Thursday, December 21, 2006

Baby Love, My Baby Love

And, now, the latest in baby animal adorableness.

This is Anton. He is a dwarf baby hippo, born in a Rotterdam (Netherlands) zoo. Read more about him...if you know Dutch, that is.

Friday, November 10, 2006

They Smile In Your Face/All The Time They Wanna Take Your Place

I witnessed a defining moment the other night at the House of Blues.

hustle Slang. to earn one's living by illicit or unethical means.

Fig. 1: lyric from Kevin Federline's "rap music concert:"

"My name's K-Federline/Ben Franklin's a good friend of mine"

Fig. 2: lyric from Kevin Federline's "rap music concert:"

"I got 50 mill. /I can do whatever I want "

Fig. 3: lyric from Kevin Federline's "rap music concert:"

I come tight with every rhyme/I built a kingdom down the street from Pepperdine/This marijuana got me heavily sedated/I'm Kevin Federline America's most hated (what!)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Wait Until That Deal Come Round

So how do I get to be one of those chicks that fake-astonishedly opens the suitcases on that NBC guessing game show that stars Howie Mandel's bald pate?

Because that looks like a too-good-to-be-true job.

And it's definitely better than being that underbite girl in the Yoplait "it tastes like karma wrapped in yoga wrapped in chocolate" yogurt commercial.

And there it is, the conundrum that is why I never pursued stardom.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Why Is It I'm Digging Your Scene?

Truly, this is the last kind of music I expected to hear within the first five minutes of my stay in Dallas last week. Mid-Eighties British one-hit wonders who aren't Kajagoogoo? I was expecting some...I dunno--Waylon Jennings. Waylon and Willie and the Boys, you know? Some outlaw country?

Like when Waylon sang in "Lukenbach, Texas" about gettin' back to the basics of love:

The only two things in life that make it worth livin'
Is guitars that tune good and firm feelin' women

Could there be anything more not-Texan than a 24 year-old British ponce prancing in a pompadour, eyeliner and lipgloss, singing "I know I'll dieeeeeee, bay-ay-beeeeeee??"

Sure enough, when it came time to leave, bright pop hits of the Eighties were still laying an absurd pall over the already spiritless, brown-carpet bleakness of the DFW airport.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Run, Rabbit, Run

In the time-honored tradition of other blogs I admire (imitation=flattery, y'all), I hereby institute


Because what's better to ease you into the weekend than a Friday-morning spin of some Floyd?

I've never been a pothead, so I delight in chillaxing with the Floyd when the day is tastily stretched out ahead of me, weekday pressures are gone.

There was a period of time where anyone who came to my two-residences-ago coach house apartment was forced to listen to the interlude on the first track of Dark Side of the Moon where "Speak to Me" effervesces into "Breathe." Even in my crumbly attic apartment with the weird ceiling-stuccoed walls, you can just imagine Dark Side of the Moon being played up to the stars, as it was in 1972 at a launch party at the London Planetarium. Better that than synchronizing it with a DVD of The Wizard of Oz. I just don't think anything should interfere with the Floyd -- except perhaps embellishments of their own design.

Oh, and record scratches.
I gotta get a turntable. Til then my own copy of DSOTM is as useful as a placemat.

Next: Steely Dan Sunday!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Starry, Starry Night

I just heard this song.

While I do have a particularly pungent loathing for "American Pie" not only due to its exhausting length but some bad experiences with it involving microwave popcorn, a college dorm lobby, and twenty over-hormoned high school drama students, I truly heard the lyrics to this song just now, and--damn. It's gorgeous.

Maybe because I just saw Vincent yesterday at the Art Institute...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Say Say Say What You Want

Today in WTF?

1. Abuse allegations should always be investigated, but I'm sorry, can you really imagine the Cute Beatle chugging some Chivas and telling his wife's chest, "Those are mine"?

2. Couldn't baby- (and media-) hungry Mama Madge have found a child that was entirely an orphan?

3. Gina Lollabrigida can finally marry? A man 34 years younger?

Who cares. You go, ragazza!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

We Walk Away, Maybe Then Shake Hands

I have a secret.

I love "But Anyway" by the Blues Traveler, despite the cloying harmonica and patchouli reek. It's got such a great groove. Whoever is their drummer is a pretty good drummer. And I heard them play it for the 7 minutes I watched them at Lollapalooza in August.

Good God, Allmusic tells me this song is from 1990!

Cripey. I was placing it at an entirely different time, say 96 or 97, round about the time the Bob Dylan's hot son was singing in the Top Ten in his leather jacket.

What's clear is that this decade has entered its second half, and I need to get into the first. Maybe I should start with, say, OK GO. That will get me up to at least 2002...

Monday, October 16, 2006

All The Little Ants Are Marching

If Dave Matthews and John Mayer had a musical child and James Blunt was its godfather, I think you'd get this band, Brothermandude.

I heard them on Radio Paradise today--my new favorite internet radio station--"eclectic," but not in that repetitive, Melissa Etheridge- and Bruce Cockburn-loving AAA format pioneered by WXRT in Chicago. They bring the Pixies and love to light up and spin some Pink Floyd, and (right now even!) Zeppelin. Like, if XRT and The Drive had a child and then vaccinated it against Norah Jones and Phish, you'd get Radio Paradise.

However, with a name like "Brothermandude," I can't help but picture lots of brown suede fringe and marimbas on stage and "Fighting Cocks" baseball caps in the crowd. Like if Lenny Kravitz and Dane Cook had a child and it was raised by Ani DiFranco and babysat by the Indigo Girls--that would be a Brothermandude concert.

