Thursday, February 23, 2017

February 23, 2016 The Original Source of Fake News - My Christmas Letter Version 2016

Here's a rare picture of the two us taken last year. We hope you enjoy the screwball stories of our 2016 Christmas Newsletter...the original fake news source.

   Welcome once again to my belated Christmas Letter. I am sure that “better late than never” does not apply to this letter. So what do I remember about 2016? Not much. Seriously I can’t remember a damn thing anymore. My brain is like an Etch-A-Sketch, something enters it and as soon as I turn my head it is erased. I did learn one thing this year. Back in 2008, I remember people saying that Barack Obama becoming President meant that young black children can now believe that they could become President. This year I learned that fat old obnoxious Caucasian blowhards can become President. So there is still a chance for me. Moving forward, Christy and I will continue to fight for the issues that we believe make America great and will denounce those whose actions seek to destroy the ideals this country was founded on. I hope you will do the same because we all have to live with the consequences. So like the Monty Python show used to say, “And now for something completely different”… here are a few ridiculous stories that I do remember happening last year.

   Due to my quickly declining health, I had to wear a heart monitor for 48 hours in March. I was told to live my normal life so this was no big deal. But then I learned that I had to keep an activity journal. After looking at the journal, I realized my first 24 hours were so damn boring. I told Chrissy that I need to liven up my life. Let’s add some sexual activity events to the timeline. She said “do whatever you want but I won’t be participating.” The nurse said my fastest heart rate was at 11:50pm on the second night and asked what I was doing then. I told the truth that I was moshing in a circle pit at a Gogol Bordello concert at the Metro. She told me, “That’s the coolest activity I’ve ever seen on a journal.” I replied “It’s fun but not better than sex.”

   Chrissy has no idea how computers or cell phones work. She never deletes anything and has no clue about memory space. Then she complains when the computer or cell phone doesn’t work properly. So she yells this computer or smartphone is a piece of shit and I make fun of her lack of basic computer knowledge. This is actually foreplay for our version of sex. Then she says fuck you and I reply no fuck you. Then we relax and share a cigarette. In April, Chrissy was complaining that I did not return her phone calls. I kept telling her that I left her voicemail messages. So I took her phone to prove that I left her messages. Guess what I found! She did have my voice messages going back to last November in her blocked messages folder. ME: You blocked my cell number. HER: How did I do that? ME: Because you have no fucking idea how anything works!  I unblocked me so now you can get my messages. HER: Show me how to block someone. ME: Why? HER: Because you are an asshole and I’m going to block you again.

   I work long hours, play late night hockey games and go to a lot of concerts. Some days I get less than four hours of sleep which at my age has taken a huge toll on my body. It is mostly aches and pains mixed with limited flexibility. Also Chrissy buys the cheapest single ply recycled toilet paper. You need to know this for my next story. I am usually half asleep for my morning shit, shower and shave. One morning as she gets out of the shower, I get in. She yells turn around. I am thinking, “Great. Some morning shower sex is just what I need to start my day.” But she is laughing uncontrollably. I have no idea why and she is laughing so hard that she is crying and is unable to answer my constant question of “What?” At one point she is on the floor laughing so hard that she is having trouble breathing and I am screaming “what is so fucking funny?” Finally she points at my ass and blurts out, “you have toilet paper hanging out of your ass.” She composes herself and I ask “If I remove the TP from my ass can I still get shower sex this morning?” She starts laughing uncontrollably again and I do my best to slam the shower curtain shut.

   In October, we joined our friends Jim & Christy in New Orleans for a long weekend. We had a great time enjoying the usual NOLA things…eating, drinking and live music. One day we decided to do a Swamp Tour. We had a great time touring the bayou on an airboat. Our guide stopped along the way so we could hold a baby alligator which was perfectly comfortable and still while being held by everyone else. When I held the little guy, he is squirming and trying to get away. I ask the guide why the gator doesn’t like me holding him. The guide looks at my hands and says “because your fingers are on his junk!” That’s just great. I’ve spent my whole life goofing on southerners by saying things like “He got a real pretty mouth ain’t he?” and “I don’t why they call this stuff hamburger helper, it does just fine by itself.”  And here I am standing in a bayou sexually assaulting an alligator. Damn, karma is a bitch.

