Saturday, June 30, 2012

Chicago-Day 5 (Part 3)

There were so few things left on the list of things I wanted to do in Chicago but one of them was to experience a meal at Frontera Grill, a restaurant owned by celebrity chef Rick Bayless. I am a fan of Rick Bayless for many reasons, you can learn more about him with a google search if you wish, and I had this restaurant in my sights for some time.

The dinner service starts at 5:30 so I got there for 5 thinking that since I was only one, I'd be able to squeeze in relatively quickly and be out of their way with a delicious authentic Mexican meal in my belly before the big crowds hit. I made my spiel to the hostess mentioning that I would be willing to sit just about anywhere, except of course, outside, where it was still very oppressive. She handed me a pager and said, "we can seat you around six o'clock." as long as the wait was, I was headed back to my home some 1,000 miles away the next day and I even had a recommendation that it was worth the wait (and that I should get the Carne Asadas) from a trusted local (my pal Steph via FB) so I stuck it out.

The first item to arrive was the "Summer Margarita", which was delicious. I sipped it slowly hoping to make it last through the appetizer which arrived soon after, a trio of ceviche. Between the drink and the ceviche I had already been won over though being seated in the bar area is very loud, which I didn't mind all that much being alone but it would have been a bit distracting had I been attempting conversation. Did I effectively convey how delicious both the Margarita and the three types of Ceviche were? The ceviches were all great but there was one that blew my mind because it was so completely over the top, another that was awesome and the third which was great.

For my entree, I selected the Oaxacan Style Carne Asada, but I admitted to the server that I didn't know how to pronounce the first word, so he taught me (wa-hocken). The plate featured an enormous black angus rib eye steak with a healthy dollop of black beans, guacamole and some fried plantains with crema and warm soft tortillas (it's vacation and I have still been at the gym every morning, though i still had to fight the guilt). The plate was beautiful and delicious but I have to say, I wasn't thrilled with how long it took to come out. I worked my way through the meal but left somewhere between 1/3rd to 1/2 of the steak, I am just not used to consuming that much food in one meal anymore. The waiter brought over a dessert menu while the balance of my steak was being wrapped for whatever homeless person I could find first and while I did look at the desserts, there was no way I was going to order one even if I had room for it. I got the check and left wondering, what if I could actually make it to the Briar Street theater in time for the show? What if there was a single ticket available for me to see the show? How cool would it be to see Blue Man Group for the fifth time and in a third city and for the first time since they added new material to the show?

Showtime was 8, I boarded the #22 bus all the way down town at a time that was definitely later than 7:30. The stop after I boarded, a gentleman in his middle 60's got on and immediately went into character making sometimes over the edge flirtatious comments to the ladies and small talk with the men. He was an over the top pan-handler as he handed me a packet of poems photocopied from some copyrighted source and stapled together then went on to tell me of his past military service and how the VA provides a room for $20 per some unit of time I don't recall then asked me for a donation for the poems, which I handed right back to him. I have a general rule that I never give money to pan-handlers of any kind - I have no problem giving them food or non-alcoholic beverages, but I won't give them money that they might use for drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. I told this guy that if indeed he was a service man, That I was appreciative of his service and wished him luck and good fortune but I wouldn't be able to help him this time around.

There was continued conversation with this guy which spread to a blind woman, whose talking watch interested him, and everyone else in the nearby seats and new to board the bus. He exited a few stops before mine and the bus got so much quieter. My stop was just a half block from the theater so I walked quite briskly, entered and went to the ticket counter. I don't know exactly what time it was but it had to be right near 8 if not a bit past. I asked if tickets were available and having seen the show, I knew to ask that these were not considered "late arrival"...I wanted the whole show or nothing and not to be made a spectacle of (even if in good fun).

Here's where the good luck I have had all trip came into play. Before leaving Frontera grill, I asked if Chef Bayless was in house so that I could meet him; he was not on that night. Had Chef been available to meet, I would have gotten to say hi, chat for a bit, maybe get a picture and I would not even have attempted to make the Blue Man Group show but instead, I ended up with a great center stage seat about ten rows from the stage and had all the fun I knew to expect with the Blue Men.

I walked to the hotel, settled in for the night and that, was that.

Chicago-Day 5 (Part 2)

I'll start this with the quest for the bridge. The weather was a bit frantic, in the part of the city I was in, the temps were in the mid to high nineties but only that cool (lol) because of the breezes coming off the water.

This is all the information I had going into the search for the Bridge in a town I've been in for a few days, "Madison", a misspelled version of the name, and...oh, that's right, nothing else. Locals might say that's a lot of information since there is only one specific river crossing at Madison but there was at least one other bridge, at Millennium Park and while there was only one Madison river crossing, the clue I had never specified Madison, only alluded to it which to an outsider may have meant Madison, or thereabout now multiplying the possible number of bridges (so there).
I first walked to Millennium Park, I was close enough to rationalize that it would seem silly as a tourist to be so close and not go there. After all, there's a giant metallic bean sitting there and who, in this scalding heat and humidity wouldn't want to exert themselves to see a giant (folks, its freaking tremendous, I mean huge) bean?

My entrance to the park found me on a foot bridge and this was my first chance to search for etchings, plates, whatever; something with names. I did see a rather ornate chalk etching that either read "Skydog", "Slydog" or "Biscuit Pisser Missile" (okay, the last one was a touch of silliness, but the first two were real, I couldn't quite distinguish the second letter as being a k or an l). I was so focused on searching that a park employee asked me if I misplaced something. I told him no, I was looking for a name and asked if there were any names on these bridges. His response was not what I expected but made me laugh pretty loud (and it was even funnier with his accent), "sometimes the kids like to write there names on the grounds, but we wash them off if we can."