And their name would be uttered numberless times, as in, "Brothermandude, get my cheeb out of the toe of my Timberlands while my girlfriend who's taking a semester off from Duke picks out my white dreads while we sit on a Mexican blanket in the lush hills outside of Charlottesville. And pass me another can of the Beast."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

He Is Your Marrow/And Your Ride Home

Postscript to Brown-Eyed Blue Line Emo Boy,

I saw you again tonight, this time at the Damen station. I ran into a friend and as she and I walked down the east-side stairs, you came down the west. We were on the same train.

Tonight you wore a sporty Timberland-type coat and a backpack. But I knew it was you when I saw those eyes--and that tuft of hair that juts from the right side of your head.

I didn't see your cassette player and headphones; tonight, were you just listening to your thoughts?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

You Came Back To Haunt Me

Don't blog drunk.

Add it to the list of other technology off-limits after three-quarters of a bottle of German white wine: texting, IM, email.

Just don't.

Friday, October 06, 2006

I Don't Care What They Say About Us Anyway, I Don't Care About That

An Open Letter to the Emo Boy with the Sweet Brown Eyes on the Blue Line, Thursday, October 5, 7:30pm

Dear Emo Boy,

First of all, let me say that I like your tilted haircut.

You were reading a small paperback, folded over, like a Sixties or Seventies Penguin or Avon edition of something classic. It was slim enough to be Siddartha, but too small for Atlas Shrugged or Foucault's Pendulum. And I don't think Emo boys read Bukowski, that was really favored by the post-punk malcontent boys of my own era.

Because the thing is, Emo Boy, while I was struck by your ragged but clean boyishness, I recognized there's a Lake Michigan of age that laps our shores. I mean, the small paperback volume I have at home that resembles yours is The Awakening, which I would not have understood whatsoever when I was 22 and listening to Matthew Sweet's "I Thought I Knew You" when I wanted to really work up some sentimental anguish over something or someone, just like you probably listen to Joan of Arc sometimes and stare stonily out the train window instead of reading your novelette.

Would you mind that I like to sing along with circa 1988-90 George Michael?

But seriously, I think your book looked interesting, whatever it was (from Myopic?), and so handy since you could hold the door rail and read as we lumbered under Milwaukee Avenue.

After we both exited the train at Damen, I noticed the Walkman cassette player clipped to your studded belt. You listen to tapes! What were you listening to? It couldn't have been too sad because you seemed--without even knowing you--cheerful...? I don't want to scare you off or anything, but Emo Boy, I have so many tapes. I even purged like three-quarters of them, and they still fill a filebox to its brim. Maybe we could listen to tapes together sometime? I know, I know, there's probably very little in that box that interests you, maybe the New Order Power, Corruption and Lies tape that was a used copy even when I found it. Or The Dream of the Blue Turtles might just make you chuckle since I bought it the year you were born. Then again, if you are listening to tapes on a cassette Walkman, you must be listening to older stuff, because I don't really know if Jets To Brazil releases tapes, do they? I haven't bought a new album on tape since 2000, when you could still get them at that short-lived Coconuts on Damen. And, okay, I admit it: Kylie Minogue's Fever was the tape I bought there, maybe because it was less shameful the less money I spent on it--but have you ever heard that song? La-la-la, la-la, lala-la, la-la-la, la-la, lala-la, Can't Get You Out of My Head? It's fierce.

Anyway, maybe we listen to some tapes, I still have a stereo with cassette player...we can meet in the middle with some Bowie? Some "Moonage Daydream?"

You know, Emo Boy, when I was your age had our own Emo, and it was called Weezer. Well, they are still called Weezer, but I think they were/are Emo. What do you think? I mean, I think when I sang (and sing) along with "Say It Ain't So," it feels like what Emo should feel like, despondent but...literate, angry--but a rage mild enough to throw only a sentimentally-saved bouquet of dead flowers in the garbage.

Which is what I think I saw in your huge bear-brown eyes: intelligence, with a capacity for woe. Like in The Great Gatsby, how Nick can see Myrtle Wilson's "tremendous vitality" in her dead, gaping mouth when she's dead in the Valley of Ashes.

Now, that's something that actually sounds like Emo.

Maybe you can explain it to me over chai lattes at Earwax? Hopefully they will play the Police box set while we're there, and it'll mist with cold, grey rain outside.

Until then, I'm yours, wistfully,

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Bullet The Blue Sky

This afternoon, the sky over the lake looked like the Simpsons title sequence, little white clouds stippling the blue arc, all the way to Michigan.

I need to start carrying my camera around again. Once I empty the memory card of the 15 shots I took of seagulls in Virginia Beach.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I Just Hope You Understand Sometimes The Clothes Do Not Make The Man

George (whose real name is Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, actually. Now there's some Greek Cypriot for ya), was found in the middle of Sunday night alone in his car, having enjoyed that peaceful, easy feeling so much he fell asleep at the wheel. I mean, yeah, sometimes pot makes a person sleep, but come on, honey. I wish he'd straighten up a bit, keep toking and swilling in the club or the manse. I've always liked him: Straight George, Gay George, Fluffy-Haired George, Choose Life T-Shirt George, Tight Blue Jeans, Guitar-Wearing But Not Playing George, even Getting-Felt-Up- In-a-Beverly-Hills-Public-
Toilet George.

This man, this man has a voice like cold mountain air--so good and clear it hurts. I mean, even the high note on "Wake Me Up (Before You Go-Go), when he cries, "I wanna hit that hiiiiigggggggh"--oo, baby, that's some good stuff, and I don't care who you want to grope in the dark and what you have in the felt-lined glove compartment of your Merc. "Freedom 90?" I pretty much collapse into paroxysms of joy when I hear that song. Here's a singer who in his tender twenties made the Daryl Hall's blue-eyed soul sound shit-brown.