   In July I was in Silverthorne, Colorado to DJ my friend, Shannon’s wedding. The wedding was late in the afternoon, so I decided to hike the Dillon Reservoir trail with my friend Bill. After the hike we talked to Forest Service volunteers about places to eat lunch. They recommended a German place called Prosit. This place is known for their extensive sausage menu. So we walk up to the bar and are contemplating our order. The bartender has a distinct east coast accent. I’m from NYC and Bill is from Philly. It turns out she is also from Philadelphia. So there is some east coast conversation and bonding between the three of us. At first we were going to each get a different sausage sandwich but were having trouble deciding which ones. Then we saw the four sausage sampler. We go back and forth on whether we are hungry enough so we ask about the size of the sausage. All sausages are 12 inches. After growing tired of our indecision, she handed us our beers and blurts out “Order the sampler, I’m sure you two could knock back four sausages, no problem!” When we sit down at our table this is our conversation. Bill: “She thinks we are a couple.” Me: “What?” Bill: “She definitely thinks we are gay. Didn’t you hear the way she said, I’m sure you two could knock back four feet of sausage”. Me: “Can’t two men share a sausage platter and be heterosexual.”  We both just laughed it off but I was sure Bill was right. And by the time we were done with lunch, so was the bartender…about the amount of sausage we could eat not our sexual preference.

   In April Chrissy and I spent three days hiking in California’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We had a great time and spent our days hiking from sunrise to sunset in the desert. A few highlights were the SkyArt Metal Sculptures all over the area, hiking a canyon known as The Slot, the Mountain Palm Springs trail and Borrego Palm Canyon trail. We saw amazing flowering cacti on the Foot & Walker Pass trail and hiked in the rain without getting wet on the Moonlight Canyon trail. Yes it was raining above us but it mostly evaporated by the time it hit the ground. One morning we stopped at a local bakery and picked up sandwiches and cinnamon rolls which we ate throughout the day in the car. After spending a wonderful day in the desert, we stopped at a Mexican place for dinner. It was crowded so we each had two margaritas during dinner. Once I stood up to leave I realized I had to pee so I quickly ran to the bathroom. I am exhausted and half in the bag from the monster margaritas but I finally am relieving myself. Unfortunately I am not paying attention and when I zip up I noticed there is piss splatter on my pants. Fuck me; I can’t walk through a restaurant like this. So I try using the hand dryer to dry my quick dry hiking pants. But in order to get this done I have to stand in front of it and lift one leg at a time onto the wall above the hand dryer. In my condition this balancing act is hard to do and when I see my reflection in the mirror I start laughing because it looks like I am humping the hand dryer. I laugh so hard I lose my balance and fall to the floor. I pick myself up and leave my dignity on the floor as I walk through the restaurant with visible piss stains on my pants. Chrissy looks like she is trying not to laugh so I start telling her what happened in the bathroom. She says “I didn’t even notice that. I’ve been laughing ever since you walked away because I can’t take you out in public anymore.” Before I can ask, she says “your ass is covered with icing that fell off the cinnamon bun you shoved into your pie hole while driving.”