Convinced there were no names on this foot bridge after a few passes, I navigated some of the park and saw the giant bean, walked over to it, under it, photographed it as well as my reflection in it. Convinced I had done all I could with this enormous metallic legume, I moved on an out of the park back up Madison toward the river crossing.

I first stopped in a nearby convenience store and bought two bottles of water. The first never made it out of the store as I chugged it down in almost a single sip then wiped the cool condensation from the bottle across my burning forehead. I then walked across the Madison bridge attempting to find names of any kind. There are two sides to walk separated by the road that cars cross so I stuck to my side but perused the other. I saw nothing that resembled a name plate or any names (not even graffiti). When I got to the other side, to the right there was a large platform with various tents and activity and to the right, the road that leads to the next street over and another bridge. I carefully inspected everything in my view as I made my way to the next bridge and over that bridge, including both sides and still came up empty.

Completing the loop, I found myself back where I started on the Madison crossing but this time went to the opposite side. Just before the water, the were a couple of dudes with a table and sign set up with some sort of petition and just as I was going to ask them if they might know if there were any names on any of these bridges, I noticed the edge of a metal plate peering out from behind their banner. I told them of my quest and asked if I can look behind their banner, they were cool about it, lifted the banner and there it was, the name I was in search of, despite my having only a misspelled version, I knew this was it. I snapped a few pictures with the assistance of these dudes and felt accomplished, though the heat was so intense, I had sweat through my shirt so badly it looked like I had been hosed down.

Content and exhausted, I headed to the train and made my way back to the Days Inn where the temperature reading on the outdoor sign read 105! I went to my room, after grabbing a cold bottle of water from the vending area. I peeled of my clothes, guzzled half the bottle of water, and jumped in the shower to revive myself then came out into the room where I set the A/C to a frigid 65 degrees.

More to come...

Friday, June 29, 2012

Chicago-Day 5 (Part 1)

Entry to the gym at this point requires only a nod, I toss in a "Good Morning" and get on with the torture. After a shower and change at the hotel, I head into the common breakfast area. "Free" hotel breakfasts range from really bad to eh, okay. This one doesn't totally suck but there is virtually zero protein to be found anywhere....carbs and sweets are the bulk of it.

I alternated between a double portion of instant oatmeal on some days and a belgian waffle on the others. Only on day one were there bananas available, other days it was only golden delicious apples or oranges (neither go well with oatmeal). The belgian waffles were a treat, when I make them at home I use a healthy blend of ingredients - these weren't completely horrific but not really great though. I figured that between the 2-3 miles I was doing at the gym every morning and the 2-3 or more I averaged each day out in the city, I could manage a few of them. The week I am home will be predominately fruit, yogurt and vegetables so that I can detoxify a bit before my trip to New Orleans.

My first stop on the tourist circuit this day would be the Museum of Contemporary Art. There were some interesting works on display but I was particularly taken by an artist named Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, who also wrote something called "The 95 Theses on Painting" which I shall hunt for and post some time in the near future. I love museums of all types, I love looking at art and so, while I enjoyed my visit to the MCA, the amount of works was disproportionately low considering their space and there was an entire floor under construction with a new installation. One floor may not seem a lot but there are only four so, that was that.

I made my way to the riverfront to meet up with my old Brooklyn friend Stephanie for lunch. We met up for a short time on Tuesday evening for a drink and chatted a bit, but after 17 years, there was more to catch up on so we had a simple lunch and did just that. After lunch, I was in search of a bridge. I know that it sounds odd but if you read all of my posts chronologically, the main reason I needed to find that bridge was yesterday's post, I wanted to do that for Tori and her children, and for me - it was like a treasure hunt.

More on day 5 a bit later...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chicago Day 4 (Part 2)

The Italian beef sandwich was good, but I personally prefer my roast beef to be rarer, the result was that the abundance of meat left a bit of a dry texture and the delicious oils from the onions and peppers weren't enough to fix it. Overall, a decent sandwich, great crinkle cut fries and now, I can say I've had it.

I lollygagged about town for a while before heading back to my hotel for a rinse and and a change of clothes with the intent of heading to the legendary Second City theater for a show. The show start was set for 8 but I left early enough to take the bus, and perhaps do a bit more lollygagging in a neighborhood I had yet to lollygag in. It was around 6:30 when I arrived at the theater so I went to the box office in search of a ticket only to hear the hurtful words, "I'm sorry, we're sold out, we can put you on a wait list, it's a little big right now but there's probably a 50/50 chance you'll get in."

Of course I put my name in, the woman said to return at around 7:45, so I made my way to the Starbucks on the corner for a latte and comfy chair to rest my weary legs. Of course, no Starbucks worth its salt is not without good people watching and this was no exception. The kookiest thing I witnessed here was someone working on a Macbook, talking on the phone and at the same time, attempting to discreetly (obviously failing) put on deodorant.

I returned to the theater box office at 7:45 only to be told they're not sure yet about availability but to stay nearby if interested. At 7:55, some availability was made but not for the "main stage", these were for the production on their E.T.C. Stage, but the show description didn't do it for me so after those around took the opportunity for those tix, I asked if their would be any chance at all, being just one, for getting into the main stage and sure enough, they worked their magic and I got in.

