Thursday, July 30, 2009

July 29 Beer League

My hockey team plays in what is known as the Beer League. We understand the NHL scouts are no longer interested in us, like they ever were. Some call it mens league hockey, we call Beer League. It is called that because after the game we have a cold one to relax. We proudly uphold that tradition after each game. This week it was my turn to supply the post game drinks. Since we were playing the first place team, I picked up an assortment of beers. Since the team is full of Irish hockey players, the Harp Lagers went quickly. The Dos Equis brought about a few "most interesting man in the world" jokes. (You must have heard those commercials by now.) Heinekens are always popular and the Millers were there because I was running out of money. If you want to know what beer league hockey is like, check out this site. BTW we managed to win 10-8 and are now tied for first place.

July 28 Coney Island

I have previously explained my love of Coney Island. I understand that the amusement area needs to be upgraded. I just do not want the city of New York to allow hotels and condos on the beach side of Surf Avenue. The city originally said that area will never be rezoned for residential, it is currently zoned as an amusement area. The city council will vote tomorrow on the rezoning requested by Thor Equities, the company that bought up most of the land. For the record they bought it while constantly stating they would create a modern amusement park on the land. Once they owned the land, they began pushing the city for rezoning. So now big money wants to turn one of the last free amusement areas and beach areas of the city into yet another vanilla, lily white corporate playground for rich people. After the events of the past year, I hope I am not alone in my complete inability to trust the government or major corporations to do anything for the average, hard working middle class of this country. I have supported a group of artists who began a not-for-profit organization, Coney Island USA, for years. Please check out their website. I took this picture in Coney Island this summer. One of the shows put on by Coney Island USA is Sideshows by the Seashore. The MC is trying to talk people into seeing the show at a discounted price. I did see the show last a couple of summers ago. It was very cool, sword swallowers, fire eating, snake charmer...stuff like that done very well and very entertaining. I have also witnessed the Mermaid Parade that they put on each summer and was highly entertained. Trust me, you've never seen a parade like this one. Maybe I'll post those pictures some day. As Steve Earle once sang, "the revolution starts now..."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 27 Time To Change The Oil

Even though I haven't been abused lately for not being man enough for some of my readers, I thought I post pictures of me doing something manly. After work today, I changed the oil in both of my cars. I've done this for every car I've owned and I've never had any problems with my car's engines. When I bought the Chevy Equinox in 2005, I was so excited to learn that it used the same oil filter as the '99 Monte Carlo. As luck would have it, this week both cars needed the oil changed at the same time. It was a rare beautiful day, so I put Green Day's latest CD in the old boombox in the garage, rolled out the jack and got to work. Fresh oil, new filter, topped of the windshield fluid, check the tires, cleaned & oiled the K&N air filters and played some air guitar to "21 Guns" by Green Day.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 26 Trust Jesus

Since it is Sunday, how about a little religion for you heathens. OK, I'll admit religion was not a big part of my upbringing. As a child, every time I heard God mentioned in my house, the word damn usually followed it. But I am intrigued by religion. Last night while walking from Comerica Park to Detroit's party neighborhood, Greektown, we passed this fan of Jesus Christ. He powered his guitar amp and keyboard with his car battery. This old burn out played rock 'n' roll songs about Jesus. Hell yes, it made me laugh at first. Later during a fantastic evening of food and conversation with Tom & Laurie, religion came up quite a bit. It turns out that even though they grew up with way more religion in their households, we viewed religion pretty much the same way. So while driving back to Chicago late last night I thought about religion. I am not anti religion, please feel free to worship to your favorite God. Just leave me out of it. I find that I like to think there is a God or some kind of higher power, but you'll never see me parked on a city street banging out 3 chord songs about Jesus Christ. I'll leave that for those like the guy pictured here.

July 25 Road Trip To Detroit

As a point of reference for today's blog I need to make something perfectly clear, I hate salesmen. In my world, they are totally & completely useless. Most salesmen I know are the equivalent of politicians when it comes to speaking the truth, except one who has been a friend of mine for 12 years now. This friend, Tom, invited me to Detroit to watch the White Sox play the Tigers. The teams were tied for first place coming into this weekend. Unfortunately the White Sox played so poorly they wouldn't have beaten the little sisters of the poor on Friday. They lost both games of a doubleheader. I'm thinking no problem as I drive the four hours to Motown, a win today brings them back to within 1 game of first place. It will also be the first time I actually meet Tom's wife, Laurie. Which will end a long running joke between us that she doesn't really exist. You see, Tom would mention her to me. Crazy stuff like they met at a funeral and started dating even though she lived in Minnesota and he lived in Ohio. Then he would e-mail pictures. I joked that he photoshopped the lady next to him into the picture. So it turns out Laurie does exist and all those crazy stories are true. We had such a great time with Tom & Laurie during the game and at dinner after the ballgame at Fishbones, a Cajun Restaurant in Greektown (don't ask me that paradox), that I almost forgot that the White Sox were one strike away from winning the game and found a way to lose...again.

