Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Centennial Post

I've been sitting at home moost of the week trying to nurse myself back to health. The rains last week wreaked havoc with my sinuses and before I knew it I had a hell of a bronchial infection that would not go away. But it also gave me some time to figure out how I wanted to approach writing this. I certainly didn't expect to do one hundred posts. I also would have put this up sooner had I not spent the better part of the week coughing my throat raw, passing out on the couch watching Chaplin DVDs, and feeling decidedly non-virile. Either way I should have stayed home Monday night. Instead I made a major lapse in judgement in attending this "Absolut 25" party at Architectural Artifacts in Ravenswood. If I had simply stayed home I would've gotten better sooner, but I went because it was work-related (no, really) and essentially ripped my sore throat to shreds.

"Absolut 25" was essentially a celebration of Absolut Vodka's twenty-fifth anniversary in the Chicago market with an advance tasting of the new Absolut Raspberri. People in line waiting to enter were entertained by a Japanese taiko drum band, which, combined with the drag queen revue later in the evening, apparently filled the event's diversity needs. Upon walking into the building I took assessment of the 80,000 square-foot space and tried to gather my bearings.

There were six different colored bars in the space- one for each brand of Absolut vodka. In the middle of the main room was a stage/dance floor flooded with lights, dry ice smoke, dancers on pedestals in mirrored catsuits, and enough drum-and-bass to drop my testicles another three inches. Video displays from one of the balconies proclaimed with bold words the aphrodisiac qualities of Absolut vodka. Catwalks hung over the stage and led to another open bar stocked with other liquors from the Absolut Brands portfolio. This made me very happy as I was not looking forward to drinking Absolut all night. I immediately asked for a double Jim Beam Black on the rocks and investigated further.

An outdoor patio was highlighted by Absolut Bottle sculptures and two more bars. However, with in minutes of the opening a hard drizzle forced the closing of the patio. A final full open bar was located in the antique room of the space, along with an acid jazz band. I gravitated toward this bar the rest of the evening as it was the only place I could hear myself think. As the night progressed I couldn't even stay in this room for long as I have never seen such a blatant disregard for antiques in my life. Dumbasses were putting sweating cocktail glasses and ashing all over the tops of dining roomtables listed at $20,000. Whenever a fellow attendee or event official would place a napkin under these drinks, they'd go, "Huh?" and ball up the napkins for trash, leaving deep rings in these tables.

Within an hour the room was filled with liquor industry salespeople, bar industry types, trixies and chads, club kids, middle-aged habitues of Rush Street steakhouses and their scientifically enhanced trophy girlfriends. Were it not for the open bar I would've been strongly urged to torch the place for the cause of thinning the herd. Instead I bit my tongue, walked around looking for the marketing reps I came to make face time with, and switched to bottled water to maintain my senses.

Upon my first trip to the bathroom I found a guy with a shag haircut retouching his spiked hair and snorting some drugs off the sink simultaneously. And the fucker totally didn't offer to share. What are stoners being taught on their college campuses these days? I couldn't wash my hands after doing my business because this guy was hogging the sink with his coke. I stopped to look around as the dry ice fell to the stage in sheets. Most everyone was tanned beyond the point of actually being healthy, from the peeling red I carried to the unnatural orange glows of stick figure models, who were also wearing pink lipstick. I guess what was old is now new again.

With the midnight hour fast approaching and my throat on fire I headed to one of the bars for another bottled water. After achieving my goal I leaned against a wall next to some kid with a trucker hat who couldn't understand why the bars at this party didn't have Stoli. "I'd have a vodka tonic if they had some fucking Stoli, dude!" He grinned at me.

I was stunned briefly, thinking this was a joke. Determining by his continueed rant that he was not joking I asked him, "Why would a vodka brand stock one of its main competitors at a party where its celebrating itself?"

The guy brilliantly answered, "Huh?"

I asked again, "Why would you expect Stoli at a party thrown by Absolut?"

"I don't know. Just thought they'd have more choice, was all."

I shook my head, took a gulp of water and hollered with all the force my hoarse voice could muster over the dance music, "You're a fucking tool if you think that."

"Right. I don't think that's fucking cool, either," he replied.

"No. I said you're a fucking tool." That time it registered with him.

"Don't have to call me a tool, dude," he said.

I walked away, but not before telling him that there might ne some Ketel One at one of the bars.

Finally midnight came and with that the unveiling of Absolut Raspberri. After a demonstration by a trapeze artist I headed to the bar and asked for a shot with a splash of water. The bottle- basically a red frosted Absolut bottle- will stand out in bars around the city. As for the vodka itself I wasn't impressed. It reminded me of most of the absolut flavors - a bit too artificial and syrupy for my taste. The nose is too grain alcohol, as well. Still, like most flavored liquors these days it is going to be geared towards young drinkers with immature palates, so it'll sell very well mixed with lemon-lime soda or lemonade.