Strip away the cheesy synth strings from "A Different Corner," and the accompanying mid-80s video with its all-white, my-baby-left-me-laying-on-this-chaise drama that David Brent aped in his own video in The Office--godalmighty, that voice. I'll let you YouTube that one yourself, because you need to hear this track from the Faith album, one that was somewhat overshadowed by the "I Want Your Sex" controversy (it was bleeped on pop radio in Kentucky to play as "I want your woo-woo") and the supermodels pouting and prancing in his videos.

Forget the gregarious jook-joint sidemen and the lazy old electric fan and the guitar he never plays, and listen to his mountainous frigging range:

Maybe what he needs is...a Father Figure.

Yeah, I said it.

No, no, seriously, George--why can't you set your monkey free??

Alright, I'll shut up now and go sing along to "Freedom 90" and shimmy around the computer again.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Let Me Get My Hands On Your Mammary Glands

Top Reasons I Think The Two Chicks I Saw On Michigan Avenue Today Were Playboy Models

1. Michigan Avenue at Pearson? Less than six blocks from Playboy HQ on Lake Shore Drive.

2. Their preternaturally thin and blond hair with same baby-chick yellow streaking pattern and exact butt-length, curved cut.

3. Twins. They were twins. Wearing the same velvet jacket, one in turquoise and one in magenta.

4. No distinct asses visible in their generously decorated Miss Sixty or Juicy Couture (had to be)jeans. I guarantee the majority of Playboy models don't have expansive lady humps.

5. boobs for that matter, either, but there was the obstructing jacket (see number 3).

6. They seemed visibly disappointed that the Mag Mile Victoria's Secret temporarily closed for renovations.

7. Fake fingernails, too long to survive pole dancing, but perfect for accentuating a glitter-powdered and moistened body part.

8. Sounded like (once I fumblingly shut off my digital player) they were speaking a throaty Slavic language. I hope it was Swedish. Swedish twins. See?

9. They scurried onto the Filene's escalator (the longest anywhere, except maybe the Dupont Circle Metro station in DC. I think my ears popped from the change in air pressure coming up that monster) to shop there. Not Bloomingdales. Not Escada. Not Stuart Weitzman. Definitely not Borders.

10. I think they thought I was looking at them. See? They're used to be looked at as objects.

10a. Cause I just think so.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

That Long Cool Woman Had It All

This is what a real feminist looks like:

"Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did,”
then-Texas governor Ann Richards told the crowd, and the nation, at the 1988 Democratic National Convention.

[smiling, Texas barbeque sauce-dripping pause here]

“She just did it backwards and in high heels.”

And a what a real Southern lady looks like:

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Carb Carb Carb Starts With "C"

Me like lowfat, low-carb, sugar-free cookie now!

Me love melon, grape, and bah-nan-ah!

Me succumb to media-fueled paranoia about our obese nation and its love for the quick fix and disdain for moderation!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Oh Telephone Line, Give Me Some Time

I'm playing a wicked game* that occasionally pops up at work. Voicemail War transpires when you call my work phone and you hang up on my voicemail. Then you call again and Caller ID identifies you (and keep in mind often I don't answer the phone, even when I actually can answer it and I'm not in the middle of talking to someone at the door or my hand isn't buried in a box of Cheez-Its. As a general rule, I kick it to VM. I did my time, thankee), and you hang up again. And you call again, maybe even from your cell phone this time, trying to trick me with a different number but leaving me the same tinged-with-anger "cl-clumpk." And thus and so allllll the August afternoon long.

Because only freaks phone a reputable place of professional business repeatedly every ten to twenty minutes, listen to the entire outgoing message, and then hang up without leaving a message on the voicemail.

And why would I want to talk to a freak, freaks?

*not in the surfer-slang sense but rather in Chris Isaak nomenclature

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Planet Earth Is Blue And There's Nothing I Can Do

Our solar system would have 12 planets instead of nine under a proposed ''Big Bang'' expansion by leading astronomers, changing what billions of schoolchildren are taught.
Scientists have determined that there may be up to three additional planets in our solar system. But then they also can't seem to agree on what a planet actually. That's why over 2,000 astronomers are meeting in Prague to hold brainstorming sessions before they agree and vote on a universal definition of a "planet."

And theTribune explains that
The new definition, which will be up for a vote at the convention in Prague next week, states that a planet would be any star-orbiting object massive enough that its own gravity shapes it into a sphere, more or less.

Are they going to squint at some PowerPoint slides over coffee and Czech pastries? Speaking of coffee, isn't this all sounding a bit like a celestial Folger's commercial? "We've secretly replaced the fine nine-planet Solar System with twelve star-orbiting objects massive enough to shape itself into a sphere!"

So yeah, they are saying that if an "object" in space is round, then it's a planet. Objects that would qualify as new planets are the asteroid Ceres (obviously getting a helluva upgrade); 2003 UB313, the farthest-known object in the solar system that's nicknamed Xena (obviously discovered by a nerd or a lesbian, or both); and Pluto's moon, Charon. But wait a minute, hasn't Pluto's own identity as a planet been in question since--well, since we studied the Solar System in 5th grade and I made that planet Jupiter diorama by painting a styrofoam ball orange (with a spot of black) and hanging it by an unbent paperclip and fishing line inside a Kinney's shoebox painted?

What's next? More Gas Giants?

