30 May 2004

Travelin' man

So we're supposed to describe our dream vacation, and I have decided to interpret that as my "fantasy" vacation, a trip that I would love to take but have no way of ever realizing.

Besides, I've been very fortunate these last few years.  Since 1995 I've been to Ireland and the UK four times, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Iceland.  I've also gone to Canada, and since October 2002 I've visited over 35 states.  I've been lucky to do a ton of traveling lately, and while the are places in the world that I have yet to see and desperately want to (Spain, Australia, and New Zealand-though I will see Spain in August!) I can't say that I dream about them.

The place that I dream about visiting would be wherever I could go to see the people that I can no longer visit, or never had the chance to meet.  I'm not talking about Heaven, because I want to be alive here on Earth with the chance to speak and visit with people like my father, who died in 2002, or his father, who died shortly after my birth, thus leaving me deprived of any memories of him.

I want the opportunity to talk to people who I know have died, and won't get to see again until after my death, on the other side.  I want to reunite with people that I  miss and connect with people I never knew.  I want the chance to meet any of the thousands of people that I have read and heard about who lived before I was born.  That would be my dream vacation.

There's a lyric in the song "Walk On" by U2 that talks about 'a place that has to be believed to be seen.'  I'd like to think that I could believe that a trip like this could happen, and that such a place exists, but I know it does not, at least not in this world.

So there you have it, a place I want to go to but know I have no chance of, unlike say Antarctica, the Amazon, or Burundi.

(Obscure Eddie Izzard reference there, if you are wondering about Burundi.)



26 May 2004

The amoeba melody principle

Tired of me writing about Vegas yet? 

While I did not bring back any extra money from Vegas, I did bring back something else-noise.  Vegas is loud, noisy and humming all the time.  When you sit in a casino there is a constant buzz that emanates from all directions.  It never goes away.  It peaks at times, with the roar from a table where someone just did something good, or a machine that plays a jingle trying to get someone to play it. 

I noticed that the Mirage plays music in the background of their casino no matter what time it is, and that despite the other racket that goes on, you can always hear it.  I worked for years in a retail environment that played music over a satellite system all the time, and as a result I know the lyrics to a lot of bad songs thanks to mindless repetition, but more often than not I was able to ignore it. 

Not so at the Mirage, and I'm not sure why.  I do know, however, that four days after returning home I am still having fits of hearing bells, whistles, jingles, and bad music.  There are two that I can't seem to purge from my mind: a Britney Spears song that has a screeching intro that plays over and over and over again, and the jingle of a slot machine that was located not far from a bank of keno machines that my group set up as a meeting place. 

I was on an airplane at three in the morning Sunday somewhere over the Midwest wide awake because these two "melodies" kept repeating in my mind.  And thinking about how to make it stop only seemed to make it worse. 

I'm sure that if I gave it time, this problem would fade and eventually disappear.  However as I struggled to sleep on the flight home I came up with a concept that I like to call the "amoeba melody principle."  Simply put, when a song or jingle enters into my head and I can't shake it, I start thinking of a song that I like instead and let it engulf my thoughts.  In a few moments that song takes over and eliminates the offending noise pollutant in my head.

Currently, my amoeba melody of choice is "Shiver" by Coldplay from the "Parachutes" CD.  It has a great opening guitar riff, followed by some cool lyrics and blends well together to form a great song.  I find that I never quite make it through the song entirely-either my mind resets to the beginning, or it goes blank for a while.  The important thing is that for the moment, there's no bells, whistles, or Britney in my head. 

They'll be back.  Gotta keep the amoeba at the ready.


The people you meet

The only other time I was in Las Vegas I had no time to check out the Strip, so I wanted to make that a priority this time.  So we spent most of the day Friday walking from place to place.  I'm impressed with the overblown presence of everything in Vegas, especially when you get to the upscale places like Bellagio, but it also is a bit much.  I had no idea that most of the high end hotels have a full shopping mall along with their casino and restaurants.  How much money is one expected to spend?  Do you buy that Tiffany necklace before you go to the casino or wait until after you've won thousands of dollars?  I kept picturing all these people slunking (yes, I just made up that word) out of the casino to return the stuff they bought at the shops the day before, since they could no longer afford it.

Of course, when you speak of business and Vegas, you remember that prostitution is legal there.  And they remind you of it when you walk down the street because there are people all over the place trying to hand you cards with pictures and phone numbers of what the city has to offer.  It was quite an experience seeing these people, most who looked lke they had just crossed the border looking for work, forcing these cards upon everybody.  They didn't discriminate, trying to get everyone from children to elderly ladies to accept their offerings.  In three days of being out among these card "givers", I didn't see one person actually take one from them.  I was much more impressed with some of the creative places these cards were placed, stuck in the railing of escalators, in planters, anywhere that a bored yet creative vendor could visualize somebody taking one.

