Friday, December 24, 2004

A Different Kind Of White Christmas

It's a little after ten a.m. here in Bridgeport this morning. As I look out the window at the deep freeze outside (2 degrees fahrenheit, wind chill -20 below) The street and parked cars are covered with a different white: the blanched look of heavy salt spread to melt last week's minimal snow and hard permafrost. It looks almost post-nuclear, occasionally broken by the sight of solitary figures loading their cars for trips to the relatives. After all, Christmas will happen regardless of the weather.

I met up with friends last night for the Music Box's Christmas sing-along (we opted for White Christmas because we're all a bit older and we had a pregnant one in tow). The song-along has taken on a life of its own. With all the sleigh bells and audience participation it can be more annoying at times than going to a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening. One of us snuck in a bottle of wine and I had my trusty flask filled with tequila for warmth, so we needed no concessions.

Michelle e-mailed me yesterday to pick my brain about Pilsen and Bridgeport. It seems that she's having a rough go apartment hunting on the North Side and read some too-good-to-be-true deals in Pilsen. I gave her some detailed pointers about the neighborhoods and suggested she seek second and third opinions- I have old friends who have recently moved in down here who might be able to corroborate my opinions.

It seems that I rarely write about what life is like in Bridgeport and why I like living down here. I guess this is as good a time as any. The finishing touches of my adolescence took place on the Northwest side of the city, across the street from Hermosa Park and what was then known as the Mary Ann bakery (now the S. Rosen bakery). I was a stones throw from Belmont-Cragin, Logan Square, and the West Side. My friends and I would hang out at the park, on each others' front porch stoops, or in our basements fruitlessly trying to copy early Metallica riffs. When we were bored we could just hop on the Fullerton bus and head to the Brickyard Mall or travel further to Harlem-Irving Plaza and hang outside Rolling Stones Records if Lance Poulsen had the keys to his brother's Celica. It was quiet and working middle-class. And to my teenaged mind, it was so far away from everything I wanted to experience.

My first apartment in Chicago as an adult was a studio apartment north of Wrigley Field. Somehow I managed to make a deep circle of frineds that I still have today and graduate from studio apartment to roomates to couch-hopping; my career path moving from retail to marketing to sales to unemployed. Gentrification was taking hold and I was a dot-com casualty long before the term became de rigueur. I had crashed at an aunt's for about a month when I wore out my welcome there. It was the Fourth of July 1999 and I had one final option. I called up my friend Sue and said that I needed a place to crash. She didn't say a word, told me to come down.

So I strapped my army duffel bag on my back, strapped my other belongings to my bicycle, and made the one-hour trip from West Rogers Park to Bridgeport. When I got down here I assured Sue that it would be a temporary arrangement. The next night Sue took me bar-hopping around the neighborhood. We first stopped at the now defunct Black Orchid sports bar on 31st. There was only one television tuned to a White Sox game, no draft beer, and two video poker games that paid out winnings at the bar. From there we went to the Redwood Lounge on Wallace and finally stopped at Puffer's on Halsted. From the moment I walked in and Al the bartender said, "You've just entered the best joint of its kind on this side of the street in this neighborhood", I decided to give Bridgeport the benefit of the doubt.

Looking back I think we both knew that temporary arrangement was bullshit. It turned into a four-year relationship as roommates. I've fallen in love with this neighborhood many times over. From Polo Cafe and Catering on South Morgan to Punky's Pizza on 26th; from Freddie's Pizza and Pancho Pistolas on 31st to Gio's Cafe and Deli on 28th and Lowe, the Bridgeport Coffee House on 31st and Morgan and the Zhou Brothers complex on South Morgan, Bridgeport has secrets that I've pried open and more to be revealed. The sights and sounds change with the seasons: summer means the distant sound of fireworks from Sox Park every time the Good Guys hit a home run; spring is ushered in by paddy green lights on bannisters and front yard as far as the eye can see, the South Side Irish showing their pride; Sundays in autumn the air is lightly perfumed with the wafting odor of breakfast from Stages restaurant on 31st; winter means a walk down to the Ramova Grill for a bowl of the best chili in the neighborhood.

But what I love most about Bridgeport is it's unapologetically urban in a time when urban planning has become synonymous with homogeny. I live ten minutes by foot to Chinatown and five minutes from Pilsen by bike. I can be downtown via the Orange Line in ten minutes. When a trip to the suburbs for me would be a bike ride up Halsted to Lincoln Park, I wonder how much longer this Chicago that I now call home can last. Bridgeport is an ever-evolving beast: aware of its past, sometimes regrettably, but always striving for a better future while honoring the good time that were.

Marry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. See you next year.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

More Brass Bra Cold

I've spent the past three days applying weatherstrip to the widows that need them in my apartment. I can qualify both the kitchen and pantry a success: the pantry has gone from "icebox cold" to "tepid" while the kitchen is now toasty. But my office (where I'm typing this now) is a larger challenge.

I have one giant window in the room. Due to all the years of repainting of wood trim and general neglect I'm finding it impossible to cover all the areas where cold air is seeping through. Literally every time I plug one leak another pops up. I'm about ready to throw in the towel and cover the whole window- sill trim, and pane- in a giant sheet of plastic that further keeps light out of the room.

The main motivation is the gas bill, of course. Now that I live in a larger apartment I don't want to be paying $200 for gas bills during the winter- a realistic proposition considering that I have my own hot water tank, forced air, and two fireplaces. I'm just not a fan of the plastic over the windows. If there's a balmy day in February where I can open the windows, I want to be able to do that. With weatherstrip I can.

Life would be so much easier if I had radiator heat.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Shooting For a Shade of Red on My Nose Somewhere Between Rudolph and W.C. Fields

I'm gearing up for this weekend's HotHouse Holiday Market. Wonderful gift ideas from forty-five vendors will be available for your purchasing pleasure. Get away from the Magnificent Mile and the malls and come over. I guarantee you'll find something for every hard-to-buy-for person on your gift lists. I'll be at the bar both days helping you to artificially enforce that holiday cheer with my unique mixing talents. We'll have sammitches for the famished, cool yule tunes from the junkie's tracks, and I'll be whipping up a giant pot of steaming hot glögg for your imbibing. We'll send you on your way into the night with a nose red enough to roast chestnuts.

11 a.m.- 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Hope to see you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Walking In A Winter Wonderland

So I rang in the second day of Christmas, not with two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree, but with a steaming hot mug of glüwhein underneath the Picasso in Daley Plaza. Or, as white people casually call it, "glögg."

It was a picture perfect day downtown. The sun was beginning to set over the buildings;the weather was mild with a light breeze; the evening rush hour just started to heat up. I walked around the Christkindlmarket shops, taking in the sights and smells. Lightly emboldened by the rush of hot mulled wine I allowed a slight smile to creep across my face and the spirit of the season to roll over me.

Then I hopped on the Red Line and was crudely thrown back to reality.

I'm a Chicagoan, born and raised. I'll die a Chicagoan. I've ridden the subway for as long as I could have cogent memory. As someone who frequents the subway I understand that there are certain risks involved with riding the trains. Specifically, that odds are more than fair I'll step on a car with that delicate potpourri of hospital-grade sanitizer and stale urine. But the car I stepped in this afternoon was simply foul.

Words cannot accurately describe the smell of fresh pee on a homeless man passed out standing in middle of a subway car. My eyes were literally stinging from the smell. There were passengers who wanted to complain but were afraid that the smell would settle on their tongues. I only had four stops before transferring to the more satisfying olfactory confines of the Orange Line, but wasn't sure I could make it to the Roosevelt Road station.

That's when I remembered that I was carrying my glögg mug. I placed my nose in the mug and deeply inhaled the remnants of that sweet wine all the way to my transfer train. My eyes still stung, but at least I wasn't teetering on blowing my lunch everywhere.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Home Sweet Homes

For the most part the move into my new apartment is complete. I have to head over to the old one today and haul out some miscellaneous detritus, do some cleaning, then sneak over to the landlady's place and drop the keys off in her mailbox. I cannot express how wonderful it feels to have any type of ambient light find its way into my living room again. That said ambient lihgt is coming through an ungodly large bay window is even more heartwarming.

I did the move myself, just like last year, with a mover's dolly and a head start on the sunrise. I transferred the heavy stuff first (couch, dresser, mattress/box spring, other furniture) and had that all in by noon. Then it was just a matter of moving what I could finish before sunset and pack up what needed to be moved today.

You don't realize what you accumulate until you start to sort through it for packing. sorting through papers in my office I was stunned at the sheer volume of press releases, interview notes, proposals for work, lost invoices, stamp booklets, and disk files that I thought were lost to goblins. It's at that moment that you also realize just how terrible a housekeeper you are. I've always made sure that my aprtment was clean for company, but at times yesterday I felt like I was walking through a dustbowl.

I've resigned myself to the knowledge that I'm goping to need a new cabinet for the office, an a/v cabinet for the stereo equipment, and a larger bookcase to accommodate the oblong books in my library. I'm sure that once I do this the apartment will start to feel a lot smaller than it actually is. But that's the nature of accumulation.