The show was super fun and when it was done, I waited patiently for the bus where there was a very, and I mean, very drunk man in search of many non-existent places. I returned to my hotel and that was my day.

Tribute from Chicago

Dear Mr. Pihlfedt,
I don't know if messages can be sent through the cosmos to wherever your soul is resting, but I feel compelled to try. You see, you have a great, great granddaughter named Tori (technically Victoria but you understand). I suspect you never met Tori and I am not sure whether or not you can see or have heard of her from where you are, so I want to tell you a little about her.
Mr. P, is it okay if I call you that? No electric shock so I will assume yes. Mr. P, I met Tori online, through a community of bloggers about eight years ago and we've become friends over the years touching base through all sorts of social media (it's all the rage these days) and on occasion, through more old fasioned methods like the U.S. Mail; I finally got to meet her in person just a few days ago, that's how I knew where to find you. Anyway, you should know that your great, great granddaughter is one of the most extraordinary people I have ever known. I know that I have grown as a person through knowing her and seeing the examples of courage, parenthood, and general human decency. You would be so proud of the woman that Tori is today. Also, Tori has four children, your great, great, great grandchildren each of whom is uniquely terrific and equally amazing (I was lucky enough to meet three of them the other day as well).
I don't know if it's possible to make a spirit smile. however, if somehow this message makes it through the cosmos and gets to you, I am betting it will make you smile and hopefully, you can somehow reach back into and through the cosmos to let these five incredible people, who have already forever changed my life for the better, know that you are proud.
Finally, if you happen to run into my parents, can you please tell them I miss them every day and that I love them?

Chicago-Day 4 (Part 1)

Today (day 4 that is) was the first day at the gym where the transition from showing my ID and room key was mandatory, to handing it over for a very quick glance, to flashing it and finally, just an obligatory half-reach for the pocket.
My morning adventure was to visit the Museum of Science and Industry. While on the maps I have, it appeared off the beaten path, until I traveled there, I had no idea just how off the beaten path it was and I mean both literally and figuratively.

It started with a short walk to the brown line train which I rode to a place where I can transfer to a green line train. Now because I often forget to factor in the scale of a map, my assumption was that since the museum was abut an inch and a half or so away from the green line station where I exited, that I could walk the rest of the way.

To confirm my optimistically mediocre sense of direction, I approached the woman in the booth at the train station and asked, "the museum is in that direction, right?" "Yes sir, take the bus directly across the street (she forcefully pointed to where the stop was, literally, as she said, directly across the street)."

"I was planning to walk ma'am, thanks for your help." She got this look of deep concern as her pupils seems to dilate instantly. She stared me down and barked, "Sir, you don't want to do that, please just go across the street and take the me." At this point, I felt compelled to take her at her word and as soon as I turned around to cross the street to the bus stop, it became a bit more evident why she was so insistent on me taking the bus. The fact is, I happened to be standing in a part of town that was, well, here's what one sign read, "PLEASE NOTE THAT FOR THE SAFETY OF ALL, THIS STREET IS UNDER CONSTANT VIDEO SURVEILLANCE." Another glance and I saw no less than four police vehicles strategically positioned on patrol and then there was the general complexion of the storefronts and housing, I was clearly not in Oz.

There were other tourists at the bus stop and we all just waited patiently for our ride to the museum. I believe it was the number 55 bus that arrived within ten minutes to carry us to our destination but the show was just about to begin at the very next bus stop where confused about civil rights man (CACRM) boarded and added a bit of texture to most of the remaining ride to the museum.

CACRM was rambling on and on about "the white man", ""the black man" and "especially those white trash mo's." He started right at the front of the bus after paying his fare then proceed to rant loudly throughout the bus ride right until his departure a few stops before the museum.

The Museum of Science and Industry itself is quite large and impressive and my only complaint is more general to all such museums. I just don't appreciate that when you must pay an admission to somewhere, that it doesn't include all of the attractions at that location. There were a number of add-ons, none of which particularly interested me enough, the included exhibits were vast and plenty but it's just wrong in my mind to have "premium" attractions. That said, it is a very nice museum, I spent several hours working my way through the many exhibits and enjoyed my time there very much.

For my way back from the museum, I found a bus that headed North, into downtown Chicago where I planned a return trip to Portillo's, where I had my Chicago style hot dog yesterday. Todays mission, the famous Italian Beef sandwich.

More later...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chicago-Day 3 (concluded)

After histrionic hissy fit lady pays her fair, she remains standing near the front of the bus, about nine inches from me, occasionally whispering bizarre, incoherent rants. At the next stop, a group of about five teens hops on, one of which begins fishing for change and coming up short. She asks all of her friends, one of who comes up with some loose change but not enough so she stood there in a bit of a panic when labored breath guy jumps in for the save, "how much does she need?" he says as he fishes for loose coin at the deep bottom of his plaid bermuda shorts. Frazzled teen thanks him to which he replies, "you're welcome, just stay out of trouble."

While all of this was happening, I couldn't help but wonder if I was failing some kind of test. Was I supposed to ask labored breath guy if he was okay? Was I supposed to offer to help the frazzled teen? I was, and still am certain, that histrionic hissy fit lady was beyond any assistance I could provide so I uttered a "there but for the grace of God, go I" and just wished the best for her.

A few stops down the road, labored breath guy rang the bell and attempted to get up but fell back into his chair. I got up and offered a hand, he took it, rose from his seat and bowed offering thanks and then made his way off the bus. I felt better about my position in all of that which played out.

Suffering mildly from a bit of heat exhaustion, I passed on going to see the Second City players and took a rest and then planned on checking out the local Lincoln Park area.