July 24 Poor Fluffy

I came home from work today to find Chrissy shaving Fluffy in the yard. Poor Fluff. Chrissy was trying to shave off all the matted fur on Fluff. When she was done done, Fluffy gave me the most pathetically woe is me look. I felt sorry for the old girl. As for the other old girl, she was covered in white fur and looking like she could use a shave herself.

July 23 Perfection

White Sox pitcher Mark Buerhle pitched the 18 perfect game in baseball history today. In 125 years of Major League baseball, this has occurred 18 times. I only heard the last two innings on the radio. I couldn't take the excitement. I was yelling in my truck as Mark got each of the last six outs. Cheering like a kid again. When DeWayne Wise robbed one of the Tampa Bay Rays of a home run for the first out in the ninth inning, I felt like a kid again. Screaming YES!!!, just like Hawk Harrelson was on the TV broadcast. That is what makes baseball such a great sport. The ability to feel like a kid again. Thanks Mark. Thanks DeWayne. Thanks to for the picture.

July 22 Masonic Temple, Hammond, IN

I stumbled across this building being torn down in Hammond, IN. So I took the time to find out what this huge building I'd never really noticed used to be. It turns out it was a 100 year old Masonic Temple that fell into disrepair, pretty much like all of Hammond. I didn't grow up around here so I have no memories of Hammond in it's heyday. But I am a fan of downtown areas of any city, large or small. I believe that in order for America to become what it once was, it needs to have cities with a thriving downtown section. Hopefully with locally owned stores and restaurants. If you've ever seen the movie, A Christmas Story, the writer grew up in Hammond and more than likely went to visit Santa in one of the department stores that used to line Hohman Avenue. Anyway, I bid adieu to another building from a long lost golden age of a city.

July 21 Why I Love Mexican Neighborhoods

Yes, that is a bottle of Coke. No big deal you might be saying to yourself. You are wrong. Because in Mexican neighborhoods throughout the city, you can buy a glass, yes a real glass bottle of Coca-Cola. For years I have said that soda tastes better in a glass bottle. I truly believe it does. It stays colder longer. That is not the only reason. These bottles appear to be imported from Mexico. I say that because the ingredients are not printed on the bottle. They are listed on a sticker placed on the bottle. I actually read the sticker and discovered why Coke in an imported from Mexico glass bottle tastes better. It is made with sugar, not high fructose corn syrup which is used for soda sold to Americans. Mexican Coca-Cola...real sugar...real glass...real better.

July 20 Rockaway Beach

Chewing out a rhythm on my bubble gum the sun is out and I want some

It's not hard, not far to reach we can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach

Up on the roof, out on the street down in the playground the hot concrete
Busride is too slow they blast out the disco on the radio

Rock rock rockaway beach Rock rock rockaway beach
Rock rock rockaway beach we can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach

Rock rock rockaway beach Rock rock rockaway beach
Rock rock rockaway beach we can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach

It's not hard, not far to reach we can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach

It's not hard, not far to reach we can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach

Chewing out a rhythm on my bubble gum the sun is out and I want some

It's not hard, not far to reach we can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach

Up on the roof, out on the street down in the playground the hot concrete
Busride is too slow they blast out the disco on the radio

Rock rock rockaway beach Rock rock rockaway beach
Rock rock rockaway beach we can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach
"Rockaway Beach" by The Ramones

Our last day in NYC. We took the bus to Rockaway Beach. Unlike the Ramones, I didn't think the bus was too slow but someone was playing Micheal Jackson songs along the way. I got my love of the beach from my father. He always took us to the beach wherever we lived. He also taught me how to bodysurf in the waves. My biggest regret about living in Chicago is not being near the ocean. I love riding the waves. Fighting the surf to get out to where the waves are breaking, jumping over or under the waves while waiting for the right one, the rush of diving over the top and catching the wave just right, the excitement as the waves crashes around you and propels you toward the beach...I love it all. Sometimes I feel like I live my whole life waiting for the next time I can stand on the shore looking out at 5-10 waves breaking perfectly and charge right in. Rockaway never lets me down. The tide was out and the waves were 5 feet at best but not very powerful. I caught a few good waves and spent time in between sets relaxing by floating on my back over the waves. A bit of a tribute to my grandfather who loved to float out past the breakers. I also love beach towns. Rockaway stretches for miles, we got off the bus at the 116th Beach. The couple of blocks to the boardwalk is like a beach town area, bars, pizzeria, surf shop, vendors selling beach supplies and a food stand on the boardwalk. There was also a memorial to Flight 587. That flight crashed into this neighborhood soon after takeoff from nearby JFK Airport about two months after Sept. 11th. It's always nice to spend time at a memorial for a plane crash hours before flying home. So I paid my respects and left for my Aunt's house. I had just enough time to shower, pack and eat the leftovers from last night veal cutlet dinner.