As I was finishing the heavy stuff yesterday my nosy Sicilian neighbor finally asked if I was moving. She's not a big fan of the old landlady and constantly lists her litany of misdeeds to me: she doesn't keep up her property, she bought a bad building and hasn't invested the money to improve it, she rents to "coloreds." The last one she spat out at me yesterday. I returned fire by asking her about the white trash couple that keeps half of Union Avenue awake in the middle of the night with their inane arguments over who drank the last Diet Rite soda and who was the father of the last baby they gave up for adoption.

She grabbed my hand with a strength that should not be found in an eighty-year-old woman and lead me to her apartment, where she pulled out an eviction notice she had sent to said couple. "When they leave you can have the apartment $425 a month," she said. Considering how, by moving back into my old building I'm saving $200 a month in rent, this felt as if the spoils of war were mine for the taking.

I respectfully declined her offer as I had already moved my shit and I don't want to have a nosy Sicilian for a landlady all up in my business. There's something inspiring about people wanting you to live in their building. My old landlady, current landlord, and the nosy Sicilian all said I was "good people." I don't know whether that's a testament to me actually being a good person or just having lived in Bridgeport so long now that i could be considered a native. but it's nice to feel wanted in any way.

So I need to get shaking so I can start unpacking. I have plans to see Chris Hyatt's film Eye of Cruelty this evening. Depending on how long the Q&A runs after the movie I also want to head to Logan square for some roller derby featuring the Windy City Rollers.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Normally I'd Have Been In Bed By Midnight...

There's a cacophony of sirens blaring outside my apartment right now. Either the Fire Department is doing its Toys For Tots collection drive up Union Avenue or there's a block of houses on fire across the alley that I'm simply indifferent toward. Ah, the ticks and quirks of Bridgeport.

First I'd like to extend a wonderful and heartfelt thanks to everyone who made it to Gunther Murphy's for the show last night, and to the talent- The Like Young, Dead Horse Hill, Devin Davis and his band, Paul Carray, and Marvin Tate- for volunteering their services. The Reader listed the show (well, The Like Young and Dead Horse Hill) on the front page of the music section, but it seemed as if Devin Davis brought a cult with him. He certainly had some new converts by the time he finished his set, including yours truly. A big thanks to the management and staff at Gunther Murphy's for donating the music room for this event.

So after paying the doorman, sound man, and bar tab, we still walked out with a good amount of money towards financing the first issue of Make. A hearty "big up" goes to Sarah Dodson for doing most of the heavy lifting and logistics. I was describing to her last night the total lack of nervousness I felt about doing this because it seemed like more of a team effort, unlike the "Speak Easy" series where I was corralling writers, music acts, finding the venue and doing p.r.

I wasn't feeling that way leading up to this. If anything I was feeling like I hadn't done my share to make this work, or had a feeling of being left out. I sat back and realized this was because I'm used to having the burden on my shoulders. That's why I think we have something special on our hands with Make. It's the result of two years of discussions and meetings with people who stayed with the concept after others dropped out because of disinterest or frustration with not seeing anything tangible for their time.

We've got a good droup of people involved here who are still learning to work together- people with different skill sets and approaches to literature with good ideas on how to make this work. It's democracy in action, essentially.

Besides, it's still nice to know that at 35 I can help throw a good party. I'm just not going to make it a habit- I like my sleep too much.

Friday, December 03, 2004

And Left... And Right... Lather, Rinse, Repeat...

So the HotHouse Operations Board (whom I like to refer to as the "junior " board) threw their first big fundraising shindig last night. The turnout wasn't all that was expected but still respectable. If I don't mic another rum punch again it'll be too soon.

Dance lessons were given by the ubiquitous Tina Mangos. Tina's been teaching dance around town for what seems like forever- at HotHouse; in the Fieldhouse in Jefferson Park; in Glenview; various Elks Lodges around the area. She has a unique approach to teaching dance that has evolved over the years, I assume. Currently her teaching style combines light niggling of students with unsolicited embarrassing stream-of-consciousness information, all delivered in an accent that brings back vivid memories of growing up on the Northwest Side of the city. It's a passive-aggressive pas de deux between Tina and her class. I liken it to an overprotective mother who won't let her son have his first dance with his new wife.

She was firing on all cylinders last night. Tina's lessons usually entail basic steps suitable for all the popular Latin Dance styles. This allows her students to have some familiarity with the music without wondering if they're dancing the wrong steps to the wrong music. They're already feeling self-conscious as it is without having to wonder if they're using cumbia steps to a cha-cha. Tina likes to lightly rib her students, but she demands total attention once the lesson begins. I've witnessed many occasions where she's called out someone for having a conversation while she's trying to teach a class. When she does, you smile, but you know she just chastised you.

Last night it started with a cell phone ringing while she was teaching some rumba steps. It was the familiar Nokia ring tone cutting loud and clear through the dance floor. Tina stopped in mid step and turned in the ddirection of the ring. "Is that a cell phone?" She asked metaphorically, then she pounced. "We have a brain surgeon in the house! Quck! Answer the phone! Your patient's hemorrhaging!!" the light sense of unease among the students was palpable, and Tina let out a nervous cackle to break the tension and let them know that she demanded their complete attention. "It's 'left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, and turn.' It's like 'lather, rinse, repeat', okay?"

Later she lined up people for a merengue. "Now if you're from the Dominican Republic this dance can be called a punta," she snapped. The way she dropped the n and said the word with relish gave the impression that she was calling some of the female dance students whores. Again, more stares were shared between partners.

Then she volunteered after that particularly spirited merengue that she was "sweating like a pig." By this time our cocktail server for the evening had picked up on all of this. In short order the two of us were coming up with increasingly outlandish commentary, stuff like "these support hose are really slimming," or "I was told that these shoes would breathe and I wouldn't get yellow toenails."

Boss lady came over after the dance essons for a glass of water. She had been looking over at us during the lessons, wondering if we were making fun of her. "Pretty good workout," she said.

"It isn't a dance lesson until she starts insulting the class," I said. Her smile dropped almost immediately and she went back to the dance floor wondering if she would be the next target of Tina Magos' barbs.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Finally! An Idea Not Influenced By Bourbon Consumption

So I posted a teaser last week about the Make Magazine benefit this Friday. Here are the details. I'd have posted sooner but Friday night I ate a spoiled bowl of chili which would have felled a lesser man for days. I managed to struggle through my best friend's baby shower and make it home by 5 p.m., where I spent the next eighteen hours in bed with cold compresses and Charley Patton records on repeat. By the time Desperate Housewives came on last night my appetite was back enough to have a small bite of leftovers that hadn't turned. But I still needed another eight hours of sleep.

But I digress. Friday night at Gunther Murphy's at 9 p.m. we're finally holding a musical extravaganza to benefit Make: A Chicago Literary Magazine. The $8 suggested donation will go towards production of our inaugural spring issue and the production of our media kit for securing advertisers and financing. The line-up reads like a who's-who of the local indie-rock scene:

Dead Horse Hill
The Like Young
Devin Davis

And your emcee for the evening is the ubiquitous Marvin Tate. So bring a friend or three, enjoy some great music, play our mad libs, and help us out. If you're really nice I'll buy you a Simmitch's Ale. I'll be drinking ginger ale all night. Business, y'know.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Christ this weather's miserable...

I'm just glad I have central heat for now, 'cause it's a toasty 64 degrees here in the BS command center and we have sleet on the near south side. I'm meeting friends for a screening of "Sideways" later this afternoon so I thought I'd try to get some posting in and work through some writers block at the same time.

I'm quickly meeting my first deadline for the jazz page I'm putting together for I've been given a template to work with and was instructed to follow it pretty closely, which really brings out the anarchist in me. I impulsively want to do the exact opposite.

It also makes me wish I had applied for the wine expert page, as well.

The other day I was talking to the night floor manager at work who said he had a couple complaints about the new house red wine I bought for the bar. "Maybe you should keep an eye out for these complaints," he asked.

"You only had two complaints about the wine?" I asked.

"Yeah, they didn't like it."

"Two complaints out of how many people in the house?"

"Two hundred ninety-six."

I furrowed my brow. "That's slightly more than one-half percent of the customer base for the evening."

"But they didn't like it."

"What about Friday night? DId anyone return the house red last night?"

He shook his head. "I can't recall."

I shook my head. "I know no one complained on Thursday or Wednesday. So that's two documented complaints in four days."

He finally adjusted his complaint. "Well, I don't like it."

"That's why we have more than one choice of red wine," I answered. "Pick one."

And I wonder why I'm watching "Sideways" this afternoon.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

In A Better Life

I've been playing around the past day with the free web browser and mail programs from Mozilla and think I'm at the point where I'm ready to remove Internet Explorer and Outllook Express from my computer.

I absolutely love the Firefox browser. It allows you to import your old bookmarks, browser history, and cookies from IE while customizing the browser to your specific work specifications. A neat feature I wasn't sure would work with Windows 98 is the ability to open new windows in tabs on the same browser page.

The Thunderbird mail program is an absolute must. You can train the program to filter out junk mail, which is handy for me currently since my work e-mail is brimming with fake Rolex and penis enlargement offers. I don't wear a watch but I can't wait for the swelling to subside and get a better look at the sleeping giant I've got. The next time I have sex it's gonna be World War WOW!!