I saw that my old Brooklyn friend Stephanie, who moved here 17 years ago (which is when I last saw her), was heading to Wrigley to see her beloved Mets play the Cubs. I asked if she wanted to meet up for a drink after the game to chat and catch up and so, a plan was hatched.

I walked down Diversey near my hotel to get a bite to eat and came across a neat little noodle place where I settled for a simple, yet delicious meal. I then slowly paced my way toward Wrigley and met up with my old friend, who was with a couple of her friends, and we had a little time to begin catching up on the last 17 years.

I waited for the bus though it ended up taking almost as long waiting as it would have taken to walk but I did so anyway and that was day three.

Chicago-back to day two for a moment

I just got a picture of one of the best moments ever...This is Tori and me before the aquatic show at the Shedd Aquarium. If you want to read Tori's take on the day, click here.

I didn't elaborate as eloquently because I wanted to be sure it was okay to do so- suffice it to say, for me, it was the best day ever as well - touched deeply in so many ways...such a great day.

Chicago-Day 3 (continued)

Both my daughter and "The Cupcaketress" were inquisitive (or some other better word I can't think of at this time and won't obsess about because I think you get the idea) of my visit with Tori. My daughter, who shares the same name, wanted to be sure I said hello specifically from her and I have and outstanding "big hug" to deliver from Amanda to Tori should I be lucky enough to get to see her again before I must leave town.

To clarify the end of my previous post, the "story" I was referring to was the history of the ferris wheel and still, I will insist you Google for more if you are interested or provide a delightful treat and I may share the story, which may prove to be anti-climactic after this unintentional buildup.

The bus ride back from downtown was a real trip. This older woman was at the stop with me and when to doors opened, she barreled her way onto the bus before me with a histrionic hissy fit over to a few seats in without paying her fare. I boarded, slid my pass through the reader and noticed an elderly man board literally gasping for breath with such labor, I was sincerely worried something bad was going to happen as he gasped his way through paying his fare and then taking his seat. The driver then called for the histrionic hissy fit woman to pony up; which caused her to rise from her seat next to labored breath guy and launch into a new histrionic hissy fit featuring an amazing array of sound effects and what appeared to be her version of imagining she was shot in her left temple. Enough you say? Wait, there's more...however, I need sleep so you get to wait until next time to read it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chicago-Day 3 (so far)

Taking a break from the day, I thought I would file this report. I didn't start the day with a specific goal but at some point decided to go to the Navy Pier and to get there using only busses and walking, no trains.

The 22 bus stops just around the corner from my hotel and took me as far south as I needed to go before heading east, which I did on foot.

The Navy Pier is evidently the number one tourist attraction in Chicago, which is weird because it's not all that amazing. I mean, it's okay, and the ferris wheel is cool, but there are cooler things in Chicago than what ultimately is an amusement mall.

My friend recommended taking an architectural cruise and when I saw the booth and the opportunity, I jumped at the chance-and, it was terrific. And, as much as it pains me to say this, the Trump Tower in Chicago is a spectacular piece of post-modernism that really is something to see (hey, I paid $30 for the tour, may as well use some of what I learned-lol). Now that I think of it, Trump had nothing, or very little, to do with how beautiful this building is so never mind, I am no longer in pain.

I walked through the museum of Stained glass only because the tour guide on the boat insisted they have great A/C but neither the A/C nor the museum were up to snuff, so I bailed to ride the big ferris wheel, which has its own story that I won't elaborate on right now.

To be continued...

Chicago-Day 2

Before I begin, I am typing these updates on an iPad, which means there may be more typos than usual-sorry.

Today (meaning Monday) was the one I anticipated most since booking the trip a few months ago. Today, was the day I would meet someone I've known for almost 8 years but had never previously met. While here on this blog I'll be mostly simplifying, at least part of the reason is because I don't know that I could come up with the words to express how joyous an experience it was to actually meet this extraordinary woman and most of her very cool children. We spent time together at the Shedd Aquarium and just had the best time together. I don't know at this point how much to write about becuase I want to make sure that Tori is okay with me writing about it.

As I type this at 9 am on Tuesday, I had to pause for a few minutes as I play back yesterday in my head and capture that joy to bring with me into whatever adventures I have in store for me today.

After Tori and the kids went back home, I found myself sitting on the steps to the museum across the way and just held on to the day for a bit and then I called my daughter who had just returned from Spain to see how her trip was and to tell her of mine thus far.

I took a wrong turn walking for the train as my mind was not ready to focus on the present yet but soon found my way back after actually blowing a kiss to the beautiful Chicago skyline then looking up and just saying "thanks" out loud.

I took the train back to the hotel and just plopped on the bed for a bit, the decided to freshen up and take a walk to Wrigley field, a tad over a mile away from the hotel, to see if I could grab a seat to the Cubs game against the N.Y. Mets.
Sure enough I did get a ticket and made my way about the historic ballpark (one of few remaining) and found my seat. There was a really annoying group of people that seemed to have no interest in the game and were so rudely making it difficult for those of us around them who actually wanted to see the game. While I stuck around longer than I needed to considering the quantity of empty seats around, I finally moved to a different section around the sixth inning and ended up being around a more enthusiastic and fun baseball crowd to enjoy the rest of the game; the Cubs won 6-1.

I decide to hop on the bus back and ended up waiting longer than it would have taken to walk but I was a bit spent, so I hung in there. The thing about busses in a strange city, for me at least, is it's not as easy to know how close to your stop you are and in my ignorance, ended up getting off the bus only about half way back; I realized this instantly as my foot hit the pavement and I heard the bus door close behind well.

