Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Thinning of the Herd

Remember when, in order to teach Bart a lesson, Homer decided to jump the canyon with a skateboard to show how stupid it was to pursue a career as a daredevil? Then it looked he was gonna actually clear the canyon for a moment, and what followed was the nascent beginnings of the Homer Simpson we've come to know and love over the past seventeen years?

Well, take a look at this, everyone, and thank yourself for not following your basest impulse:

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Holidays

This week is gonna go by so fast. As usual, I just wished for pine needles under the tree. I'm a simple person.

As I type this, the Godfather of Soul is probably causing a ruckus inside the Pearly Gates. You could spin any of the usual tunes in his honor, but I recommend this underappreciated gem. "Soul on Top" was recorded in 1969. It was an unlikely pairing: James Brown and the Louis Bellson Orchestra. But Brown's style incorporated a lot of jazz swing. You can't have bands as tight as the Famous Flames and the J.B.'s without that swing. At the time, few orchestras were as renowned as Louis Bellson's. Turned out it was an inspired pairing. You can download "Soul on Top" at iTunes, which was where I found it. Brown's covers of Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart" and "Every Day I Have the Blues" are powerhouse numbers.

Then there's this:

And this:

And, of course, this:

Godspeed, "Soul Brother #1."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Compliments of the Season 2K6

Been a while since I visited these parts, but I've been busy getting a head start on one of my 2K7 resolutions. It's a combination of necessity and will-to that I've been approaching this resolution with. Let's just say that sometimes you need a kick in the ass to figure out what you want out of life.

Before I go any further, I need to give a plug the neighborhood pub quiz hosted by the B News guys tomorrow. Smussy, this would be your opportunity to learn about the neighborhood from men who actually grew up - and stayed - in Bridgeport.

Someone handed me a copy of Arthur magazine last week, and I'm glad he did. One of the featured articles is an amazingly detailed essay on the history of pornography and its contributions to progressive civilizations, written by none other than the great Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, Watchmen). The argument of the piece: pornography gave us every great advance of civilization, while organized religion gave us the Middle Ages and Holocaust, and instilled us with prudishness. Moore also breathes new life to the legacy of Aubrey Beardsley, he of the perverse imagery and confidant of Oscar Wilde. I love his line work on Lysistrata.

Meanwhile, the new Oxford American is out, and its theme is crime noir. Also in the pages is an essay on Lucinda Williams' "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" by Sven Birkerts. I've gone through at least four copies of "Car Wheels". One was lost when a public storage facility auctioned off my possessions, the other three were mishandled beyond repair with a scratch kit. Anyway, Birkerts lifts the veil on the meaning of the lyrics to "Right in Time".

"I take off my watch and my earrings
my bracelets and everything
lie on my back and moan at the ceiling
oh, baby.
I think about you and that long ride
I bite my nails, I get weak inside
reach over and turn off the light
oh, baby"

It took eight years and Sven Birkerts to make me realize that Lucinda was singing about doing the two-fingered tango in that verse. But then, knowing that she inherited a gift for wordplay from her father, I shouldn't be surprised she cast a subject as masturbation in such subtle imagery. Not to cast a negative spin on her subsequent work, but "Car Wheels" was definitely her high water mark. Sonically, it still sounds relevant today; it jumps out of the speakers and attacks you, while still maintaining a sense of dynamics (that's the influence of the "Twangtrust": Steve Earle and Ray Kennedy. Give a spin to every Earle recording from "El Corazon" to "The Revolution Starts Now" and you'll hear the same sonic blueprint). I can't say the same about "Essence" or "World Without Tears." They sound more spartan and prettier, respectively.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I loved "Young Frankenstein." RIP, Peter Boyle.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The 80's Weren't All Bad

Thanks to the wonders of You Tube, I've been on a Pat Benatar kick lately. As someone who sat in front of the idiot box a lot watching MTV, I can't for the life of me remember this video:

It's a beautiful song, which makes me wonder what Chrysalis Records was thinking in not releasing it as a single back then.

Maybe that's why Chrysalis is out of business.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Today marks the sixty-fifth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Laura Oppenheimer at Chicagoist celbrates her birthday today. Feliz Cumpleanos, Oppenploppen.

She also shares a birthday with this man, who turns fifty-seven today:

It's good company, Laura.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Jack Frost Nipping at Your Nose

I just finished weather stripping the front door and kitchen, the two places in this apartment that let in cold air like it's summer in Miami, and I'm air conditioning a bungalow. With the way things have been the past couple months at work, the winter will be challenging, at best, as far as bills are concerned. The last thing I need is an enormous heating bill.

I've lately been both looking at classifieds and asking for advice on freelance writing inquiries from people I know. Gotten good advice on the latter, advice that may pay off soon. On the first front, I need to develop some good habits, like sending out resumes, form letters, and clips. At the same time, I haven't lost the urge to tend bar or manage one. If anything, the past few months at work have rekindled my desire to move on and learn more. I've been remiss in not taking advantage of the opportunities that have come. It's not that I want a new job; spend seven years at one place and it starts to feel like home. You don't want to give up that familiarity, sometimes at the expense of your future. I need to decide whether I want to stay at "home", or move on. Sometimes, it's "family" that often hurts you the most.

On a happier note, an impromptu and belated birthday party was thrown for my friend Chris the other night. Most everyone was under the impression that he was turning fifty, but Chris played a good hand poker face and kept mum. He'll turn fifty next year, and that should be a hell of a party. Chris is the nexus, the one responsible for all of us knowing each other, really. He and his then-wife used to live at Belmont and Clark in a loft apartment located in an alley, across from the Alley. And Chris took full advantage of it, throwing some of the best parties I've ever been witness to. Parties with jazz combos, rock bands, poets, visual art, short movies, elaborate decorations, and copious amounts of "treats." I truly feel as though he never took advantage of turning all that energy into a career, but it was probably for the best. If he ever decided to be a party or event planner, some host might have beaten the fun and excitement out of him. So I look back on those parties and feel that we got him at his most inspired, crafting these soirees out of love and the pure fun of it all, with no strings or catches other than the opportunity to be your friend. More often than not, it worked.

Saturday night was one of those rare moments where I was able to be together with all of my old friends at one time, in one place. Normally, if I'm out that late on a Saturday night, I'm getting paid. Seeing as how I'd just talked to most of them at Peg and Brian's wedding two weeks prior, it felt doubly good to see them all again, and so soon. Usually, it's months between sightings. Another reason I'm dusting off resumes and planning my next moves. I really like to see them all more often.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Signs That Your Mother - And By Extension YOU - Are Getting Old

Mom: Are you eating right now?

Me: Yes, ma'am.

Mom: What are you eating?

Me: Biscuits and gravy.

Mom: Biscuits and gravy?

Me: Yes, ma'am.

Mom: Is it just regular gravy, or did you use sausage?

Me: It's sausage gravy, Mom.

Mom: You like that stuff?

Me: It's your recipe, Mom.

Mom: My recipe?

Me: Yes, ma'am.


Mom: You know, Charles. There's a reason I had all those heart attacks.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Be Vewy Thankfuwl

Now that I'm working through all the leftovers in the refrigerator, have caught up on paychecks at work, and seem to have worked through some writers blokc caused by the compounding of problems, I can sit back, breathe a sigh of relief, and count my blessings.

Thanksgiving morning, while I was running around shoppng for last minute supplies for the dinner (namely, ingredients for the dinner itself), I came upon a black collie dam tied to a wrought iron fence at McGuane Park. Also tied to the fence was a plastic bag, containing a scoop for the dog. Sure enough, she was being abandoned on Thanksgiving. Real sweet. The kicker was that this dog looked familiar; I had rescued her during the summer from being abandoned at a park bench in the same park. Her temperament and attitude were so playful and fun, I thought about keeping her this time around.