I've been told that there are a lot of freaks in Vegas, but I didn't see many.  And aside from the occassional roar at a nearby table when someone hit it big, it didn't seem all that excessively noisy either.  However, I did see a few of what I consider the most obnoxious of all creatures in Vegas, the person who has so much money that they think they can behave however they want.

We encountered the classic prototype of this creature Thursday night at Treasure Island.  We had made reservations for dinner and when we arrived we were told that it would be just a few minutes before they sat us.  Shortly after this a man arrived with three other gentleman and asked to speak to the manager.  While I could not hear their conversation, I could see that the man was showing the manager a series of checks that he had in his possession from Treasure Island.  He was a high roller and expected to get a good table right away.  He and his party were seated before we were.

And, of course, we were fortunate enough to be seated directly next to this bunch.  The genlteman with the checks was loud and obnoxious, he was from the south, and sprinkled his words with plenty of colorful sayings and profanity.  The table's classiest moment came when a group of ladies who had dining in the restaurant walked past their table as they left. 

There are defining moments in a person's life when you see what they are made of.  I'd love to say here that I got up, confronted these jerks and got them to leave in shame.  That would be a lie.  I did nothing.

My fiance Kristen, seated next to me at the table, excused herself for a moment and went to the front of the restaurant.  She was gone for a minute or so, and shortly after she returned, the manager began to hover around the table where these men were sitting.  The next time one of them swore, he was all over them. 

It has to be difficult to do that job, especially in a place like Vegas, where people are throwing their wealth at your all of the time expecting preferential treatment.  The manager did not toss these peple out of the restaurant, but we noticed that they got their meals extremely fast and were out of the restaurant long before we were.  I am convinced that he had the kitchen speed up their order so that he could get them to leave faster.  He also told us that he was aware of the situation and was going to take care of it. 

So our meal there turned out to be pleasant, and it was enjoyable to see someone as arrogant and obnoxious as be put in their place.  I'm sure he and his group went off somewhere else and craved attention for the rest of the evening.

 I'm dying to know what would have happened if they had run into one of the slow blackjack dealers at the Mirage.




I'm back from Vegas.  I'm poorer than I was at this time last week, of course, but I don't mind.  Both times I have gone to Vegas, I have expected to lose.  That seems to make it easier to accept.

The only other time I was there was last August, and that was a quick 48 hour visit.  This was a little longer visit and it gave me the chance to see more than I did last time.  I learned more about Vegas during this trip, certainly.  And I found that for every good thing about Vegas, there's something bad.

For example, there's gambling.  I brought a few hundred bucks with me for the express purpose of testing my luck, and mostly on the video poker machines.  Every time I sat down at a machine, I did very well, for the first half hour or so, but instead of walking away with a little more than I began with, I decided to keep playing, and walk away with a lot more than I began with.  Of course, I wound up losing everything.  We're not talking more than fifty dollars or so, but still, in hindsight, if I had quit every time I was up on a machine, I probably would have won three hundred dollars or so.  The economist in me realizes that I lost a lot more than what I went out there with.

I did a majority of my gambling in the Mirage, where we were staying.  The only table game I usually play is blackjack, but this casino has the oldest dealers I have ever seen.  I think the youngest dealer I saw there was 80.  With a full table (six players) and four decks, how long do you think it should take to go through a shuffle?  I got up and walked away from a table after half an hour and the dealer had yet to make it halfway through.  The Mirage ought to have a big replica of a snail on the outside of their building.

Of course, if I hadn't lost my shirt in the process of that half hour, I probably wouldn't care about the speed of the dealer.  Alas, it was a very slow striptease.

19 May 2004

Happy birthday to moi

I'm 37 today, and I'm giving myself the present of two extra hours.  I'm flying to Vegas tonight to spend the rest of the week with my fiance and some of my family, so I get 26 hours today instead of 24.

Combined with my trip to LA and San Diego this past weekend, I am putting a lot of miles on.  I have a good friend who lives in LA now and is also a huge Cubs fan, so we made the jaunt to San Diego to see the Cubs beat the Padres 7-5 at Petco Park, the Padres' new stadium.

I found it a little strange to see major league baseball in a place sponsored by a pet supply retail chain, but if you look past the constant pet references and the "hey kids-can you guess which Padre has this pet?" promos it's a beautiful place to watch a ball game.  I've spent about five days now in San Diego in the last year, and the weather has been the same.  It never seems to change.  My fiance collects Starbucks coffee mugs from different cities, and the one for San Diego says "74 degrees and sunny" on the inside.  I can't think of a better way to describe that city.

I'm hoping that Vegas brings me several opportunities for entries.  And a few thousand dollars in black jack winnings wouldn't be bad either.

18 May 2004

So much "right"eous anger

With the news yesterday of same-sex marriages being performed legally in Massachussettes, I'm noticing a healthy dose of outrage coming from the right. 