Not sure what's in store for day three but I am contemplating a visit to the "Second City" theater later in the afternoon.

See ya later!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Chicago-Day 1

I arrived at O'Hare at about 8 am yesterday and my first challenge after retrieving my checked bag was to navigate the public transportation system from the airport to my hotel in Lincoln Park.

I used the trip planner on the ChicagoTransit Authority (not the record, the actual CTA) which had me take the blue line somewhere, then a bus to the hotel. I think for the return, I'm going to see if I can keep it to trains only. I bought a 7 day CTA pass which I've already made good use of.

After checking into the hotel, which I was able to do at 9:30 am, I grabbed some breakfast and scoped out the immediate area which has a Trader Joe's across the street, a choice of two different Walgreen's, a Dunkin Donuts and a Starbucks in walking distance and a Bally's Total Fitness around the corner that I can use for free as a hotel patron.

There was lots of activity out front of the hotel as Diversey street was on the gay pride parade route and boy, was it colorful out there.
I knew the Cubs were not in town until Tuesday so I took a look to see if the White Sox were home and they were, so I hopped on the train to U.S. Cellular field hoping I could find a reasonably priced ticket outside and more than willing to take the chance. Sure enough, I ended up with a pretty good seat at a very fair price but the entertainment began outside the stadium where there was a band playing 70's boogie music. I found myself hanging out watching them, lipping the words to the songs and making dance like movements without fully committing.

Once inside the ballpark I treated my self to what ended up being a rather unsatisfying polish sausage but I did not let that deter me. The White Sox were paying tribute to the 40 year anniversary of the 1972 team and of my baseball heroes, Rich "Goose" Gossage was there, which I thought was cool. The game went 10 innings and the Chisox won.

After the game, I decided to go and see what the "Magnificent Mile" was all about. I trolled Michigan Ave., which was also hopping with celebrants from the gay pride parade so it was clearly more festive than usual. The overall vibe of the Mile for me was similar to 5th Ave. in Manhattan. I walked all the way and then hit the River walk and strolled about to the other side enjoying the views and the architecture along the way. I was beginning to think of dinner as my tummy was rumbling and I recalled one of the recommendations I had for deep dish pizza was Giordano's, and I had spotted this place not to far away so that was my next destination.
It was a 45 minute wait, and while I am more of a flat pizza traditionalist, and while I have nothing to compare Giordano's to, I can say that it was absolutely delicious. I ate half of the small pizza (listed to feed 1-2 people) and boxed up the other half which I later gave to an elderly homeless woman.

I grabbed the train back to Lincoln Park and the short walk back along Diversey still had a party atmosphere with loud music and lots of color. My fatigue had set in as I had been awake since 2:45 am so I drank in the vibe while I made my way back to the hotel where I would just chill a while before hitting the sack.
I am especially looking forward to day 2, today, because I get to actually meet a hero, a friend and someone I admire so much - Tori and most of her awesome kids.

See ya soon.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Podcast: A Night With Vertical Horizon

Friday June 22nd, and into Saturday morning, I had the chance to spend some time with my dear friends Jenn and Steve and the band Vertical Horizon. Jenn and Steve play bass and guitar with Vertical Horizon and I had the great pleasure of a great night of music, friends and hanging out with some great people. One thing of note, I fail to mention the third song that plays in the podcast, that is called, "Save Me From Myself" on the Vertical Horizon album "Burning the Days.

Click here to go to the podcast site or, listen right here:

Friday, June 22, 2012

Vacation Day One - Summer 2012

With no alarm to force me awake and the A/C beginning to make progress on cooling off the house, I went to bed last night with less on my mind about the grind and more about plotting out the next few days and onto my destination in the state of Illinois.

It was 7:30 or thereabouts when I first awoke and realized I could make the choice to cozy up a bit longer; and so I did, until 9. While I normally don't consume any calories before a workout, the fact it was four hours later than my normal wake up time, I did indulge in a protein bar before preparing for my workout, which today had me on the Total Gym. I've also added this new thing to my every day routing where I go for a good stretch on the inversion table and also do crunches from a position where I am hanging completely upside down. I've learned that doing these crunches makes me fell like I want to vomit so naturally, I've continued to do them.

I thought many times about going out and doing something in the late morning but I had to do some laundry and grade some student work so I kept busy inside knowing I'd be heading down to Mohegan Sun later in the afternoon to see Jenn and Steve along with Vertical Horizon.

I did finally "break ground" an recorded the first part of the intro for the next music podcast series based on a CD I made for my brother back in 2000 called, "Only God Knows Why: the Legend of Johnny Kool".

I should have done this sooner, though I did personally, but I wanted to publicly offer my condolences to my old college friend Suzanne on the passing of her mother. Suzanne and her husband Bruce were amongst my closest friends during my college years and I am so glad that we remain friends all these years later.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Tourism before the Tourism

I've been trying g to find some ideas for things to bring with be to Chicago, regional things - as little gifts for some of the folks I'll be seeing. It's hard finding that stuff here in the burbs so I trekked into Beantown last night and played the role of a tourist in Faneuill Hall.

I was a bit set back when it seems people were prepping to close. I arrived at 8 and as it turns out, closing time is 9, I then got to shuffling around quickly in search of swag and ended up grabbing some T-shirts and a few ideas for creating T-shirts.