After some convincing by Sue that a second dog would not be a good idea, since we don't know if she might be sick, we dropped her off at Animal Control, where paperwork was filled out, I watched her get a distemper shot, and she started the process of going into holding. If she makes it through the seven-day hold period and checks out on behavioral, attitude, and medical tests, her personality and look should almost guarantee her immediate adoption once she makes it to the city pound. I certainly hope so. This dog's been lucky so far.

My brother had back surgery on Tuesday, so he spent Thanksgiving in the hospital. He's only 34, way too young to have back surgery. But the combination of a life of manual labor and being overweight certainly conspired against him. Which made my decision to stay at home for the holiday the right one. I'll go up for Christmas, bringing both the gifts I didn't bring last year and this year's gifts for everyone. Hopefully I won't wreck the rental car this time around.

For her part, the only thing Mom really wants for Christmas is to have Chris, Tammy, and myself in the same house for Christmas. I'm damn sure gonna make sure that that happens.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Home Cookin'

For some reason, I found myself listening to 'BEZ last night. I've been nursing a chest cold I probably caught at the wedding Sunday and was falling in and out of sleep on the couch, thanks to my late night tendencies for web surfing and dog walking.

Anyway, it was about 10:30 and whoever was in the studio played "Come on Home" by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. In my north side days, I would go to Ten Cat with my chapbooks for a few drinks and some inspiration. As is the case whenever someone sits at the corner of a bar, writing furiously into a notebook and acting borderline antisocial, someone just starting to feel his oats has to come up and ask obvious questions.

"You writing?"

"What you writing for?"

"Think you'll write about me?"

On this particular night, it happened like it was scripted. Except, instead of giving curt answers to indicate that I wanted to be left alone, I engaged in conversation with one of the Ten Cat regulars. I figured, like the protagonist in Neil Gaiman's "Death: The High Cost of Living", I could mingle among the living for one day every hundred years. The man was a pleasant fellow, but his inebriation caused him to lose his train of thought occasionally. Then, as the conversation started to lull between us, "Come on Home" started playing through the sound system. My ears perked and I mentoined that this was a cool sounding song.

"That's Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, the greatest vocal jazz group of all time", my conversation partner said.

What followed was a fifteen minute lesson on LHR and the art of vocalese. Vocalese is a style where jazz singers rewrite horn and reed charts with lyrics to fit a song. Jon Hendricks and Dave Lambert were two of the pioneers of the style. When they teamed with Annie Ross, it was like catching lightning in a bottle. The man then asked, "You like jazz, son?"

I admitted that I didn't know much about the music, at the time, outside of the usual suspects: Miles, Louis, Trane, Monk, and Duke. He said to me, "Go pick up some Lambert, Hendricks & Ross the next time you're in a record store. You'll totally dig 'em."

I shook my head that I would, but had no intention of actually following through. One day, I found myself at Jazz Record Mart, back when they were located on Lincoln Avenue, rummaging through the free bins, when I came across a copy of "Everybody's Boppin'", a LHR retrospective Columbia released in the late '80's with liner notes from Jon Hendricks. I decided that, since it was free, there was no loss if I didn't like the disc. I got home, cleaned it up and fixed as many of the scratches as I could, and put it in my cd player.

I stopped listening to it a week later. From there, my education in jazz appreciation truly began. By the time I submitted my first concert review to Jazz Review, I felt as though I had enough of a background in the music to have an informed opinion. In 1999, my friend Whitley and I went to see Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross perform LHR songs at Symphony Center. Hendricks was a consummate professional, playing to the crowd and still able to bend notes like he was in his physical prime. Ross gave the audience the impression that she was only onstage for the money. She'd strike a pose that was embarrassing for a septugenarian, and the combination of scotch and cigarettes had ruined what was left of her voice.

When I first started working at HotHouse, I would bring my own cds in on Monday nights to play between Yoko Noge's sets. One night, Marguerite stayed in the office late, and heard me playing LHR on the sound system.

"You know, Chuck", she said, "Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross came to HotHouse in January."

Really, I said.

"Yup, I had some old vinyl of theirs and got them to sign it." then we recounted our separate experiences of that fateful evening. At that time, we were still trying to figure each other out. She could be the most charming person in the room one moment, then switch on a dime and alienate the same people she just charmed. I had a lot of anger pent up - a LOT - had finally started seeing a therapist for whom psychotropic drugs weren't the first option for treatment, and was beginning to slowly piece things together. I mentioned to her that I was at that concert the same night Hendricks and Ross visited. It was a a point of commonality, and it was a start. Over the next seven years, whenever I would play some LHR, she would mention the visit by two-thirds of the greatest vocal jazz group ever.

I don't listen to as much jazz as I used to. Part of that is due to my belief that music should give you an emotional reaction first, then a cerebral one. In avant garde jazz, particularly, the opposite holds true. But I can listen to some Lambert, Hendricks & Ross and suddenly my feet are tapping and I'm humming along to the trombone charts Dave Lambert would emulate so well. And it reminds me of the moments where we're at our most human.

Anyhoo, I never wanted to end this on a sappy note. I do recommend buying or downloading some Lambert, Hendrick & Ross. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, November 13, 2006

How Sweet It Is!!

I took this shot a couple weeks ago. This woman was just standing on the ledge, reading a book. I was intrigued, to say the least.

Peg and Brian were married in Starved Rock yesterday. The reception and dinner were like this congregation of people I've met and befriended over the past twelve years, it seems. It was also the first reception I've been to where folks weren't seated at the dinner in awkward painrings. I think it's because most of us knew each other already, it would not have mattered where we sat. I drew my lot sitting with all the old Unofficial Soup Kitchen folks, from my days when I would read long, meandering poems. We're all getting older; some of us have married; some of us are expecting kids; if we haven't had any already. A couple of folks were conspicuous by their absences. I looked around the room and it seemed like this whole group of people who somehow got together in '94 or '95, almost by accident, managed to stay in touch with each other and stumble into lives of our own along the way, while still maintaining contact and becoming better friends. It was a very proud and natural moment.

The weekend started with a dinner for the Chicagoist staff at Zapatista in the South Loop. Some of the staff expressed amazement that the dinner itself went along so smoothly. But during my Navy days, I was the chairman of the MWR (morale, welfare, and recreation) committees at both the oceanographic unit I was assigned to and the USS Anzio, and when you can plan Christmas parties for hundreds of sailors and their significant others, getting two dozen bloggers together is a piece of cake. Especially when Gothamist is footing the bill.

We had 24 of 27 staffers show up, were assigned two waiters and a food runner for three tables who had us served and cleared out in two hours flat, and everyone seemed to have a genuine good time. Fifteen of those twenty-four followed me to HotHouse, where Benny Matos and the New York Latin Jazz All-stars were laying down some tight boogaloo, Latin soul, and salsa dura. For those who hadn't visited, it was a chance to see what I keep harping about on the staff forums. Rachelle took some nice photos of Matos in action, and I think everyone who went had a good time, before ending the evening at the Pontiac for Live Band Karaoke.

Someone mentioned that its not easy to get that many folks together and not have any clashes of egos, but that's the case with the Chicagoist staff. To call it a labor of love is almost cliche, but in two-and-a-half years a talented group of folks have come together and really made a name for the site. I think the lovely Hixx put it best when she wrote, "joining Chicagoist is like joining a sorority (in the best way). It’s like making a group of automatic friends, and they’re supportive and smart and hilarious and awesome." It is sort of like a fraternity, without all the hazing that steers you towards a life of embracing the neo-conservative doctrine. There's no "thank you sir, may I have another" bullshit going on.

It's yet another good thing I stumbled into.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

My polling place changed this year. I voted this morning at the Senior Suites of Bridgeport on Halsted. I used to vote at the St. Joseph's Men's Club at 28th and Lowe, one of those "sport and social" clubs Mike Royko wrote about in "Boss", where the only sport they engaged in was street fights with other white ethnics. The atmosphere isn't the same. At the men's club I always felt like I was entering some forbidden place, like Dad's liquor and gun cabinet. At the senior housing it felt like I was walking into a potential future: not at all bleak, but not what I want. I'm still shooting for that house in Kentucky, and a pot still in the woods.

