Monday, November 30, 2009

November 29 My Visit To Puerto Rico (Humboldt Park)

When Patty asked me to go with her to Humboldt Park for her school project, I had no idea it was a Puerto Rican neighborhood. So I called my PR cousin, Karen, to ask her what I should order at a PR restaurant, she said they would still know I was a gringo but a medianoche sandwich, alcapurria or mofongo would make it seem like I knew what I was doing. We ended up having Pastelillos de Guayaba at a bakery café since I had a dinner reservation in a couple of hours. We began our tour in Humboldt Park then walked east along Division Street to Western Avenue.

The Chicago Cubs built this great little stadium in Humboldt Park for the local little leaguers.

There are several incredible field houses in Humboldt Park. This one used to have a little beach in front of it but the west lagoon is currently drained by the park district.

The park has several statues, this one was unmarked. But a google search has identified it as the Leif Ericson Monument, apparently this wasn't always a Puerto Rican neighborhood.

This is the boat house and music court on the east lagoon. This building also houses the Sabor Latino Café. The menu board below has local favorites listed.

This is the park's namesake famed Puerto Rican Alexander von Humboldt.

The Paseo Boricua is the business district through the heart of Humboldt Park along Division Street. It is flanked on the east & west sides by the metal arches of the Puerto Rico flag.

Hey, it's a PR neighborhood of course there are murals. Some of people I do not know...

...and some of people I do recognize like homeland favorite Roberto Clemente, who has a local high school named after him.

Well that's my trip to Puerto Rico. Since most people are afraid to travel to neighborhoods that are unfamiliar to them, I thought I'd bring the Humboldt Park neighborhood to you. There were several restaurants that looked very good on Division between Western and California. Why not try one next time you are in Chicago? You just might run into me at one of them.

November 28 A Beautuful Day

We took the dogs to the Indiana Dunes State Park this morning. It started as a chilly morning but quickly warmed up with lots of blue sky and sunshine. Because I missed a cut off on the trail our 4 mile hike turned into an 8 mile hike. The dogs didn't seem to mind, even the old girl Fluffy had no problem spending hours in the woods and on the sand dunes. Then I met Patty for a tour of the Puerto Rican neighborhood of Humboldt Park (see tomorrow's blog for that story). Back down & up the Dan Ryan expressway to pick up Chrissy for dinner with Debbie & George at Pasha. A very long time ago, Deb & I began treating each other to dinner for our birthdays. Tonight it was to celebrate my birthday. Since Debbie lives in the city, she picks the restaurant and as usual she picked another good one. We decided to split the dinners between the four of us which allowed us to sample more of the menu. It was very good. I even ate the rice dishes which is a big break from the norm for me. After dinner we decided to pose for a picture to help decide who has the biggest head. It was clearly me. I also won the who has the most chins competition. Lucky me.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

November 27 Our Trip To Gary, Indiana

We both had the day off, actually I was on call but never got paged. So while everyone else is shopping with the demented hordes, we decide to take the dogs to Gary's Marquette Park. We parked at the ram-shackled but still impressive bath house on the beach. It looks like some renovations have been done lately, but much more work is needed. We walked down the beach toward the Lake Street beach. It was a sunny but chilly morning. The lake had about four foot waves with white caps, only Roxy went into the water. She seemed very excited to be at the beach, we have no idea if she has ever been on a beach. On the way back to the car, we walked around the bath house now known as The Aquatorium. There is a memorial & a statue for the Tuskegee Airman from WWII that were very cool to see. There is also a statue of Octave Chanute who helped the Wright Brothers with early plane designs. An interesting visit to Gary today. We ended the day enjoying pizza and beer with Todd & Vicki. Vicki wanted her favorite pizza from her childhood, Papa Damiani's in Dolton, so they picked it up on the way to our house. It was really good pizza. We laughed the night away and once again Todd tried to get Chrissy and Vicki to kiss but we had to settle on them hugging each other which Todd took as a positive sign in the right direction.

November 26 Oslo's Birthday & Happy Thanksgiving

Here are the highlights of our Thanksgiving travels. We ate dinner at Chrissy's mom's house. Kristian was the only person who hung out with me, her brothers were hiding in the front bedroom (Kennedy) & in the basement (Kyle). Here's Kristian with her mom, Kimmie. As usual my mother in law cooked for 40 people about 15 showed up. We had a great meal. Kristian told me Thanksgiving was all about food so shut up and eat or something along those lines.