   It seems like a lot of people think 2016 was a bad year. While making a list of things to write about for this newsletter, I realized I had an amazing year. I loved these moments when they happened which makes them seem more special now as I relive them. Here are some memorable moments from the past year… spending a day catching up with my cousins at my Aunt Pat & Uncle Ed’s 60th anniversary party… spending two nights with our friends Tom & Laurie, first seeing John Prine at the Chicago Theater on a Friday night, then on Saturday  seeing Paul Sanchez tell stories, take requests and sing songs for over three hours at Fitzgerald’s … spending a rainy Sunday hanging out with my brother Jeff in his garage as he amazed me with his knowledge of cars, racing and the mathematics of engine building and testing… spending a night sitting around a campfire in Joshua Tree NP with my brother George, my sister-in-law Marcy and my cousin Patty. We spent about five hours telling stories, drinking and laughing. What a wonderful way to spend a night… I loved the night Chrissy and I saw Flow Tribe’s incredible midnight show at the Blue Nile on Frenchmen Street. Then double parking in front of CafĂ© Du Monde at 3:15am to enjoy a piping hot bag full of beignets and powdered sugar… In June we spent three days walking all over NYC with my friends Tom & Laurie. I had a great time showing off my hometown to them. But my favorite moment was sitting on a blanket in Prospect Park with Chrissy and my friends Tom, Laurie and Fran (who owns the B&B we stayed at) listening to the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. I think it seemed so special to me because it was all so relaxing, the music, the beautiful summer night, the conversation with friends and being surrounded by a few thousand people enjoying the same exact things…. In December we met my cousin Mary for lunch at the Harbor Grill restaurant in Dana Point. We spent the next four hours talking about our lives, politics, family and things we can do to make the world a better place… In April we spent the afternoon with Chrissy’s friend Deb and her friends drinking, laughing and telling stories at Lafitte’s Blacksmith bar in the French Quarter. We repeated the same thing with the same group later that night over dinner at Mothers… In July after spending the day at Lollapalooza, I joined my friends Patty, Jim, Christy and Adam at the Double Door for a midnight concert by Frank Turner. Once again hanging out with friends to see one of my favorite musicians becomes a memorable night for me… In August, Kimmie (Chrissy’s sister) joined us for the LATE Ride through Chicago. We rode our bikes through the city from 1:30am until 6am. This year there was a spectacular sunrise over Lake Michigan. So we stopped along the Lakefront Trail and watched as a new day dawned with an explosion of color and for a few minutes I saw our flawed city as a beautiful and serene place which put a smile on my face… George, Marcy & I joined the Los Angeles Santacon in December. While partying on the Santa Monica Pier, we met Ashley and her boyfriend Chris. We spent the next seven hours having a blast with our new friends. As Santacon moved around LA, our group got bigger mostly due to Chris having a personality that turns strangers into instant friends. I thoroughly enjoyed my day filled with meeting so many fun and friendly people who wanted to dress like Santa and spread holiday cheer across the city… In August, we took the dogs to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for the 100th NPS Anniversary concert. The Northwest Indiana Symphony performed songs written by Indiana composers. It was a beautiful summer night and I began to think about my Grandpa Ott. He would have loved being out here at the beach listening to the symphony. I was looking toward the sky watching the setting sun color the few clouds in the sky when the band played “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” which was composed by Indiana’s own Albert Von Tilzer. That’s when the tears started. My grandfather is the reason I love baseball and when that song started I felt like he was sitting there with me. I just kept watching the colorful sky and listening to the music with a smile in my heart, a lump in my throat and tears running down my cheeks… In July I spent a wonderful evening with my grade school friend Nick, his wife Mary and their son Zach. After dinner we hung out on their front porch enjoying a cool breeze, a few drinks and catching up on the past 25 years or so. The next day I went to a Fourth of July party at Wayne’s house. I didn’t know Wayne but he told me he was “Born & Bred” in New Orleans and he told Mary & Nick to invite me because "the more the merrier". So Wayne is on the deck grilling food, his backyard is full of people, a blues band is playing and several people at the party get up and join the band for a song or two and they are amazing also. My favorite moment was seeing a young lady who belted out incredible vocals on "The Thrill Is Gone" then rejoined the party like it was no big deal. I love New Orleans and Wayne is exactly the reason why, because the people of New Orleans know how to party. I just sat back drinking my beer wondering how the hell did I end up at this party and so damn glad I did. After the party, we enjoyed a few drinks, pizza and such easy and comfortable conversation that Nick & Mary met me in Estes Park two days later for dinner. It was there we said our goodbyes and I assured them the gap between visits will be much shorter in the future…Throughout the year hiking with my dogs at the Indiana Dunes, Lake Michigan beaches, state parks or local forest preserves was the perfect way for me to escape and relax for a few hours… I spent more than an hour in a rain storm talking to an older African American couple about music, New Orleans and food while waiting in line for the Jazz Fest shuttle bus. When we got to the bus, they realized I got cut off from getting on the bus with Chrissy and Jeff. I told them to go but they insisted that I go with my family. As I thanked them and said goodbye, the wife said to me, "That's Louisiana hospitality sweetie.”  As I gave her a hug I told her that is why I love this city… I quickly realized how lucky I was to be on that bus full of soaking wet people. The bus driver had the music turned up loud and a young lady sitting a few rows ahead of me started singing along. When the song was over, a few people applauded. She stood up and said, "I paid my $15 for this bus ride. I'm going to get my money's worth.” She started singing the next song and asked people to join in and eventually everyone did. The whole bus sang along and there was raucous applause after every song. By the time we got back to the parking lot in City Park, there was an all-out party happening on that bus. I love the musical vibe and the people of New Orleans…spending Christmas Eve with my parents and the Drescher family at Jim & Debbie’s house. It was filled with great food, much love and lots of laughter all night long. A Merry Christmas indeed… In early November I was sitting on our couch late one night watching the TV when Chrissy, overcome with excitement, jumped off the couch screaming with tears in her eyes. She hardly ever watches sports with me. She isn’t a diehard Cubs fan but her father was. So when the Cubs won the World Series, I was so happy for both of them that I also had tears in my eyes.