You know what? I'm just going to go on what Jack Horkheimer (thank God you're still alive!) has to say:

''The solar system is a middle-aged star, and like all middle-aged things, its
waistline is expanding."

Thanks, Stargazer!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Never Going Back Again


You did this to me once.

Don't do it again.

Someone wake me up when the leggings and skinny jeans thing is kaput. I'll be sleeping, nestled under a pile of everyone's cast-off 501s and wide-leg Banana Republic trousers and shrug-sweaters.

Someone has it out for us, and I want to know who.

I don't blame you, O Material One. You seem more concerned with being the strictest renounced-Catholic mother on the planet, even if you don't dress all tight-bunned and frumpy like that.

No, it's someone more like that Keebler Elf stylist (she's 33? yeah, right) who "styles" (?) looks for walking tongue depressors like Nicole Ritchie and that other one who goes with Legolas.

Why in the hell would I wear anything that not only gives me bad dairy-caliber abdominal cramps, but also squeezes flesh out of both the top and bottom of it, like some perverse tube of chocolate-chip cookie dough?

I ain't Pillsburying myself that way.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Never Been A Better Time Than Right Now

Okay, I lied.

I went (free Lolla wristband).

I saw.

I sat in the dirt.

I drank some cherry-red slushy thing with Southern Comfort in it.

Oh, and they were there, too, playing into the sunset. Gorgeous.

Friday, August 04, 2006

I'm A Low Brow But I Rock a Little Know How

Lollapalooza version 3.0 started about four hours ago.

Three days.

150 bucks.

130 bands.

200,000 people (30,000 of which will be sporting beards or boots, I would wager)

Zero chance in hell of getting me to go.

I'll spend the weekend with friends and pop in a few cds that remind me of my first Lolla, 1992, Alpine Valley (where the falafel was six dollars and the wait for a soda was an hour, and the Ministry mosh pit made a crop circle on the lawn).

And I'll remember this especially:

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Letting The Days Go By

This video is from 1980, and even against the digital pyrotechnics, hi-def hijinks, and teensy-tinsy fiber-optic filaments of today, it's arresting.

There's minimal camera tricks, which at the time consisted of the squiggly dissolves, rushing close-ups and split-screen cheesiness found in auto dealer and K-Tel commercials, and no crouching tigers, stomping supermodels, pretend espionage, "concert" sequences, or, actually, any musical instruments at all--not surprising from the Downtown-est of the big Downtown NYC groups that were finally lining their pockets with dead presidents in the 80s.

Just the knife-sharp surprise, needling anxiety, and thrumming regret of a life not-lived channeled only through Byrne's beany body bending and herky-jerking, making the busiest ode to idleness--one of my favorite songs, duh--that much better.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

It's The Eye Of The Wiener, It's The Thrill Of The Fight

The Milwaukee Brewers unveiled (unwrapped?) the newest competitor in its beloved Sausage Race, the Chorizo.

Fans were able to meet the meat Saturday night, when he came in a disappointing third place, behind Bratwurst and Italian Sausage. But because the new wiener (yes, I said it) has not yet been fully approved for the home game contest, El Picante (yes, that's his name) has been sent down to the minor leagues for

...wait for it

...wait for it


Friday, July 28, 2006

Good Times Never Seemed So Good

Milwaukee lost one of its most fortunate sons this week, Lightning of Milwaukee's--well, "America's"--Singing Sweethearts, Lightning and Thunder (check out this website, it's a fussy, antiquated delight. Like divnity fudge).

Lightning was a singer who entertained countless thousands of Wisconsin State Fair munchers and, back in The Day, hundreds of hipster (for Milwaukee) types like myself who'd heard about their jaw-droppingly cheesy and footstomping sets at Alioto's on Jackson downtown. Lightning, in fact, married his partner, Thunder, in a widely-recounted and fondly-remembered ceremony during a set break in front of their fans at the 1994 State Fair. I think I knew someone who knew someone who was there. Hell, everybody did.

Thunder sings the best of Patsy Cline with a sweet, clear treble, and expanded her repetoire to ABBA and some Blondie as more and more chain-smoking, Leinie's-chugging kids showed up to their Saturday (or was it Friday?) Alioto's gigs.

But it was Lightning, short and sequined, voice graveled just so by Pall Malls or Newports (I may be taking bloggers license because my memory is shoddy, but--someone back me up, dude smoked, didn't he?), inhabiting Neil Diamond and his sonorous repetoire so thoroughly that you'd be on your feet, jumping in the air, spilling your vodka-cranberry and shouting TODAY! TODAY! Toooooo-DAAAAAAAAAY! when he'd end the set with "America," stomping his Beatle boots on top of Alioto's formica bar. Lightning always had an endless supply of Bartz's Party Store costume scarves to hand out to all the pretty girls and drunk guys (cause Robert has at least one).

Oh sure, they opened for Urge Overkill at the Metro (which we called "Cabaret Metro" back then) in 1993--and, hey, simmer down, that's no small feat since that was the peak of Saturation's saturation, that "UO" rising like a nefarious spaceship not only over a perfunctory skyline on the album cover, but everywhere--and sang "Forever In Bluejeans" with Eddie Vedder at the Marcus Ampitheatre Pearl Jam show in '95, and--this just in--played to the real hipster kids at Danny's in Bucktown in Chicago. And the Sun-Times paid tribute to the man known on his South-side Milwaukee streets and his Vietnam vet buddies as Mike Sardina. But Lightning and Thunder were, way back then, and, because I felt such a surprising gasp and gloom at the news of Lightning's passing to that great America in the sky, always, ours.