Then we were off to Mrs. Drescher's house to spend time with my other family. We were greeted by Jim & Debbie's youngest boy, Scottie.

We sat around the kitchen table catching up. Here's the always cheerful Debbie and the Grandpa looking Jimmy. While the adults chatted the night away...

...the kids were playing Rock Band or Guitar Hero. That's Stevie on drums, Jimmy on guitar, Bernie on guitar and Audrey playing the plastic golf club. Bernie was playing the Billy Corgan control freak role as he repeatedly kicked people out of the band for not being good enough.

Here's Jimmy on drums after Stevie was kicked out of the band.

Here's a picture of Susie. She refused to let me take a good picture of her so this is what she gets.

When we finally got home, Chrissy found her cat cookie jar shattered on the ground and all the cookies were gone. She was furious. Then while yelling at Oslo, she broke the cover of the jar over Oslo's head. I had to find him under the stairs to make sure he was OK. That dog has a thick skull and this was one time it helped him. I told him I guess I got off easy, Chrissy just gave me a t-shirt for my birthday.

Friday, November 27, 2009

November 25 Half Way To Ninety

I spent most of my birthday half asleep in a hazy stupor. No, it wasn't from excess partying. No it wasn't because I'm so fucking old now that I spend most days like that while waiting for my dirt nap. I got the day off because I worked all night long on Tuesday. I tried to get some sleep around 7am but the dogs drove me crazy. I finally got a few hours of sleep after being awake for 32 straight hours. When I got up Chrissy had made stuffed shells for dinner and picked up a Dairy Queen ice cream cake for my birthday. Actually it was for Oslo's birthday too. He turns three tomorrow. Chrissy has had a Peppermint Patty type thing with me, she has called me Sir for as long as I can remember. I have no idea why. If you have read this blog at all this year, you know Oslo is called the Fanook. You probably didn't know his real name is Oslo. The cake was suppose to say Happy Birthday Sir & Fanook. As you can see, it says Sir Fanook. Apparently in my sleepless haze of a birthday, Queen Elizabeth stopped by and knighted my gay dog.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November 24 The Thunderbolt Kid

Once again, I am working the night shift after working half a day this morning. I am actually updating my blog from my work truck using a free wireless connection from a house near the Speedway on Calumet & 169th Street in Hammond, IN. I am halfway through Bill Bryson's book, "The Thunderbolt Kid". It is about his childhood growing up in the middle of the country (Iowa) in the middle of the century (1950's). I am laughing out loud at his version of life in America back then. I highly recommend any of his books. My introduction to him was "The Lost Continent : Travels In Small Town America". I have read most of his books and all are very funny. But Lost Continent is still my favorite.Years ago I bought the book but had not read it. While visiting me, my mom took the book to read on her flight home. She was in the airport reading it when my dad made her stop because she was laughing hysterically and people were staring. She mailed it back to me and I read it. I usually read in bed at night. I was laughing so hard Chrissy wanted to know what was so funny. I tried to read the passage to her but could not control my laughter. She would grab the book, read it herself and both of us would be laughing uncontrollably. Then we would have wild sex in order to stop laughing so we could get to sleep. OK, I made that part up, but the rest is true.

November 23 Save Ellis Island

 Here's a chance to help your favorite charity. I voted for Save Ellis Island. JPMorgan Chase is donating $5 million dollars to the charities that get the most votes on their Facebook page. I've been to the Ellis Island several times. The museum there is a fantastic look back on the world's greatest period of immigration. When you hear the stories and see the picture of the people who came to America looking for a better life, it is truly amazing what they went through to get here. I found the records of several family members that came through Ellis Island. You can search the records for free at So feel free to vote for your favorite charity and place a vote for Save Ellis Island also. They are currently trying to rehab several buildings on the island to enhance the visitor's experience to the site.

Monday, November 23, 2009

November 22 Fresh Coat Of Paint

Our house has been torn apart for over two months as four rooms and two hallways have finally been repainted. Maybe repainted is the wrong term because all except for the front room have new colors. I spent the last two weekends putting new light fixtures, ceiling fans and the various pieces of artwork and cabinets back on the walls and ceilings. It sure is nice to be able to turn on a light before entering the room again. The dogs and my toes have taken a brutal beating the last few weeks while I searched for a lamp across a dark room. So today's exciting blog pictures are of my newly painted rooms. You are probably not nearly excited as I am. Sorry.