Shortly after, I ran into representatives from the liquor companies I deal with weekly, Absolut reps and their marketing arm. I lied to all of them except the liquor reps, said my goodbyes, and hailed a cab. As the driver sped down Lake Shore Drive I looked at the visual markers- the Drake hotel, the Hancock building, Museum Campus, Buckingham fountain, and I thought that it wasn't that long ago that the thought of a flavored vodka was anathema to a drinker. we were content with a vodka soda with a twist of lime and that was enough. Then one day some distiller made a citrus flavored vodka and opened the floodgates. Now we have everything from apple flavored vodkas to chocolate flavored rums and there's no end in sight. We even have citrus infusions in gins these days, which I find to be simply blasphemous.

There was a time when a drinker could pride himself on developing a palate for wines and spirits. But flavored vodkas changed all that. They're the new wine coolers, but they won't go away like Bartles and Jaymes or Zima or blue-cheese stuffed olives or the Pabst Blue Ribbon Phenomenon. I sometimes run out of breath detailing all the flavored vodkas I carry, then have to deal with the occasional snit when I don't have a certain flavored vodka. "What do you mean you don't carry Stoli vanilla? Stoli vanilla is excellent."

So now I have all the flavored vodkas and our martini menu listed on one sheet for people. I call it the "kiddie menu." Those who get the joke drink their martinis properly, just a hint of dry vermouth with a twist.

My name is Chuck Sudo and I approved this message.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

A List of Republican Paradoxes

Brought to you by Betty Bowers- America's Best Christian, who reminds you to support the President even as you cast a vote to get his ass out of office this November:
  • The United States should get out of the United Nations because it is a useless institution that furthers anti-American policies. In the meantime, however, our national raison d'etre is spending thousands of lives and billions of dollars to enforce U.N. resolutions against Iraq.
  • Support for our troops is best shown by bumper stickers, festooning trees with yellow, ridiculing people who are sticklers for a justification for getting Marines killed, and using aircraft carriers and the enlisted as photogenic backdrops for partisan political opportunities. Cold, unsentimental cash, such as for veterans' benefits and combat pay, cheapens our affection for our brave boys and gals in uniform.
  • If we don't allow teachers to talk about it in schools, adolescents won't even know that sex exists until after they are safely married (in which case, they will surely come to question its existence yet again).
    It is the coming together (marriage), not the rending apart (divorce) that is most likely to undermine a marriage. After all, the biggest threat to marriage is allowing people to do it.
  • If you are an entertainer who remakes your entire career to ride the coattails of conservative jingoism all the way to the nearest bank, you are hailed as a man of principle (Tobey Keith). If, however, you mouth passing praise for someone liberal in between songs (Linda Ronstadt), you will be escorted from the stage by armed men in natty brown shirts.
  • Being a drug addict, in addition to being rather expensive, comes as a result of an inability to muster a simple "no" and is irrefutable proof of moral turpitude necessitating mandatory jail time. If, however, the junkie is either a bombastic (yet conservative) radio host or a bomb-happy President, anything more than simple prayers for recovery would be shockingly punitive.
  • Christ told us that if an enemy strikes us, we are required to forgive them and turn the other cheek. This is why savvy Christian nations work around Jesus' girly-man approach by preemptively attacking first.
  • Long-time Allies respond best to a coquettish "hard-to-get" approach from America, the ultimate alpha male in the diplomatic dating pool. After several years of harsh insults and pointed indifference, they will all swoon when we show we care by asking for troops and money.
  • Saddam Hussein (who when haplessly groomed begins to look alarmingly like Dennis Miller, only with an audience), was a good guy when Mr. Reagan armed him and Mr. Rumsfeld shook his hand, an evil guy when W's daddy verbally attacked him (but left him otherwise unscathed), a good guy (again) when Mr. Cheney's wildly resourceful company did business with him, and an evil guy (yet again) when the Prodigal Bush needed an enemy with an address.
  • If you want to provide the people of Iraq with health care, police, roads, sewers, a new power grid and education, irrespective of cost, you are a fiscally sound conservative. If, on the other hand, you want these same things for Americans, you are a tax-and-spend liberal.

The next post is number 100, and it should be a doozy if I can remember everything that happened this evening.


Sunday, July 25, 2004

Like Forgetting Sunscreen in Seventy Degree Weather

Which is exactly what I did yesterday at the Chinatown Dragon Boat Races.  Now I'm basting my face and neck in medicated aloe vera gel and waiting for the major peel.  It's the German and Englishman in me that burns easily, but then the Greek says, "no no" and ensures that I have a healthy tan for the rest of summer.

For the uninitiated the Dragon Boat Races are a series of sprints in oversized canoes paddled by a crew of eighteen, with a drummer keeping time on a small taiko drum and a flagger balancing on the bow of the canoe- which just happens to be a dragon's head, to capture a floating flag.  Beginning from a cold start in the water between the Canal Street Bridge and the Amtrak bridge, teams race a quarter-mile to their flags in front of the pagoda at Ping Tom Memorial Park.  It requires a lot of teamwork, flawless technique, synchronicity, and endurance as this is basically a sprint across water.  Eighteen teams participated in two qualifying heats.  The eight teams with the fastest split times advanced to the quarterfinal elimination stages.  While I wanted to actually win a race I was more concerned with advancing.  Our second heat helped us do just that as we shaved eleven seconds off our first heat time. 

