Thursday, August 30, 2007

Welcome to Minnesota, Eh?

This morning, the alarm went off at 5:30. I ate breakfast and showered, and we were out the door by 6:45. We picked Adam up at my ex's by 7:15. There was a little traffic on the Kennedy, but by the time we hit the tollway portion, bypassing the toll booths (thanks Ipass!), we made great time. We made it to Minneapolis by about 2:30.

I made it about four hours before Kim took over the driving-- I was exhausted. I was on call last night at work, and indeed, was called in. Not a bad thing. One table alone tipped me $100, I had a party of eight people in town for an archivists' convention-- picture librarians-- and some other good tables. In the end, I made a nice bundle of money-- it should pay for our gas money this weekend. I worked until about 11:30, and got to bed about 1:30. The 5:30 wake-up was rough.

The conversation on the way up was lively-- no shrinking violets in my family. We talked about my new job, politics (surprise), and conversation eventually turned to blogging, including the fact that I've hardly blogged in the last couple of weeks. Adam and Kim were singing the praises of Dr. Monkerstein's blog-- praise I'm prone to agree with. His mix of the humorous and the political is exceptional. Adam suggested we try to meet up with Monkerstein the next time we visit my parents in Knoxville, Tennessee.

I managed to doze off for an hour and woke up to Kim and my son having a conversation about my snoring.

Right now, Kim's across the street at Costco buying a few things, and I'm downstairs at the hotel watching Adam and Mel in the pool. The hotel charges for wi-fi, but I'm getting it free from someone in the area. Way cool!

School is still going well. We're covering some chemistry, including organic chemistry, before heading into biology. It's amazing how much easier this stuff is this time around.

I'm looking forward to seeing my in-laws. It's funny when I hear horror stories about in-laws. I love mine-- they're wonderful people.

It's funny how little things can make you happy. I'm happy to have a laptop again. I'm not hung up on material things-- I drive a 14-year-old rusty truck. But my laptop is a center of communications in my life-- blogging, email, reading the New York Times. Work is going well, I've started school finally, and have put a tough year behind me. My family is doing well. I'm tired, but feel better than I've felt in a long time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I'm Still Here!

It's been a hectic couple of weeks-- more details in tomorrow's post-- it'll be my one year blog anniversary!

I got my "new" used Ibook yesterday, and between working and school, have been trying to get it set up. It's amazing what you miss. I've been able to post from our family desktop, but I couldn't post my own pictures, and of course, it just wasn't my little laptop.

After I got the Ibook up and running, I wanted to set it up so I could run pictures from my digital camera to my new laptop and put them on my blog. For some reason, Canon did not have the software for this one their site, and when I ran the software from my old laptop (I'll tell later how I did this), it wouldn't read my camera. I had to dig out the original installation cd. This was a good excuse to dig through some drawers and put a bunch of old paperwork into recycling.

While I did this, I had a nice conversation with my stepdaughter. I've felt bad that I've been scarce around here the last couple of weeks because of my schedule. We talked again about friendships, and how they are different with different people, and change over time even with the individuals. Earlier, we'd walked over to the library-- something I try to do with her every week or two. It made me realize how important it is to both my kids to have a certain time or activity that is theirs; to make them breakfast on the weekends; to ride bikes, play catch, play a game or watch a particular television program with them.

Work has been interesting. I finally feel like I'm beginning to know what the hell I'm doing. I like most of the people I work with. They're quite the interesting bunch. Being a waiter is a job that is largely inhabited by people who, like me, are in transition. The flexibility of schedule combined with generally really good money lends itself to that. It's an intense business-- you don't have a lot of room to screw up, which makes the first few weeks pretty rough sometimes. I've been fortunate that there's a bunch of people there who are friendly and helpful, and to them I'm eternally grateful.

There are a couple of people there who I've gotten off to a rough start with, but I think I'm wearing them down for the most part. Like my mother always says, "kill 'em with kindness."

I've been there only three weeks or so, and I've got a bunch of stories (I know-- you shocked. I have stories?). I know you'll also be surprised to find that there have been people I know in there.

Also, I almost waited on the actor Billy Zane a couple of weeks ago. Almost, because David, one of the first "old-timers" there to take me under his wing asked me if he could take him. I wouldn't have recognized him. Like many actors, he's smaller than he looks on screen, and has shaved his head.

The place is going through growing pains. A manager and a sous chef quit this weekend, but the manager came back.

I've been pretty much constantly fighting fatigue. I'm staying up too late in order to write this post, but I realized that I missed posting more than I missed sleep-- and I've been missing sleep. My rides to and from work were a fight with dozing off.

I started class yesterday. It was a lot of fun. First, it was great to feel, unlike the first time I took college science 27 years ago, like I actually had a grasp of the material. And beginning class, I feel, like some people have suggested, like my life is moving forward.