Friday, July 24, 2009

July 19 People Watching in Manhattan

I'm going to take you along on our Sunday stroll through Manhattan. NYC is definitely a people place. If America is still considered a melting pot of the world's people, it is because of New York City. Nowhere else in the world will you find such an incredible diversity of people in such a small area. I remember a few years ago when NYC was trying to get the 2012 Olympics, there was a banner on the subways saying. "If New York City gets the Olympics, every country will have home field advantage." Spend some time on the 7 train to Queens and you'll see how true that really is.
"Let me take you down, ‘Cos I’m going to Strawberry Fields. Nothing is real And nothing to get hungabout. Strawberry Fields forever. Living is easy with eyes closed Misunderstanding all you see. It’s getting hard to be someone. But it all works out, It doesn’t matter much to me." - Strawberry Fields Forever by The BeatlesWe started in Times Square. Sure it is a tourist thing to do and I've been there hundreds of times over the years. But this summer, the city closed the Broadway side of it to traffic. They set up some cheap lawn chairs (don't ask me why, but I did see a sign saying better chairs are coming in August) so fat tourists could rest in the middle of the street in Times Square. So I sat down and saw this guy. He didn't move for 10 minutes. My only guess is that he is protesting China's control over Tibet. So I went to ask him but he still didn't move, I felt like kicking him in the nuts, just to see if he'd move. But I really admired his dedication to his cause and he didn't even have a box for tips. A true believer, you have to admire that.
"I want to take this minute to introduce you to my people" - Dedication by The Beastie Boys

"You were pretty Queen of New York City" - Fairytale Of New York by The Pogues


These guys were in Times Square warning white people that their control of the world was coming to an end...real soon. I only listened for a few minutes but I'm pretty sure they hate America because of our support of Israel. I suppose they are some type of Muslims. Whatever they believe about America, I guarantee you that they couldn't stand in the streets of whatever country they believe is the Holy land and have the same freedom of speech that we give them.

"This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me." - This Land Is Your Land by Woody Guthrie
I guess this what most people believe is New York attitude. Truth is most New Yorkers are very friendly. Really they are and you'd better fucking believe me, very fucking friendly.
"See I've been to New York City
Seems like it was yesterday
I was standing like a pilgrim
On the Great White Way
The girls were really pretty
But they wouldn't talk to me
I held out about a week
Went back to Tennessee" NYC by Steve Earle

This is why I love NYC. There was a street fair for over 10 blocks on Broadway north of Times Square. This lady was just standing in front of Ellen's Stardust Diner, where the wait staff is always performing while bringing your food. As soon as I got my camera out, she smiled and started playing. I mouthed "Thank You" and she blew me a kiss.
"Little "nifties" from the Fifties,
Innocent and sweet;
Sexy ladies from the Eighties,
Who are indiscreet.
They're side by side, they're glorified
Where the underworld can meet the elite,
Forty-Second Street." 42nd Street by Al Dubin

After picking up bagels at H&H and gelato at Grom on the Upper West Side, we walked through the south end of Central Park. It was a beautiful day and the park was full of people soaking it in. This trumpet player was amazing. My love of street performers has been documented on the blog in the past. These guys were great.
"and I look outside to see what's going on
but there's only New York going on
louder than usual
and I look outside to see what's right or wrong
but there's only New York going on"
- Only New York Going On by Francis Dunnery

The Sheep Meadow in Central Park. On their blankets are the sunbathers, the book readers, the fans of the Sunday papers crossword puzzles, the young lovers intertwined, the old lovers holding hands, the dog lovers throwing a frisbee. What do they all have in common. Relaxing on the grass in one of the worlds biggest cities.
This kid was shockingly good at juggling. He was doing pretty good at collecting money from the people passing by.
This juggler wasn't as good or as cute as the kid. But he did draw a huge crowd and while juggling he was chastising parents about the correct way to raise their children. He made me laugh so he gets a mention on the blog.

