looked himself up and declared, "I'm somebody now". That's how I felt today. My life must be pretty pathetic to muster up this enthusiasm for a shredder. Oh well, at least I got a blog post out of it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

February 19 A Day In The Life

Here is my day driving around Chicago. This is an oddity that defies logic. It is tax season here in America. So every strip mall tax preparer in the city pays someone to stand on the street dressed as Uncle Sam or the Statue of Liberty. I guess this is to remind you that you must get your tax forms done or it shows you how paying your taxes is patriotic. Now, it might just be my sarcastic nature, but does this particular drag queen looking Lady Liberty make you want to let these assholes do your taxes. This also shows that the job market has reached the new lows. How desperate do you have to be to take this job? If I had this job, I'd jump in front of a bus before noon.

Here's a shot of downtown Chicago from the Damen ramp on the Stevenson expressway. It was a beautiful sunny day but the wind chill was about zero. When people talk about going to the city, this is where they go. Most visitors never venture into the various neighborhoods that make up the real Chicago. It really is a shame because the tourist areas do not reveal the true heart of the city.
A sign of the times at 47th and California. A closed factory with a for sale sign on it. I see way too many of these driving throughout the Chicagoland area. It doesn't look like this is going to change anytime soon. You really have to wonder about all the people who have lost their jobs. There really is no work to be found right now. Of course, the type of jobs this factory provided are probably gone forever in this country. When the economy turns around, this building will be razed and turned into condos which will cost more than all the Chinese factory workers that now make this product will make in ten lifetimes.

February 18 The One That Got Away

If you play sports for any length of time, you know you win some you should have lost and lose some you should have won. The latter is what happened to my NorthStar hockey team last night. We needed to beat the Predators to finish in second place for the winter league. We lost 7-5. We played one of our worst games of the season. We just were a step behind all game. We couldn't connect on our passes, we just missed cutting off their passes and every time we tied the score, they got one right back. It was a tough game to lose, especially since several of our guys skate with the Predators on Monday nights. The picture shows one of the greatest traditions in all sports. No matter what transpires during the game, both teams line up and shake hands afterwards. Most of the post game congratulations centered on seeing the Predators again in the playoffs where this season's tiebreaker will be played.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

February 17 Driving Back Through Time

I had to drive from East Chicago, IN to Morocco, IN today with a stop in Crown Point. I'll admit to being in a contemplative mood, hell I was listening to Super Sounds Of The Seventies on my satellite radio all day. In East Chicago you can see the relics of a time when America was the most powerful industrial country in the world. Anyway, after seeing the effects of the steel industry's decline in East Chicago, I headed south through the suburban sprawl of Hammond, Highland, Schererville, St. John and Crown Point. Here is where the children of those steelworkers all moved. They didn't rent anymore, they moved up the social ladder and bought a house. Now most of these towns are just strip malls, big box stores and fast food shitholes. Some people would say these are signs of middle class prosperity. If living in an area where you can drive past 9 McDonalds in a 25 minute drive is living in prosperity, then these people are rich. It isn't my idea of living somewhere nice, but to each his own. Driving south of Crown Point is like driving backwards through time. As the speed limit gets higher and the stop lights fewer, the further back into America's past you go. The farms kept getting bigger, no fast food joints, mostly boarded up roadside places long out of business with names like JJ's, Peggy's or just a rusty Coca-Cola sign swinging in the wind. I could picture a better time when a truckload of farm kids would be driving along those gravel farm roads just happy to be done working in the fields. Most of those kids probably moved north to those same towns the steelworkers kids moved south to buy homes. I finally ended my journey in Morocco, a town whose biggest claim to fame is the Spilatro brothers were buried there. If you saw the movie, Casino, you know about the Spilatro brothers. These pictures were taken on my drive today. The court house is in Crown Point. It is also famous for another criminal act. John Dillinger escaped from here using a bar of soap carved into a gun. So America used to only have it's East Chicago's and it's Morocco's. You worked in a factory or on a farm. Then the suburbs were created and it's been downhill ever since for this country. Am I the lone wolf howling at this moon? What do you think?

Monday, February 16, 2009

February 16 Old Friends

This picture was posted on Kathy's (on the left) Facebook site. It was e-mailed to me by Debbie (on the right, also see Feb 8 post). These two have been friends of mine since about the time that picture was taken, late 70's early 80's. Two girls from the neighborhood that have done just fine for themselves over the years. I am so glad that I've been friends with both of them for about 30 years now. I still see them on a regular basis, even though Kathy lives in California. When I was a kid, I never could have imagined that my friends could become very successful in their professional lives and still not change one bit from the girls you see in that picture. I'm very proud of both of them and even more proud to be able to say they are my friends. Also very happy they didn't post a picture of me from back then. You should visit Kathy's website for her business at VintageWeave.