God, next thing you know, the Pepperoni/Cannoli Guy's gonna go.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

There Are Different Names For The Same Thing

When You're Back in Your Old Neighborhood

Wilco played at Summerfest two weeks ago, on a Wednesday night. The show was as buoyant as Milwaukee by the lake that night--the air held none of the typically humid secrets of July. Bell-clear and true.

I think some of my weakened heartseams (or, perhaps, there's a "god-shaped hole" there) were cauterized during that show. You know how that coming-full-circle thing works.

And maybe that's because it was as satisfying as the gentle summer collision of two of my favorite things--which is what I heard from the soon-to-be-jazzless WBEZ as I glided up my street at 2am that night after the show, Coltrane's "My Favorite Things"--could possibly be.

The way-past past was verged at that show, too.

In 1991, my first Summerfest (and first summer living on my own), John and Mike and I puttered down Lincoln Memorial Drive to the Fest in Mike's Festiva, a ladybug-sized four-speed that had made the trip from the Minneapple with nary a burble, but probably four tanks of gas (and in which, later that summer, we squeezed seven people--I know, I was in the hatchback with my roommate, God help us--and dragged rusty ass down 94 to Chicago). On that, my first Summerfest Fourth of July, though, XTC's "Earn Enough For Us" thumped from the speakers that probably cost as much as that Ford. I felt shimmeringly happy at that moment, I remember, the lake air coming in the windows, and a twelve-string guitar rolling out, sandwiched with my two best guy friends.

Which is yet another Favorite Thing.

Fifteen (!) years later, reunited with the Smiley-Face Fest under the Hoan Bridge in Milwaukee. And even though that's widely cherished (and ripped) as a bridge to Nowhere, a straight shot that carries traffic aloft over the Lakefront and Port of Milwaukee, and then dumps you into a flicker's nest of off- and on-ramps and dunes by Bayview, I realized that now it formed a circle for me -- still "loving rock n roll," the night, and guy friends.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

If You Are Confused, Check With the Sun

I went for a run this sunny afternoon along the lakefront. It's typically a panoply of tourists, beach bums, bartenders who don't have to punch in til 6, but this week was especially bustling. There was some kind of special event going on today, with one of those wedding-reception tents with the clear "windows" thrown up at the crescent of Lake Shore Drive. I suspect the occupants, who were sipping drinks and being exhorted to "join a volleyball game!" by some tool on a microphone in the dark recesses of the tent are fans and participants of the 2006 Gay Games.

As such, I do think I will be appearing in some Swiss gayletes' pan shot of the Lakefront, cause he didn't dip that teensy 600-dollar camera down when I ran by.

Later I encountered six Mormon proselytizers on glistening on bicycles, round about where the homeless and homeless-looking gather to play chess on those permanent boards (I wonder if one could spread some checkers out on one of those boards and not get a can of Fanta thrown at one's head?).

Amd, yes, they wear those crisp white shirtsleeves and skinny black ties, even on bikes. They sort of looked like a nerd/ska band on the way to play a gig at the Gay Games Volleyball Action Tent.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful Boy

Oh my God. Look at the cute baby Beluga whale!

He was born just yesterday at the Shedd Aquarium.

If only we all came into the world with--and kept--big, shy smiles like that.

And a teeny-tiny waterspout to toot when you're especially happy that the sun is warm.

You want to sing like John Lennon to him,

"Life is what happens to you
While you're busy making other plans."

...or busy looking at this cute photo. I can't seem to Step. Away. From. The. Photo.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Hotter Than A Match Head

It's one of the hottest days of the year. I feel slow and beachy, because that's what the weather is. No one should be around this much concrete when it's hot. Sand, salt spray, and shiny lizards--not huffing BMW X5s and waddling tourists sweating in their Crocs. I need a Bahama Mama and a floaty noodle and the Gulf. Pronto.

Instead, here's a photo taken on Virginia Beach from December--New Year's Eve. It was about 60 that evening.

Today's the kind of day you curse the Great Chicago Fire of 1871: brick, true to form, holds heat, as in all day long, resulting in an excruciating night on sweaty sheets. I miss the fake-brick, stapled-on siding and clapboard charm of Milwaukee, where there wasn't a conflagration that decimated some 2,000 acres and 18,000 buildings and attendant paranoia that resulted in a city top-full of brick buildings.

Speaking of paranoia--well, let me first just say that I understand there's a need and we've a right to be concerned when excessive heat invades our typical tundra. I lived just 80 miles cooler than the Great Chicago Heat Wave of 1995, in Milwaukee, so I remember the brutality of the heat/humidity combo those early days in July (and how there wasn't a room in any motel, even flophouses, all the way out to Kenosha and Lake Mills) and how overwhelmingly underprepared the Upper Midwest was for this attack. Author Eric Klinenberg writes that

The heat wave was a particle accelerator for the city: It sped up and made visible the hazardous social conditions that are always present but difficult to perceive.
Huh. That statement could be applicable to events of last year, if you replace the words "heat wave" with "hurricane."

Anyway, the "never again" mentality is of course justified.

But millions of Southerners endure worse heat over more days and months.

So I wear a small smile when I hear local forecasters intone doomsday-ingly about "heat indexes" and "cooling centers," remembering 12-hour days spent outside, playing--biking, trampoline, kick the can, roller skating, swinging, sloshing in the wading pool and ruining a circular patch of backyard grass-- in what were "heat indexes" that would make Tom Skillethead's head explode.

Current temps, July 17, 3:15 pm: Tom Skillethead: 93; 93 ("feels like 103"); Weather Underground: 96.3; Sun-Times: 94 ("RealFeel Temp 104"); NOAA (National Weather Service): 95 (heat index 108).