Here's a bit of fallout from Florida 2000: my ballot was one-quarter the size of me. The only thing missing was someone at the voting booth to tell me who to vote for. "No, sweetie. Rich Whitney's not a nice man. You want to vote for Rod. Okay, straight line; make the arrow connect. Gooood. You get a gold star."

Speaking of, if you vote for Todd Stroger, you probably hate democracy. I don't know who came up with the "Stroger as Urkel" web site, but if you listened to him speak on the news or in his campaign commercials, it's an apt comparison. I almost expect him to look dirctly into the camera and whine, "Did I do thaaaaattt?"

As always, if you don't vote, don't bitch.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Things I Learned About Halloween

  • Some folks take it way too seriously
  • Heated Tootsie Rolls look like cat turds, and make a great accent for a cake
  • Dominatrixes don't have to be drop-dead hot, but they do need to exude some confidence
  • Speed Racer goes to the top three costumes I need to wear in the future
  • Unless someone wants to dress up as Trixie, then i do it next year
  • Sometimes it's too cold to have friends gather outside to watch bad poets stumble through their work at midnight. That's considered abuse.
  • If you're gonna dress up as Jeff Bridges in "The Big Lebowski", make sure you wash your thrift store Zubasz before wearing them.
  • If you're gonna dress up as Jeff Bridges in "The Big Lebowski", make sure the parties you attend have the necessary liquors needed to fix a white russian, or bring your own.
  • If you're gonna dress up as Jeff Bridges in "The Big Lebowski" and it's freezing outside, wear a sweater, not a thin sweat jacket.
  • It's alright to dress your dog as a vampire, or a ghoul.
  • You should be able to smack neighbors who recommend dressing your dog up as a princess.
  • It isn't alright to dye your dog's fur red, so he or she can be Clifford the Big Red Dog for Halloween.
  • Always have your iPod handy, in case the party hosts have poor taste in music. But don't just commandeer the docking station. That's bad taste if you're not me; then it's expected.
  • The best version of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" I've ever heard is by Scatman Crothers.
  • Screaming Jay Hawkins records should be mandatory on Halloween.
  • When a woman dressed as an Oktoberfest maiden is putting out feelers, don't ignore her after you found out this was the third straight year she dressed that way for Halloween.
  • Sometimes being a blogger of some note can lead to unexpected opportunities.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

If you're a fan of classic movie houses and haven't visited the renovated Portage Theatre, please do so. Dennis Wolkowicz (aka "Jay Warren", when he's accompanying silent films) has done a remarkable job in rehabbing this theater, where I used to view second-run "B" grade horror films. Back in high school the Portage was divided into three very cramped screening rooms. To enter the seating area and see one single screen and all the renewed detail is stunning.

I went to the Six Corners Monster Film Festival with Chris, who - bless his heart - can't seem to do anything simple. I left home at 5:45 and told Chris that I would call when I was in Six Corners. An hour later I could see the Portage in my sights, and pulled out the cell. What transpired was fifteen minutes of unintelligible phone calls. Apparently, Chris made it to Six Corners way before I did, and when he has idle time on his hands, he's dangerous. And for Chris, it isn't enough to simply stand in line and wait to meet Svengoolie. Chris has to stand out. So he bought a five dollar mask at Family Dollar, put on his sunglasses, flagged down a rickshaw driver who drove him all of one block to the Portage, and stood at the front of the line. I finally recognized him, but by then I was frustrated with the phone calls; he wouldn't remove the mask or his iPod earbuds to take them properly.

We finally met up in the theater, where I fell asleep a couple times during the viewing of "The Mummy" (a lisping Karloff as a risen from the dead Egyptian priest. That's a stretch.) and marveled at how great it was to see one of these films in a large screen setting. And they had the remastered dvd, as well. Having it myself, part of me wished they would have played the other four films in the collection.

We left the theater and, after getting lost with Chris trying to find his car, headed out, all the while he's overexaggerating the evening's events to someone on the phone. Going south on Milwaukee, I started to get anxious as Chris lighted a smoke, looked for a something on his iPod, and tred to shift into third gear. Finally, I took the iPod from him so he could focus on the road. When we got to Belmont, he asked, "Which way is west?" In his mind, he thought I would have joined him back in his place for drinks with Peg and Brian. Had I not gotten only four hours of sleep the night before, I would have. But I make a barely tolerable houseguest on a full night's sleep, so I didn't want to spend my time in Albany Park dozing off while the three of them talked. It just would have been rude.

I mentioned this to Chris, who immediately invoked the "Back in my day" act of 1906. "I've been up since the crack of dawn", he said. Trying not to escalate the situation into an "I can top your tale of woe" contest, I told him I had to walk the dog, and he surrendered, finally driving me to the train station.

Overall, it was a good night. I love being able to hang out with Chris whenever the opportunity arises. It brings back to mind the slew of great parties he used to throw when he lived in an alley loft on Belmont. Most of the folks I consider friends today I met through him. He's had a really rough year and came through a little battered, but with a better sense of who he is. His friendship is something I'll treasure as long as I can.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I Smell Like Smoke Because I Walked Through Fire

This was such a spectacular looking fire; I left work early Tuesday and walked to the "L" station at Roosevelt, where I saw the trains slow down and take their time negotiating the stretch of track in the shot. I chalked it up to crews working on the tracks. It wasn't until I made it home that someone called me with the news that the Dexter Building was on fire.

I don't know how the fire started, but I can guarantee that the liquor on the bar at ground level certainly accelerated it at some point. The Dexter Building is also known as the former home of George Diamond steakhouse. Although the place has been boarded up for years, I managed to walk into the dining area last year when the doors were open for prospective buyers. The dining area was still intact, the dark mahogany bar itself just a dusting and line bleed away from being fully functional. The Dexter Building is also the second Louis Sullivan building to go up in flames tis year. The city lost Pilgrim Baptist Church in January. It certainly hasn't been a good year for classic Chicago architecture.

Later Tuesday, I met up with the new Chicagoist foodies at Patty Burger on Adams Tuesday night (don't go, we were all woefully disappointed) and decided to walk as close to the fire as I could get from the train station. Smoke filled Michigan Avenue (photos are on my flickr page), but it didn't stop a few intrepid folks from firing up their cigarettes nonetheless. I guess if you're already inhaling carcinogens...

I made it to Patty Burger reeking of smoke and in need of a beer. Seeing only Heineken, Amstel Light, and Coors, I opted for wine instead. Wednesday was spent cancelling, re-ordering, and cancelling again, orders for the bar. Finally worked last night, riding in the rain to get there. At Milwaukee and Desplaines I could smell the faint traces of smoke and fire, they intensified when I headed down Harrison. When I locked the bike up in front of HotHouse the fire department was still fighting flash fires durng the demolition. Through it all, the Quiznos banner is still intact, looking none the worse for wear.

Someone asked me the other day what I was gonna do now that HotHouse burned down. I corrected him, but judging from the looks of some of the folks I saw today, maybe it should have.

I have a stalker, go read her.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Does This Dog Look Fat to You?

Sue and our friend Juanita showed up at work last night to check out Funkadesi. As is standard these days, "staying for one set" translated to staying all night, since Funkadesi only played one two-hour set (including a version of "Sweet Home Alabama' that would make Skynrd blush).

Anyway, as I was doing the books at the end of the night, Sue and I were talking, and out of left field she says, "Emmy's putting on some weight."
I looked at her and thought of saying like an impetuous child, "No, YOUR dog's putting on weight, you ... fatty dog owner!!" I chalked it up to Sue feeling a little less pain than she normally does; she becomes aversely chatty and eager to be a contrarian. Still, the comment stuck with me.