What I love most about the programs is that they are not susceptible (knock on wood) to the viruses and worms specifically bred for Microsoft products, which- coupled with my anti-virus and spyshield, is a godsend since this cpu qualifies as a museum exhibit. This also furthers my theory that Microsoft and some hackers are in colluding to get our money with patches and software upgrades.

The next two weeks will be hectic. I start trial period for a freelance opportunity that comes along at just the right time. If I make it through the trial period I'll be kept on a retainer. And any money is good money during the holiday season.

Keep checking back for details of a fundraiser for the long-awaited Make Magazine start-up. I will tell you that it's at Gunther Murphy's on December 3rd and the bands we have lined up are all great live and gracious for donating their talents to the cause.

That should do it for now. I'm off to reheat some chili then it's up north for movies. Not sure which yet; either "Sideways" or "The Big Red One: the Reconstruction" at the Music Box. A Sam Fuller movie of a fleshier Virginia Madsen. It's a toss-up.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Insert Your Egg Drop Soup Joke Here...

Cooking With Cum

(With regards to Warren Ellis' wonderful blog)

Waste not, want not, I guess.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

What's Your Best Line?

I was accused of flirting the other night, though I still protest my innocence since I didn't get the girl. It reminded me of an exchange I was privy to hearing a couple years back:

A jeweler acquaintence of mine was working some last-minute holiday sales when this drunken goofball sidled up to her table and drooled all over a set of earrings priced at $75. She was completely professional, replaced the earrings and engaged the drunk in her sales pitch.

The drunk was struck by her beauty and suddenly decided that what he most wanted under his tree at Christmas was her. "Wassyername?" He slurred.

"Oona," she replied.

The dude scratched his head, slackjawed the entire time. "Thassa pretty name. Thassasame name as Cholly Chaplin's wife, ainnit?"


"Ssso ya sspell dat 'ooh-ooh-en-ay', right?"

To this day I still wonder what would have happened if she said no.

Monday, November 15, 2004

A Balance of The Sacred and Profane

So last Monday evening I'm playing some classic raunchy R&B behind the bar- what they used to call "race records" back in the old times- and one of the songs that pops up is "Big Ten Inch Record" by Bull Moose Jackson. Great song, the lindy hoppers love it every time it's played.

I'm sipping coffee with Yoko Noge when the song starts playing. Yoko asks me again if I can lend her the cd so she can burn copy, which she's done numerous times before. I bring her the case and a bottle of Vermeer Chocolate liqueur for my coffee and say, "I think this would be a great song for Jimmy (Ellis) to sing." Yoko begins to concentrate to Bull Moose's vocal style, looks up at me, offers a sly smile, and says, "You're right!" Suddenly she's off in a rush to the stage and conferring with Jimmy. I move on to washing some glasses and rotating stock in the cooler.

A few minutes pass and Jimmy is asking for his usual quaff- a snort of brandy, just enough brandy to fill the bottom of a rocks glass. Jimmy calls it part of his personal "mental science." He drinks it this way so as not to get too drunk too quick. Never mind that by the end of the evening he's downed one-fourth of a liter of brandy. Anyhoo, he askes, "Why would you think I'd want to sing that nasty song?"

"I think your vocal tone would be a great fit for it," I answered.

"But that's a nasty song, Chuck! I'm a religious man! I go to church, you see, and if people I go to church with find out I'm singing that song they'll start talking about me."

I'm standing there wondering if Jimmy's having some fun with me, so I start to tread carefully. "How old are you, Jimmy?"

"I'm seventy-four years old, Chuck."

"And by all accounts you've told me you don't approach religion from a traditional standpoint- you go to church but realize that your body is the temple, right?"


Here's where I turned the tables. I leaned over the bar and said, "But you do believe that man was created in God's image."

"Now I wouldn't speak for God, now," Jimmy answered, "I believe in dinosaurs and evolution, but we all have some of God's handiwork in our makeup."

"Okay, then," I said cautiously. Remember, I still didn't know whether he was genuinely insulted at my suggestion or not. "If we carry that logic out to it's inevitable conclusion, would it be beyond the realm of possibility to believe that god would have a big ten-inch record that plays the blues?"

Jimmy looked up from his glass, met my eyes, and grinned like a cheshire cat. "You a crazy individual, you know?" Jimmy laughed. "But you're right!!" Then he asked, "Now what if you believe God is a woman?"

"Then she's got a little honeypot," I snapped back. "Bottom line is, it's just a song. It isn't gonna condemn you to Hell for singing it."

Jimmy couldn't stop laughing. "You're just crazy. 'God's got a honeypot!' Just when I thought I heard everything from you!!"

I'm bringing him the lyrics this evening to "Big Ten Inch Record."


I end today with words of wisdom from the philosopher Julius Henry Marx (1890-1977), aka "Groucho":

Here I am talking to parties.

I cam down here for a party.
What happens?
not even ice cream.

The gods look down and laugh.

This would be a better world for children
if the parents ate the spinach.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Finished Business

I put in some extra effort yesterday to complete outstanding commitments to Jazz Review, and the results are posted in the form of interviews with rising pianist/singer Peter Cincotti and Latin jazz/hip-hop/barrio rock style-mashers Ozomatli. They both have wonderful new records out on Concord, and I cannot recommend Ozomatli's Street Signs highly enough.

Caught the season premiere of "Arrested Development" this evening, and it was worth the wait to hear David Cross' sexually ambiguous therapist/actor say "It's been a while since I've been in a queen."

Thursday, November 04, 2004

One Nation Under God... Like It Or Not!!!

One of the problems of a socialist work environment is that when things don't happen the way we expect we tend to look for blame when there is none to assess. So it was yesterday morning when we heard the news that John Kerry had arranged a press conference to concede the election.

In the gallery artists were installing an exhibit dedicated to the Black Panther activist and exile Assata Shakur. When news broke about the Kerry press conference the professor in charge of the exhibit began railing about the disenfranchisement of blacks in Ohio. "They were intimidated to stay away from the polls."

"I have to respectfully disagree," I said. "If anything the state broke down into two power centers- Democrats and people of color voted for Kerry; the rural families voted for Bush."

"No, no. I read reports of blacks being disenfranchised."

"I'm sorry you think that way and I wished I could agree with you, but even the cases of vote fraud listed on Michael Moore's website were due more to the voters' negligence and lack of common sense than any attempts by the GOP."

We went on for a bit in this manner; the discourse civil and respectful but still disagreeable. But the simple fact is that more than 55 million people nationwide voted in favor of a second term for George W. Bush Tuesday. With memories of Florida in the 2000 election still fresh in the minds of voters, politicians, and election judges across the country this election was scrutinized like none other.

It hurts to ponder the prospect of another four years of Bush/Cheney, especially with Cheney throwing around that often misused word "mandate" yesterday: even though Bush received more votes than President in history Kerry received more than 51 million votes. Even though the man I voted for didn't win, Tuesday the democratic process worked. It's a hollow victory, but a victory nonetheless.

What does frighten me about the Bush victory were reports that the most important issue among voters who supported him was "moral values." Evangelicals, faith-based organizations, and families who espouse more taditional values across the country came out en masse for Bush. Karl Rove said that their were four million evangelicals in the country who did not vote in 2000. Coincidentally the difference in the popular vote was 3.5 million.

This concerns me greatly as I feel this issue is a violation of the separation of church and state. I wrote the other day about the evangelical program that urged its viewers to vote for leaders who espoused Christian values, saying that not doing so would be a sin since the right to vote was a "blessing handed to us from God", conveniently forgetting that the American Revolution was fought for the freedom of man to do as he wished, including not worshipping a God, if he so chose.

If one takes a look at the electoral map and sees the blood-red swath across the middle of the nation notice that one thing these places have in common- besides being rural- is the firm establishment of religion in the community. In many communities churches, faith-based groups, and evangelicals are the only groups providing social services to their communities. Ultimately the people they service will espouse their beliefs and thinking.

To my eye it reads like a large scale version of ministering: proselytizing to easily swayed people grateful for a small amount of relief. So it goes without saying that they should preach to the people they help conservative viewpoints on issues like abortion, stem cell research and same-sex marriage because of the homogenized nature of their communities and their lack of life experience outside of them.

What offends me most about these groups is that they feel the need to foist their beliefs on us, like the ministers who frequent my neighborhood, going door-to-door to rustle new members to their flock. But it isn't enough to bring along the newly converted. They must remind those of us whose thinking is a tad more complex that we're "sinners" and need protection from our own perverse thoughts. Their one nation under God is a Christian deity who gives non-believers their just desserts. There is no room for atheism, agnostics, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, or even Catholicism. This nation was built on the foundation that every voice, every thought- no matter how contrary- has some merit and can be voiced without consequence.