I've made my opinions clear on this before: I couldn't care less who marries who, it has no bearing on my faith, beliefs or life.  Everyone on this Earth deserves to be happy, and as long as the do not break the law and/or hurt others while doing it, and if a man feels happiest marrying another man, or a woman marries a woman, more power to them.  I was at LAX Friday night waiting for a friend to pick me up and I happened to notice two gentleman walk past me, holding hands, and talking about their impending flight to Australia.  They looked as happy as any couple I have ever seen, and obviously in love.  I felt happy for them.  Even if I did disagree with their relationship, who am I to publicly object?

I'm amazed by some of the photos I have seen, and by some of what I have read in the papers and on other AOL journals (John Scalzi put out a list of a nice mix of opinions today, which I have to say is the inspiration for this entry).  There's so much anger out there.  I was especially stunned by the journal that is entitled "the defense of marriage" yet the most recent entry shows photos of people jumping from the WTC on 9/11.  I'm not saying that those pictures need to be hidden, but what does that have to do with marriage? 

Of course I am labeling here, but it seems to me that no one who is opposed to same-sex marriages can express their opinions on it without coming off either as a blowhard (no pun intended...ha ha ha) or a pompous holier-than-thou, and I've been searching for a while.

While I am on the issue of things in the social/political realm that are perplexing me, could someone please remind the Catholic Church that they are a tax-exempt group and therefore should stay out of politics?  And maybe show them the part of the Constitution that talks about the separation of Church and State?  There have been several stories about how some clergy members feel that democratic politicians should not be receiving communion because they support abortion rights. 

OK, far enough.  I would like to know how many priests guilty of molestation recused themselves form receiving and administiring communion while they were "supporting" their heinous acts.

The point is, such a statement is an obvious endorsement of conservative politicians, and in their poistion, it is wrong.  I understand how the Church feels about abortion, however, because of the level of support it receives in the form of not paying taxes, they should avoid further involving themselves in political matters.

There is a Catholic Church in my hometown that I will never attend again because of something they did a few years ago during the election season.  They placed hundreds of tiny crossed on their front lawn, as they had in the past, to make a statement about the rate of abortion in this country.  I support their right to make such a statement, and the placement of crosses is not what led me to decide to not attend this particular church again.  Where they crossed the line from church into state in my opinion was by placing a large sign visible by every passing car that said in bold capital letters "VOTE AS IF YOUR LIFE DEPENDED ON IT."

I took that sign as a blatant endorsement of all Republican candidates, and I feel that the Church does not belong in that arena.  I realize that by nature the church is conservative, but I felt this was a bit much.  There are other Catholic churches in this area that did not participate in such an extreme endorsement, and while I realize there position was also pro-life, they chose not to subject the entire public to that type of demonstration.

I am unapologetically liberal when it comes to social issues.  Personally, I am tiring of the rhetoric from the conservative groups of this country that tell me that we are a less moral society, that it is our fault that this is happening, and that those in the world who wish to hurt us point to these factors as their basis for commiting acts of terror. 

Our biggest problem in this nation is polarization, the fact that so many of us cling to one idea and do not accept that not everyone agrees with them, that those who disagree are capable of rational thought, that they are wrong.  Change for the best of everyone involved only happens through positive discourse that finds a way to aid everyone, all citizens of this country, no matter what you believe, no matter who you choose to marry.

14 May 2004

Nice to meet ya

I missed last week's assignment, so I am only happy to participate this week:

I've had a grand total of two celebrity encounters, and I wasn't even aware that the first one was until after it was over.

When I was in high school I used to play a lot of golf at a local nine hole golf course with a friend.  Rain or shine, we played a few times a week.  One day, when the weather was less than perfect, an older gentleman approached us as we were standing on the first tee getting ready to hit and asked if he could join us. 

After the third hole or so I had a feeling that I had seen this man before, but I couldn't place him.  I was working 30-35 hours a week in a busy drug store by then so I thought perhaps he was a regular there.  I never asked him who he was.

It took us less than three hours to play.  This man could not have been nicer to us and we enjoyed playing with him.

A week or so later, I saw an advertisement in the Friday entertainment section of the Tribune for a play that was being performed at a theater not far from the golf course.  It was in the middle of a three week run, and it stared Red Buttons, who I'd remembered from seeing some old movies on television, particularly "The Poseidon Adventure."  Once I saw his picture in the ad, I recognized him immediately as our golf partner from that day.  Of course, when I told my friend about it, he had no idea who he was.