November 21 A Kid I Enjoy Spending Time With...Who Knew It Was Possible

I spent the afternoon with my niece Kristian. I needed help walking the three dogs and she agreed to go to Sweet Woods with me. As usual the dogs loved it. So did I. It was a nice fall day and I'm beginning to really enjoy the time I spend with Kristian. She finally seems like a little person not just a dopey kid anymore. I can actually have a conversation with her and she responds or asks questions like there are active brain functions. I am so excited that she has reached this point. She is outgoing and can start conversations that have cogent thoughts. I know a few kids much older than her that are not able to do this. She took the picture of me with the dogs in the pavilion at Sweet Woods. It was her idea that we flip a coin to see who had to pay for lunch on the way home. We split the first four flips, then she won three in a row to reach five first. We settled on White Castle and I explained why they are called sliders. She didn't care, she still wanted some. There is hope in the next generation.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

November 20 WWII in HD

I've been watching WWII in HD on the History Channel. I'll admit I love history. Even as a kid, I always loved history. That said, this is a pretty amazing series. I've learned a lot of new information about the war and how it was fought. They compiled old footage from the War Department, reporters and soldiers. This isn't a Hollywood version of what happened, this is the real deal. You will see soldiers getting killed and lots of dead soldiers from both sides. This is not for those George Bush - Dick Cheney types that want to pretend that no one dies during war. When you see what these soldiers went through you will truly believe they earned the title of Our Greatest Generation.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

November 19 It Happened Again

I spent today catching up on my blog posts for the week. So I have nothing to post for today. Then it happened again. My mom mailed me a picture from the cruise which they recently took to the Caribbean. It contained this short note:

Hi Gregg & Chrissy,

Here we are leaving the ship to go snorkeling. I have to send these pictures to someone!

                                                                Love you, Mom

I read the note before looking at the picture. Of course I thought gee Ma, I love you too. Sorry you had to send me a picture you didn't want. It's bad enough you two are spending our inheritance on month long cruises every year. Now you feel forced to mail me pictures. Then I looked at the picture and laughed. Another picture with a penis shaped object in it (see November 16th post). Twice in one week. Someone tell me what exactly is that thing standing next to my mother suppose to be.Thanks Ma, I love the picture. Still laughing at it.

November 18 I Love My Paycheck

My friend Debbie once told me that on a bad day at work she would e-mail her boyfriend the message "I hate my job!". And George would reply back "But you love your paycheck". That is how I feel today. I finally got some sleep last night. I worked eight and a half hours today. OK that's cool. But I have to worked again tonight. So I get home at 4pm and try to get some sleep. No luck. Back to work I go.
                       I have to shut down a Speedway station and run line and tank tests.

Once the tests start running, there isn't much for me to do. So I organize my truck, read product service bulletins I have long ignored, try to stay awake, play solitaire on my computer, drink gallon size cups of Pepsi, stare at this sign in front of my truck, listen to Raw Dog Comedy on Sirius satellite radio. I work from 9:30pm until 4:30am. Now I have no problem falling asleep but I completely lost three days this week thanks to my job. But, like my friend Debbie, I do love my paycheck.

November 17 My Pager : A Love / Hate Relationship

Every fourth week I am on call for seven days, 24 hours a day. So I have to carry this little pager. I was paged at 2AM this morning. Hence the love / hate relationship. I love the extra money from working overtime, but I hate the fact that my life gets put on hold for a week every month. So I slept for two and a half hours, worked from 2am until noon, slept for 3 more hours, then got paged again and worked from 5pm until 930pm. Came home and went to bed to start the whole cycle again.

November 16 Laughing Until Tears Rolled Down My Face

Some days I search for a picture so I have something to write about for this blog. Some days I take a picture and find something to write about, other days I have a hard time finding a picture or coming up with something interesting to write about. Then there are days where something fantastic just falls into my lap or in today's case, my e-mail inbox. Today after working a long day and having absolutely nothing to write about, Cindy Wagner sent me this e-mail:

"This is how Audrey draws people - thought you would enjoy this.

FYI - the drawing is on a card for my mom - which makes it even more funny. And all 4 sides of the card were covered in "people." I picked the best side with the hairy "person" to take the picture.

I see a blog entry..."

Audrey is Cindy's three year old niece. She was featured on this blog on June 3rd. A picture that her mom, Susie, had sent to me. That one also made me laugh but not nearly as much as this one. I  laughed until I cried after looking at this picture.