Tuesday showed with perfect clarity that the line separating this country from the fundamentalist religious states of the Middle East, North Africa, and the Indian sub-continent is a fragile gossamer at best, if not completely broken. We must be ever vigilant to ensure that every voice has an opportunity to be heard. We must take the hope of those 51 million Kerry votes and let those voters know that it wasn't all for naught. Otherwise we regress further and have a hard time getting people to the polls in 2K8, which makes the 19 million evangelicals the most cohesive and influential voting bloc in the country

Update: As if this fire need any more tending, consider that in Illinois Alan Keyes' carpetbagging campaign for Senate managed to garner one million votes, or 26% of the vote. Keyes' platform was nothing more than excessive quoting of Scripture, crazed comparisons of abortion to terrorism and slavery, and vicious slurs against Barack Obama. Yet it connected with one million voters. I don't want to think of what would've happened if the Illinois GOP had any efficiency to its operation. Keyes might have made it a tough race.

Then we would have had to rely on the "Saturday Night Live" theory of race in America: Obama won because light-skinned blacks are smarter than dark-skinned blacks.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Well At Least The Vodka's Rewarding...

It's shortly after 11 p.m. and the way things are developing it looks as though Ohio is the new Florida. Well, the conspiracy theorist in me thinks so, at least. Between checking Michael Moore's website for updates of possible voter disenfranchisement in Ohio and Anna Marie Cox's protestations at Wonkette that the person feeding her overly optimistic exit poll data from the Buckeye State may have been Karl Rove, that's what I initially want to believe.

The fact remains that over 120 million registered voters made it to the polls today, and Ohioans are still waiting in line at some precincts to have their say. That's not exactly the revolt I was hoping for when one considers that both the popular vote and electoral count are, to quote Dan Rather, "thinner than turnip soup." The call to action was heeded, and for everyone who understands the danger another four years of Bush/Cheney poses to the world, there's one who thinks he's the proverbial shit.

I got a kick out of watching The Dukes of Hazzard as a kid. But in the real world it seems Boss Hogg and Roscoe P. Coltrane always prevail.

An aside: Rather is on top of his game this evening with the kooky metaphors. "This race", he said at one point this evening, "is hotter than a Times Square Rolex." During a Presidential election year Rather is much more entertaining and than Gilmore Girls.

Anyhoo, FOX News has already chalked up Ohio to Bush, with NBC following suit shortly after. If Kerry wants to win he needs to run the table on the swing states currently in play at this writing, including Ohio. If Bush wins Ohio and Kerry runs the table in the other states, the tiebreaker goes to the House of Representatives.

And we know what party has the majority there.



Speaking of candidates who believe they are mandated by God to win political races: Alan Keyes got a million votes as the sacrificial lamb to Barack Obama. In his concession speech Keyes was quoting so much scripture that I thought he should've just started at Genesis. So it was essentially a concession speech where he conceded nothing. But that's expected for a man who felt that God would grant him a victory today. What a silly Negro.

We interloping sinners instead voted for Obama, who made history as the fifth African American to serve in the Senate and only the third elected. Illinoisans across the state can pat themselves on the back: in the past twelve years we've elected two of those three.

Obama's star can only go up from here. His reputation as an orator grew this evening with his victory speech. The centerpiece was a story about a 104-year-old woman who voted for him via absentee ballot. And he had the crowd hanging on his every word. I wonder how he will mesh with the Republican-controlled Senate to draft legislation. Contrary to his talking points, Obama's election is not going to be a "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington"- style story. His campaigning in other states for other Democrats is an indicator that he's eyeing a greater prize.


Melissa Bean unseated the porcine Phil Crane in the 8th Congressional district. Crane looked like he'd rather be anywhere except at the Sports Bar he rented out for his victory party when he conceded. He was all phlegmy and cranky, smacking various microphones while snapping, "Do I talk into this one?" I half-expected him to talk about these new "internets" his grandkids have been talking about.

Bean's victory is notable, as well. She unseated a 35-year incumbent Congressman who got so lazy and insulated in his position that he lost touch with his constituency. Between Phil Crane and the House of Lords-like maneuver by the outgoing Bill Lipinski to have his son take his place on the ballot (note: if you live in the 3rd Congressional District like I did I want to hear from anyone who wrote in Krista Grimm so that I know I wasn't alone) I have two convincing cases for term limits for congressional term limits.


Picking up my take-out from Punky's this evening I almost jumped down the throat of a de la Salle high school student who wanted Bush to win because "KerrywantstotakethetroopsoutofIraqandthen-Osamawouldattackagainandbesides-Bushdidlikeanokayjobhisfirstyearandshould-getanotherchancetomakethingsrightyouknow."

I thought about recited her yesterday's post word-for-word then relented, realizing it would fall on dumb ears. I promise not to eat at Punky's again. Or until I run out of food in house. Whichever comes sooner.


I wanted to write about this yesterday but couldn't find the words: Sunday while channel surfing I came across one of those evangelical programs that I avert my eyes from like a vampire when they pop up on screen. This one, the Coral Ridge Hour, was pushing hard for its viewers to get out and vote as it was their "responsibility handed to them by God to vote."

This really cheesed me. I know I learned US History in a public school so I only got the winner's perspective branded into my memory, but one of the reasons the revolution was fought was so that man could have the right to choose its leaders and practice whatever religion he chose, or to not practice religion.

A hot button issue for me is the separation of church and state. With CBS cautiously marking Ohio as a Bush victory right now (1 a.m. Chicago time) this gives Christian conservatives rhetorical ammunition to go with the literal bullets they stockpile in militias across the west that that separation should be blurred.

I don't read the same Bible they do, apparently. They can bend Scripture to flesh out their arguments. It's this twisting of rhetoric that has helped them curry influence within the GOP. So can I. And I found a nice little quote from Jesus Christ that, taken literally, is a concrete argument for the separation of church and state:

"Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's; render unto God what is God's."

Simpy put, Jesus was saying of the tax collector that while he walks the earth he must obey and respect the rules of man. Or the government he lives under. But if you choose a Christian life you must sacrifice your soul to God.

Nowhere there does it say that you must foist your beliefs on me or anyone else who finds it offensive.

Personally, my belief is that if religious lobbys want to have such a say in government, we should blur the line completely and tax them beyond belief. Watch them call for that separation where it hurts them most if that happens.


Besides Dan Rather's eupehmisms, the other enjoyable moment of the news shows this evening was hearing Tom Brokaw on NBC say, "Vote or Die."

'Course if the projections hold and Bush is (re-)elected- don't wanna insult anyone here- that means we'll be staying the course in Iraq and the saying can be paraphrased to "Vote and die!"

Thank you, I'll be here all week. Try the veal.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

What now? Now, we wait...

With only minor complications (I was told to remove my KE'04 and "Down With Bush" buttons inside my polling place this morning because I technically was "electioneering"; I resisted the urge to ask if "electioneering" was really a word.) my vote was cast chad-free, unsullied, and unchallengeable.

For the political wonks, concerned voters, and others who want to keep up on the unfolding events head to HotHouse where Chicago Indymedia and Third Coast Press have a command center set up to keep track of updates, voter intimidation, poll results, and maybe some good local hip-hop and punk.

Admission is $10 ($5 with a ballot receipt) but no one will be turned away, which should appeal to the poor, destitute, or the ice water brigade and their grant-funded laptops. Unless, of course, HotHouse meets its legal capacity. Then you're on your own and/or S.O.L.

Monday, November 01, 2004

A Final Thought About Election Day And Why You Should Vote

I believe that it was D.H. Lawrence who wrote, "What is understood need not be discussed." At least I read it once in the liner notes of a Van Halen record. In the spirit of that quote I won't go listing the litany of lies, distortions, failures of policy, outright criminal behavior and negligence of the Bush Administration the past four years.

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine Hunter S. Thompson summarized the election as "not whether George W. Bush is acting more and more like the head of a fascist government but whether the American people want it that way." I believe that's an accurate assessment. It reminds me of another D.H. Lawrence quote: "Democracy is a process by which people are free to choose the man who will get the blame."

We need to go to the polls on Tuesday and lay that blame on George W. Bush in a rebuke that is swift, certain, and facilitates his removal from office and- hopefully- criminal charges. After all, if getting a blowjob from an intern is an impeachable offense, then surely leading the country into a war it didn't need to fight, leading to the loss of over 1100 soldiers and 100,000 Iraqi civilians, should be worth a slap on the wrist, at least. For this voter, nothing less than the protection of the Constitution is at stake. Another four years of this harsh Executive branch of government will cause irreparable damage to the greatest democratic charter ever written.

The United States Constitution is a revolutionary document in every sense of the word. It was designed to evolve, to live, and to breathe like the people that it governs. It is resilient enough to change with the times in order to meet the challenges of its third century and rigid enough to preserve the ideals that inspired its original articles and amendments. So long as we are willing and able to put in the effort required to defend and nurture it, then I believe with all my heart that it will continue to thrive for generations to come. The past four years have shown that without our active participation the Constitution's future is far from certain. Without the lifeblood of the human spirit even the greatest of documents are only words on parchment, destined to yellow, crack and, eventually, crumble to dust.

Yours for the motherfuckin' revolution,

Chuck Sudo

(With apologies to Steve Earle)

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Trick or... Trick?

I don't know why I even put myself through such abuse:

Camille Paglia's voting for John Kerry

That's like the Wicked Witch of the West offering to help Dorothy and Toto find a way back to Kansas.