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Blowing Through the Jasmine In My Mind

I just spent the last fifteen minutes ducking and cursing a giant-ass wasp that flew into my office. Of course it took almost all of that time for the dipshit vespid to locate the fresh breeze and fly out the window I threw open.

Oh, wait.

Not this wasp

This one

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

But I Always Thought That I'd See You Again

"I’ve been walking my mind to an easy time... "

Funny how a person is there, and then they are not. Forming days as much as the movement of the sun, the inexorability of the lower-right computer clock, or the distant, serial roar of the El. Someone who's an indelible tincture--a Sharpie that leaked in a pants pocket. The petal-hue of a dried flower on the bookcase.

Then something happens. And maybe another thing, or four--one worse, one slightly better, one perplexing.

Then they're gone. Alto relievo, then bas-relief, matrix...concavity...trace... invisibility.

And the sun keeps moving, 1:46 PM changes to 5:02 PM to a week from next Wednesday, train cars glide and roar. One day one of those cars bucks a bit, a filly spooked by a crow, and people cry. Cups of coffee are drunk, Starbucks or Dunkin, rainclouds squinted at, hands held, puddles skirted, shotglasses clinked, snow tasted, oceansurf kicked, all-nighters pulled, chords remembered, chicken stir-fried, knots worried, eight-balls pocketed, uppercuts punched, mistakes made anyway, flowers pruned, cars rented, cigarettes stubbed, hard drives control-alt-deleted, resolve mustered, jukebox buttons pushed, lashes curled, dryers de-linted, brides dressed, ceilings stared at, scenes initiated, Franzes Ferdinanded, texts messaged, chips gambled all-in, thighs caressed, noodles slurped, five-minute calls called, street bumps biked over, caskets closed. New songs--digital kudzu--graft over old playlists, and there's a springy night when drive-thru fries in the car taste better than they ever have, ever.

I've seen these things, and more. And though there's a dry, smooth beach at dawn where feelings used to beat, I always thought I'd see...

I did.

Going Off the Rails On a Crazy Train...

My friend Sarah and I have always thought it would be sorta neat if there was a problem with our Blue Line commute, and we had to exit the train into the subway tunnel and escape. Edge along the tunnel wall, maybe see a rat and get totally skeeving freaked out, and then exit some stairs into fresh air around Kinzie and Milwaukee Avenues, ready to tell the tale of near-terror over beers for the next 37 months.

Ummm, I don't think that sounds so cool after all.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

And Take You To Your Special Island

I love "Captain Jack."

I know it's about using smack, but it makes me feel like I'm in a smoky, dark wood-paneled bar with ornate brass fixtures somewhere below 14th Street. Except it will no longer be smoky, and I probably can't afford a place just below 14th Street. That's why this has to happen in 1973, when the song appeared on Piano Man.

I wonder if the line

"I did go from wanting to be someone
Now I'm drunk and wearing flip-flops on Fifth Avenue"

from Rufus Wainwright's "Poses"

is an homage to Billy's

"So you stand on the corner in your New English clothes
and you look so polished from your hair down to your toes
Ah but still your fingers gonna pick your nose"

...if only for the dawning thought in both, found on the most street cornery of cities, that what you want can ultimately, insiduously, consume what it is you want.

I wish I was going to New York this summer. It's time to find that mythic place in the Village and stare dreamily out a cab window at 4 am thinking "I'm in a New York State of Mind."

Spirit of 76

A campaign to save an iconic sign is in full swing.

Has anyone seen any 76 Balls around Chicago? I did see them in Los Angeles when I was there.

I guess I'd have felt the same way if the Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket signs were all pulled down in one fell swoop.

They're only signs -- but also landmarks of youth. The fried chicken bucket--summer Sunday night dinners at my grandparents, riding in the front seat of my aunt's royal blue VW Bug, probably around 1976, chirping up the street to pick up a chicken Bucket and a Barrel at the Kentucky Fried that's now a homegrown bar-food restaurant, an Applebee's pedigreed for the Chevy Chase set (who probably never appreciated the proximity but rather deplored the presence of a fast-food restaurant in their backyards).

I saw a bucket-KFC a couple months ago, also in Los Angeles. For a modern city obsessed with appearance, our ugliest but most cherished consumerist past is preserved a lot longer out there.

What I'd really like, though, is to find that Bucket font and use it.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Girls Don't Seem To Care What's On, As Long As It Plays Til Dawn

I just discovered this Yacht Rock thing today: a Behind the Music exposing the behind of a heretofore unclassified musical genre popular between 1976-1984, "really smooth" rock music purveyed by hitmakers like Christopher Cross, Michael McDonald, Toto, and Yacht Rock-the-show's primary progenitors, Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina.

The show, clever, esoteric five or so-minute shorts in which the famed musicians are distinguished from each other by really bad wigs, ran on the Channel101 website through, well, a couple of weeks ago. I just discovered it thanks to Chicagoist (which I read with teeth on edge because it oh-so-wobbily walks the line of annoying and edifying ).

Ironically, Channel101's creators are Rob Schrab and Dan Harmon, they of the Scud The Disposable Assassin comic, begun during the glory days of The Dead Alewives sketch troupe back in Milwaukee. I always thought what those guys did was cool, but the problem was just that--they were all guys. Maybe that's when the seed of my ambition to be a sketch-comic chick germinated.

Anyway, ironically-even-more, I actually like a lot of these artists. I mean, you must realize by now that I do enjoy some music that is universally regarded as craptacular [This phrase is hereby fully credited to J. Maravegias --Ed.]. I mean, I can get into some "99" by Toto. That piano breakdown at the end is pretty jive.