This morning I went to buckle Emmy's collar, and it was fitting a bit tight. Then I'm checking out her frame, and I can barely see the impression of her ribs, although her waistline is still trim. That's it, I thought. I leash her at Halsted and we bypass McGuane Park, jogging - jogging, I say, since I never do that - to Bosley. She does her business, we stop at Bridgeport Coffee House for my mocha and the regulars cooing, "Aw, she's such a sweet dog." Walking west on 31st, I run into new homeowner Pete Downes, who, as I write this, is not enjoying the Northwestern homecoming game as a Michigan State grad. He was having his newly rebuilt transmission inspected, and we chatted briefly. Once home, I give Emmy a half-cup of dry food and a biscuit. No more strips of extra crispy turkey bacon for her. No more bacon strips and junk dog food. It's all lean for my pretty pit bull.

So it's become official. I'm not the only one in the house committed to healthier eating. Ironic, since when Sue and I were roommates, I would feed her dog, Camille, everything from peanut butter to giardinera relish on a whim. Now that I have a dog, I can understand why Sue was apopletic about it at the time. I just hope Emmy realizes that I'm doing this for the both of us.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Simple Pleasures

I was a fan of Spy Magazine. I loved the tone of the articles, snarky before the term itself became an overused part of the modern lexicon. I loved the "Separated at Birth" and "Celebrity Math" features. When my other shipmates on the USS Anzio were reading Sports Illustrated, Guns 'N Ammo, and Field & Stream, I had a dog-eared copy of Spy with me. I also had a copy of Randy Shilts' Conduct Unbecoming on the headboard of my bunk, but that's a story for a later time.

Anyway, I was in a nostalgic mood most of the day and I googled for "The Day the Clown Cried", also known as "the lost Jerry Lewis film", and with good reason. You can read about it here, in an article originally published in Spy. The page also contains the original Drew Friedman artwork that accompanied the article. I had forgotten how talented Friedman was. It's a shockingly funny read, and reminder of what I loved about combining good reporting with great writing.

My other favorite Spy article was one about Chuck Berry, from 1993. From that article, I learned the meaning of the word "corprophilia", and the phrase, "Come give Daddy his lunch" became an ingrained part of my vocabulary.

The beer in the picture? You'll have to read Chicagoist next Wednesday to find out.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Modern Day Prohibition

If you haven't noticed, there's a quickly depleting supply of Bell's beer in the area. I have the details at Chicagoist. Coupled with Sierra Nevada moving to Chicago Beverage Systems this wek, I suddenly find myself with two open draft handles at work. I was being diplomatic in the Chicagoist post , but this is my personal place to vent. There's no way in hell I'm working with Chicago Beverage any more than I have to. They treat their customers as insignificant, at best, garbage at worst. This is the downside of deregulation, ladies and gentlemen.

On a positive note, I recommend a night out with the boys at Zapatista. Or a night out with a girl there. Either way, the food is solid and the service is excellent. Even their wine selection was amazing quality for the small size. I picked a bottle of this surprisingly bold petite syrah from Mexico for dinner, and it matched both entrees perfectly.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Dance Card is Full, Folks

So my friends Jasmine and Adam got married a couple weeks back, in a tiny ceremony at Promontory Point. The party is tomorrow night, and I don't have a gift, yet. Maybe a nice bottle of scotch. Their address sounded familiar, so when I ran into Peg at a party last month, I told her where tomorrow's celebration was located. The look on Peg's face confirmed what I suspected.

When we first met ten years ago, Peg lived in the same building, only on the third floor (Jasmine and Adam live at street level). She and her roomates had easy access to the rooftop, which opened to this breathtaking view of the downtown skyline, and an even better birds-eye view of the street gangs below. I think the neighborhood's fully gentrified nowadays, but I'm gonna try to get to the rooftop tomorrow.

Before I head out there, though, I get to see Madeleine Peyroux at the Vic. An old friend from Colorado is in town for a couple months, and I suggested the concert to her. She went out that afternoon and bought tickets. The first time I saw Peyroux, I was behind the bar at HotHouse, and the crowd was hanging on every syllable she sang. This time around, it'll be fun to unwind and just hang with good company

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I'm Too Old For This Shit

And, once the snow started to fall, Emmy might be too old for this shit, as well.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Your Future Congressional Pages

Friends used to ask me if I felt like I missed out on anything by not formally attending college, and opting for the Navy right out of high school. One look at this video of the Texas A&M "Aggie Squeeze" is all I need to know that I made the right decision.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Now I Know Why Rick Bayless Acts So Blissed Out All the Time

The shot was taken in April, the first time I made Chilaquiles al Guajillo as per Rick Bayless' recipe. I made them again this morning, and spent the hour after I finished breakfast blissed out, watching the rain come down.

I'm addicted to public television cooking shows. I could sit for hours, jotting down websites and wrestling over whether or not to hit record on the VCR. My least favorite is Christina Cooks, and it isn't because it's a vegan show (although that is a contributing factor), but because she treats food as both a cure for all ails AND some fable for eternal youth straight out of the days of Ponce de Leon. I don't dispute the benfits of a healthy diet, but we're gonna age, regardless.

I've put some vile shit down my gullet over the years, so I can speak from experience when I say that you age the same regardless of what you eat. One episode of Chirstina Cooks had Dirk Benedict of The A-Team (yes, "Face") on to help Christina prepare a meal. She was going on about how cutting meat out of your diet would make body hair stop growing in unwanted places. I didn't start having unwanted body hair until the first time I suffered a serious sunburn, and it grew then as a scarring measure and as a protective coat against UV rays.

Aging is primarily good genetics. My mother is the youngest looking sixty-three-year-old I know, and she's had five bouts of cardiac arrest, suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure, and has a bad hip. She's alive today because of changes in her diet, but she still likes a good cut of meat now and then.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I Hanker for a Hunk of Cheese!!

I've got a congested head that's makes me feel like I've slept in a pressurized room for eight hours, it's overcast outside, I'm having second thoughts about this gag gift I bought for a friend's fortieth birthday party this evening, and I'm cranky because of this diet I'm on. I guess I could say that the Nashville hot chicken expedition was the tipping point. The following morning I went with Harry and Monika to the Loveless Cafe in Nashville for an old-style country breakfast. I could smell the spices and grease leeching out of my and Harry's skin and thought, "I could have a coronary on the flight back."

So, after reading an article in Bicycling magazine about seven foods that guarantee energy and help one lose weight, I decided to start eating more sensibly. In addition to the seven foods (eggs, lean protein, fish, oj, water, milk, and almonds) I've thrown some fresh fruits and vegetables into the mix, and reduced my portions in an effort to actually eat three meals a day, instead of my customary two "on the run". Most importantly, I've cut out all fried/fast foods and stopped drinking all beverages containing high fructose corn syrpup. It's been three weeks and I've only had one soda, pizza once, and a chicken parmesan sandwich once. While I don't know if I'm losing weight yet, I do know that I'm not as lethargic as before. And that's a start.

The word itself - "diet" - is a word that I find to be an anathema. I think back to my childhood and the revolving door of diets that our family doctor would place on my mother. These diets all include the dreaded staples of cottage cheese and lowfat milk. Might be the reason why I don't eat cottage cheese to this day; watching Mom eat it like it was a chore certainly didn't leave a positive impression on me. It wasn't until her third or fourth heart attack that Mom finally wisened up and started eating better. She'll never have an ideal weight for her frame, but she isn't morbidly obese these days, either.

Dieting in the family wasn't restricted to just my mother. When I lived with my Uncle Stu and Auntie Ann, Stu would wear out diets like underwear. He was an Atkins devotee, back when Atkins was a cult crakpot diet, not the popular crackpot diet it is today. Then one day, while scraping paint off the house, he had a vertigo attack and almost fell off the ladder. We love to eat on our mother's side of the family, and I believe I would be considered of "average" weight in our family.