I read the interview twice today and still can't believe that the only reason she even agreed to it was that she loves the sound of her own thoughts given form. Contrarian statements like these usually come from Chris Hitchens after two bottles of scotch. She lauded the GOP protestors use of "Yippie prank" of waving flip-flops outside the Fleet Center after Kerry accepted the nomination, then called Al Franken's use of humor to expose the lies of the GOP "moribund."

My favorite quote from the interview was when she explained conservative pundit Sean Hannity's talents as a radio personality:

"(J)ust listen to his commercial for Ruth's Chris Steak House. It's a classic of American advertising -- his mellow, succulent description makes you want to RUN to the nearest Ruth's Chris! It's like pop opera."

That more than balances the lies and distortions he broadcasts on a daily basis, apparently.

Paglia's thoughts are spoken in that haughty, academic tone commonly found among tenured professors at liberal arts colleges. You know the ones: they advertise in the New Yorker and the New York Times Sunday Magazine, offering a mail-order degree in fine art if you can draw a turtle wearing a brown derby.

Any kids with wi-fi capability should have homeowners read that interview if they have no treats. They'll probably wish for their homes to get egged.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Things You Didn't Know That Won't Enrich Your Life After Discovery

Last night I was talking with some people about classic horror movies. We were talking about Halloween costumes and I volunteered that I'm dressing as the Invisible Man this year. "How are you gonna pull that off?" someone asked.

"All you need are a pair of gloves for your hands, some gauze bandages to hide your face, and a pair of sunglasses," I explained.

"But you would be visible, wouldn't you?"

"The illusion would be that I'm invisible under all the wrapping and clothing."

A woman in my group interjected, "I still don't understand how you would be invisible."

"Did you ever see the movie?" I asked.

"I'm not a Kevin Bacon fan," she said.

"Not that one," I said, "the 1933 version with Claude Rains and directed by James Whale."


"Whale and the make-up artists simply wrapped Rains in bandages and clothing until not an inch of skin was visible. that way if he had to conduct business, like rent a room in an inn, he could be seen."

This was the segue into discussing those movies. Naturally "Dracula" came up. I asked if anyone had ever seen the Spanish version of the movie. I received a gaggle of blank stares which I used to tell this story:

Carl Laemmle realized that he had an event on his hands when production started on "Dracula" so he wanted to capitalize on it in every manner possible. The problem was that Tod Browning, who directed the English-speaking version, never felt comfortable with "talkies." He was a hell of a silent film director- his collaborations with Lon Chaney stand the test of time. But Browning went off script, scrapping whole chunks of dialouge throughout much of the production. So to cater to Spanish speaking audiences who clamored for horror movies but didn't want to sit through stilted translations or subtitles Laemmle ordered production of a separate movie for Spanish speaking audiences.

Universal cast a completely different cast, director, and production crew but used the same script, stage settings and costume design. The result was an movie that in many ways is the superior of its fondly-remembered English cousin. The Spanish version runs about a half-hour longer than the English version, thanks to the extra dialogue, and Lupita Tovar is stunning as Eva (the counterpart to helen Chandler's Mina). Carlos Villarias' hammy performance in the title role will not make anyone forget Bela Lugosi, but the direction is tighter.

There are other subtle differences between the two versions. The Spanish version gives the viewer more plunging necklines on the heroines and a more subtle allusion to the sexuality conveyed by vampirism, whereas the English version sticks more to the script and oftentimes comes across as a play being filmed. Both versions are found on the "Dracula: The Legacy Collection" DVD set, so I had lots of time to study the differences.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

This provides much more incentive than "Vote or Die"...

Votergasm has three election-night parties listed for next Tuesday in Chicago. For the uninitiated, Votergasm is a web site that encourages voter registration and getting voters to the polls with the promise of hot election-night sex. Visitors to the site who register must take one of three pledges ranging from withholding sex from non-voters for a week to having sex with a voter on election night and withholding sex from non-voters for the next four years. The party at Transamoeba doesn't neccessarily promise sex, but it reads like it's shaping up to be either a nice multi-disciplinary arts experience or a bad open-mike poetry night. The invitation asks you to bring a casserole, a poem and your voting receipt (which lets you in for $5); otherwise you're being gouged for $50- and probably outed as a non-voter. For the Wicker Park Hipsters DJ Tankboy has turned his "Sweet Alice" Tuesday night residency at Ten 56 into a Votergasm party. Bring your voting receipt and receive a free Pabst Blue Ribbon. God, I miss Sweet Alice.

For those of you whose still waters run deep, the details for the party that promises to "get everyone laid" is available through e-mail request only. Oh, the organizer asks for a picture and basic information along with the request, as they want equal numbers of- attractive, I assume- men and women. This reads to me as counterproductive as it injects a healthy amount of partisan politics into the non-partisan Votergasm process. The homely vote and need loving, too, you know.

Then there's F the Vote, which jokingly urges visitors to its site to "trade sex for votes against Bush" so as not to be found in violation of FEC law. There's only one party listed and does this girl know how to throw a party. It starts at the Harold Washington Library and involves canvassing for the Democrats after dinner at the Wrigleyville IHOP. "Bring a sexy smile and KERRY-EDWARDS signs + buttons + shit", she writes.

I'm guessing that she's unaware of the Votergasm orgy being organized. Or was summarily rejected.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Good Doctor Speaks...

Rolling Stone came out with their endorsement of John Kerry this week, but for my reading pleasure the real treat was a Hunter S. Thompson article offering his take on the Bush Administration.

The article was classic gonzo Journalism; Thompson at his absolute best. It generally takes a brazenly criminal Republican government to bring out his ire that way. Going so far as to say that he would vote for richard Nixon if offered up as an opponent to Bush-Cheney, the good Doctor's summation of the election next week was "not whether President Bush is acting more and more like the head of a fascist government but whether the American people want it that way." Knowing what we do about the across-the-board failure of the first Bush term, I'm surprised that the pollsters are even calling the election a tossup. It certainly does make one wonder whether the American people want some form of fascism in their lives.

Personally I was steadily losing faith in my fellow Americans- and the Kerry campaign- until his undeniable bitch-slapping of the President in the first debate. The Steve Earle concert at the Vic last week brought back the fight and gave me hope that this Bush is rebuked in the polls next week. The stakes truly are too high this time around to sit on the sidelines, to "vote your conscience" and choose third party next week. Progressives I talk to love to complain about the lack of a third party. I sincerely believe that if George Bush gets another term we're going to have a hard time finding a second political party.

One of the wonders of the Kerry campaign is that, quietly, he's made it okay to use the word "liberal" again without wincing. With the Bush team making it very hard for anyone who isn't a dyed-in-the-wool evangelical to support them and Bill Clinton proving that democrats can be fiscally conservative and still reach out to the poor, the minority, and the progressive in this country, we're gonna have a say in how the next four years turn out.

My commanding officer on the Uss Anzio years ago used to use this quote from the New York Times to begin his award ceremonies: "Somewhere beyond the cortex is a single thought whose mere whisper can silence an army of arguments. It stands alone in final judgement as to whether we have demanded enough of ourselves and- by that example- have inspired the best in those around us." It's a fitting quote for this political climate: liberals going out and quietly registering voters while fundamentalist Christian conservatives scream their throats raw saying that dissenting opinion of George Bush is unpatriotic.

We have a week to demand the best of ourselves and to inspire those around us. I pray that it's enough.

Things I Found When I Wasn't Taking Myself Seriously

The Metal Sludge website posted a "20 Questions" interview with none other than the legendary King Diamond today. With his stage make-up, gothic-themed concept albums, five octave range, and rumors of Satan worship, King was one of two rock singers who genuinely creeped me out (the late punk singer GG Allin was the other). I remember holing up in my friend Danny Arrecis' basement after graduating high school with a Mercyful Fate's "Melissa" and King Diamond's "Abigail" albums on vinyl, reading the lyrics and wondering what the hell he was smoking.

King still hasn't lost his ability to be creepy. In the interview he discusses how he communicates with his cats and shows an interest in writing a children's book. Hey, if Bill O'Reilly can write one, King Diamond should be allowed the opportunity.

"Like a memory in motion/ you were only passing through":

That's a beautiful couplet. As a reformed poet I always loved the imagery in Johnette Napolitano's lyrics. Concrete Blonde was such an underrated band. I wore out two copies of "Bloodletting" in school and bought "Mexican Moon" used at least as many times. Anyhoo I've been listening to "Bloodletting" on the way to work lately. More accurately I've set the song "Caroline" on constant repeat. I hold that song up as an example of lyrics truly making a song. Not that the music is bad- it's not- but the lyrics are just so vivid. As a writer that's what I notice foremost in a song.

If'n anyone reading this is interested you can check out more about Concrete Blonde at the official site.

I lettered in basketball and took home economics in high school:

To this day I can whip up a nice three-course meal, pair it with a unassuming wine and complete a no-look pass on a fast break. I still found this article at both hilarious and hitting close to home. My stepfather used to make us race him in fifty yard dashes during cookouts. "The day you outrun me is the day you become a man," he'd crow at me while I was more interested in turning the ribs over. The day I outran him was also the day I left home and didn't look back. He took a swing at me for no particular reason so in retaliation I tried to drop the family car on him while he was under the engine changing the oil. It was this white-trash version of the "take the pebble from my hand" scenario from Kung Fu.