But it wasn't meant to be in the quarterfinals.  We were smoked by a crew of alumni from the University of ayton, who had a wake from their boat so big that at one point the starboard gunwale of our boat was in the water and capsizing was a legitimate fear.  I didn't really want to lose to them, either, as they were shouting out lame junior high spirit squad chants and wearing floral print shorts only seen in fraternity initiations.  Still, the races went way better than I expected.  Our ragamuffin band of miscasts placed fifth overall, which isn't bad considering that most of us didn't meet until that morning and half the team was comprised of tiny Filipino medical students.  Or maybe it's because they came from an island nation that we were so successful.  Either way, our teamwork was solid and we really got that boat skimming above the water at times.  I so want to do it again next year.


Thursday, July 22, 2004

Thursday Boredom

First things first:
Reading: The First Stone: A Memoir of the Racial Integration of Levittown, Pennsylvania by Lewis Wechsler.  This was a birthday gift that I'm finally picking up.  
The Jukebox:  Limelight original score by Charles Chaplin.  Chaplin truly was the first genius of cinema.  If you can pick up both volumes of The Chaplin Collection on DVD.  They're loaded with hours of bonus material, deleted scenes, and documentary footage with a who's who of modern film.  Fabulous.
I'm sitting in my home office sweating like a piece of saltwater taffy and finding new and creative uses for killing time and came across this through something called The Optimistic Diva.  Jesus fucking Christ on a stick!!  I might be off base here, but the way I read her site it seems as though she's a 27 year-old dating coach who can't find a man with a desperate, obsessive need to be engaged by the end of the year.  I feel the need to fire off an e-mail and question her motives. 
I don't understand women- in particular supposedly successful women like this one-  who feel that their lives are incomplete without a significant other.  I've met women like that.  I've worked with women like that.  I've dated women like that.  I don't find it attractive and I don't tolerate it.  It makes me seem like an asshole, but I'm happy and single while they're in their early thirties calculating to the second how long they have to marry and procreate.
Certainly, first dates are really informal interviews, but they shouldn't have to feel like one.  On top of that, this Blaire is reinforcing the Jewish Princess stereotype.  "Must be Jewish... honest, romantic, sensitive, good-looking.  Must take care of himself.  Motivated and a go-getter (a play on the term 'financially and emotionally secure.')"  My friend Anne described it years ago as "an MS searching for an MRS."  This woman is not going to find true happiness in this manner.
Bottom line: if you're lonely, get a cat.

Monday, July 19, 2004

And How Was Your Weekend?

When Millennium Park first showed the signs of budget overruns and litigation between the city and its main contractors I vowed not to step foot in the park, using the argument that it was nothing more than a major stroking of Richie Daley's ego.  Then I changed my mind under the rationale that part of that $475 million was my tax dollars and traffic tickets put to use. 
The park is a beautiful achievement.  It looks like CGI imaging from a summer blockbuster given actual form and planted in the middle of downtown Chicago.  With the enormous cost overruns Millennium Park could either be the catalyst to a new economic boom in Chicago or the straw that triggers an economic collapse that makes Detroit in the 1970's pale in comparison.  My hunch is on the former, which is a sucker's bet.
The park is abundant with "2001" style monoliths that people are simply drawn toward.  Although photograph enthusiasts and stoners are oddly attracted to the "Cloud Gate" sculpture- also known as "the bean", my favorite part of the park is the Pritzker pavilion.  With it's crisscross design of tubular structures supporting the speakers overhead, the pavilion is amazing to hear and beautiful to view.  The Crown Fountain is Daley's answer to the Picasso in the plaza that bears his father's name: modern art erected for all to see.  Two towering fountains spraying water down to a reflecting pool.  The towers contain LED projection screens that broadcast outdoor scenes and the faces of 1,000 Chicagoans for 12 minutes at a time.  The Fountain was most popular with small children when I visited the park Saturday night.
Yesterday I biked to the Chinatown Summer Fair and took in the atmosphere.  Few cities celebrate summer with the sense of urgency of Chicago.  Chinatown's fair had everything I've come to expect from a street festival or block party:  lots of grilled food, a kiddie stage, tents full of name brand fashion and sunglass knockoffs (three pairs of sunglasses for 20 bucks) and cover bands galore on the main stage.  The band I saw yesterday, Covergurl, did an inspired set of glam metal, alternative, and one original. They meant business, too.  The "u" in "Covergurl" was spelled with umlauts, which always signifies that they're in touch with their metal.  And the lead singer- who I guess is Covergurl, prowled the stage like dancer at Crazy Horse who takes pride in her work that she doesn't have to resort to the "private" lap dances to make the rent.
Two things separate Chinatown's fair from most of the Lincoln Park street fairs.  The Chinatown fair was well-represented with bubble tea vendors.  I heart the bubble tea.  Whoever came up with the idea of putting tapioca pearls in tea was a genius.  It adds such an unexpected texture to drinking tea I can't properly do it justice with an explanation.  To quote Sideshow Mel from The Simpsons: "It's like a hootenanny in my mouth!!"
The best thing about Chinatown's summer fair: $2.50 bottles of Tsingtao.  Knowing that a cup of Miller Lite at Printer's row Book Fair cost $4, I figured I saved ten bucks in beer money yesterday.  Yeehaw.
So this week shapes up to be uneventful, really.  Everything is once again loaded up front, so if I can get through to Wednesday without a major meltdown I'll consider it a blessing.  Thursday evening sees a editorial board meeting for Make Magazine, the first one in months.  Friday marks the beginning of the Silent Summer FIlm Festival at the beautiful Gateway Theater in the Jefferson Park neighborhood.  The festival is always a highlight of my summer and the Gateway is one of the city's most underrated theaters.
Then Saturday we have the Dragon Boat Race for Literacy in Ping Tom Park, baby.  The last time I paddled the river I capsized my kayak and disinfected my mouth to ward off the aftereffects of the two gulps of water I took in.  I've been wanting to do this race for years and managed to get on a team at the last minute.  I'm stoked.
Finally Sunday sees the first performance of Kelly Hogan and the Wooden Leg outside the Hideout.  They'll be taking the stage at the Summer on Southport Festival at 9 p.m.  This is a must-go.   
Well, I'm spent now.  On to work and lazing about.  Hasta.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

