Saturday, May 29, 2010

May 28 A Simpler Time

I recently read Bill Bryson's "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid". (see November 24th post). He describes his life growing up in Iowa in the 1950's in the book. The section where he describes the various toys he had as a child had me laughing out loud. I had a lot of the same toys 15 years later. He joked about how easily amused kids were back then because they could play with a Slinky all day long and never get bored. Here's an old Slinky commercial for those unfamiliar with what is essentially a big spring.

Maybe Mr. Bryson was right. The kids in that commercial look border line retarded. I can't imagine kids nowadays being excited to get a Slinky over a Nintedo Wii. I bring this up now because Chrissy gave me a New York Mets Pez dispenser recently.

I was surprised they still sold them. This candy dispenser seems so out of date nowadays that it made me feel nostalgic for the old days. Every generation longs for how things used to be and now I am old enough to feel that times. Today was one of those times. So I looked around my house for things from 'the old days'.  The only thing I found after a short walk through the house was this shopping list reminder that I got from my Italian grandmother.
Here's a throwback to the days before post it notes, dry erase boards and cellphone calls on the way home to find out what needs to be picked up from the store. This is hung on the cabinets in the kitchen but we don't actually use it. I guess it is just a decoration that reminds me of my grandmother and how things always seemed simpler in the old days.

May 26 The Lonely City

I had to work a few midnight shifts lately. The city is definitely a different place when ninety five percent of the people are sleeping. I had a job at 34th & California which is down the street from Cook County jail. The only people stopping at the gas station there were county cops, delivery trucks and the occasional gang bangers. I was just below I-55 which hardly had any traffic. It was a beautiful night so I turned up the radio and enjoyed the cool breeze on a humid night in the desolate, quiet, lonely city.

the northbound I-55 off ramp at California Avenue at 3:10am

May 22 Kissing

I always try to support local businesses and artisans. I really do try to find special one of a kind gifts when I am shopping. This past Christmas I bought seven season passes for the Towle Theater in Hammond, Indiana. The idea was to hand them out as gifts then we would all get together for a night out several times this year. Tonight was one of those nights. We had dinner at El Taco Real, stopped at the Paul Henry Art Gallery and saw the play "Kissing" at the Towle Theater. A thoroughly enjoyable night out for me. The play centered around the relationship of the four characters and as you might have guessed from the title, kissing was the central theme. The cast had an actor, Shawn A. Smith, that I really enjoyed from the first play of the season, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee". He was very good in this play also. He has been in a few Hollywood movies like "Zack & Miri Make A Porno" and "She's Out Of My League". Another cast member, Andrea Walczak, had never acted on stage before this play. She heard about the auditions and decided to rekindle a life long dream. When I read her story in the playbill, it brought a smile to my face. This is exactly why I wanted to support a local theater. Jeff Casey, Managing Director and Kevin Bellamy, Director of Administration do a fantastic job of putting on the plays and making everyone feel a part of something special. Let's face it, downtown Hammond is 50 years past it's prime and has not aged well. During the intermission, Jeff thanked everyone for their support. They have a record number of season tickets this year. All this gives me hope that Hammond might be able to make a comeback. It always seems like the artists start to turn a neighborhood around. They flock to a depressed area for the cheap rents. The clubs, galleries and restaurants follow which brings people to an area they wouldn't normally visit. The area becomes a hot spot. Rents increase, people with money move in, artists move on to find cheaper rent. The cool artist neighborhood turns into a very uncool yuppie neighborhood. OK, not exactly a happy ending. But my point is that maybe Hammond could become the cool artist neighborhood for a few years. That would be a big step forward for Hammond.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

May 15 Carpe Diem

A rare weekend that Chrissy & I both have the days off and nothing scheduled. The day starts out with some shower sex. Oh no, not my usual shower sex, this time Chrissy was in there with me. No matter what happens the rest of the day, this will be a great day. So after an early morning walk around the block with the dogs. We are off to Lincoln Park with our niece Kristian.

First stop the Green City Market. It is the first outdoor farmer's market of the year. The selections of fresh produce are limited to herbs, lettuce, mushrooms and apples this early in the season. But there is a great selection of flowers and plants for your own garden. So we pick up several different tomato plants, a basil plant and some pepper plants. Of course we pick up handmade pasta, fiery red chile linguine, from the Pasta Puttana. The day continues to be a great day.

Then we are off to Lincoln Park Zoo. The biggest free zoo in the country. I really do enjoy spending time in the city. The diversity, the freedom of expression and the talented street performers really do add a special experience that is missing in the suburbs. Most of the animals were outside and very active. My good luck continued. Nothing could ruin this day, I didn't even care when I got accosted by a clown in the bathroom at the Children's Zoo. But it did make me wonder what kind of parent let's their children within 50 feet of clowns.
A talented old man playing guitar, a trying to be funny but came off as bitter magician and a trumpet player serenading the polar bears.
 It was a good day for head shots.
This spectacle bear was enjoying bone day. My dogs would have been jealous.
This old girl, a sun bear,  had jaw surgery which caused her tongue to hang out. She was a favorite with the crowd.
This old girl was so excited to find freshly made cotton candy that she was touching herself.
This zebra must have been very hungry. Which reminded me...where is that pretzel cart?
On our way home from the big city, we stopped at the William Powers State Recreation Area. This is more commonly known as Wolf Lake on the Indiana side. Yes, it is surrounded by industries that have polluted it for years. But it is getting better. As evidenced by the many people fishing there and a rather large swan population on the lake. Of course the swans were not the pristine white swans you usually see. I think a dirty white describes them best but I still think it is great to see wildlife returning to this area. Yet another pleasant surprise for me today. We dropped off Kristian and picked up our dogs. It's been such a great day, we decide to take them to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for a walk along the beach at sunset. Did I mention that the sky has been blanketed with cold gray clouds all day. Of course I didn't because this has been a perfectly enjoyable day and the clouds did not matter. Well guess what. The clouds broke right at sunset and we saw a beautiful sky as the sun went down. 
We found a driftwood tree trunk at the appropriately named Lake View beach. The sun was setting right over the city of Chicago and we had an amazing view relaxing on the beach.
The perfect ending to a perfect day. I mean what could top this sunset. Just head home and go to bed. Days like this do not happen very often. But wait, I haven't eaten since that pretzel at Lincoln Park Zoo. Let's drive by Smokey's BBQ and see if they are still open. 

My luck continues and my perfect day ends with a pulled pork sandwich, a side of potato salad and a slice of homemade blueberry pie.