November 15 Spending A Day with 3 Dogs and 1 Niece

My niece Kristian was my dog walker helper today. We took the dogs to Sweet Woods for a long hike through the woods. The hike was enjoyed by all two legged and four legged participants. For those that think I might be a bad influence on my young niece, let me assure you I reprimanded her (after laughing hysterically) for singing "Lions and tigers and Fanooks!" while walking through the forest. After walking the dogs, we worked around the house. She helped clean the wood racks with Murphys Soap Oil before we hung them back on the recently painted walls. We cleaned the dishes, did laundry and baked cookies from the cookie dough we bought to support the Great Pyrenees Rescue of Chicago. Kristian wanted to help with the cookies but I wouldn't let her because then I wouldn't be able to eat them. Why you ask? Because kids are walking sacks of disgusting germs, viruses and bacteria. Anyway, Kristian spent time reading the magnets on my refrigerator. Probably not a good idea. For the sake of this story you need to know that she has been taking dance classes for a few years now. While I was putting the dough on the cookie trays, she showed me her new dance after reading this magnet.

It was her butt, gut & thighs dance, where she gyrated her hips while pointing to each body part as she sang out "BUTT GUT THIGHS". Hey this isn't my fault. I'm a good uncle. I really am. I spent the whole day with my niece and actually enjoyed it. I'm just damn glad she didn't create a song for this magnet.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

November 14 A Doggy Day Hike

I got my nephew, Kennedy, to help me take the dogs for a walk at Brownell Woods. It was a beautiful day, sunny and about 70 degrees. Roxy seemed to love the woods as much as Oslo & Fluffy. We hiked along the leaf covered trails for about an hour. The leaves were so thick that the five of us made a thunderous noise with each step. It got to be a joke with Kennedy & I to see who was making the most noise. Afterward, I spent the day putting our house back together after two months of painting. So far so good with Roxy. I had to settle a few flare ups. Roxy is protective of the food bowls so I had to separate her from the kitchen so Oslo could eat. Roxy seems to be adjusting to her new surroundings. I'm sure it is tough because there are other dogs here.

November 13 Doggy Spa Day

I picked up Roxy last night (See November 6th Post). She was cleaned up quite a bit from last weekend. She seemed nervous which is understandable given all she has been through lately. This morning I took all three dogs for a spa day, medicated oatmeal shampoo, nail trim and a good brushing of the fur coat. As usual, the staff at Illiana loved Fluffy because you can do anything to her and Oslo only got the shampoo bath because he is a fanook. Roxy got the shampoo, partial brushing but no nail trim. Afterward, I took Roxy to the vet where she got a clean bill of health and all of her shots for the year. The three of them were good in the car, especially being packed so tight in the back of my Equinox. I was able to watch the Blackhawks beat Toronto in relative peace since all three dogs passed out once we got home. A late night walk around the block was the end of day. Roxy jumped on the bed with me, growled at Oslo when he jumped up. The fanook jumped off immediately. Roxy then settled in right next to me with her head on my chest and fell asleep. I didn't fall asleep right away because she snores louder than I do. The pictures (top to bottom) are Oslo, Fluffy & Roxy all cleaned up.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

November 12 The Hard Frost

We had our first hard frost this morning. For some reason I thought a poem should be used to describe it. I googled "hard frost" and it turns out other people thought it was worth a poem. So here is my poem.

the leaves have fallen
the daylight has shortened
the temperatures are slowly dropping
the sun sits lower in the sky
the shadows are longer
and the final sign of impending winter
this morning, a hard frost

Upon further research, we technically didn't have a hard frost this morning. I think it was a hoar frost but the poem stays anyway. Hoar frost sounds like a venereal disease and it makes me laugh, so no hoar frost poem from me.

November 11 Veterans Day

On this Veterans Day, I salute the incredible men and women who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces of the greatest country on Earth. May God bless each and everyone of them.

November 10 Eighteen Hour Work Day

I worked from 4:30am until 12:30am today. I really don't have much else to say. We replaced the computer system and dispensers at this station in Elgin.

November 9 KiddieLand

Earlier this year I wrote about passing by the now defunct Santa's Village and feeling a bit sad about a bygone era. So when I stopped at the light at First Ave & North Ave in Melrose Park, I took a couple of pictures of the KiddieLand sign to show that some old time amusement parks still survive. I really wanted to write a feel good blog about KiddieLand. I googled Kiddieland and found their website. Unfortunately, KiddieLand closed forever on October 4, 2009. Once again, my attempt at a feel good piece is flushed down the drain. As far as I know, there are no longer any old time amusement parks in the Chicagoland area.