My only other encouner occured in the mid-90's.  I had been to a game at Wrigley and met up with a buddy who was entertaining a bunch of clients, and after the game we went to a local hangout.  He was introducing me to clients and co-workers, mostly accountants, for most of the evening.  I came back from the restroom at the bar thinking it was time to go home when my friend tapped me on the shoulder and said "Jim, have you met Sammy?"  Turning around expecting to meet my 75th accountant of the night, I instead saw Sammy Sosa standing there.  This was a few years before his career exploded.  He stayed and talked with us for fifteen minutes, and could not have been more nicer.  That always impressed me more than any home run he has ever hit.

So that's it, an unassuming golfing actor and a future hall of famer.  Guess I don't get out much!

13 May 2004

Comments on comments

I'm still intrigued and amazed by the number of comments from people who read the piece about Wrigley Field a few days ago, so I've decided to have a little fun with the comments and add to the dialogue:

"I agree about those seats that they put behind home plate. My theory is that during the week these seats are given to tourist or business associates who buy them to give away, because it does seem that on weekends they are the real Cubs fans who are really watching the games,but what's with all the cell phones?"

I know the Cubs made it tougher for scalpers and ticket brokers to get these tickets because they offered them in an Internet-only drawing, but then this is an organization that runs its own ticket broker business, so I agree, a lot of these seats are corporate perks and such.  It just seems so weird to me that so many people seem bent on letting people know that they are on tv. 

"i have gone to 2 cub games and i will never go to another.
they only go there to drink and curse. i took my granddaughter
to the last game that i will ever attend there, i couldnt buy her
a coke , all the venders only came by with beers and sitting behind us was this middle aged woman cursing like a drunken sailor. i got up took this child and left. they brag how great the cub fans are. i come from ny and i have been to shea and the stadium and i have never seen such rowdy fans."

No doubt certain people at games can be morons.  However, almost every time someone has been profane and overly obnoxious at a game, especially with children around, the crowd has put him/her in their place.  It's too bad that type of behavior makes people swear away from attending games.

"all i have to say is i live in so cal. i've been a dodger fan my whole life and i can respect the cub fans because they never give up loving those lovable losers i saw the dodgers win one in 88' i was like 9 years old but they've sucked ever since see unlike the cubs fans the dodger fans in so cal. all of a sudden turned to angel fans in 02' when they won the series (us dodger fans call them freeway hoppers) anyways you'd never see a cubs fan turn to a white sox fan just cuz the sox where doing good."

Man, I still get chills whenI see Kirk Gibson hit the HR off Eckersley in the '88 series and then limp around the bases.  As for the Cubs/Sox thing, I get real tired of it.  I'm not a Sox fan, but I don't hate them either.  I look at it this way, my first allegiance is to the Cubs, so I hope they go 162-0.  I only care about the Sox for six games all year, when they play the Cubs, so for all I care the Sox can go 156-6, as long as the six games they lose are to the Cubs.  I'm a Chicago fan as well, so if the Cubs can't win it, why not the Sox?  I certainly would have rooted for the Sox in the World Series last year over the Marlins.  Sox fans waste way too much time and energy on hating the Cubs.

"I wish people would just call Cub fans the most loyal fans in the game. People always say that the only reason we draw fans is because of Wrigley Field. Then why is it we sell out Miller Park everytime the Cubs and Brewers play? More then half of the fans are cheering for the Cubs. We also set a new spring training attendance record this year. The atmosphere at a Cubs game is like no other. I have been to many ballparks in my day and the only park that comes close is Fenway. Go Cubs!"

I made the pilgrimage to Fenway last year for the first time and saw the BoSox beat the Angels on consecutive nights.  Sweet Caroline!  I hope to God they do not tear that place down.  The Cubs draw everywhere.  I saw some games in Cincy this year with a lot more Cub fans than Red fans, and even in St. Louis it is sometimes 50-50.  The Cubs are definitely a team with a nation wide fan base.

"A rare sight; a stadium full of yuppie business men out to impress their kindred spirits.  Mmmm, sounds reaaal electric.  The tribal juices are flowing.. Go Cubs... our millionaires are better than yours.  Its kind of like the Old Colloseum Days, entertainment for the rich and the masses to take their mins off the real world."

Sounds exactly like my father.  Can't I still have this feeling that I did when I was a kid, before I discovered how indeed baseball is a business, a few times every summer?

"So, whatever happen to the "Bleacher Bums" of yesterday?"

Yeah, somewhere around the late 80's, probablyaround the time that lights went in, it became real popular to go to the games and sit in the bleachers.  When I started going to lots of games every year, my buddies and I always sat in the bleachers, but in time it got out of control.  I'd say the average fan in the bleachers today is about 25 and likes to drink.  By the time I reached 30, I couldn't get out of the bleachers fast enough.  I always preferred the angle of the game that you see in the bleachers.  I blame the Cubs for the way the bleachers are today.  They do a horrible job of staffing security out there, and they don't toss enough people out.  The last year that we sat in the bleachers for the majority of the time was the year that people started throwing trash on the field whenever there was a call against the Cubs.  That's already happened a few times this year.  I'd love to see that cost them a game sometime, when an ump gets tired of the delay and decides to forfeit the game to the other team.  The bleacher bum of the past isn't welcome out there anymore, and that's a shame.