   I’m sure I forgot a few things that happened this past year but one thing I definitely learned was my favorite moments involved friends, family and strangers who became friends. So here’s hoping that everyone had a Merry Christmas and that this new year allows all of us to spend good times with family, friends and people we don’t know now that just might become friends by next Christmas.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

February 12, 2017 Sunday Hike at Starved Rock State Park

We are meeting Patty at Starved Rock this morning. Since we were ahead of her on the highway, we took the scenic route through Ottawa.

When we saw this mural, Chrissy said that is pretty cool especially since today is Lincoln's birthday. So I stopped to take a picture and discovered that Washington Park in Ottawa was the site of the first Lincoln-Douglas debate.

So Happy Birthday to President Lincoln.

The back entrance to Starved Rock off Route 71.

We started off by the Visitor's Center, then hiked up Starved Rock.
It was a beautiful day for hiking.

Resting at the top of Starved Rock.

Looking west at the Illinois River.

Then we headed down toward French Canyon.
But there were too many stairs for Oslo to climb. So we drove out to Ottawa and Kaskaskia Canyons.

We passed through the Council Overhang on our way to Ottawa Canyon.

Patty & Oslo

Patty taking pictures under the Council Overhang.

Water on the canyon floor means there might be a waterfall up the canyon.

Chrissy & Oslo in Ottawa Canyon.

I was surprised to see a small waterfall and ice since we haven't had any snow for a month and it's been above freezing for weeks.

It is always so peaceful hiking in winter.

The water is falling into this snow/ice pile...

and cutting right through it even though it isn't a strong flow.

Chrissy has both dogs but Oslo got cut off in this photo.

A girl and her dogs enjoying an unusually warm February day.

Next stop Kaskaskia Canyon.

Nola blazing her own trail through the grass and mud of Kaskaskia Canyon.

Nola seems to be enjoying her first hike at Starved Rock. There were so many new sounds and all of them required her strict attention.

More flowing water means...

...another ice covered waterfall.

While I walked around taking pictures...

...Nola kept looking for Patty, Chrissy & Oslo who were taking longer negotiating their way through the water and mud than she did.
It was so relaxing standing here seeing the ice hanging onto the tree trunks and listening to the water falling into the canyon.

Oslo getting a cold drink in Kaskaskia Canyon.

Another beautiful day for our weekend big adventure hike with Patty and the dogs.

Nola investigating a new sound. The birds were singing all day long and of course the squirrels were busy rustling through the leaves on the ground.

Patty enjoyed the hike so much she decided to bring home some mud as a souvenir from her first trip to Starved Rock.
We stopped for lunch in Ottawa on the way home and parked in front of this mural. The town has a lot of murals in the downtown area. I do love these old river towns in Illinois. Another Sunday Funday hike with Christy, Patty and my dogs. Hopefully Patty will be bringing along her own dog on these hikes very soon.