We just laugh about it today.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Make Lemonade with Bridgeport Bartering!!!

While talking with my old roommate Saturday evening I was informed that her upstairs neighbor was moving out of the building and that, if I was interested in saving $200 a month in rent, I should call up the building owner to grab the apartment as soon as possible. My one concern was coming up with the first month's rent and deposit on such short notice as all my bills and my November rent on the current apartment are usually due around the end of the month

I thought it over all day Sunday and called him this morning. By noon we arranged payment terms and had a handshake agreement. I move out of my current apartment this weekend; needless to say the extra $200 I save is going to a truck. The move should be easier this time around- like last year it's only a few trips down the alley. With the addition of a truck I should cut that move down even further.

Although I like my current place I'm really looking foward to moving, and not just because the new place has a working fireplace! This apartment was the result of a greedy building owner slicing in half a classic second floor apartment in one of these graystones one only finds in Chicago.

Example: There's a door in my living room. One would think that it leads to the outside. But it doesn't. It leads to what is now the closet in the front apartment. If these two apartments were the one single apartment the original architects intended that would be the dining room. The front hallway of the front apartment is now houses a kitchen that can only be found in Manhattan railcar-style apartments. That kitchen leads to a bathroom that exits to the stairwell originally intended for the apartment. Color me a pessimist, but I would want two ways to enter and exit my apartment. It certainly would have come in handy two months ago when one of my neighbors downstairs (long since gone from the building) threatened to "put a bullet in my ass" before he moved out.

But that's all history now. I'm just glad I'm returning to a building I really didn't want to leave in the first place. I plan on spending the extra savings wisely- catching up on credit card bills, saving for a spring vacation, paint for the new place. Should be fun.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

I came home from work last night, drew a bath, brewed some tea, and sat down to an evening of channel surfing between the final debate and Game 1 of the NLCS. Once it looked like both Senator Kerry and the Cardinals had things under control, I went online to check e-mail and lo-and-behold read about the sexual harrassment lawsuit against Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly.

It's wonderful reading in a beach-book way. Apparently the tough-talking master of the no-spin zone likes vibrators, forcing unreciprocated phone sexon female staffers, and bragging about his sexual peccadilloes. It also shows that O'Reilly, like all bullies, has no sense of humor and carries a grudge like an elephant (read the passage where he rants about Al Franken.) O'Reilly tried a preemptive strike by filing a countersuit against his accuser, now former "O'Reilly Factor" associate producer Andrea Mackris, alleging that her lawsuit was nothing more than a sixty million dollar extortion demand on both his radio and television programs. O'Reilly is also demanding "tapes" of the sessions. He should be careful for what he wishes. I remember a sitting President once demanding a blue dress with a semen stain be produced. That President wound up being impeached.

I'm looking forward to watching O'Reilly squirm.

The Three Faces of George W. Bush

Last night's debate was effectively a draw, with Bush finally bringing up numbers to defend his allegations that John Kerry is "the most liberal member of the Yooo-nited States Senate." All Kerry had to do last night was maintain his composure while needling the President on his four-year record. He was able to do that and still look "presidential."

'Course, considering who our President has been the past four years, the bar's been set pretty low.

Bush spent the three debates trying to deflect criticism of his record by basically ignoring it, attacking Kerry as a liberal, and using catch phrases like "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time" and- last night's theme- "a plan is not a litany of complaints."

More unsettling were the three different personas Bush exhibited during the debate series. There was the stammering, indecisive leader insisting that what America needed was "firm leadership" throughout the first debate. Then there was the folksy, testy Texan who spent most of the town hall debate screaming at the audience ("YOU'LL GET YOUR CANADIAN PRESCRIPTION DRUGS, JUST AS SOON AS WE KNOW THEY'RE SAFE!! NOW FUCK OFF!!") and pandering to their deepest fears. Last night we got the classic "smirking chimp" Bush, who apparently found humor in every question posed to him. At one point he was smirking so much I wondered if the the satellite feed was acting up.

Despite the improvement of Bush during the debates, Kerry swept the series. He took the focus away from the Swift Boat Veterans and flip flopping allegations and eventually settled upon the wisest course of action- firmly and consistently attacking the four-year record of a President whose definition of "compassionate conservatism" means to be conservative with compassion. Bush, normally a master debater, refused to defend his record. This both exposed and highlighted one of his greatest weaknesses: his inability to admit to admit to mistakes in judgment. Some people I talked to thought that Kerry should have gone for the jugular during the debates. But that would've been out of character for Kerry and played into the Bush camp's charges of flip-flopping. In the end, Kerry chose a debate style that in its subtlety was as tenacious as an attacking pit bull, made this race a dead heat with three weeks to spare, and emerged as a statesman.

The time to go for the jugular is now at hand.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Seems Like Yesterday

Friday marked my one-year anniversary moving into this apartment. I was going to celebrate by skipping out on the rent, then my landlady called to tell me that she mistakenly sent my September rent check to the city with her property tax assessment.

The city didn't seem to mind the extra $750 because they cashed the check, so as a favor to my landlady I'm getting half my September rent back for paying her property tax. But I'm losing the narrative here. I've lived alone in this apartment for a full year. A year that feels only like a few months.

I wasn't certain I could do this when I moved in last October. The first week was a bit frustrating. My phone was hooked up to the wrong apartment. I had to take cold showers for a week while waiting for an appointment to hook up my gas meter. On the day of that appointment the guy who came in to install my gas meter wasn't going to light the pilot to my hot water heater because an overflow pipe was too small. I discovered that my modem was connecting me to the web at 115.2 Kbps, which meant that I didn't really need DSL. Somehow I found myself subscribed to both SBC Yahoo ISP and AOL simultaneously, when I haven't used AOL in years. I had to buy all new utensils and kitchen appliances. I had no television for two weeks, so I had to listen to the Cubs choke in the NLCS on the radio.

Eventually things began to settle down and I found myself acclimating to the apartment. Over the succeeding months I started putting up pictures, posters, and candle sconces. I had some friends over around the Christmas holidays. I still don't clean as often as I should, but the place is always clean for company.

The best compliment I received was when my old roommate came by with some other belongings about two weeks after I moved in. Our last month as roommates was tense. We had agreed earlier last summer that it was time for me to find my own place or else she and I were going to tear each others' heads off.

We were roomates for four years. If you're roommates with someone of the opposite sex for a long time eventually you morph into a married couple with separate beds. Friends begin to assume that in inviting an invitation for one means the two of you. Each becomes annoyed at the other's quirks and bad habits. The act of making yourself scarce so the other can have private time for personal relations becomes harder than to plan for the peace in Iraq.

My problem was making the move. We were both comfortable in that apartment with it's large west-facing bay window in the living room and spacious kitchen. But she had first claim to it, since the lease and all the utilities were in her name.

I wasn't even supposed to be her roommate. What had originally planned as a two week couch-surfing experience became a four-year living arrangement. We compromised on a lot and learned so much from each other. I don't think I could've moved out it if wasn't for her.

On the day she brought the rest of my leftovers to my new place I gave her a tour of the work in progress. We said nothing then just hugged, the tension of the previous three months melting away in a show of appreciation for the time we had, the place in our lives we were at at that moment, and the possibilities of the future.

If I close my eyes it really does seem like yesterday.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Quick Notes On The First Debate

With apologies to The Onion:

Bush: "Kill the bastards!!"

Kerry: "I can kill the bastards better!"

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Stoner Conversations For Non-Stoners

Some of the deep thinking happening at work these days:

If a practicing Jew is bitten by and becomes a vampire, do crucifixes affect him? Or would be in the best interest of a vampire hunter to carry a star of David, as well?

What if the sired vampire were a practicing Muslim? Seeing as how Muslims consider Allah to be a moon god, that would mean that the moon is good to a vampires' inherent evil nature. So can a Muslim vampire only feed during waning moons and turn to dust if exposed to a full moon?

What if the vampire in question were a polytheist, like a Hindu or Buddhist? What religious icons would affect them? Do they feed based on the caste system?

Finally, what if the vampire in question were an atheist in life? I would think that they would be the most powerful vampires because they were non-believers and even if they were proven wrong they might be stubborn in their insistence that God and Satan don't exist and would kill and feed indiscriminately anyway.

I wonder if Jack Handy ever wondered about this?

John Kerry Should Play Dirty Pool Starting This Evening:

If John Kerry even wants to come within sniffing distance of the Presidency he needs to place the President's testicles in a kung-fu grip starting this evening with the debate. Sources within the Kerry camp say that he's viewing Bush as the most challenging debater in his professional career.

It's a wise train of thought: ten years ago experts thought Bush had no chance in his Texas gubernatorial debates against then-incumbent Ann Richards. Bush's folksy populism and monomaniacal sticking to message throughout the debate more that negated Richards' wit and ability to think on her feet.