"I've only lived in Chicago for two and a half years, and I have to respectfully disagree with your comments. To me, there seem to be two kinds of Cubs fans. There are those who follow the team through thick and thin and bleed Cubbie blue. Then there are those who come to Wrigley because it's a quaint, trendy place to be, then spend six innings on their cell phones calling everyone they can talking about how cool it is to be in a quaint, trendy place like Wrigley. I can't say I'm a lifelong Cubs fan, but I put myself in the former category. The ballpark is a place I go to get away from cell phones, computer, etc. for a few hours. Personally, I think that people who use cellphones during games should be tossed. They're no less obnoxious than the loud guy who's had one too many Budweisers."

When I go back and read what I first wrote about the crowds at Wrigely, I should have said that I feel that a MAJORITY of the people there are there to watch the game and get into it.  I get bothered when I hear people say that the park is full of nothing but yuppies and/or frat boys who never know what the score is.  I've met a ton of passionate fans at Wrigley, but this comment is dead-on.

"the only thing lower than a cubs fan is a yankees fan!"

Hey come on, I just said all those nice things about Fenway and the Red Sox...

"I'm a Cardinals fan and I dont appreciate us getting wooped up on by Da Cubs! But hey, it's May...
We'll be seeing you in October"

Obviously trying to lull me into a false sense of security over the danger of the Red Birds.  Splitting a four game series is hardly being wooped on!  Though that five game series last year in Wrigley was a classic.  I can ony imagine what a Cub-Cardinal playoff matchup would be like.  I'm all for it, given that the boys in blue come out on top. 


More fun with advertising

I've had a full day.  I was up early and played 18 holes of golf.  It was warm and we walked, so by the time I got home I was fried and my body ached.  I need to sleep.  So of course, as soon as I decide to go to bed, I become wide awake.  When I was younger I never understood why my father sometimes napped in the evening, mostly while sitting in a chair, but I do now.  You have to take sleep when you can get it.  Why fight it?  I should have zonked out for a bit around seven tonight.

Anyway, I have had the television on now for the last ninety minutes or so.  My attention span is next to nothing.  The Cubs lost 4-0 to LA in one of the more boring games of the year, and the NBA playoffs just don't do it for me.  I can't stand Leno and have to be in the right mood for Letterman.  Help me Rhonda.

When I get like this I tend to ignore the programming and just pay attention to the commercials.  I've ranted in the past about the use of older, classic songs in commercials, so I'll skip the opinions (again), but I saw two ads back-to-back tonight that intrigued me and, admittedly, spiked my interest.

The first was for Jaguar and used Queen's "I'm In Love With My Car" from 'A Night at the Opera' (oh irony, sweet irony...), which may be the most obscure song that this band ever did.  I have never heard it on the radio, and indeed forgot it existed until I heard it tonight.  I suppose if you are going to advertise $50,000 cars (I completely pulled that number out of my backside-I have no idea how much a Jag really costs) it makes sense to have someone screaming "I'm in love with my car" over and over.  That's the only lyric used, which is a shame, because the last line of the song is "String back gloves in my auto-mo-love."

I guess I can live with and understand the use there.  However, I am still unsure just what the heck was going on in the next ad, which was for a certain type of birth control pill (I am not being discreet, I just can't remember the name).  It was a flowery-life-is-sunny-and-beautiful-because-you're-going-to-be-able-to-enjoy-adult-pleasures-but-not-get-pregnant commercial with the song "There She Goes" playing behind the voice over.  And this song conveys effective yet convenient birth control how exactly?

Hearing this song again got me thinking of how it has been butchered over it's ten years or so life.  It was originally recorded by a band called The La's (maybe not originally theirs, but they are the first people I heard do it) in a slow, guitar riffed manner, and I really liked it.  Then for some reason, they re-recorded it as a faster up tune, and it was this version that was played during the opening of "So I Married an Axe Murderer."  Not cool.  Then it was redone by some annoying pop band and used in some movie and played incessantly on top 40 radio and satellite music services broadcast into various retail locations that I happened to be employed in.

OK, wait, I have to know who the band is and what the movie was.  Here we go (O SWEET GOOGLE!): Sixpence None the Richer was the band-what kind of name is that?  Who chooses a band name like that-Robin Hood?-and "She's All That" was the movie.

I digress.  It's stupid to have this song in the commercial, makes no sense.  But what really makes no sense is that the band who sings the song version used in the ad probably doesn't see a dime of the money paid to use it, because it's not their original work.  So they get exploited (and shamed, in the words of this very blog!  Fear me, those who create lyrics solely for advertising revenue...) and cannot lean back and remark that at least they are getting paid.  Or, to sell out, you actually have to be able to sell something.