Profane, belligerent and giant-mustachioed John Oates (who calls his smooth-rock nemeses "California Vagina Sailors") had me howling during the early Yacht Rocks, but the final episode, "FM", which details the genesis of the singular Steely Dan contribution to the soundtrack for the 1978 film of the same name, as well as their feud with the Eagles, made me run to my shut my office door so I could expel a worthy cackle. Although Glenn Frey and Don Henley probably didn't noogie Walter Becker and Donald Fagen on a playground, there indeed was a lyrical fracas between the two AOR heavyweights--if you believe that "they stab it with their steely knives" is a response, slipped into "Hotel California," to the Dan's exhortation on "Everything You Did" to "turn up The Eagles the neighbors are listening." Yeah maybe the "steely knives" line is only about the "beast" (drugs? music industry?), but look at these two pairs of guys. They're all a-holes, in their own way. This was the best musical warfare since Skynyrd got cranked on Jack and wrote "Sweet Home Alabama" to flip off Neil Young.

I love that Donald Fagen speaks his own language. Except when he says "eat bat, prick."

Hmm, I've actually never looked at the soundtrack for FM, which all in all is pretty damn good.

At least to a craptacle-loving music fan like me.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Politics of Mmmmm Feeling Good

Okay, did anyone else love it when their local "Mix-FM!" station would play this song? Jut your knit-pants-clad hips around your room? Sing into a letter-opener and narrow your eyes at your toothsome reflection in the mirror? Then widen them in alluring fear as some classified info relating to subversive Eastern European anti-Communist activities was revealed to you by a fellow operative on a smoky-dark dancefloor somewhere between Budapest and Vienna?

Oh, just me, then?

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Ren of The Ren and Stimpy Show finally has resurfaced!

I guess their owner, George Liquor, passed the little Latin canine hothead to someone else...

An Island Lake woman accused of driving drunk with her two children and an inebriated Chihuahua pleaded guilty Wednesday to reckless driving and child endangerment...

A judge ruled last month in a bench trial that [the dog] was intoxicated while in Marcotte's care. She was convicted of failing to provide humane treatment of a pet...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Talk About Bum Cakes

To win tickets for Friday's sold-out Crosstown Classic between the White Sox and the Cubs, fans of Jonathon Brandmeier's morning show on WLUP-FM (97.9) are being invited to participate in the Loop's "Crosstown Classic Ass Kissing Contest."

Starting at 8 a.m. Friday, Loop listeners who qualified earlier in the week will be summoned to plant a kiss on a live donkey at the corner of Clark and Addison outside of Wrigley Field. "The fan who keeps their lips on the donkey the longest wins tickets to the game," according to the contest rules.

What part of the ass?

I hope they play Bad Company's "Ready for Love" over and over during this event.

If You Cling Too Tightly, You're Gonna Lose Control

Aren't two of the most annoying items in the world wire hangers and headphones?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Can You Live This Fantasy Life?

God I love European internet radio. It's so delightfully random.

Where else was I gonna hear this?

I mean, how could I forget? We are talking the Cro-Mag days of MTV here.

Aldo Nova, a Canadian one-hitter, Def Lepparded before those boys even got their legs into spandex, found the mousse aisle at the local druggists and set those Rickenbackers wailin'.

And who knew that a Les Paul could shoot a metal door-blasting laser from its neck?

Burnin' and Lootin'

Do people still burn flags?

It seems so...early 90s.

Sigh. As Bob asked, How many rivers do we have to cross?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Whistle Your Favorite Tune

I heard this song four times in one day (twice at the pool, twice in the Casino) this weekend in Vegas, where the Best Hits of the Seventies, Eighties, Nineties and Beyond are relentlessly--yet strangely relaxingly--piped into every public area.

In Lieu of a "Flux-Capacitor"

Playing a silly (and progressively sillier, as the evening drew on and more Champagne of Beer bottles littered the room) board game with friends some months ago got me thinking about time travel. No, not plopping oneself down in the middle of a clutch of Triceratops or some Braveheart-style gettin' medieval on someone's ass, or, lord, back to Woodstock or something predictably Gen X (okay, my pick would be Rolling Stones' 1972 tour, either Chicago show --with Stevie Wonder opening?!? Need I say more?).

I mean planting one's feet in real life, in someone's life.

The pleasure of snorting and laughing at my friends' responses to questions like, If you could go back in time, what is the one thing you would change about your high school career" has seduced me. Granted, this game-playing Friday night was in, what, February? (Oh, God, no; it was November. Now that is procrastinating). But my desire to know more about who my friends were before I knew who they are hasn't waned. I'll add to this myself, in the comments.


I'll just throw a random year out, with today's date.

So, where were you, June 26, 1986?

And, so as to not appear too nostalgic and I-love-the-80s, a random year: June 26, 1994.

Approximations, guesses, fabrications, exagerrations and fantasies welcome.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

North Ave. Bridge Is Falling Down

The Chicago Tribune reported over the weekend that there's a new bridge coming to North Avenue.

The 99-year-old, two-lane red steel bridge over the river's North Branch will be replaced by a four-lane suspension and cable-stay bridge, the first of its kind in the city, said Cheri Heramb, the Chicago Department of Transportation's acting commissioner.

Now while this is welcome news to those (including me) who detest navigating the Yuppie Hell Canyon (North Avenue between said bridge and Halsted) on weekends and rush hours, it is a bittersweet development. The report notes that

The existing bridge is one of the famed Chicago-style trunnion bascule bridges. The leaves are suspended on axles with counterweights--bascule means seesaw in French--and the steel trusses are noted for their curved profile.