Bush's main attribute as a debater is his ability to lower expectations. We know the basics- he was an average student at Yale and Harvard Business School; he has no intellectual curiosity whatsoever; he's dogmatic in his belief that his policies are the right policies for America. Those perceptions hide a shrewd mind and a restless perfectionist who will have practiced his debate style to a high gloss by the time they take the stage this evening. People expect Bush to be a stammering idiot. Hopefully Kerry is able to put Bush on the defensive at some point during the debate.

If he doesn't, the South will have indeed risen again.

But I'm Talking About- SHUT YOUR MOUTH:

This essay I found through Salon absolutely frightens me. It also hits close to home as a veteran of the first Gulf War. The author- a 20 year Army veteran- is now facing charges of "disloyalty to the armed forces during time of war" and a 20-year prison term for speaking out.

All commissioned and non-commissioned officers take the same oath to "protect, uphold, and defend the Constitution of the United States." I took that oath seriously when I was in uniform, to the point of speaking my mind whenever I didn't agree with an order. My first four years of service it was actually encouraged.

The men and women of the armed forces largely cede their rights under the Constitution in order to protect it. However, there is still some protection, and this is a free speech issue. And never let it be said that you cannot speak your mind. That is the first tenet of a democracy.

Liquor In The Front...

Tuesday I attended a wine and liquor show at Navy Pier, mainly to re-establish contact with liquor company marketing reps I had met over the past year, planting seeds for doing some partnerships at work next year. It was an such an expansive show that I could not adequately hit all the wine tables during the show's four-hour time frame. Still, after spending the first ninety minutes accomplishing my main objective, I tore into the wine tables with a vengeance.

The wine companies alone took up the entire grand ballroom, while the spirits companies had their own separate roomoutside the ballroom. There was a noticeable difference in atmosphere between the two rooms. The wine exhibition was more elegant and subdued. A jazz combo played safe selections in the background as vendors peppered customers with discussions of their respective wine's characteristics that fell somewhere between poetry and pretension:

"You'll notice that this wine is made from the Italian insolia grape, which is a clean tasting, well-rounded grape with a subtle finish like the end of a peaceful dream."

This went on at every table. Customers were handed a notebook containing the list of wine vendors, their selections, and a notes section to jot down a particular wine's favorable characteristics. I was only able to hit a fraction of the over one hundred tables present in the time I had, but I gave it the standard college try. Within minutes of finishing my business I had settled into a routine of wine inspection that followed the "lather, rinse, repeat" method- inspect color and legs, check nose, sample palate, spit and savor finish, repeat. By the time I left Navy Pier my mouth felt like I licked an acre of heavy shag carpet, but I felt like I had visited and been kicked out of Eden.

Contrast that to the spirits room, where the atmosphere was one of arrested development. House music blaring in the background, I felt like I was trapped in a neverland of hot waitresses and club drugs:

"If you mix a splash of ornage juice in this you won't even know you're drinking tequila!! Hee hee!"

The spirit distributors were forcing the mix of sex and liquor down our throats, emphasizing that if Absolut Raspberri was prominently displayed at a bar it would make you virile, popular, and rich. Jameson's and ginger ale was being toted about as an aphrodisiac, and the skirt on the trade show model carting around Bushmill's Irish Cream seemed to get shorter as the day progressed.

I made my way home around seven that night with some takeout from Gio's on 28th and Lowe. It was Chicken Marsala. This time I savored the wine.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Radnom Thought on The Weekend: Is Chicago a "Coast City?"

And if so, which coast?

- I biked to Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chinatown Friday Night to see Redmoon Theater's latest production "Sink, Sank, Sunk" and was absolutely blown away. I don't think any words I can write would adequately describe what I saw, so I'll let this review from Hedy Weiss in today's Sun-Times do the talking instead. Ignoring her comparing of the park's pagoda as a stand-in for the Summer Palace of Beijing (such hyperbole) she nails everything that was beyond sweet about the play, especially the flaming curtain of stars at the end that was hanging off the 18th Street Bridge.

- The Hideout Block Party was a blast on Saturday. I think half of my Friendster list was in attendance. Actually that isn't such a surprise; half of that half was playing on stage that day. It was my first chance to see Manishevitz and Baby Teeth in action, and they didn't disappoint. My unrequited lover Kelly Hogan and the Wooden Leg had a small warm-up for their two night recording stand at the Hideout later this week. Lots of beer was consumed, but it was Goose Island "312 Urban Wheat ale" and done so in moderation.

- I had a doppelganger working the Goose Island table Saturday. If I wore a mustache and carried thirty more pounds we could have been twins. I had my doubts when told of the doppelganger until someone from Goose Island walked up to me asking for a keg of Honker's Ale for backstage, then looked at me and realized she wanted the doppelganger. Fucking surreal.

- Later in the evening, while crowdwatching, a friend of mine and I spotted a girl wearing a threadbare t-shirt, no bra, and her nipple piercings were evident from under the t-shirt. This is the conversation that followed:

Him: "Man, there's just no modesty these days among the hipsters."

Me: "You know. I wonder if we could hang refrigerator magnets on her nipples."

Him: "You think so?"

Me: "Why not? Those piercings are probably made of surgical steel. A magnet should stick to them."

Him: "We could just toss small round magnets at her breasts from here and see if they stick. Like Batman tosses a tracer at a getaway car."

Me: "Or get a small horseshoe magnet and draw her boobies forward from her body."

Him: "That's sick."

Me: "We could get some iron shavings and use her chest as a Woolly Willy."

And that's when I had to talk myself from walking to Home Depot to buy some magnets.

- Anyone who's been to the Hideout has seen Joe Foster. You may not know the name, but you recognize the face. A big older gentleman in his mid-fifties, Joe has been a bouncer for decades. Joe was the one who taught a young Mr. T how to handle himself as a doorman when Mr. T was just a loud, crazy black man with a mohawk. Anyhoo, Joe is also evidence that it's who you know that matters. I walked up to him Saturday just to say hello and within seconds had access to both the VIP garden and backstage. That must've gotten Joe started because within an hour I saw way more yellow "VIP" wristbands than had been originally intended floating around and Joe was relieved of his doorman duties. It was pretty sweet.

- Hipsters never age, even as we do. They also seem to never bathe, are notoriously cheap, and wear thrift store clothing off the rack. Someone recently suggested to me that HotHouse should market itself to "the hipster audience." I disagreed, saying that we need to attract the poseurs instead. They're more than willing to shell out some cash to be seen at all the homogenized "in" spots around town.

Those are the types of people who are going to spend four dollars on a Miller Lite.

- I'd like to get a couple of people together and create a column that dissects the writing of the Sun-Times' Jay Mariotti for the lazy, hastily composed drivel that it truly is. I'd like to do in the same manner that Neil Steinberg used to poke fun at Bob Greene all those years ago in the Reader. For over a year "Bob Watch" was required reading.

- Also required reading in the pages of the Reader these days: Liz Armstrong's "Chicago Antisocial" column. It's one of the new tweaks of their new redesign and is quickly becoming a guilty pleasure. She turns her poison pen on both hipsters and poseurs with equal venom, and the results are amazing. It's similar in tone to Tricia Romano's "Fly Life" column in the Village Voice. Armstrong's skewering of the Vacant fashion line in last week's column was particulary memorable.

- Overall, I enjoy the Reader's redesign. They've added minor tweaks while preserving the familiar layout of the paper. It wasn't a drastic redesign like Newcity's a few years back, which seemed to throw out all the rules of newpaper layout and many of the rules of good writing. One of the masterstrokes is placing Michael Miner's "Hot Type" column and "The Straight Dope" on the same two page layout. Now I no longer pass up Cecil adams to get to my journalism gossip.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Simon Says: "Cross This Intersection Now!"

So I was biking into downtown yesterday heading to work. Before that I was taking care of some personal matters which took me away from my normal route through Chinatown. So I found myself in rush-hour Halsted Street traffic trying to negotiate trucks and road rage.

I turned on Harrison and was timing the trafic lights perfectly until I reached State Street. While waiting for the signal to proceed I took a glance at the crosswalk sign. I was shocked at what I saw.

These crosswalk signs have countdown timers now. At seven seconds before the light turns red pedestrians now get a five second countdown, then the big orange hand stops flashing when the light turns yellow, giving cars wanting to make left turns two seconds to do so. My first thought after, "Oh, that's neat" and "Should make the intersection safer with the new dorm building open for students" was how Orwellian the sign felt. It's as though you're being given five seconds to cross the intersection before you're left behind with "the terrorists."

I then spent the next half-hour with George Bush's voice in my head telling me that "the terrorists hate our freedom." Of course he coouldn't pronounce "Terrorists" correctly; it came out sounding like "turrists." He tends to have trouble pronouncing words with more than three syllables. For that matter, so do most neo-conservative hawks. But I'm off point now.

This countdown timer also chafes me as condescending. I don't like to be told to do anything, especially when I'm reminded to do so and I already know that someting needs doing. Besides, pedestrians have the right of way on a green light. I'm not one of those assholes who waits until the caution light flares up to cross Congress Parkway, but I will take my time if I started on the green.

After this, what will be next? Will we have nice soothing tones telling us to slow down and come to a halt as the light is turning red?