Why would I want to sleep through something like that?

10 May 2004

Just wandering

This entry from last week has led to a bevy of comments, more than I have received on all entries combined since I started this in January.  I've written about baseball before, several times in fact, and never seemed to draw much interest.

I don't do this for the comments.  If I did I would have stopped by the end of February.  I'm happy that some people who read this feel compelled to leave me comments.  I'm not sure if they expect me to respond to them, but so far I have not.  Still, I am intrigued as to why this particular entry got people talking.  I'm happy to know what people think. 

One thing I find as I continue to express myself in this forum is that I can be rather opinionated at times.  Hey, it's my blog, and I gotta be me.  I do not expect anyone who reads this to agree with me, of course, nor would I attack anyone who expressed their disagreement with me.  I can be as sarcastic as anyone, but I don't want that to be a point of disagreement.  I think it probably is at times because it can be impossible to distinguish between sarcasm and reality.

So I wasn't really advocating that someone who is using their cell phone in the close seats at Wrigley Field be catapulted outside the stadium into a vat of pudding.  I was surprised at how many people expressed their displeasure at that idea, mostly through email instead of commenting on the journal site.  Of course, I could be misconstruing their sarcasm as well.

One thing that I don't understand is why anyone would bother to leave negative comments.  I got rid of a few that I did not like, that I felt were rather personal, and I also received some emails that were negative in tone.  What's the point?  If you don't like what I wrote so much that it caused you to write to me and tell me to become a Sox fan or that I should mind my own business, I'd think that you's just not read the journal anymore. 

Not that I am encouraging that.  Simply put, I expect some people to think that I am not a good writer.  I just don't expect them to tell me, though it's not something to worry about.  It was just something that made me wonder.

This is a rambling post with no real point, words that I am saying out loud as I write them to help me understand exactly how I got to this purpose.  Chances are I will go back and read it tomorrow and delete it.


A fine way to waste a rainy afternoon

Today I found myself decompressing from an eventful weekend full of my family, computer problems (I failed to turn in my journal assignment-can I say the dog ate my hard drive?) and muggy weather.  While my family has spread out again and the computer is up, the rain and mugginess stuck around.  I was fighting feelings of lethargy from the moment I got up today, and around three I gave up and decided to waste the rest of the afternoon in a Barnes and Noble.

I suppose a mid-afternoon Monday in May is not prime book selling season, but I was surprised at how empty the store was today.  Normally when I go to this particular store it is way too loud and there is not a spare chair anywhere.  Today it was more of an accomplishment to see someone sitting down.

I get the strangest feeling sometimes when I am in a bookstore.  I love books, so I should be in heaven whenever I get the chance to browse, but sometimes I get a feeling of intense depression.  It usually starts after I see the tenth book that I remind myself that I have been meaning to read, and it escalates after I remind myself that I've wanted to read "Ulysses" since 1987 or so.  There's not enough time for me to read everything that I want to.  I have had waves of intense sadness come over me at times in bookstores because I realize that I could spend every breathing moment of the rest of my life reading, and it wouldn't be enough.  When I die I will leave behind a wish list of reading that I will not have gotten to as big as a dictionary.

I fought off some of those feelings today and enjoyed the time that I spent browsing before I sat down and read a few chapters of Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life."  It was interesting enough for me to purchase it, and it will help pass the time this weekend when I fly out to California.  I'm not sure why I bought a book that had religious and spiritual overtones, perhaps it has something to do with the way being in a bookstore normally makes me feel.

I worked retail for a long time, and I have a saying that I use quite frequently: "You can take the boy out of the store, but you can't take the store out of the boy."  I am tempted to go to work in a bookstore someday but I think I will always resist it, because I do not want books to become just an everyday thing for me, something that I see everyday out of obligation to make a living.

I'd hate for my life to cometo a point where I do not feel that longing, that despair to read everything whenever I am there.

07 May 2004

Stop the presses

People are making a big deal about this today.  It's been on television and in all the newspapers.  It was even a front page item on ESPN.com.

I'd be willing to bet that if this shooting had happened in about fifty other neighborhoods in the city, it would not have made the news, even locally.  The fact that it happened in front of Wrigley Field makes it newsworthy.  Someone gets gunned down in a supposedly safe and trendy neighborhood, let's make it the lead story on the news.

It's hard not to be cynical.  People are shot to death just about every day in the city, mostly for stupid reasons.  Why isn't that news?  Instead of overhead shots of Wrigley Field and the headline "baseball fan shot to death" why isn't someone commenting on how stupid all of this is?  What starts with someone being bumped by a car in the middle of the street ends up with murder.

What's more outrageous than that?  The fact that a majority of us are dulled to incidents like this.  We don't care, because it's not going to happen to us.  We're more concerned about an airplane flying into us.