I have a musical recommendation for readers: Madeleine Peyroux's "Half the Perfect World" just came out two weeks ago, and it is a joy to listen to her voice. The highlight of the album is this duet with kd lang of Joni Mitchell's "River"; lang, in particular, owns the song. What is it about Joni Mitchell songs that make them so accessible to jazz singers? Karrin Allyson, Jane Monheit, and Cassandra Wilson have all covered her songs, to varying degrees of success (I'd like to hear Monheit takcle "A Case of You" now that she has some years of life experience under her. When she recorded the song, she was 22, and it came across as a college student singing it for her final grade). I'm waiting for Allyson to just break down and record an album of Mitchell covers. Maybe it's the smart lyrics that attract these singers. The songs show vulnerability without being completely full of remorse.

I've come around to the opinion that Joni Mitchell is one of this country's greatest popular songwriters, alongside Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Townes Van Zandt, and Steve Earle. I expressed this opinion to someone the other day, who responded that he thought Mitchell was in the same category as Dylan as a songwriter who he'd rather listen to others cover their songs. I'm not so sure about that. Mitchell never had a voice that was an acquired taste, like Dylan. Second, Dylan can sing with articulation, when he wants. Witness his early recordings pre-1964, and Nashville Skyline, for proof. Largely, the "hee-well-heau-hee" that we asociate with Dylan is largely an affectation. But I digress.

Here are the lyrics to Joni Mitchell's "River". And go buy or download this Madeleine Peyroux record. It's amazing.

It's coming on christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
But it dont snow here
It stays pretty green
I'm going to make a lot of money
Then I'm going to quit this crazy scene
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I made my baby cry

He tried hard to help me
You know, he put me at ease
And he loved me so naughty
Made me weak in the knees
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I'm so hard to handle
I'm selfish and I'm sad
Now I've gone and lost the best baby
That I ever had
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
Oh I wish I had a river
I made my baby say goodbye

It's coming on christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Lucha Libre!!

Check out my new web protection. Thanks to Gabe for getting me both La Parka and Santo when he was in Mexico City.

I love World Music Festival, but I'm so glad it's over. I don't want to hear another samba, rumba, klezmer, or gypsy rhythm for at least a week, which is also when I'm due back to work.

Now I'm off to buy gag gifts.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Beverly by Bike

Usually, i'm not used to having a day off during the World Music Festival, so I took advantage of it and led some friends on a bike ride fro Bridgeport to Beverly. Considering that I hadn't done a test run of the route prior to yesterday, the ride itself went smoothly. Heading down to Beverly, we took Loomis and cut through the heart of Englewood. Somewhere around 74th and Loomis we were treated to the spectacle of slack-jawed black kids yelling from their front porch, "Look! White people!" So we were probably as much of a novelty to them as, all the boarded up bungalows and two flats we encountered were to us.

We headed west along 83rd to Damen (one of the best streets for bnikes in the city) and got on the Major Taylor Trail at Dan Ryan Woods, which we nicknamed the "Major Dead end Trail" on the way back, as it seems to lead to nowhere at it's northern edge.. From there it was a straight drop south on Longwood Drive to Beverly. Riding past all the colonial style homes and mansions, we mentioned that Beverly could be the bizarro-world Sauganash. Or vice versa.. Brunch was at the Original Pancake House on Western, and we lifted a pint at Cork and Kerry. Then we headed back, making great time, since we were sticking north on Damen. It must have been a better time than that, as one fo the riders said that she was straining to keep up with the pace I was setting.

We stopped for ice cream at Scoops on 31st, once we made it back to Bridgeport. The total mileage for the round-trip? 26.2 miles. I'll be recommending it as the new route for the Chicago Marathon any day.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Goodbye "Uncle Pete"

John Watson, the trombonist for Yoko Noge's Jazz Me Blues, passed away last Thursday. Those who knew him weren't really surprised to hear the news. Rather, what I personally found surprising was that he never quit living. For at least two years, John was caught in this loop of hospital stays for cancer treatment, then coming back to gig with Yoko as soon as his strength returned. When the turnaround times became less frequent - the hospital stays became longer, the gigs shorter - I just steeled myself and waited for the word to come.

I'm convinced that John made it through the past two years solely on his will to fight and the power of positive thinking. He never had a cross word for anyone, and people gravitated to him like a moth to a flame. Then they found out that the guy who was making them laugh played Uncle Pete in "Soul Food", and they laughed a little harder. No surprise there; John was a charismatic fellow, even when his strength was waning.

Back when I was new to HotHouse and the South Side, John clued me into this soul food restaurant on South South Chicago Avenue called Ms. Biscuit, but I won't tell that story in full yet. I'm saving it for the memorial service being arranged for him on the 25th, at HotHouse.

I was going to add an audio post to this, but I'll end with some words of wisdom from the man himself. It was about music, but it could just as easily be about life.

"I have a good time, and I'm always listening. I found out that if you let the music dictate, you can't lose. Just your heart and your ears. You can't lose!"

God Bless, my friend.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

It Rocks Your Game

When we were kids, Mego made both some of the coolest, and lamest, action figures around. Their "Planet of the Apes" figures were awesome. Mego didn't release KISS action figures. These were KISS DOLLS. Barbie dolls were more masculine

Being nine when these dolls came out, I didn't think so. I was a proud member of the KISS army. Ace Frehley space patrol, specifically. Ace was just the coolest, for me, and if you don't believe it, check out his KISS solo record. Some of the songs still stand up thirty years later. That was followed by Peter Criss, then Paul and Gene. Usually, that's bass ackwards. The same holds true with the Beatles; my favorite Beatle was George Harrison, with Paul McCartney being my least favorite. But, even at nine, I had a well-developed sense of gaydar, and Paul Stanley was fucking gay. As for Simmons, he just scared me. I legitimately believed he worshipped the devil. Then I got older and realized he worshipped capitalism, which was worse.

Anyway, I begged my mother for these dolls for Christmas. I would have been happy if I just got Ace Frehley. So imagine my surprise on Christmas Day, when I ripped the wrappnig paper off all four dolls. To put it in perspective, it was like getting a new video iPod, a Playstation PSP, and a crackberry. The knowing smile on my mother's face made me realize that she listened to my incessant begging, my return grin let her know the gesture was appreciated.

Then imagine the look of horror on my mother's face, when she walked into my bedroom, not even forty-five minutes later, to see that I had painted over the dolls faces with a jar of flesh-colored model paint, to see what KISS looked like "unmasked."

Yeah, that was a beating I deserved.

Thanks to Mario for the heads-up on this.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Last night I attended the Windy City Wine Festival at "that pissant park (Mayor Daley's) dad built." With my finding of my old Writer's Guide fresh in my mind, I found a tent staffed by an startup magazine that plans on publishing its first issue early next year. I allowed that I was interested in freelance inquiries, and exchanged information with the publisher. Now it's up to m to follow through on this.

As some of you might know, I've been readying myself to take the introductory sommelier exam, with an ultimate goal to become a master sommelier. I think I'm ready to take it, and one of the reasons I headed downtown last night to the festival was to keep my palate up to speed, as well as to discover some new varietals. Sometimes I wonder why I decided to do this, and then I come across people who are so... well, snotty, about their oenophilia, that I'm reminded.

I stopped at the display tent for a Missouri vineyard and was sampling some of their selections, when this woman comes by and asks to sample one of this vineyard's reds. It just so happened that we were sampling the same wine. After picking up some flavor notes I was unfamiliar with, I asked about the cellaring process for the wine. The vineyard employee explained that this particular wine was aged for eighteen months in a combination of Pennsylvania, Appalachian, and French oaks, then blended together before bottling. The woman, however, felt like she knew better.

"You've let some of this wine age in California oak", she said. The vineyard rep again explained that there was no oak from California involved in the cellaring process. But this woman would not drop the issue. "Oh, no. I distinctly pick up California oak. How long have you been working at your wineyard?" I looked at the vineyard rep, who I later found out was the owner's son, and he simply kept his composure and explained that maybe she had a slightly fatigued palate, or tasting crossover from another booth's samplings. I'm just looking at her thinking, "He works at the vineyard, bitch. He should know about the winemaking process." Her eyes lowered to slits, but before she walked away, she offered another inane suggestion.