If I Was Any Stickier, I'd Be Considered Candy...

that's how damn muggy it is tonight. I'm waiting for the humidity to break- it was supposed to rain already. I don't want to put an air conditioner in the window until absolutely neccessary. Which I'm figuring is mid-August. So until then I'm taking lukewarm showers and camping out underneath the ceiling fan in the living room, turning on lights only when needed.

Jukebox: The Legendary Sun Records Story, Blacklisted by Neko Case, Flaming Red by Patty Griffin, and The Duel by Allison Moorer

Reading: Dress Your Kids In Corduroy And Denim by David Sedaris and Your Vigor For Life Appalls Me: Robert Crumb Letters 1958-1977

I've been at my current place of employment for five years. I like it; if not I wouldn't have been there this long. Still, when drama comes down in sheets I get the resume ready. Last week, when I was out with friends at the Hideout, I was reassured that my bosses appreciated the job I did. Lord knows that there have been times when my mouth could have written checks that my ass can't cash.

I've had to listen for the past two days to someone who was let go (her last day is today.) I wrote about this person last week. According to her the person who fired her did it in a way that I can only qualify as "chickenshit." He tried to take the Pontious Pilate route and lay blame on other people. It's something I take offense to because in his effort to make himself look like the good guy in all this he made numerous people look bad and came across as deceitful. I'm going to have a hard time keeping my mouth shut tomorrow.

Now the person who's been fired and I fundamentally clash with each other. Still, she trusts me to shoot straight, and asked me if I thought she wasn't a good at her job. Naturally, I gave her my opinions about her work ethic and then some.

This was something I should not have done as she's thin-skinned. So she starts right back railing my litany of faults and character flaws. I didn't want to get into a pissing contest, so I let her vent. When she was done I told her in a reasoned tone that regardless of my problems or occasional attitude, I still do my job. That was what separated us.

We agreed to disagree. Well, I did. She didn't want to drop the discussion until she heard what she wanted to hear from me. Again, this is one of her problems- a problem that most self-absorbed people have. They only see the things they want to see and dismiss the rest as rubbish.

She's going to London for a month, so I don't think she's hurting. And although letting her go might have been the right thing to do it could have been handled with more grace under pressure.

And I've polished my resumes once again in case this turns into a headhunt.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

More Notes From Thursday Night...

I forgot to write in the last post. Hideout co-owner Tim Tuten made some announcements from the stage. One of which was a voter registration initiative happening next week at the Hideout, Empty Bottle, Schuba's, and Delilah's. It's a wonderful gesture and Tuten's cache with the Wicker Park Hipsters should help to make it successful.

I was a bit curious to one comment Tuten made regarding the initiative. It could be meant as a joke, but I think there's some truth to it. Tuten said, "I think most hipsters secretly vote Republican, anyway. So let's try to get you to vote the other way this year." I wonder if they vote at all.

No "Second City My Ass" this week. You're all resourceful enough to make your own fun. Have a great weekend.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Jazz With A Limp...

that's how Kelly Hogan and the Wooden Leg are billed. I can't tell if it has a limp, but it definitely has swing. The Wooden Leg has what the late Australian poet Bon Scott called "the backseat rhythm."

I have a limp this morning, the result of too many pints of Bell's Oberon and staying out way past my bedtime. Getting too old for this shit.