What a fabulous description--there's something about a basic thing that, when it's named in French, transforms into another thing infinitely more enchanting. I mean, think of saying assistant instead of aide-de-camp, overthrow instead of coup d'etat, and "last show of the year" instead of season finale.

Apparently Chicago is known for the trunnion bascule bridge. No two are exactly alike, and others are found spanning the Chicago River downtown at Clark and LaSalle streets, and the world's second-longest is at Columbus Drive. The most famous bascule bridge is the Tower Bridge across the Thames in London.

Chicago's first bascule bridge was built across the North Branch at Cortland Avenue in 1902.

It's funny that the North Avenue bridge is being replaced, because the Cortland bridge has been recently rehabilitated. I live near the bridge; much of my routine travel spans that bridge -- to the grocery, biking to work, to the lakefront, Second City, the mattress store, Armitage Avenue to look for overpriced paper and plastic rings.

Florid name aside, I am fascinated by this bridge. There's a dedication plaque on either side, emblazoned with the name of a Chicago mayor whose father was also a mayor, assassinated in 1893 (a crime featured in the excellent Devil in the White City) and born in, of all places, Lexington, Kentucky, my own home. Carter Harrison, Jr., benefactor of the Cortland bridge, was elected in 1897 and served five terms, something his father probably would have done had he not met an untimely demise, shot after giving the closing address at the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition on the South Side of Chicago.

A smaller plaque is found on one of the bridge's thrusts, a boasting reminder that the only thing Carter H. Harrison hefted to open this bridge was probably some scissors to cut a ribbon across its freshly-painted span in 1902. Apparently American Bridge Company was newly-formed in 1901, and soon monopolized the nation's bridge industry and manufactured steel as well. Kind of like the Clear Channel of the turn of the last century.

My favorite part of the bridge is the bridge house, about which I could find no historical information (Google, you tried). Maybe, then, it's just there to be enjoyed, a quiet, tree-shaded place to pause and soak up history buttressed by massive red steel wings.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Rock Out With Your 'Tooth Out

Now a-holes can be even bigger the sun. Cause nothing says a-hole like some choad yapping away about a this-close-to-nailin'-it-bro deal and last night's sah-weeet party over by Kendalls in his a-hole Oakleys.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right

And in the most recent demonstration of Jukebox Fate*, add these ditties (played by an actual jukebox) to the annals:

"Two Out of Three Ain't Bad," Meatloaf

"Stuck in the Middle with You," Stealers Wheel

and, nauseatingly,

"To Be with You," Mr. Big

*whereby a song appropriate to the occasion or conflict at hand will play at the precise moment in need of emphasis

Friday, June 16, 2006

To Live and Die in LA

Top Fourteen Things This Midwest/Southerner Noticed about Los Angeles
(brought to you for no apparent reason by Wang Chung)

1. Everyone drives like a 75 year-old Methodist going to church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Sunday morning. Seriously. I made vehicular transgressions that would have gotten me honks and the Finger in Chicago. And then I did them to the peculiarly self-absorbed and timid drivers in Hell-Lay.

2. There are mountains! Real, honest-to-god, lung-constricting, neck-cricking mountains. That you can hike. You can drive a mere...hour (it's not "twenty-minutes-to-anywhere" San Diego), tie up your boots, adjust your water bottle, and head up an actual foothill-plus.

3. The uber-hip try to look "urban." Give it up, kids. You live someplace where your local hip coffeehouse is in the middle of an Albertson's parking lot. In spite of your aviator shades, buzz cut, safety glasses, leggings and vintage slouchy Dingo boots. You drive everywhere and tell me where your local sweaty post-punk-rock club is located (my guess: a El Pollo Loco parking lot).

4. Vietnamese food: super-super yummy. They got the Asian foods down, baby. I had the same beef pho at the same restaurant three times in twice as many days.

5. Addendum to #1: drivers stop for pedestrians to cross the street. Let me repeat myself: DRIVERS. STOP. FOR. PEDESTRIANS.

6. Beverly Hills was boring. It felt and smelled like old, rich people and Rodeo Drive looked just like St. Armands Circle in Sarasota, Florida (see above about rich, old people), just spread out in a straight line, not a circle. The stand-alone Jimmy Choo store looked cool, though.

7. I like looking at bougainvillea in person as much as I like to say it and look at the word. In LA, it's mostly the red variety.

8. Can you name a kid Bougainvillea? Or is that just too early 00's celebrity?

9. Yes, there has been some plastic surgery. Everywhere.

10. I like the palm trees with the pom-pom tops the best.

11. You can travel half an hour one way and hike, or thirty minutes the other direction and beach it. But if you plan to do both in an afternoon, better chug a latte (the most delicious ever EVER!) from one of the omnipresent Coffee Bean (full name: Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf--and no, I didn't see Nicole Richie there though US Magazine would have you believe she sleeps on a cot in the back room): traffic between these two ambrosial extremes is exhausting (see number one).

12. This city is not the celebrity ant farm I was led to believe it was (I'm glaring at you I didn't see a single one--except that one woman biking in a hat and sunglasses along Venice Beach who might have been Marg Helgenberger.

13. Downtown LA is no downtown at all: it's skeevy and empty and steely-grey. The fabric district, on downtown's edge, is overrun with people and color, though.

14. The burrito is a popular food item. And it's universally advertised with a sad burro, a jaunty burro, a dancing burro, a jaunty burro dancing on an egg, or a bedroom-eyed burro.