Saturday, September 11, 2004

It's like Rip Van Winkle, really.

First things first:

The Jukebox: Van Halen (the Sammy Hagar version): "Runaround."

Reading: The Land Where The Blues Began by Alan Lomax

It's been an eventful two weeks to cap off a surreal summer. I was added last-minute to attend a sponsorship seminar for work last week. The seminar confrimed my suspicions that our approach to selling marketing sponsorships is completely bass-ackwards. Still, I'm nothing if not plucky, and this festival we've booked in November seriously needs something to relieve the costs, so I've been a phone-call-making fool the past week. It's also nice to have the seminar under my belt as it's another resume point for prospective employers.

I've been keeping my apartment tidy the past week. My old roommate Sue came by with an impromptu breakfast as a bribe to watch her dog while she went camping over Labor Day. As she sat on the filthy carpet in my living room I felt so embarrassed that I could keep my apartment in this condition. So after she left I went into Catholic guilt mode and cleaned the entire apartment. It's been spotless ever since. The cleaning finally forced me to address the situation of my butcher block. I picked it up at a small hardware store for a song a few months back and sanded it down to the natural grain with the intention of turning it into a table. I shelved that idea since I discovered how much hardware stores were charging to fabricate legs for the table. So it's been laid up in my kitchen oiled and ready for use or legs ever since. I've finally decided to buy a small island table for my kitchen and cut the butcher block into smaller cutting boards. That way it won't be a waste of good butcher block.

The major change in my life I'm still not ready to write about; I want to make certain that I tell all my friends personally before posting it here for someone who came across this via Google to read. I will say that it brings my life full circle to a place where I expected to be at this point in my life. Those people I have told have been very supportive and for that I thank them dearly. I guess that I'm at a point in my life emotionally and mentally to tackle what's ahead and hopefully those friends of mine who are having life issues of their own can look to me as a positive example for themselves.

And no, I didn't accept Jesus as my saviour again.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Random Thoughts From Tuesday Night's RNC

Yeah, I watched it. I had to kill some time before the season premiere of "Scrubs" aired, and "One Tree Hill" was a re-run. Boy, is that Chad Michael Murray a little wooden boy or what?

I like the disingenious strategy of using powerful, moderate-leaning speakers (Guiliani, McCain, Schwartzenegger) to try to pull the focus away from the radical conservatives who've hijakced the GOP for thirty years and towards its more moderate-leaning rank-and-file, effectively showcasing Dubya as "one of them." The center of the strategy was the Gubernator's keynote speech Tuesday night. Arnold Schwartzenegger's speech was a tour de force that didn't mention the emphasized the immigrant dream of America as the Land of Opportunity, offered a real-life example of that dream to minorities and immigrants, and fried off enough high-wattage celebrity bling bling that it made for a perfect counter to Barack Obama's keynote address in Boston at the Dem's convention last month. Too bad that every time Governor Schwartzenegger paused for applause the cameras (at least those of PBS) panned to some intolerant hayseed with muttonchops in the audience who was probably thinking, "Hey! Why is Conan the Barbarian up there?" Schwartzenegger's truly sincere speech was blunted by the unintentional irony of the crowd to whom he was speaking.

Laura Bush's speech also was intended to soften the President's image in the eyes of viewers and undecided voters across the country. The First Lady effectively cast her husband as a "common man" and "compassionate", with enough real-life examples of people they've met in the past four years to force the image home. I had a hard time taking my focus away from Laura Bush's eyes. It could be her makeup, but they slant upward like a feline. I get the assumption that, much like her mother-in-law, she's the one member in her household you don't want to piss off with cheap shots of her family.

Speaking of which, I couldn't pass this up. Sandwiched between Governor Schwartzenegger and the First Lady were the Bush twins. This was done to cater to the horny frat boys and also to lower the bar for Laura Bush's speech. Personally I don't think that whoever wrote this speech expected the twins to dig such a deep hole for their mother, but that's what happens when you throw two novices out there.

They achieved both of those goals. The following is a transcript of the Bush Twins address with my thoughts in red. Their goal was to introduce the President, who was addressing the convention via satellite from the campaign trail and stared at the camera like a doofus the entire time. Credit for the transcript goes to to e-media and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for the transcript:

JENNA BUSH: It's great to be here. We love Arnold. Isn't he awesome?

I bet he’d be totally down for some Irish Car Bombs at Beauty Bar!!

Thanks to him, if one of us ever decides to marry a Democrat from the Kennedy family who's also filthy rich, nobody can complain, except maybe our grandmother, Barbara. And if she doesn't like it, we can wait till she’s dead would definitely hear about it.

We already know she doesn't like some of our clothes, our music, or most of the TV shows we watch.
Gammie, we love you dearly, but you're just not very hip.

I question the hipness quotient of calling your grandmother “Gammie.”

She thinks "Sex and the City" is something married people do, but never talk about.

What did she just say about “Gammie” not being “hip?”

We spent the last four years trying to stay out of the spotlight. Sometimes (translation: “When we were sober.”), we did a little better job than others.

We kept trying to explain to my dad that when we are young and irresponsible as he was well into his thirties, well, we're young and irresponsible and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

BARBARA BUSH: Jenna and I are really not very bright? political, but we love our dad too much to stand back and watch from the sidelines. Besides, we’re easier on the eyes than Dad and don’t have that clueless look in his eyes. We realized that this would be his last campaign, and we were shoehorned into helping out wanted to be a part of it. Besides, since we've graduated from college, we're looking around for something to do for the next few years. Like get into all the cool clubs in Manhattan without a fake i.d. Kind of like dad.

JENNA: Our parents have always encouraged us to use the family name at every possible convenience be independent and dream big. We've spent a lot of time at Mexican-themed bars drinking $3 margarita pitchers when not at the White House, so when we showed up the first day my mouth tasted like a chimney, we thought we had it all figured out. But apparently my dad already has a chief of staff, named Andy.

BARBARA: When your dad's a Republican and you go to Yale, you learn you’re in with the in crowd to stand up for yourself. I knew I wasn't quite ready to be president, but number two sounded pretty good especially with the poached eggs and English muffin. Who is this man they call Dick Cheney and why is he talking down to my dad if my dad’s the President?

JENNA: I think I know a lot about campaigns because I’ve worn down the will of many a bouncer. After all, my grandfather and my dad have both run for president although my dad didn’t really win, so I put myself in charge of strategy and drinking games. Then I got an angry call from some guy named Karl.

BARBARA: We knew we had something to offer. I mean, we've traveled the world; we've studied abroad. But when we started coming home with foreign policy advise and bruises on our legs, Dad made us call Condi, his other wife.

JENNA: Not to be deterred big ups for using the large word there, we thought surely there's a place for strong willed, opinionated women in communications if not the Republican Party. And next thing we know, Karen's back.

BARBARA: So we decided the best thing we could do here tonight would be to introduce somebody we know and love and not embarrass the family with tacky clothing, bad jokes, and sleepwalking through a speech on national television. Oops!

JENNA: You know all those times when you're growing up and your parents embarrass you? Well, this is payback time on live TV. You ain’t kidding, sweetheart!

BARBARA: Take this. I know it's hard to believe, but our parents' favorite term of endearment for each other is actually Bushy. Wow! Dubya and Laura like the “untamed prairie” look. And we had a hamster, too. Let's just say ours didn't make it. And they’re into kinky sex play. Eeewww!

JENNA: But, contrary to what you might read in the papers, our parents are actually kind of cool. Just ask Gammie. They do know the difference between mono and Bono, since I was sick with mono a lot from all those high school makeout parties. When we tell them we're going to see Outkast, they know it's a band and not a bunch of misfits but we don’t tell them they’re colored people. And if we really beg them, they'll even shake it like a Polaroid picture. I don’t even want to entertain the vision of George Bush shaking it like a Polaroid picture. Although I could see Laura Bush being more of a Big Boi fan than Andre 3000.

BARBARA: So, OK, maybe they have learned a little pop culture from us but not much- we are Texans, after all, but we've learned a lot more from them about what matters in life, about unconditional love, about focus and discipline. And this speech could have sorely used more focus and discipline. They taught us the importance of a good sense of humor, of being open-minded and treating everyone with respect.
And we learned the true value of honesty and integrity. And how it’s all bullshit.

JENNA: When you grow up as the daughters of George and Laura Bush, you develop a special appreciation for how blessed we are ain’t that the truth to live in this great country. We are so proud to be here tonight to introduce someone who read us bedtime stories because they were within his reading level, picked us up in car pool and gave us our first beer, made us our favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because he wasn’t trusted with sharp objects around the house and cheered for us when we scored a goal, even when it was for the wrong team. And this speech could have people lining up to register as Democrats.

BARBARA: Someone who told us we actually looked cute in braces, always welcomed our friends with pony kegs and was there waiting when we came home at curfew to show us the proper way to sneak in the house so we didn’t wake up Mom.

JENNA: Ladies and gentlemen, one of the two most loving, thoughtful people we know. Is Carrie Bradshaw here? OMG, OMG!! This is so unbelievable!!

BARBARA: Your president- the Supreme Court said so; neener neener- and our dad, George W. Bush.