I started things out at the Hideout and within minutes struck up a conversation with this guy who grew up on the south side. If you're alert, you can tell what part of the city they grew up.

South side Chicagoans refer to every east-west running street by its number. Example: Cermak Road isn't Cermak Road; it's "22nd Street." Keeping to form Pershing Road is "39th Street" and Garfield Boulevard is "55th Street." We talked for a while about the bars in Bridgeport and agreed immediately that the only one worth visiting was Puffer's.

There are other bars that could have some potential, but are dragged down by its clientele, location, or both. Schaller's Pump on 37th and Halsted has great schnitzel but a shitty beer selection. First Base on 32nd and Normal is better known as "Free Base" for it's lucrative under-the-table cocaine dealing. Jimbo's at 33rd and Princeton is the place where White Sox fans get drunk and fuel their misguided stupidity. Only at Jimbo's will you see a room full of White Sox fans nursing cans of Old Style, watching a Cubs game and booing the Cubs, while their favorite team is playing in a half-empty stadium two blocks away. The kicker of all this is that Jimbo is a Cubs fan.

The worst bar in Bridgeport by an overwhelming margin is Punchinello's on 31st Street. A two room establishment with a shitty beer selection, a small dance floor with a disco ball from Radio Shack, a bar that slants downward, and a phone booth by the bathrooms with no phone, Punchinello's is the habitue of the Armour Square Park guidos, who come dressed to party on the weekend like it's 1992. Men decked out in Zubasz workout pants, wife beaters, white sneakers, and fanny packs; their seared leathery skin reeking of too much Drakkar or Cool Water cologne. Women in capri pants with camel toe and layered haircuts inspired by the first season of "Friends." Italian flag tattoos on every visible ankle, calf, or bicep. The disco ball spins like it's going into orbit as a second moon while the customers talk on their cell phones and dry hump to Young MC's "Bust A Move." It's classic tragicomedy.

So when we were talking about Punchinello's last night and spat out the derisive nickname for it in unison, "Punch-a-dago's", we had a wonderful laugh.

We closed down the Hideout and I followed some friends to a four a.m. bar on Western by Lane Tech (no, not Underbar.) It was a classic Chicago after-hours bar: lots of country music on the jukebox, giant bottles of liquor, Old Style on both tap handles, and a frustrated, butter-faced bartender who could still wiggle her ass around like a python when Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" played on the jukebox. Two fingers of Cuervo from her was more like a fist. I ordered an Old Style and it came in a mug with a quarter-inch of frost around the outside. I leaned back in my stool, drank my beer, and watched my friend Courtney run the pool table. Later she dropped me off at the Damen Blue Line stop and I had a slice of pizza at Flash Taco. Life was good.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Reading Is Fundamental...

and I am so glad I had the time today to read the paper thoroughly. Like the AP article that reports George Bush attacking John Edwards' "inexperience" as a first-term senator as a detriment to being Vice-President. Unless the President seems to think that a resume of failed oil businesses is sufficient enough to prepare a man for the Presidency. Seeing that he's set the country on a bullet train to hell, I would say he's holding true to form.

My favorite quote from the article was Bush saying, "Dick Cheney could be President." More cynical people than I would claim that he already is.

"Ann Coulter Is A Fag Hag"...

I would guess there is a blog called that somewhere, but it's also one of the main accusations Larry Flynt levels in his new book. Salon conducted an interview with Flynt that goes over some of the more salacious allegations, like George Bush paying for an illegal abortion in 1971.

It's easy to dismiss Flynt as simply a "smut peddler." We might be well-served to remember that he's also one of our greatest champions of civil liberties. Flynt once stood before the Supreme Court and called the justices "eight assholes and a token cunt" during one libel case; five years later the Court sided with Flynt in the Jerry Falwell lawsuit.

We need people like Howard Stern and Larry Flynt to protect our free speech. Otherwise we wind up with...

Christian Nazis in the South Loop...

barking about the Rapture to an audience that had more productive things to do Wednesday outside Buddy Guy's Legends. I'm guessing they chose Legends because the Blues is "the Devil's music." I wonder if they would ever set up camp outside HotHouse when we have vodoun-inspired music from Haiti or Cuba playing on stage.

The problem with Christians is that they will broker no argument to their positions. Their way is the only way and you are wrong regardless of evidence you might have to the contrary. It's passive fascism and they've found a sympathetic ear with the hawkish right wing extremists in the GOP.

They have made it so hard for moderate Republicans to have a voice in their own party. Resultingly, if you're not a dyed-in-the-wool evangelical, the GOP brass largely ignore the concerns of the moderate and progressive lobbies in the party. I'm reminded of a time years ago when I lived in a studio apartment on the north side of the city. One day a Jehovah's Witness knocked on my door asking if he could minister to me. I politely declined, went to shut my door, but he blocked the door with his foot.

"Do you know that only 144,000 chosen people will go to Heaven when Jesus comes back?" He said, aping one of the many teachings of his faith.