My vacation officially began after work today, I have Friday off and will sleep without an alarm and in the late afternoon will make my way to the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Ct. I have no desire to gamble or even step foot on tribal ground but two very dear friends, Jenn and Steve are playing with Vertical Horizon and I want to see my friends.

While I already dread the drive back from Uncasville (about 90 minutes), that will happen and I will take Saturday to assess my travel needs, pack and hit the sack as early as possible in preparation for a 6:25 am flight on Sunday Morning.

I have guests coming into town staying at my house for the days I am away which will be nice for Oliver to have some company :)

Finally, today was the day I finally cracked down and turned on the central A/C. Yesterday was pretty awful but the evening was bearable, tonight would have been murder - when I got home from work, my upper level was 91 degrees! As I type this, it's down to 80, still warn but better and only because the A/C has been on for a mere 4 hours or so.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


This is Christine. Christine is blind yet qualified to compete in a cooking competition and watching her work is one of the most inspiring things I have ever seen; in fact, I've been driven to tears every single time thus far.

Folks, if you for a minute have the desire to do something and doubt yourself or whether you are capable, I invite you to watch an episode of Masterchef and watch Christine work.

* * * * * * * * * *
The Microsoft Surface Tablet. Interesting proposition, not enough revealed to be more than an enticing tease. Obviously to compete with the iPad, it's going to have to deliver up front - and I hope it does.

Monday, June 18, 2012


I had some discussion with a few colleagues about my experience at the Museum of Science yesterday. I began to equate he cost shifting in things such as museums and the cutting of library hours to fancying education to the elite, as they often do in third world countries. One colleague made a good point that I wouldn't have thought - makes sense but is equally tragic, that these museums are gearing their target markets to tourists, not locals. Tourists tend to care less about cost while away - how sad this is to me.

It's been four months since my implant was placed in my lower jaw and that means it's time to get the tooth that goes along with it. I had an appointment this afternoon at 4:30. Now I have to drive an hour to get there, pay to park then drive an hour home - I make this concession because the fees at the Dental University are significantly less expensive, but it is a hassle, and I expect if I am making that trip, something is going to get accomplished. I get in there, the dentist takes a quick peek then says he needs a faculty member to sign off on the paperwork to order the materials and then they will call for the appointment to fabricate the tooth. They did nothing! I waited around for about 40 minutes then was sent on my way with a "we'll call you soon for the appointment." Bummer! However, it did get me close enough to one of my favorite middle eastern food joints near Northeastern University - so I had dinner there (a Lamb Shawarma sandwich).

I've been soliciting recommendations for the best Deep Dish and the best Hot dog in Chicago, feel free to offer input - I'll be flying in this coming Sunday!

Heading down to Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT. to see Jenn and Steve play with Vertical Horizon on Friday evening.

That's it for now.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Extreme Disappointment - Museum of Science

The Museum of Science in Boston, technically Cambridge, has always been one of my favorite places here - been there dozens of times and never grew tired of it. Today, hanging with my kid for father's day, I thought her and I could go. One of my favorite perks of being a teacher is that my MTA union card gets me free admission and my daughter really surprised me by saying, "I am going to pay for myself Dad, it is Father's day." Not sure where she got the $12 to pay her admission but the heck with it, it's father's day and I am not asking questions - just hanging with my daughter!

So we get to line and go for her ticket, I flash my Union card and the woman says, "Just the one then?" "Yes", "That'll be $22 please." "$22?", last time I was here it was $12, that was about a year and a half ago." The rest of the conversation is irrelevant but it's ridiculous that admission has risen by so much, so fast and there are additional fees for some of the exhibits inside - it's ridiculous and no longer affordable and unless I get library passes, I will never go again.

As dejected as I was about the immense hike in admission, I wasn't dealt the killer blow yet. We get to the gate, my daughter flashes her ticket and gets scanned, then I flash my union card and hear this, "We no longer provide free admission to teachers, you'll have to buy a ticket." Livid was I, pissed as yell, I raised a small stink but then just paid and went in and had fun with my daughter, I didn't want this stupidity on their part to ruin my time with my kid so we went in and had a blast.

You know, I understand that is costs money to upkeep the place and to run the thing, but to raise the admission fee by more than 83% in one shot is unacceptable and I will write to the management and to as many local legislators that will listen. It's bad enough that the first damn thing to get cut from local budgets is the library but this too? Doesn't education mean anything to anyone anymore?

I need to be more on top of reserving the library passes which allow up to 4 people in for $7 each.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Next Sunday, I'll be flying to the state of Illinois. It will be my first time in that state except for the one time in the eighties when I had a layover at O'Hare but I never left the airport. I've always wanted to visit Chicago, ever since the first time I saw Wrigley Field on TV as a little kid. I've heard so much about that city and since I booked the trip and mentioned to people I am going there, I have heard all sorts of things I "must do".

I have two friends that I plan to visit. Stephanie, who used to live in Brooklyn. I met Stephanie through my friend Rob and the first time I met her was at a Cheap trick concert at L'Amour in Brooklyn. When Stephanie left for Chicago, jeez, around two decades ago or so, I gave her a copy of Cheap Trick's Greatest Hits as a going away present. Then, there is Tori, whom I have known since I started blogging. Tori and I met through blogging and have become friends over these last seven or eight years but have never met; I am very much looking forward to meeting her in person.