There are plenty of terrorists here.  The fact that we don't give a damn about the weapons they have just about makes me insane, which would explain this rambling, incoherent post.

Besides, Ross got Rachel back yesterday.  We all know how important that is.


06 May 2004

Adios "amigos"

I really have no plans to watch the final episode of "Friends" tonight.

I used to watch the show all of the time, probably through the sixth season.  It made me laugh, but I never felt it was worth the hype.  "Seinfeld" was much funnier, and as a hopeless realist, a lot of what occured on "Friends" drove me nuts.  I will spare you the rant on that though.

I'm sick of the hoopla that has been created by this show going off the air.  Can we please have a little perspective folks?  It's a television show.  The people who star in it will make more money tonight than you will probably make in the next twenty years.  And due to the beautyof syndication, most of them will continue to make money off of this show after they have died.

Nothing spectacular will happen on the show tonight.  Bet on that.  The people behind this show know that they have years and years of syndicated viewers locked up, there are people who will be hooked on this show years from now that never saw a first-run episode.  Who cares what happens between Ross and Rachel?  Do you realize this "will they or won't they" crap has been going on for ten years?

Here's how I see the show ending up:

1. Joey heads off to LA to jump start his acting career.  Unfortunately, he arrives just in time for the big one featured in "10.5" (notice the clever NBC tie-in???).

2. Chandler is coaxed into going on a hunting trip with one of his new neighbors in suburbia.  He is not very excited but agrees to go at Monica's urging to get to know his neighbors.  As he stands in a field by himself, rifle at his side, he says "Could this be any more boring?"  Suddenly there is a large bang, he falls, and Janice appears, saying "OH MY GOD, I thought you were a deer!"

3. Ross is denied by Rachel, but gets his big break and wins a trip to Jurassic Park.  Sadly, he meets the same fate as the guy who played Newman on "Seinfeld" when he journeyed out to the land of the dinosaurs.

4. Monica gets a call from a place called "Bada Bing" and agrees to cater an event there.  Upon arrival she shrieks at the unclean conditions in the kitchen (Turn in to HBO next Sunday at 9 to see what happens next-notice the clever HBO tie-in???).

5. Rachel gets on the flight to Paris.  However, she falls asleep in the bathroom and doesn't wake up until the plane is back in flight.  She is forced to get off the plane at a place called "Troy" and is last seen wandering away among the ruins with a strange centurion named Brad in pursuit.

6. Phoebe gets everything.  She's the only one I never wanted to see hit by a bus.

Take me out of the ballgame...

Saw most of the Cubs 11-3 win over Arizona today.

It's early May, so kids are still in school.  The weather today was OK, not great, overcast and in the 60's.  Arizona is not exactly one of the Cubs largest rivalries.  Yet Wrigley Field was packed today, a rare sight for an afternoon game on a Thursday this time of the year.

I'm fine with that, of course.  I love the electric feel of the park when it is full.  I've been to hundreds of games in my life, and I don't care what anyone says, people are there to watch the game and cheer for the Cubs.  The image of Wrigley as a place where people go to be seen and not care about the game is wrong.  I have no idea why that stereotype has been perpetuated so much in the last decade.

Anyway, it's great to watch a game in May that feels like a game in October.  It looks like all 81 games at Wrigley this year are going to have a playoff atmosphere.

I do have one complaint, though.

This year the Cubs put in over 200 new "dugout" premium seats.  They are located directly behind home plate and they are indeed pricey.  Every seat for every game this year has been sold for this section.  A good deal of people in these seats can be seen on television, as the primary game action camera angle is from center field, looking into home plate.

Today I saw the same thing over and over again, people in these seats on cell phones and waving to the camera with their other hand.  No doubt these people are calling family and friends saying "look at me!  I'm on TV!"  Congratulations, you've paid $250 for that honor.  And I've seen it every single time I have watched a Cubs home game this season.

I'd love to see these idiots take a foul ball off the head while they were busy wasting their cell minutes rather than pay attention to the game, but the screen protecting these fans won't allow that to happen.  I have a better idea.  There is a small patio access area upstairs behind the broadcast booth at Wrigley Field.  Someone needs to put a cherry picker there, one with a neck long enough to reach down over the media section and into the premium seats.  Then remove the basket from it and instead put a set of jaws on it. 

On the west side of Wrigley Field is a parking lot used by players and media.  I propose eliminating about three or four of these spaces, and in its place building a container that rises two stories.  Then fill it with chocolate pudding.

When someone is spotted preening for the camera, cell phone to their ear, let's have the jaws snap down, snatch the idiot by the head, and jettison them over the stadium into the container of pudding.  There could even be an "idiot pudding-cam" that captures the whole thing.  I'm sure that would be high viewing on Jumbotrons all over the country, not to mention SportsCenter.  That's the whole point of it, right, to be seen on television?