The whole exchange got me to thinking - again - if I should really be studying this. I sample new offerings every week at work, attend my fair share of tastings, and write about wine, beer and spirits. One constant in all of this is that I find myself in the company of pretentious idiots like this cunt, all the time. If I had a dollar for every time someone didn't order a wine when I'm behind the bar because they didn't like the label, I'd be a literal millionaire. It happens every time I clock in.

eg. Someone wants a white zinfandel. I offer that the rosé I stock might be a nice alternative for them. Then they ask, "May I see the label?" I pull out the bottle and offer them a sample. They ignore me, study the label, and determine that they don't want it, usually because they never heard of the vineyard, or don't like the label artwork. If I'm feeling feisty that evening and don't want to lost the sale, I'll lightly suggest that the quality of a wine normally is found inside the bottle. Then the person will look at me and snort, "I'll just have a white wine." Thirty minutes later, that person will be back at the bar, saying how they didn't like the wine I poured them. Again, if I'm feeling like I'm down for a fight, I'll remind them that they refused to sample the wine I suggested to them. And it goes downhill form there.

My favorite is the customer who makes me don the Sherlock Holmes hat, and sleuth around trying to figure out what kind of wine they drink. Last week, someone came up to the bar and asked for a glass of wine. I asked, "Do you want red wine? Or white?" The customer asked back, "Why? Is that all you have?" I shot back, "Well, you're the one not being specific, here. That's why I'm forced to play twenty questions with you." Thankfully, it wasn't completely slathered in sarcasm, and I managed to clue her in to our fine rioja selection.

Then there are the buzz wods associated with a wine's character. For an alcoholic beverage made from grapes, the word "grape" is almost never mentioned in a wine's makeup. Vineyards and experts always talk about a wine's legs; the balance between tannins and acidity; esthers; the scents one picks up on the nose; the flavors on the palate and finish; the color; and so on. I can't remember the last time I heard - or said - this wine tastes like a grape.

The point is, they all come across as though they know their wines, if not everything about wine. It's a risible proposition. I think that I've developed a good palate over the years, but I have a long way to go. It's one of the things that I find exciting about studying wine and spirits. The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know. I'm not certain if I'll ever have an encyclopediac knowledge of the subject. I do know that I'd like to write about it in a more layman-like way, because it can be so obsequious, at times. I even find myself guilty of it when I write my wine primers and "beer of the week" posts on Chicagoist. But that's what keeps me coming back, with a notepad and paper. I can't afford a good aroma kit, so the notes help me remember certain scents and flavors.

I do promise, as I move forward, that I'll make my writing on the subject more accessible to casual readers and drinkers. And today is as good as any to start, as the wrinkles from my fingers (from riding 62 miles in the rain) start to fade, I could use some wine to knock the chill from my bones.

As I write this, Karrin Allyson's tribute to John Cotrane's "Ballads" album is playing on the stereo. It's good rainy day music, and she imbues the songs with an infectious personality. She's one of my favorite contemporary jazz singers, along with Cassandra Wilson. I had the opportunity to interview Ms. Allyson a few years back, when her collection of blues songs, "In Blue" was released. I really like that album, as it includes covers of two amazing Oscar Brown, Jr. songs ("Long as You're Living" and "Hum Drum Blues"), but the centerpiece of the record is a smoldering interpretation of Joni Mitchell's "Blue Motel Room."

eMusic has all of Ms. Allyson's. I would recommend both "Ballads" and "In Blue" as an introduction to body of work.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Working on the Weekend

Well, it was either make this in-wall cabinet a bar or use it to store the china for which it was originally designed (another reason to drop things and run to the south side when I invite you to parties here). Anyone who knows me understands that I made the only decision I could. Now I just need some vodka, an armangac, and an aromatic bitter, and I could possibly work from home. With the weather being "baby bear" perfect, I was finally able to adjust the shelves to accommodate the tall bottles of liquor I had in the pantry, then moved my wine/spirits guides and recipe books to the top shelf, with the humidor. I need to find a dozen martini glases for the bottom shelf, some snifters, an ice bin, and a new smoking jacket, then I'll be living in Bachelor Pad Royale

This morning was spent running around, doing errands, and tidying up the place a bit. The police department installed one of those beautiful cameras at 31st and Lituanica, to monitor the gang activity in the Bridgeport Gardens. The folks at Bridgeport Coffee House said that another one's going up at 32nd Place and Morgan. Where I'd really like to see one go up is at the southwest corner of McGuane Park, along 30th and Poplar. That might require the Park Disctrict or Streets and Sanitation actually fixing the street light the gangs keep breaking, so they can whistle to each other in the dark. My fear is that they do that, the camera goes up, then I'm cited for walking around with an unleashed dog. Poetic irony, thy name is Sudo.

Thanks to Ace Hardware, my office now looks like I'm actually doing something important in there. I've got the liquor catalogs on one shelf, financial forms on another, posted bicycle maps for both Chicago and New York City on the wall, and finally threw away the cardboard boxes that stored everything for two years. I even found my Writer's Guide while digging shit out. So I'll be sending out some query letters in the upcoming weeks.

I'm also working on a new code word for Emmy when we go out for our walks. It gets a little frustrating when she doesn't poop, and she looks at me like she did something wrong. I understand that sometimes a dog just can't go, but Emmy doesn't bark unless the mail carrier comes around (she's a sucker for a woman in uniform), so I have no idea what she wants. I've resorted to Pavlovian technique, which I think is cool, bcause she's the smartest mammal in my apartment. I don't know who's training whom during this.

When Emmy comes up to me and nuzzles me with her snout, I'll ask, "What do you want?" Then she'll go into a begging position, and shake my hand. I'll crouch down and ask again, "What do you want?" Emmy starts to pat her feet, so I'll say, "Okay. Show me!"

With that, she'll either run to the kitchen, to let me know she wants food or a treat, or she'll fetch her leash, which states the obvious. If she's fetching the leash, I know she has to go pretty serious. When we get to the park and she starts to hunch in a pooping position, I'll get right up to her and say, "Drop the deuce! Good girl!!" It's my hope that when I say that, Emmy becomes conditioned to actually poop. This should make for some quizzical stares from the neighbors, the morning tai chi groups, and passers by. I'm looking forward to it.

Well, off to the Windy City Wine Festival.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Y'all Hungry?

Next to visiting my friends last weekend, this was the best thing about my weekend in Nashville. That is a breast from the legendary Prince's Hot Chicken Shack. Actually, the meal itself was excellent. Harry, on the other hand, sweated through his shirt eating it, and turned grayer as he ate. He legitimately looked like he was in pain.

Hot chicken is worshipped almost with as much reverence as Jeebus in Nashville. The legend of hot chicken claims that the man who popularized it was a bit of a womanizer, and his girlfriend at the time found out about his tomcatting ways. So, in an effort to extract some revenge on him, doused his fried chicken with enough pepper and spices to fell an elephant. The man liked the chicken so much he asked for seconds, then the recipe, then opened up his own hot chicken shack, and probably kept on slipping around. When we went to Prince's, we got there about an hour before they were open, so we drove aroud a bit. When we returned, there was a line forming outside the door, at least fifteen people. An hour later we had our chicken. Other customers were strolling in and out of the place, cradling their chicken like some illicit drug

If you have on eating at Mirai Sushi, Japonais, Sushi Wabi, Ra Sushi, Japonais, or Heat or a Benihana this weekend, please read this report from Environment Illinois and Got Mercury regarding the mercury levels of tuna served in those restaurants. I'll take the salmon.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I Used to Lust After Them. My Name is Charlie.

"Once upon a time there were three little girls who went to the police acadamey..."