February 15 The Car Wash

This winter has been extremely harsh on our cars. The potholes have been huge & numerous. The salt has coated the car most of the winter. So while running errands with my dogs, I decided to run my car through the car wash. I can remember being so excited as a kid to go through a car wash. The ones with a chain that pulled your car through the tunnel as the water sprayed, then the soap, the the big spinning cloth wheels just whipping around the car. It must not have been an exciting childhood, if the car wash was a big deal. So what, I was a dork. I liked going to the car wash. I actually worked at one when I lived in Cincinnati. The highlight of that job was when the Feds came and took away one of the kids that worked there. No one knew why & I never found out. He never came back either. So today, I took pictures in the car wash. It was the kind where you pull in and stop. Then the machine moves around your car. Not as exciting as I remember. I guess my life has improved a bit since I was a child. My dogs were just mad I rolled up the windows during the wash.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

February 14 My Valentine Grandma Lorraine

I DJ'd the wedding of Andrea & Renardell last night. I have jokingly proposed this simple solution to racism over the years, all marriages must be of mixed race so eventually everyone would be the same color. Of all this country's problems, racism makes the least sense to me. How can you hate a person before they give you a reason besides the color of their skin? Back to the wedding, there were several great speeches but the bride's father gave a very emotional speech about his daughter & son -in-law. He invited the groom's father up for a toast and both men stood there proudly welcoming each other into their respective families. The story that really struck a chord with me was about the bride's grandmother, Lorraine. At Lorraine's funeral, each family member got up to say a little something about her. Most said they loved her or they would miss her. Renardell said he loved her because when he started dating Andrea, Grandma Lorraine was the first one to welcome him into the family unconditionally. There is no doubt racism is something you are taught, and as proved here, being colorblind can also be taught. We need more Grandma Lorraines in the world.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

February 13 If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry

How do you measure success? I began my night having dinner at Schuba's Harmony Grill with Patty, a musician friend Mike Trakan and his wife Vicki. He is about to release his 2nd CD this year and we discussed some ideas for trying to market his music and his band. Afterwards I saw what's left of one of my favorite bands, Marah, at Schubas. I know, you've never heard of them. They have released several great CD's in the past ten years. Their live shows will make you a fan instantly if you love all types of rock and roll from the past 4 decades. They play rock and roll as it was meant to be played from heartfelt ballads to sloppy rockers to foot stomping, booty shaking sing-alongs. I stole today's title from their 2005 CD, it's meant as their reply to having a small but loyal following and critical acclaim, but still playing small clubs. The song, "So What If We're Outta Tune (w/ The Rest Of The World)" describes their situation perfectly. The singer Dave Bielanko had most of his band, including his brother quit in early 2008. He decided getting a straight 9-5 job wasn't for him and soldiered on adding band members as he toured Europe. Last night between songs Dave told rock 'n' roll war stories to about 200 hardcore fans who sang along to all of his songs, including a great rendition of "Those Were The Days" (the All In The Family theme song). After the 2+ hour show, Patty took this picture of a sweaty Dave & I on a snowy Belmont Avenue. If you love music, check out Marah's site.

Friday, February 13, 2009

February 12 Hockey Night In Homewood

We played long time rivals, the Bulldogs tonight. They haven't lost a game this season. The Bulldogs beat us 3-2 with a late goal last time we played them. We have a three game winning streak on the line. It was a great night of back & forth hockey. Both teams had numerous chances, both goalies stood on their heads. We opened the scoring with a short handed goal. They took a 2-1 lead. The go ahead goal after I failed to clear the zone. We tied it early in the third period and took the lead on a great shot to the upper corner by Matt McCarthy. The Bulldogs tied the game with 45 seconds left. It ended a 3-3 tie. Ties are usually described as "like kissing your sister". this one should be described as "like kissing your sister if she is smoking hot" because it was a great game to play in. Every shift mattered. The pace was very fast and the game was played clean. A game like that is why we play hockey late on a Thursday night. For an hour and a half, hockey was the only thing on our minds, that's why we play. A cold one with teammates after game is another reason.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

February 11 My Day In A Fog

What should I write about in my blog
I guess I'll describe my day in a fog
It started with an early morning jog
I took along Oslo, he's my younger dog
We ran in the woods past a foggy bog
When we got home, we each dropped a log
Then off to work, where I'm a small cog
I was late, the highway had a clog
For lunch, I had the legs of a frog
While driving through the smog
I crashed into a synagogue
Went home and drank Swedish Glogg
With my dinner of Green Eggs and hog
And listened to music, not digital but analog

“Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.” - Dr. Seuss
All apologies to Dr. Seuss for today's blog.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

February 10 65 Degrees

Sure this picture may look familiar. Go back to January 27th. Just two weeks ago. That picture was also taken from my front stoop. But what a difference a record high temperature of 65 degrees has made. We can see the greenish brown lawns for the first time since Christmas. The alley isn't covered in two inches of solid ice. Three weeks ago it was -19 degrees, today was 84 degrees warmer. All the snow & ice is gone in just 3 days. Of course we now have flood warnings but it felt great to work in a t-shirt today and drive with the window down. Back to reality the next few days, but maybe we have broken Old Man Winter's back. We'll see.

February 9 Special Dedication

I'm only a month into this blogging thing and I already have my biggest fans. So this one goes out to Bill Valentine and his wife Vicky. Bill first wrote to me about pictures of a dinner I made for my wife. He asked me to quit posting stuff like that because he already has to worry about his wife around our friends, Reg & Walt. His wife also sent an e-mail saying she hoped Billy would get back to playing hockey soon so that my cooking & cleaning would rub off on him. Since then I have gotten several e-mails about updating the blog daily. So today's pictures of preparing onions, peppers (from our garden) and garlic for sausage sandwiches goes out to Bill's wife, Vicky. Seriously, thanks for reading this blog everyday. But in typical locker room fashion, I have to give Bill a shot. So Vicki, if Bill isn't taking care of dinner once in awhile, maybe there are other areas Bill let's you down. I'm sure you could find several hockey players that could help you out.

Monday, February 9, 2009

February 8 True Friendship

Debbie & I have been friends since we met in eighth grade. We grew up across the street from each other. For over 30 years now, we've kept in touch on a pretty regular basis. For quite awhile we've treated each other to dinner for our respective birthdays. Even though Deb's was 3 weeks ago, last night was her birthday dinner. We ate at Mado in Bucktown. The place prides itself on using local suppliers for meat & produce. It has a limited menu, but I liked it. I had grilled trout stuffed with pork belly confit & spinach. Surprisingly delicious. The night flew by as usual. When we get together, the conversation is always entertaining and the time together is always a joy to me. As usual something goofy happened last night. I parked on Milwaukee Avenue about a block from the restaurant. While we were looking for the parking times on the meter, we started discussing how Mayor Daley sold the parking meters to a private company. It will soon cost 3 to 4 times as much to park on the streets. Then we realized these were new meters and have to be fed from 9am to 9pm everyday. As I'm dropping in quarters (15 minutes for a quarter), I'm bitching about the Mayor fucking up the city once again. After putting in $1.75, Deb's boyfriend, George, tells me I'm feeding the meter for the car behind me. I had to scrounge up 6 more quarters to cover my car while George walked across the street looking for a meter with time on it. Anyway, that's why there's a picture with Chrissy, George & Deb by a parking meter. The other picture is in Mado with the chalkboard menu behind them.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

February 7 It's The 1950's All Over Again

Just because the world is currently FUBAR. I'm not letting it get me down. Let's party with Michael Phelps then roll back the clock 50 years. It's Saturday night. Date night. That's me with my date, Chrissy's Great-Aunt, Ann. We took Ann out for pizza at Aurelio's and then to Gayety's, a real ice cream parlor. At the pizzeria, there was a table across from us with a group of young teenagers all dressed up for a dance. They were eating with their parents, then the kids left for the dance. It was like a scene from the TV show "Happy Days". Which made me wonder, twenty years from now, what will they call the TV show about this decade, "Depressing Days"? Anyway for dessert, we had giant ice cream sundaes at Gayety's Chocolates & Ice Cream. Since it warmed up to 55 degrees today, the place was packed. The owner, Jim, stopped at our table to say hello to us. Chrissy ran into the receptionist from the vetenarian where we take our dogs. We spent the night talking politics, how to live life & the best way to die. OK, not every aspect of the night was like the old days. But at least for one night, we had a great time living in the past.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

February 6 Surviving A Cougar Attack

Another great day of skiing at Boyne Mountain. Blue skies and sunshine, temps in the mid 30's. Absolutely perfect. I skied the harder runs most of the day. By 3pm I had nothing left in my legs. Walt & I headed for the bar at the lodge. We jokingly noticed the amount of rich older women in the bar. As the rest of our group wandered into the bar, the "cougars" became the main topic of conversation. The more they drank, the wilder they got. There were several big groups of these women and it began to look like a feeding frenzy on the National Geographic channel. We barely escaped with just a few scrathes and claw marks to show for our time in the bar. It was all done in fun and good for a few laughs. The picture on the left is us barely escaping with our lives. The other is the house we rented. BTW, Happy Birthday to Bob Marley.