"That's not many people," I replied.

"Then why are you forsaking His Word?" He inquired further.

"Well," I began to answer, "those are some real long odds. You live according to the Word, the apocalypse comes, you've been faithful all your life, and the possibility still exists that you still won't be among the chosen."

"Yes, but..." he stammered.

"Just think of what you missed out on because you were afraid to live." The missionary stood in the hall with a stunned look on his face as I closed and locked the door.

He must've thought I was the devil in flesh trying to tempt him because he went to the next apartment, which was occupied by a West Indian Miles Davis lookalike who painted all the reflective surfaces in his dull black because he believed the Indian government was sending him subversive messages through reflective surfaces using Fred Dryer- star of the tv show "Hunter"- as the messenger. I heard knock, the missionary's opening, and two loud pops.

I slowly stuck my head out of my apartment to find "Miles" standing in the hallway waving a starter pistol, screaming that Fred Dryer sent the missionary to recruit him to "spy for the Indians." The missionary fled down the stairs and bolted like a jackrabbit out of the building and into the daytime.

Rumble, Young Man, Rumble...

Barack Obama released his second quarter fundraising reports the other day, which revealed that he has over $7 million in his war chest. That, ladies and gentleman, is a sure indicator of his popularity and support.

At the Obama house party I attended last week the candidate stressed that even though Jack Ryan had dropped out of the Senate race he could not let up. He's right. Four months is a lifetime in the short attention span of politics. Still, I have the feeling that we're watching something very special blossom here with Barack Obama. It sounds like hyperbole, but we could be watching the emergence of the most important politician of the 21st century in Obama. His growing popularity, especially in these polarized times, could eventually lead to the Presidency if he wishes.

And stays away from the sex clubs.

Ride Like The Wind...

I love watching the Tour de France (or as Outdoor Life Network correspondent Bob Roll calls it, the "Tewer DAY France") and Lance Armstrong's quest for a sixth tour Victory. After donning the yellow jersey for overall race leader in yesterday's team time trial- which Armstrong's US Postal Service team absolutely out on a clinic- he surrendered the maillon jeune today.

Armstrong is looking at the big picture and willing to concede the jersey during the first week, where sprinters rule with reckless abandon. Next week the peloton hits the Pyranees, where the sprinters flame out like one-hit wonders under grueling climbs, thin air, and unbearable heat.

The mountains is one of Armstrong's specialties, along with time trials. He used to flame out like a sprinter, but retrained his body after his bout with cancer to handle the enormous strain of climbing. Armstrong's pedal cadence never wavers on climbs; his grueling training is what popularized spinning.

Mentally Armstrong seems more focused, as well. Last year's fifth Tour win was a struggle for him but he seems on top of his game this year. Good thing, too: American Tyler Hamilton will be bird-doggin' him all the way back to Paris. For all the talk about Spain's Iban Mayo and Germany's Jan Ullrich being Armstrong's main challengers, the most dangerous is Hamilton.

Hamilton showed remarkable courage and heart in last year's Tour. He broke his collarbone in the Tour's first stage in a massive pile-up that almost took down Armstrong. Hamilton stayed in the race, received therapy during breaks, and placed fourth overall. He won the tour's 21st stage with an amazing breakaway at the fifty-ninth mile marker and never looked back. Hamilton's performance gave him a tremendous amount of confidence. It would not surprise me to see an Armstrong/Hamilton finish under the Champs Elysees in two weeks, another milestone in American cycling.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Second City My Ass!!: "Those Are Fireworks Exploding Over Lake Michigan, Not Bombs" Edition

For those of you inclined to stay in town this weekend and help "Spider-Man 2" reach a $200 million box office in six days, here are some other things to do over the weekend:


- The Gene Siskel Film Center hosts a 70th anniversary tribute to the Three Stooges starting today. Great!! Now I can impress art fags, film snobs, and hipsters with my theory of Shemp Howard as the all-purpose Stooge.

- More movie madness: At the Music Box you can choose between a 50th anniversary restored print of Godzilla (no Raymond Burr), weekend matinees of Orson Welles' A Touch Of Evil (Charlton Heston as a Mexican), and midnight screenings of Cheech and Chong's Up In Smoke (the "Ajax Lady" scene still cracks my ass up), or the x-rated "Hard Candy" (the Lollipop Girls and John Holmes in 3-D)


- Gotta represent the South Side this weekend at the African/Caribbean International Festival of Life. At $25 for a four day pass, it's one of the biggest steals of the weekend (unless you sneak in to see "Hard Candy" at the Music Box)

- The highlight of this day's line-up at Fitzgerald's American Music Festival is the amazing Drive-By Truckers. Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men will also play this night and Sunday.

- From the "What the fuck happened to them?" File: Poi Dog Pondering headline this evening's music line-up at Naperville Ribfest


- Can't get enough of Berwyn this weekend: Go back and read yesterday's post about the Roscoe Trio at Fitzgerald's.