On the list of possible to do's:
  • Wrigley Field
  • Rick Bayless' restaurant
  • Lincoln Park Zoo
  • Blue Man Group
Of course, who the heck knows what exactly I am going to see or do? I'm going to wing it. There's a real good change I'll go out of my way to see Wrigley and eat at Rick Bayless' restaurant but the rest is up in the air and I can't wait.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Stolen Post

I Googled a line from a Woody Allen film and came across someones blog post from 2005 that included it, along with other things that I thought were interesting so I am literally stealing this post and bringing it here (below), them I will make edits in red where I wish to express my own interjections.

“It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.”

Obviously, this is the line I was in search of. Funny like heck, especially hearing Woody recite it.

The Movie: Bananas, 1971 (Woody Allen and Mickey Rose, screenwriters; Woody Allen, dir.)
Who says it: Former consumer products tester, rebel leader and banana dictator Fielding Mellish (Woody Allen)
The context: Mellish, acting as his own attorney, describes his trial on charges of treason.
How to use it: In righteous indignation.

Thanks to my brother Ed for reminding me of this quotation, which I'd pulled to use last summer, but never got to. Anyway, this is my last comment on Terri Schiavo, may she rest in peace. For the record, I don't consider food and water (or, as the doctors say, "nutrition and hydration") to be artificial life support. I'm signing a document that says not to keep me on a respirator, but for God's sake, don't let me starve to death. 

I wrote a post about Terry Schiavo. Wanna read it? CLICK HERE.

By popular demand, today's entry is another list -- this one of things I like that no one else does, which was a much more difficult list than the earlier two. 

Ten Unpopular Things I Like Anyway

1. Parsnips. (Here's a great tip, make potato pancakes but use a combination of regular potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips.)
2. Beets.
3. Those orange circus peanuts that feel like pencil erasers. I can only eat one or two before I feel sick, but that first one is always an adventure. (I've always insisted there's a hint of banana flavor in these odd candies.)
4. John McEnroe's talk show, now sadly gone. I was the only one in America who watched it, and they couldn't keep producing it just for me. (I never saw this show but have been entertained by McEnroe.)
5. The second season of "Twin Peaks." (I was not into that show.)
6. The later works of Donny Osmond -- in particular, "This is the Moment," a CD of show tunes he put out a few years ago. I'm not kidding about this. (Not for me to judge, I did enjoy him more recently on Dancing With the Stars.)
7. The smell of chlorine. It reminds me of childhood summers. (While I can't say that I like the smell, it does have nostalgic undertones.)
8. Spinach in anything.
9. Flight delays. No, really -- I get a lot of reading done, I've met some very interesting people in airports, and in the days before wireless Internet and cell phones, time in airports and planes was the only time I was completely inaccessible. (Now, I will judge. I hate flight delays.)
10. Giving blood. Of course I don't like needles, but there's something really fascinating about watching my own blood slither down a tube and into that clear plastic bag. 

And that's enough over-sharing for one day

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Who Stepped on the Accelerator?

I went to a High School orientation program tonight with my daughter, who will be entering 9th grade in September. I'm puzzled as the passage of time and how it seems like only yesterday I was reading books to her before bed and trying to answer the three to four million questions those stories would raise in her mind.

I can't believe my baby girl is a month away from turning 14 and entering High School in the fall. It just doesn't seem possible in this moment that all that time has passed so quickly.

I will do my very best to treasure every second.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Caught a couple of students cheating in my online class so I insisted they make an appointment to see me or guaranteed them an F along with disciplinary action.

I met with them today a pulled an interrogation room style confession, on the up and up, out of them. I let them have it good but because they fessed up, and it was clear there were some life hardships along with what seemed to be remorse, i offered them a chance to continue and pass the course; but its not going to be easy.

We'll see if this was the right thing to do soon enough.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Political Rant

I try not to touch on politics too often here but I need to make a commentary on the presidential campaign. First, the disclosure, I am a registered democrat. Regarding social policies, I am very far to the left as far as economic policies - left of center.

That being said I am about to make a radical statement but one that does not come without forethought. "If you are even considering a vote for Mitt Romney, then you have no business having the right to vote." Clearly, this is my personal opinion which may or not be shared by others.

The root of the statement stems from me being a survivor of his four year debacle as Governor of MA; the guy admittedly inherited a shit short by his successors: Jane Swift, Paul Celucci and Bill Weld - however, Romney did his fair share of fuck things up for the largest percent of the population.

Under Romney's rule there was not a single say, not one moment where my job, as a state employee in Higher Education, was not on the brink of retrenchment. Not one second did me or any of my colleagues in higher ed have a moment where we weren't under the stress of wondering if each day at work would be our last. Aside from that, woman were not encouraged to be in charge of their vaginas, the local economy was in a constant state of panic and only the extremely wealthy and the Mormons had nothing to worry about.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Stood Up by a 92 Year Old

There's a guy in church who brings his 92 year old mother every week. last Sunday, Obie (the 92 yr. old mom) said to me, "I won't be here next week because David (the son) and Sandy (his wife) are going to be away - I don't get to come to church when they are away."

I said to her, if you want to come to church, I can pick you up and bring you back home. She smiles and said, "Oh, really?" Then, she asked for my home number, I gave it to her and that was that.

This morning, I went to pick up my daughter from her mom's to get her to church school then left church to pick up Obie at the assisted living facility where she resides. No sign of her waiting outside so I stepped into the lobby and no apparent sign of her so I asked the lady at the front desk if she has seen her this morning. "No, I can call her room, what's your name?" I told her my name and the reason I was there, she called up and told Obie I was there to pick her up for church and Obie's reply was, "I'm not going this morning, I would have called."