February 5 Skiing at Schuss

It was a bit chilly 10-20 degrees and a bit windy. But we had a great day skiing at Schuss Mountain. Since I was the weak skier in the group, I took the easier runs. But I got my ski legs after awhile and tried some black diamond runs. Now this isn't out west or even a real mountain. It's northern Michigan. So black diamond runs would be green or possibly blue runs out west. So what. A good time was had by our group of seven. We topped off the day with an hour of tubing down several very fast runs. Then had dinner at the lodge and watched Liam Neeson kill about 45 guys while trying to save his daughter in "Taken". A good day overall.

February 4 Lake Effect Snow

I'm off to go skiing in Michigan with Walter(see Jan 31st post), Jim Drescher and a group of his co-workers. It's a beautiful sunny day here in Illinois but just 15 miles east of here, a different story. Lake effect snow. Depending where you live in Northwest Indiana, you got from 4 to 20 inches. This makes it very hard for those Hoosiers to find the outhouse in the backyard. Of course, I'm teasing, some might have indoor plumbing. Anyway, I have to drive through this area to get to Michigan, which also gets lake effect snow. To be honest, the storm was ending by the time I drove through, but I did get this cool sunset shot.

February 3 The Power Of Music

Last month, in the subway tunnels of NYC. I came across a guy in a wheelchair playing the blues. If you've never heard music in a subway tunnel, the sound can be perfect (if the musician is actually good). I think the concrete provides just the right amount of reverb. Maybe a musician can explain it better. Anyway this wheelchair bound old black musician could really play guitar and his singing wasn't bad either. He had his guitar case open for tip money but he was selling this CD for $10. Initially I walked by enjoying the music, then I turned back and bought the CD. I finally listened to that CD today. It's pretty good. The reason I bought the CD was because of my friend, Phil Delgado. Like me, he loves music. All kinds of music. He recently called me and told me about an organization called 'Playing For Change'. It started out with Mark Johnson making a video of street performers from around the world singing 'Stand By Me'. He started a foundation to help promote peace through music and over the years has built music schools in poor countries. Check out the site at If you'd like to read the blog that gave me the idea for this blog, it's called "They Call Me Uncle Phil". His daughter Kathy started it to keep everyone updated on his health issues. There you can read about a man who has improved the lives of all who know him and see why he is like a second father to me.

Monday, February 2, 2009

February 2 Recycle Bin

Hello Boys & Girls. Today's lesson is about recycling. Let's see what we can learn about the person who recycles from this picture. Besides caring about the environment, this person changes the oil in his vehicles, he also makes homemade tomato sauce which he serves with the same Chianti Classico as seen on The Sopranos. It looks like he drinks a couple different beers while his Irish friends drink Guinness. This person also washes his dishes by hand using an environmentally friendly dish soap. Some people might make fun of this person, they may say he is naive or call him a tree hugger. I bet those people don't want a garbage dump in their neighborhoods. So don't be like those hypocrites, recycle everything, every time.

February 1 Homemade Pasta Sauce

The only food I can make from scratch is pasta sauce. I had my mom teach me how to make sauce when I was a kid. I have a ritual whenever I make the sauce that I have followed for as long as I can remember. I listen to Billy Joel's "The Stranger" album. I think that it started years ago because the LP sleeve had a picture of the band sitting in a NYC apartment eating Italian food at a kitchen table. So that image and the song called "Scene From An Italian Restaurant" remind me of making pasta. I also put aside the whole day for making the sauce. I really enjoy the whole process, from cutting the garlic cloves, the wonderful smell of garlic roasting in olive oil, adding the paste, whole tomatoes and then the puree, the spices, the wine, the sausage, making the meatballs, tasting the sauce as it cooks and adding more oregano or a pinch of salt, making the garlic bread, grating the parmigiano reggiano and romano cheeses. Then cleaning up the whole mess while it cooks the rest of the day. Then, as in this case, the friends coming over for the Super Bowl Party, opening bottles of wine, having a beer, catching up, telling stories, laughing, enjoying the game. Thanks to Walt, Eric, Mike & Pat for stopping by. Notice one advantage of our cold winter, free snow to keep the beer cold.