"Saturday in the park
I think it was the Fourth of July
Saturday in the park
I think it was the Fourth of July
People dancing, people laughing
A man selling ice cream
Singing Italian songs
Can you dig it (yes, I can)
And I've been waiting such a long time
For Saturday
Saturday in the park
You'd think it was the Fourth of July
Saturday in the park
You'd think it was the Fourth of July
People talking, really smiling
A man playing guitar
Singing for us all
Will you help him change the world
Can you dig it (yes, I can)
And I've been waiting such a long time
For today
Slow motion riders fly the colours of the day
A bronze man still can tell stories his own way
listen children all is not lost
all is not lost
Funny days in the park
Every day's the Fourth of July
Funny days in the park
Every day's the Fourth of July
People reaching, people touching
A real celebration
Waiting for us all
If we want it, really want it
Can you dig it (yes, I can)
And I've been waiting such a long time
For the day"
-Saturday In The Park by Chicago

We walked down 5th Avenue to catch the E train back to Queens. It was lined with street performers and food vendors. Damn, I'll take a dirty water hot dog, pretzel and Pepsi. No wait. I'm heading back to my Aunt Maryann's veal cutlet dinner.(Just for the record, it's my favorite meal in the world) OK, I have no will power, give me a pretzel for the subway ride.
"And love won't play any games with you
Anymore if you want 'em to
So we better shake this old thing out the door
I'll always be thinkin' of you
I'll always love you though New York
I'll always love you though New York, New York, New York"
New York, New York by Ryan Adams

Thursday, July 23, 2009

July 18 Coney Island...Baby

Big fucking smile. I spent the whole beautiful day in Coney Island. The Village Voice Siren Music Festival had stages at the boardwalk on W 10th Street and on Stillwell Avenue. In between the stages is my favorite beautifully dilapidated amusement park in the country. The beach, the boardwalk and the streets were packed with people enjoying the sun, the surf and the music. Quoting a favorite t-shirt I once saw about Coney Island, "The Beautiful Freaks Come Out At Night". They were all out today and I proudly include myself in that group. We did ride the world's most famous roller coaster, the Cyclone and got the front seat too. Good times.
It is either The Blue Van or Bear Hands on stage in this picture. We spent the day just soaking up all the seedy fun Coney Island has to offer.

I noticed my favorite stand on the boardwalk, Gregory & Paul's, is now called Paul's Daughter's. Not sure what happened to Gregory or Paul. But this is the quintessential beach front food stand. Everything from cotton candy to raw clams is available here.
I got face to face with this shark at at the Aquarium which is also on the boardwalk right next to the Cyclone roller coaster.
The Wonder Wheel is like no other Ferris wheel I've ever seen. The cages in the middle move along tracks that shift back & forth as the wheel spins. Great views of Coney Island from the top.
Like I said earlier, the boardwalk was packed all day long. The beach was crowded from the shoreline to the baordwalk for as far as you could see. Turns out NYC has had the same crappy summer as Chicago and today was a perfect summer day. The subway had lots of families dragging coolers down to the beach.
There are lots of changes going on in Coney Island. I'll explain it all another time. Here the Peta people complain about the Ringling Bros. Circus on the beach.
Coney Island is all about food. It isn't about eating healthy. I did see some vendors selling fresh fruit in cups, they weren't very busy.
Better to see this guy at the Aquarium instead of the beach.
The most famous hot dog stand in America, Nathan's at Stillwell and Surf Avenues. The city requires the nutritional info on the menu, a hot dog, fries and Coke will set you back almost 2000 calories. But who eats just one hot dog. Joey Chestnut ate 68 to win the hot dog eating contest this past July 4th.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July 17 There's No Place Like Home

I might live in Chicago but I still consider New York City my home. Sometimes I get a feeling that I need to go home...right now. It's hard to explain, I guess it's like a heroin addict. I need a NYC fix and I need it now. That's why this trip came up out of nowhere. I needed a fix. I always feel a different type of energy in NYC. It recharges my batteries. The heartbeat of the city, the fast pace, the multitude of things to see and do make NYC like no other place on Earth.

We took the subway from Queens to the city, Manhattan. We started at Union Square on 14th Street. The park is always full of vendors selling their art, photographs, t-shirts and today there was a farmer's market.
We did some shopping while walking down Broadway & Lafayette Streets toward Soho. There is no sales tax on clothing items under $110 and every style is available here. Some things are definitely seen only in New York, like this window arrangement. I have no idea what it is supposed to represent or sell. But it looked cool to me with the church across the street.

We cut across Manhattan and walked to Greenwich Village. We ate at a little Italian café, Piccola Cucina on Prince street along the way. We also stopped to rest at a walled garden attached to a church on 6th Ave. Then we got fantastically lost in Greenwich Village. The Village has some great old streets that are part of the pre-grid street layout that the city decided to start just north of the area. The Village is always an interesting walk. Some of the city's oldest homes and free thinkers are here.

We ended our trip in the Meatpacking District, named for the large amount of butchers that used to be in the area not for the reason you might be thinking. Thanks to a group of citizens, Friends of the High Line, a long ago abandoned elevated freight line has been turned into a park. It is the last elevated train line left in Manhattan and now it is a park. I've read about it for years and recently the first section was opened. They did a great job creating a park using it's former life as the theme for the park.