Was it really thirty years ago? I'd cry to my mother to let me watch "Charlie's Angels." She'd always say no, but I kept it up until the opening credits were over. It was the sequence with Jaclyn Smith, the last quick edit, to be specific, where she'd flip her hair around, a feathered bang landing in front of her left eye. I'd then give up the fight and go to bed happy, then get caught at 9:30 sneaking peeks at the show from behind the sofa. At that point Mom would let me stay up, figuring I'd be exposed to T&A sooner or later. I hadn't developed the faculties to realize that what I was feeling inside was the act of pursuing more furtive pleasures with Kelly Garrett. All I knew was that she, and the other angels, were a different form of pretty than my mother. She probably smelled pretty, too.

They've all held up really well. In varying degrees, that is. Like different wines. Look at Farrah, for instance. She would be a bottle of Yellow Tail you find at your local drugstore. It's ubiquitous and everywhere, but you wouldn't let it sit on your rack for years on end, because its bottled for immediate consumption. It still has a pretty looking bottle, though. And if you took it to a wine party, you'd get some raised eyebrows. Ironically, my stepdad used to call Farrah "Yellow Tail." As in "Boy, don't tell your mother, but I wouldn't mind drilling into some of that yellow tail." These days, Farrah's rocking too much exposure to the sun, a possible addiction to pills, and probably had some work done. You still wouldn't scoff at her if she walked past. And she held it together the other night on the Emmys, as well.

Jaclyn Smith aged like a prized burgundy kept in perfect cellaring conditions. She broke out the bangs for one night, along with a gown slit up the front to show off her legs, and tapped into the seven-year-old with horn-rimmed glasses that that still occupies this adult body. For six minutes, I was in 1976 again.

But will you look at Kate Jackson? Sabrina Duncan was always the angel that appealed to me the least. Probably because she never wore a bathing suit; stayed behind with Bosley to run command on the operations; and dressed, let's say, like a tomboy. "Lesbian" was such a gauche, derogatory term in 1976.

Looking at her in that photograph, Kate Jackson looks so soft and, well, womanly. She's an absolute lock for a MILF. If she had grandchildren (I wiki'ed all their personal information before sitting to write this), she'd be entering the rarified air of Grand-MILF (please don't ask me to spell that out. No one's that daft). In that regard, she's like a young merlot tossed in the corner of a basement bar, and ignored for thirty years. But the basement had the proper cellaring conditions, and the wine came around. The tannins softened, and the wine gained this elegance that wasn't noticeable when you first bought it.

When my friend Chris used to live in a loft on Belmont, across the alley from the Alley, he had a neighbor who called herself "Stick", that Chris said looked like Kate Jackson. So Whitley from Ravenswood and I would then ask, "Which one? Kate Jackson circa 'Charlie's Angels', or Kate Jackson around the time of 'Scarecrow and Mrs. King?'" It was really funny when we were smoking dope, 'cause then we'd bring up "The Rookies" and "Dark Shadows." Stick would pass by, and we'd say "Kate Jackson" like Chris would say it, and laugh until we nearly pissed our pants.

Turned out Chris was right all along.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Open Letter to a Wannabe Vigilante

You don't know me. For all I know you might not even be aware of this little thing we call a "weblog." Anyhoo, I hope someone clues you to tis place, so that you read what I have to say.

I moved to Bridgeport seven years ago as a last resort; it turned into a salvation, of sorts. I've grown to accept the neighborhood for what it is, both its treasures and its flaws. Now, I'm far from naive about the increasingly persistent gang activity in the neighborhood. Like you, I'm concerned about it. Unlike you, I prefer to work with established deterrents like the neighborhood watch, local ward office, and police department to prevent further growth.

Apparently, that doesn't provide the necessary results for you. Which is why you went throughout the neighborhood in the middle of the night, posting on every trash can, light pole, and flat surface a notice that you were looking for like-minded people to "take our neighborhood BACK!!" from the - and I quote - "Latin Kings, wetback Mexicans, and nigger gangs." Nice of you to be so broad-minded and inclusive.

Speaking as someone who utilizes McGuane Park in some fashion everyday, let me state for the record that most of the gangbangers I've seen in that park are white kids, some of them so dopey looking that I wouldn't trust them with a loaded water pistol. None of them have tried to intimidate me, and all of them just go about minding their business, which is mainly sitting on the bleachers all day.

You also printed your phone numbers on the flyers, which I guess is helpful, in the chance you find like-minded bigots individuals for the cause. There're some problems with that, though (and that doesn't include the rash of justifiably angry crank calls you've probably been fielding all day):

  1. Your particular choice of words opens you up to possible prosecution for a hate crime, should any concerned citizen decide to run those phone numbers through reverse directory assistance (as I did), find out where you live, and have a warrant sworn out for your arrest.
  2. Those "Latin Kings, wetback Mexicans, and nigger gangs" could also run your numbers through reverse directory assistance, start vandalizing your house, and harrassing you and your family.
  3. The last thing the police need is some epithet-spewing hothead challenging possibly armed youths who think they have nothing to lose by dropping you like a stone.
In an announcement rife with faux pas, leaving your phone number was the worst one. Anyway, I posted the photo of the Willa Cather quote for your benefit, as well. I shot it in Nashville over the weekend, outside a Christian music store. She's one of my favorite writers, and was also a lesbian, so it's slightly ironic that the stone was outside the store. You might have called her a "dyke" or "carpet muncher." I thought of this quote when I read your notice ths morning, and could only believe that if you spent some time acclimating yourself with your current surroundings, instead of biding your time on wistful nostalgia, the folks you singled out might eventually be recognized as "human."

Friday, August 25, 2006

Hey Stoopid!

So here's an example of how emotions override common sense at the most inopportune moment. I came home from work last night and picked up Emmy from Sue, my downstairs neighbor. After leashing the dog, we headed to the park for the final walk of the evening. The light turns green and as we're crossing Halsted, this kid comes barreling through the crosswalk, head down and fists pumping. I yell for him to look up and look out, but it's too late. He crashes full speed into Emmy, gets his legs wrapped up in her leash, and falls flat on street.

The sensible thing would have been to check on the kid and see if he needed attention. What did I do? I looked down at him on the street, while he was checking his knees for scrapes, and said, "You ... STUPID!!!" and continued to the park.

The kid was stunned. So was I, as we got to the park before the light turned red. As I checked Emmy for scrapes and bruises, she hopped up on my knee, merely frightened at the whole experience, I repeated that mantra to myself. I'm probably twenty-five years older than that kid, and he was just being a kid. A stupid kid? Maybe. But we were all stupid kids once. I should have just gone all the way and called him a "doo-doo head."

I was reminded of last night this evening. Sue, the Professor, and I went to Picante Grill for a three-course dinner with drinks made with Cielo tequila. The turnout was huge, which pleased both Sue and I, as we've been supporters of Picante since the place opened. I don't think that Picante was expecting the turnout they actually had, however, as it took a while to receive each course.

The tequila, on the other hand, flowed like water. When we made it to our table, there were three shots of Cielo already waiting for us - a shot each of blanco, reposado, and anejo. A few minutes after we sat down, we received a pomengranate margarita. We promptly sucked these down as we listened to an overbearing Cielo representative quote rankings given to the tequila from the Beverage Tasting Institute. It seemed like every time we started to tear into our food courses, he would bring everything to a grinding halt, pimping the tequila. It would just suck the festive atmosphere out of the room. He could have told us to get the forks out of our gaping maws and it wouldn't have been as bad as "Okay. Excuse me. If I can get your attention for a moment."

Then he'd go into his sell, and I'd sit at the booth, correcting him in a low voice. "This is distilled from 100 percent blue agave," he'd said. "Most tequilas are these days," I mumbled, "that's the first thing I get out of the way when I get sales calls. 'Let's just assume I know it's 100 percent blue agave and move on, alright?'" "Notice that hint of honey and pepper in the blanco?" he'd ask. And I'd reply to Sue and Professor, "That's not pepper and honey. That's cream on the palate, and charring from the roasting of the agave hearts." I knew that because a few months back I sat down with someone from the distillery, sampled Cielo, and gave my thoughts to the guy. When you hear sales pitches like that every week, it's hard to sit through them when you're trying to enjoy a dinner. I really felt like pissing in the pool and asking him why Cielo didn't taste like Cabo Wabo.