LOL - I giggled out loud, left, and made my way.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Revisiting "Nancy"

I inadvertently clicked on a link on my blog and was presented with a post I wrote on this day in 2007 about an encounter I had with a woman named Nancy. the meeting was profound in some ways and I felt the post from that day is worth repeating and of far greater value than anything I was going to come up with today so please allow me to direct you to the post - please read it and let me know how or if it affects/moves you:

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Cat Tales

My cat is both obsessive compulsive and claustrophobic.

First, the claustrophobia:
When my daughter stays at my house, Oliver (the cat) like to follow her around a bit because she lets him into her bedroom. In fact, he likes hanging out in her bedroom so much that if she is in there and the door is closed, he will make a nuisance of himself until he gets entry - meow, rub up against the door, even climb up to the handle and attempt to open himself.

Once she opens the door and lets him in, he hunts around for a bit then settles on the bed first with his cat-like machinations and then settles into his own cuteness and just chills out. However, the minute my daughter closes the door and he's determined that he no longer has the ability to leave on his own, he makes an even louder racket demanding that the door be opened. It's funny as hell! He absolutely goes cat-shit nuts until the door is opened.

OCD Cat:
It seems that Oliver has "ritualistic" behaviors that might indicate OCD. For example, most times when I get home, he can hear me pulling into the garage so he sets himself up by the entry door. However,when I open the door, instead of greeting me there, he jets into the living room and sits himself on the first step where once he sees me, he first meows then rubs against the banister.

Last night he dis something oddly compulsive that was funny both for its compulsiveness and what it ended up looking like. He was laying on my daughter's bed and she was about to go to sleep. While I was laving some goodnight chatter with my kid, I reached for a paper shopping bag and for some odd reason, the sound of the bag frightened Oliver to the point where he felt compelled to run for cover. However, his OCD needed for him to touch every single thing between him and the door at least once as he left so while he was trying to rush out of the room to avoid this perceived danger (of the bag), he was slowed down by having to touch everything in his path (a sight that brought me and my daughter to fits of laughter).

Another funny behavior that I can't for the life of me figure out is my cat's thing for dish towels. If I leave a dish towel on the kitchen counter (heaven forbid), he will find his way to it, grab it as if it's prey and bring it to the "safety" of his food bowl. Hid food bowl is his turf, it's where he brings all his "kills" which aside from dish towels might be: pens, pencils, hair elastics (his favorite toy to play fetch with) and anything else he manages to come across.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

A Ponder

I sometimes question if this life serves any purpose, so often things make so little sense. Then, sometimes you hear a story where it would it would seem to be impossible that there is a human anywhere that couldn't be compassionate.

Everyone has a story, some are compelling and some are not. There are tragedies that seem unbearable and somehow people find their way through and then there are some who never recover, often and even deeper tragedy. There are stories of overcoming obstacles that seem insurmountable and one couldn't possibly not be inspired and then, there are stories that deflate all hope in human kind.

This is a very difficult time we live in and it would be easy to only see the dark and the negative. May I suggest to find inspiration in something and hang on hard to it. Continue to hope. Believe in someone and something and never give up.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

America's Got Talent

Not the show, this is a proud papa showing off his daughter's performance at the Middle School talent show earlier this evening. The video was shot on my cell so not awesome, but okay. My daughter is singing, her friend is playing the guitar, which was not amplified in any way and therefore inaudible during the performance.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

"Are You Looking for A Dutch Oven?"

A couple of years ago, I wrote this post about my purchase of a dutch oven (the cooking vessel). Of course, the mention of "dutch oven" out of context (or in a different one) might imply the other type of dutch oven (as illustrated in the accompanying cartoon).

Saturday, I was roaming the local mall (something I don't do all that often) and was browsing through a store called Sur La Table. As I was milling about, I overheard a sales person discussing a Le Creuset dutch oven with a customer, a young man probably in his late 20's or early 30's. The particular dutch oven she was pushing was selling for just under $300. That's right, $300 for a single pot - which she referred to as "an investment" because of how much use it will get and how long it will last.

Having done much research and having made a terrific purchase of a high quality dutch oven manufactured by Lodge, the number one brand in cast iron, for under $60 and thrilled with it's performance, I could not help but to stick around and intervene at the right moment.

I noticed the guy tell the sales person "thanks for your help" and then her walking away, that's when I stepped in and in my attempt to offer a valuable piece of insight, might have potentially been misunderstood and taken as some bizarre come on. I walked over to the guy and said to him, "you're looking for a dutch oven?"

Saying it now, reading it back, I can't help but laugh. However, it seems that it could be taken in another context. However, I did take the time to elaborate a bit on my research and experience and even told him where I bought it and for how much. After I walked away to browse the rest of the store, it seemed odd that I ran into him on two or three other occasions, which were oddly awkward.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Hanging With the Road Dawgs - The Words

Yesterday's post served a number of purposes. I was hanging at a local pub to catch a set or two by the "Road Dawgs", a local cover band and the post features several photos of the band. I also found out that there is a Blogger app for Android and the post served as a test for how that app works.

The Road Dawgs have been playing out since 2009 but I only learned of them a few months ago when my friend Meghan joined as singer. last night was particularly fun because for the first half of the gig, my friend Mark (who happens to be Meghan's husband) was there and him and I split our time watching the band and the Celtics.

While I didn't think I'd be staying as long as I did, I was there for all three sets, danced a little, swung the tambourine a bit and just had some good old fashioned fun; there's nothing quite like live music to help heal the side effects of the daily grind.

Friday, June 01, 2012