What are you going to tell your grandkids thirty years from now?  That you were once seen waving on television in the background of a baseball game, or that you were seen being hurled out of a stadium into a vat of pudding?

And when the weather gets really hot?  YUMMY.

Oh My Goodness...

I just saw and heard the President say he was sorry for the "humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners at the hands of American soldiers."

Is this the beginning of GW's great enlightenment?  Will he now start apoligizing for things that have happened to AMERICANS on his watch?  Will he indeed "feel our pain"?

Can sarcasm be rhetorical?

Thanks for stopping by, George.  We'll see you in Crawford soon.

Unfinished business

Reading the news this morning, I find everyone mentioning the fact that while the President is "appalled" at the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners, he has not said that he is sorry.  Other officials have conveyed the President's regret, but GW has not uttered those two simple words.

And he better not, at least until he handles the backlog of things to apologize for here in the country he supposedly leads.  Don't know about you, but if Bush can't seem to muster the words to apologize in some fashion for 9/11, the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when it was the #1 reason for his invasion, and the deaths of almost 800 American servicemen and women, he has no business apologizing to anyone in Iraq.

I'm not saying that the abuse is prisoners isn't a bad thing.  Of course it is, but this is a war, what do you expect?  Hold the people responsible accountable for their actions, just as those who mutilated and hung corpses from a bridge last month will be held responsible if they are ever captured.  I haven't heard anyone apologize for that event.

That the President would even consider kowtowing to the Middle East over this surprises me.  It seems that the hardest thing to get this man to do is accept the possibility that something he is involved in could be a mistake.  He's never admitted that he has been wrong about anything. 

If he apologizes, I only hope it happens while he is inside a confessional.

04 May 2004

Memories of an Old Man

Got a New Hampshire state quarter?  Take a look at the back.  That's the Old Man of the Mountain.  Located on the side of Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch State Park, it's the symbol of the state of New Hampshire.  And unfortunately, you can't see the real old man anymore.  It fell down last year on May 3. 

I was in New England in October 2002, and after spending an evening in Nashua before making my way to Vermont, I decided to drive up into the White Mountains.  It was a crisp autumn morning with bright sunshine, and the scenery was beautiful, rich full colors surrounded by snow topped mountains.  All along I-93 there were signs giving the distance until the Franconia Notch and the Old Man.

And it was worth the trip.  There was a viewing area where you could get the best profile view of the old man, but there was also enough space to wander off on your own and see it from different views.  By the time I had reached this area, some clouds had moved in, so half of the time the Old Man was in sunlight, and the other half dulled by overcast skies.

After spending about an hour in the area, the last thing I did was climb a short viewing tower so that I could take some pictures of the Old Man.  The pictures I took did not do him justice.  What strikes me to this day is how realistic this rock formation looked.  It was so true to life that a large part of me cannot comprehend how it could have formed naturally.

On the day that the Old Man fell, I was traveling along the Mississippi River valley, where Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin meet.  It was almost noon, and I was headed northwest on US Route 20.  Just before Galena, there was a lookout area, an outstanding view of the bluffs that give way to the river.  I pulled off the road into the parking lot and climbed a tower that gave me the best view of the valley.  It was a day similar to the day I spent in New Hampshire weather wise, and I recall saying to myself that the view that I was being treated to was probably the best I had seen since my day with the Old Man.

Shortly after returning to my car and continuing my trip, I turned on NPR.  It was noon, and I wanted to hear the news. 

The lead story was that the Old Man of the Mountain had collapsed sometime during the night, "while New Hampshire slept." 

Coincidence?  Who knows.

Rest in piece(s), Old Man



03 May 2004

Mission accomplished

No banner necessary...

I just finished watching the Cubs beat the Cardinals 7-3, thereby achieving a split of the four game series in St. Louis.  I could get greedy and complain about how they should have swept, since they lost 1-0 Sunday and 4-3 Friday, but as I recall before it began all I asked for was a split, and that's what I got. 

I think I saw maybe half of the action from the games, which is fine with me.  I can't watch every moment of every game, unless I am there in person, or it's the playoffs.  And the playoffs are brutal, no matter how well they happen to go, because I feel this ridiculous intensity on each and every pitch.

When I was a kid, I was a big Bears fan, and I noticed that my interest in them waned when they won a Super Bowl in 1986.  Today, almost 20 years later, I suppose I want them to win, but it truly does not matter to me.  I feel the same way about the Bulls.  It's hard to get upset about their losing ways when you can fall back on the memory of six world titles.

So if the Cubs finally win it all one day, will I become as nonplussed about them as the rest of Chicago teams that have won a title in my lifetime?  I don't know; I can't possibly be as intense as I am when I am still longing for a championship, I'd think, but I will always be a huge fan.