Another thing with Cielo tequila is that the quality seems to decrease with aging. I think it might be because they're thinking too much about the casking process, trying to get too creative. "We use brandy, bourbon, and sherry casks, then blend the three together", our emcee said. I thought, "So that's why the anejo tastes like ass?" I almost had to ask for salt and lime, and I haven't done that since I became legally old to drink.

We were asked to pair our shot of anejo with the flan, our dessert. And it almost ruined it. But when you're making a margarita, few tequilas suck. An hour after the dinner started, we drank our blanco and reposado samples, the pomengranate margarita, had both a regular margarita and tequila mojito in front of us, and our entrees were nowhere to be found. Soon enough, we picked up on the waiter's tendency to mention that our drinks were made with Cielo reposado. To get our minds off the fact that we were quickly becoming hammered, Sue and I started ending our sentences with "Cielo reposado."

"I'm gonna have a smoke outside, with Cielo reposado."

"While you're doing that, I'm gonna take a piss, with Cielo reposado."

After a snafu that saw me pay for the tab, we headed to the Skylark for a nightcap. Upon entering, we noticed someone that I hadn't seen in a while, who bounded up to me with some enthusiasm. Sue was apparently checking out the body language between the two of us. After exchanging pleasantries, this acquaintance excused herself for some fresh air. Sue looked at me and said, "Go talk to her."

"What?" I said.

"I think she's letting you know she's interested."

"No she's not."

"Chuck, just go over and talk to her. What have you got to lose?"

Instead, I sat on my stool, like a tool. She decided to strike up a conversation with someone in the back, then gathered her things a few moments later, and left with her party. As she's leaving, I remembered the inscription on Charles Bukowski's tombstone, "Don't try."

We chatted briefly, then I remembered something she told me once, about wanting to tour a chocolate factory. I asked her if she still wanted to do that. She said she would, but that Blommers doesn't do tours anymore. "How about a brewery tour?" I asked. She allowed that she'd be interested. She turned to leave, and I grabbed her hand.

"So how do I contact you, then?" I asked.

"I can find you," she answered, "you're all over the internet. You're a whore."

In the distance, I saw one of her party come back inside to check on her. I let go of her hand and said, "Better get back to your man." Walking to the exit, she turned her head and gave me a look over her shoulder. Sue asked what I said. I replayed the conversation for her. She said, "Well, it's a start."

Inside, I kept repeating, "You ... STUPID!!!"

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Heng Dai

There are pancakes, and there are pancakes "Deadwood" style.

Enjoy the frontier Shakespeare, cocksuckers.

Slow Week

After the hectic weekend, running around, getting the backyard ready for company, and grilling like a fiend, it's nice to have sort of a slow week, for a change. By Saturday night I was exhausted. As usual, I bought way too much stuff for a gathering. So we moved the beer can chicken to Sunday (word of advice: use a honey bourbon glaze for the skin), and I now have plenty of leftovers.

Monday night was spent eating foie gras right before the city's ban on the delicacy takes effect. Alderman Joe Moore, who speahheaded the ordinance, looked absolutely clueless when asked to defend the ordinance on "Chicago Tonight" this evening. The question was asked, "If Mayor Daley hadn't lost power, would this ban had passed?" And everyone said no. It should be noted that Mayor Daley hasn't "lost power", he's busy running damage control after the Hired Truck scandal, violating the Shakman decree, and having his patronage chief convicted in a City Hall hiring scandal. But, like Don Rumsfeld said in the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion, "Democracy is sometimes messy."

And also lacking in common sense.

I'll be heading down to Nashville this weekend to see my friends Harry and Monika, and their darling daughter Lily. The last time I was down there they enlisted my brawn in moving into their new home. I'm hoping to keep manual labor to a minimum this weekend, except to go eat hot chicken at Prince's, and meat and three wherever we can find it.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Fan Mail

Wanna ask again why I don't enable comments here? Check out this from my write-up of the New Maxwell Street Market, posted by "FU Chuck":

Old Maxwell was a rotten rat-infested shithole that only deserved landmark status in the gangster hall of fame.

"Read the chapters on "Bloody Maxwell" in Gem of the Prairie if you think it was ever anything but that. You could also read "Barney Ross" if you want to know what kids coming out of that neighborhood had to overcome.

"The new Maxwell Street, aka University Village, is a thousand times better and a thousand times more useful to the city and to the world than that rotten stinking slum ever was.

"Admit it, Chuckie-wuckie: YOU are just disappointed that YOU can't go down on Sunday to see the "ghetto knee-grow" in his natural habitat like you were fucking going to Brookfield Zoo you useless piece of shit.

"I hope you choke to death on your next Taco, you fucking white pig asshole."

I'd love to refute the comments, but can't, since the author has such conviction behind the comment that he or she left no e-mail address for me to respond. It only leaves me to speculate who might have written it. Maybe it was left by someone who is involved in some way at Junior's Sports Lounge or Morgan's, which I decribed in the article as "polished turds" (and I was being nice, by the way). Or maybe it was written by a patron of the former whose sex life has really taken off since discovering rohypnol.

Regardless, if the author of those comments wants to discuss this matter and winds up reading this, show some stones and e-mail this "fucking white pig asshole" directly. I doubt you will, as you might wish to stand behind the anonymity of a keyboard - like the bitter, reactionary and spineless individual you came across as to me by leaving the comment - but the offer's out there.

Friday, August 18, 2006

My Favorite Thing This Week

Here's the Buddy Guy video I posted on Chicagoist Monday.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sometimes you Wait a Lifetime For a Moment Like This

This is worth going the insomnia I'm suffering right now. The video is of Kelly Clarkson joining the cover band Metal Skool onstage for some off-key singing of "Sweet Child O' Mine." She also drinks some Chivas Regal straight from the bottle.

That's awesome.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

She's Seen Better Days

She's Seen Better Days
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

And so have I. Of course, the only thing I have to complain about is that I was late for a meeting that I didn't have high hopes for anyway this morning. And even that turned out to be a golden opportunity, once I settled down.

Went to St. Jerome's Croatian fest this evening. The smell of barbecue in the air was a precursor for the weekend, when I open the backyard for some Bridgeport hospitality. I ate some clams, some fried dough, ice cream from Original Rainbow Cone, and gawked at those pretty gerls (ruining their skin at the tanning salon).

Ladies, please don't become addicted to the tanning salon, or you'll wind up in worse shape than the Ramova.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Greetings, all Bridgeport residents of Asian American descent. We've watched with curious eyes for years as you step out of the way, and in some cases into oncoming traffic, to avoid the dogs of this neighborhood. Just the other day, one of you nearly briskly walked your way to oblivion trying to avoid a pomeranian, only to bring traffic to Sox Park to a halt (Emerald is hell on game nights, especially with the Dan Ryan as jacked up as it is).

I believe that the only way to conquer your fears is to meet them head on. I know that in in your country of origin you don't have much opportunity to acclimate yourselves with dogs, and, in the few cases you do, they might be trained to maul you in order to force a confession that you've been practicing with the Falun Gong, whether you do so or not.

In that regard, allow me to introduce you to the neighborhood's newly appointed canine ambassador, Emmylou. She's never bitten anyone, always makes the first move of introduction, loves treats, chases little blue balls and streams of water with equal vigor, and is the smartest mammal in this household not typing on a keyboard. I'm also teaching her how to kick around a soccer ball right now. So, if you're practicing morning tai chi in McGuane Park and you see her sidling up to you like a shark, don't be afraid; Emmy's just breaking the ice. Just say "Good morning" and scratch her behind the ears a couple times. She'll be on her way finishing her walk with me, and you'll have taken that first step to conquering your fear.

Thank you.