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.