- An Independence Day tradition for me is a bike ride to the Garfield Park Conservatory. Or you can take the train.

Have a great holiday. Rest in Peace Marlon Brando.

The King of The Chicken Little Progressives

To preface, I will state for the record that I do not blame Ralph Nader for Al Gore's losing the electoral college in 2000. The simple fact is that we would be sitting here bitching about Gore's record as President today if he simply campaigned four years ago as if he desired the Presidency. As it stood, he ran as though he deserved the office for eight years of loyal service keeping his mouth shut under Bill Clinton.

Had Al Gore campaigned with a sense of urgency, voters would not have been so turned off by the prospect of choosing between him and George W. Bush that the Florida shenanigans that ultimately cost Gore the election would have resulted in a Federal Election commission investigation into the mass disenfranchisement of 95,000 Florida voters.

Yet people still blame Nader for the Bush Administration. Talk about revisionist history.

It seems hard to believe that Ralph Nader was once a respected consumer advocate whose tireless work led to dramatic improvements in consumer safety. Eventually Nader became a caricature of himself, jousting at windmills he thought were injustices and becoming a relic of a bygone era.

This is what makes his Presidential campaigns hard to digest for me. The time for Nader to run should have been in 1980-88, when the GOP was in the beginning stages of a courtship of the Christian Right that now threatens the basic tenants accorded to us in the Bill of Rights.

There is too much at stake this year to simply vote for Nader as a means of protest, although ultimately you may cast your vote however you choose. That is, if you agree with Nader's thinking. So far it seems as though Nader is trying to court the apathetic voters: the "Chicken Little Progressives" who sit at home and don't leave unless there's a protest somewhere; the contrarians who constantly complain about the state of the nation yet sit on their asses and do not try to affect change; anarchists easily swayed by the Nader cult of personality.

If you are thinking of voting for Ralph Nader, I urge you to read this(you may need to register or get a day pass) and think a bit harder. There's too much at stake this year to make a rash decision.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

If This Were True It Would Be Even Funnier...

You ain't gonna find this on Oprah's Book Club.

- Thanks, Michelle for the link to your site. You know what else hurts coming out of your nose? Nose hairs!!

- I read this rebuttal of Christopher Hitchens in the New York Press yesterday and thought it might be worth sharing. I've had the opportunity a couple years ago to meet Chris Hitchens, when he was on a book junket promoting The Trial of Henry Kissinger, an novel that uses many polysyllables to describe what political wonks already know about Kissinger. Hitchens was so stewed in scotch he couldn't stand straight without assistance. Hitchens emptied this bar of single malt scotch, then tried to verbally castrate the bartender for not carrying more. The bartender ignored Hitchens, which took all the sting out of his words.

Maybe that's the key to being a contrarian: go through life blind stinking drunk but with enough higher brain function that you can impress people with your vocabulary. The key to fighting one is to ignore his commentary, as with that bartender. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

I know I'd like George Will better if he was a drunk.

- Today begins Fitzgerald's annual American Music festival, which is always a great way to wind up the first half of the calendar year. Two years ago some of us went to see Junior Brown and Billy Joe Shaver. Shaver kicked ass, Brown by then was fully in bar band mode and just there to collect a check. My friend Betty, who used to be the band's pill dealer back in Austin, got a little rowdy and called for someone to shove Junior's "guit-steel" hybrid guitar up his ass since he wanted to "play like a bitch." That's another great title for a book: "I Shoved Junior Brown's Guit-steel Up His Ass."

Anyhoo, in an early version of "Second City My Ass" show up Sunday for the She Demons of Rockabilly and Eric "Roscoe" Ambel and The Roscoe Trio.

- Note to Blaise: Thanks for the reference in your post yesterday. Concept costumes are hard to pull off, but when people grasp the concept, they'll remember your costume for years. You pretty much have to live the concept all night, which is why I've never dressed as Harpo Marx on Halloween. I just can't keep quiet that long.

For Halloween in '98 I dressed as a down-on-his-luck version of the Cat in the Hat who resorted to writing stories for Penthouse Forum in order to keep himself afloat. To put the concept over I didn't shave for a week, drank Brass Monkey all night, and ate some mushrooms before I hit my first party. I was so in character (read: stoned and foul-mouthed) people still fill me in on details I can't remember years later.

Ah, the glorious days of misspent youth. I'm off to see "Spider-Man 2" again.

"Fun With Neurotics"

I've been telling people this story all week, so I thought I'd share it with whoever comes across this.

We were winding down Monday night when a co-worker asked me, "Have you noticed that I haven't been complaining as much these days?"

I turned my head toward her and said, "I haven't seen you in a week, so I couldn't tell."

Her face perked up and she said with more than a little hint of pride, "Well, I haven't."

I began to look with her with a bit of skepticism and replied, "That's nice. Keep it up."

That's when she tossed me the hanging fastball. "Well, I just want to prove that you all complain as much as I do. You guys complain way more than I do, and most of you do it when you're drinking!!" I couldn't believe the nerve of this woman to feel like she had to lord this over someone. She continued on about how she listens to us bitch about the boss and how the complaints become more vitriolic as we have more alcohol. And this from a neurotic woman who fancies herself as more of an "actress" than a "Cocktail server", the type that is a dime-a-dozen anywhere.

She finally stopped talking so I answered, "Well, you won't be proving your case with that statement, sweetheart." Her face took on a puzzled expression and she asked, "What do you mean?"

"The simple reasoning for your not complaining is itself a complaint," I said.

Now, I like this woman well enough. So well enough that I asked her out a year ago before I knew how insecure and self-absorbed she really was. I think most of us can handle one of the two, but not both. Top those off with her penchant for making snap judgments about people (namely, "You guys drink too much" or "these customers suck because they're not tipping me and I ran fifty dollars of martinis to their table") and she's sometimes unbearable to work with.

She's taking a month off from the job and the floor manager has already said that the job will most likely not be waiting for her when she gets back. I hope that she takes the time off for some serious assessment without intense navel gazing.

You're Money, Baby!! Small Change, But Still Money!!

Like clockwork we received a holiday terror alert for O'Hare airport (anyone else notice that the terror alert chart looks like the heat index on a jar of salsa? The Department of Homeland Security should just rename the alert warnings "picante", "en fuego", and "verde." 'Course as long as Bush is in office we'll never see verde and I'm rambling.)

- The only terrorism happening in the Midwest this weekend is at Taste of Chicago, where for the mind-boggling price of four dollars you can get roasted corn on a stick, or nine dollars will get you a slab of ribs that most people in this city would laugh at if served in a restaurant.

- I saw "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Spider-Man 2" in the past week. Without going into gushing weblogger platitudes about how each movie was "awesome", "rocks", "kicks ass", or how I "<3" (that's supposed to be a heart) each movie, I do recommend them. In the case of the former, it is Michael Moore's most focused film to date- one that was surprisingly pro-soldier- and the box office tallies it raked in last week showed that maybe this will be a close election in November after all. I mean, Michael Moore's an asswipe, but at least he falls on the right side of the arguments.

- "Spider-Man 2" was simply a beautiful movie throughout. It didn't seem as long as it's two-hour run time suggests as it just flowed effortlessly throughout. In his review of the movie Roger Ebert wrote, "I was surprised to see this film working from the first frame." He's right. It did. A superhero/action/popcorn movie that also dealt with the human condition. It was like trapping lightning in a bottle. If Sam Raimi and company can do the same with the third "Spider-Man" movie, I think that the three movies can be held up as a serious cinematic achievement similar to the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Part of what makes "Spider-Man 2" work is the contributions of Michael Chabon, who's best known as the author of "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" and "Wonder Boys", which was turned into a movie starring Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire. Chabon's work meticulously details the insecurities of men and women, and that was evident in "Spider-Man 2." Breathtaking.

- I found this through Gawker. After reading that and this post from Mimi Smartypants, I'm even more confused. It's been nearly three years since the attacks, can we hate New york again?

Actually I find a lot of the same points Mimi makes in her rant about New Yorkers apply when talking about Chicagoans, as well. I see no discernible difference between downtown Manhattan and the Gold Coast; Times Square or Lincoln Park. A couple years back I had a date with someone I met through a Reader personals ad. I remember this one clearly because she specifically stated she only wanted to date men who lived in the "312" area code. I read her ad again, made sure that it also didn't carry the terms "financially and emotionally secure", determined that, since I live in the "312" area code that I qualified, and answered her ad.

We agreed to meet at Starbucks in Pipers Alley. Over caramel macchiatos ("I so love your choice of cappucino," she offered) she explained in great detail that she determined that men who live in the "312" area code were "driven, sophisticated, classy, and successful. They're really tuned to the pulse of the city." I tried to argue that she could find men like that in any area code. "'773'ers' (her term) are still boys," she said, oblivious to the obscene number of backward turned Big Ten University ball caps in this particular Starbucks. We asked each other the obligatory "get to know you" questions and tried to find common ground. Her idea of good jazz was Diana Krall, mine was 8 Bold Souls. Finally she asked, "So, how come I've never seen you around the neighborhood?"

"I don't live in Old Town," I replied.

Her eyes grew wide like she just held up a Brinks truck full of gold bricks. "Well, you are a '312'er', right. Where do you live?"

I drained the rest of my macchiato, leaned close, and dropped the bomb. "I live in Bridgeport."

She was still oblivious to it all. "Where's Bridgeport?" She asked.

"South Side of the city. By Comiskey Park."

"Where's Comiskey Park?"

"Where the White Sox play baseball."

Her jaw dropped so fast it almost turned the table over. She recovered long enough to say, "You lied to me?"

I looked back at her. "No, I didn't," I said. "your ad specifically stated that you only wanted to date men who lived in the '312' area code. I do."

"But," she stammered.

"That was your only qualifier. Be careful what you wish for." And with that I was off.