So here I am on the back porch overlooking the "white trash" backyard. Here's a picture from a couple of weeks ago-- it's not nearly as bad now, and it promises to be beautiful by the end of next month. In the meantime, it's a full moon, and I've got an app that will play my Ipod through the laptop (though I have yet to figure out how to transfer my Ipod songs, playlists and all, to my new computer).

As I've mentioned before, I had a bunch of repairs done to my Blazer, and we're taking it up to Minneapolis to see my Kim's family. We're going to go to the Minnesota State Fair, and maybe a Twins game, and celebrating 40th, 50th and 80th birthdays for family members. I'll let you figure out which one is Kim's.

There's a million things I'd like to comment on tonight, including Gonzalez' resignation-- I was on the bus on the way to school yesterday when my father called me. I'll post about that-- I'll briefly say that these people are strange-- the people they throw under the bus hang in there too long, and cause damage. I'm eager to read the books that Bob Woodward will write about this period of history, this war and this administration.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunday Morning

Got up this morning, put on The Velvet Underground's song "Sunday Morning", then The Rolling Stones' Exile On Mainstreet album-- because, you know, sometimes a guy's just gotta hear Exile On Main Street-- sat down to a hearty, healthy breakfast, and reflected on yesterday.

I worked a double yesterday. The lunch shift was great, the dinner shift even better, despite the fact that one of the sous chefs didn't show up. I made an insane amount of money. I'm working another double today-- it should be a shorter one.

While I've been away at work, it seems that the President has gone back to using Vietnam as an analogy for Iraq, like he was a few months ago. A lot of you think this is bad news. No-- Vietnam's a great analogy: the U.S. propping up a corrupt, incompetent government that won't come to terms with the opposition, knowing that the U.S. President will continue to feed U.S. soldiers into the meatgrinder to support the government-in-name-only in order to avoid admitting that he was wrong about the entire escapade-- yep, that sounds about right to me.

In the meantime, perhaps we should be planning the Iraq War Memorial.

I also saw the headline that housing prices are doing what everyone said couldn't possibly happen-- they're actually dropping.

Are you better off today than you were eight years ago?

My god, I hate these people.

I start my Biology class at 8 am tomorrow. I was worried about where I was going to get the time to run out and get a spiral notebook for my class-- I'd forgotten to get one this week. I didn't need to worry-- my stepdaughter got me one yesterday. I've got great kids.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Portable Friday Random 10

I had a good lunch shift yesterday at work, and got off pretty early. I'd gotten a message from my mechanic that my Blazer was ready, so I figured to have time to pick it up, head home, rest a little and head to my other job. Mother nature had other plans.

As I cruised north toward home on the Brown Line, I saw really ugly looking clouds moving in fast from the west. By the time I got off the el, to wait for the Western Avenue bus, it was raining buckets. I was suddenly happy for the city allowing the bus shelters to be put up (the JC Deveaux company puts them up free, then sells advertising on them).

The rain had subsided a little by the time I got down to my mechanic Luis' shop on Western and Berteau. When I walked in, I could see immediately that power was out. He told me to just come and pay him when the power was up-- everything is on his computer. Very cool. I've done business with this guy for over ten years; I remember when his shop was out of a garage. Now he owns his own place, and has a bunch of employees. He's a rarity-- a mechanic you can trust. I highly recommend him-- L and L Automotive, at 4142 N. Western.

My car needed an oil and transmission fluid change, plus, the motor for the window on the passenger side needed to be replaced-- it would no longer work. I wanted them to check the oxygen sensors and some other things before my trip. The oxygen sensors were okay, as it turned out (they're the sensors that the electronic ignition uses to control combustion), but one of my differentials had a leak-- the seal needed replacing. In the end, what I'd feared would be nearly $1,000 worth of work will be a little over $500. My car is running like a dream now. I love that guy.

In any event, I got home to find that our electricity was out too. I called over to Jury's and discovered that their power was out too. I showered and changed, and went over there on the chance that power would be back. It never did.

It turned out that Kim and Mel were at a restaurant less than a block away that had electricity-- like I said, the outages were very local. I stopped by there and rode home with them.

The power was still out. Fortunately, I'd bought a couple of those portable florescent lanterns a couple of years ago at Costco, so we had light here. I couldn't resist reminding Kim that she'd complained that those lamps were unnecessary clutter. As a kid, I'd remembered a few power outages, so I always wanted them around. They paid off yesterday.

When I left for work this morning, I saw the destruction-- lots of trees and parts of trees down. The electrical outages were block to block. I worked my lunch shift, and got home to find, to my relief, that the electricity was back on.

I was glad for the decision I'd made last year to buy a new refrigerator. The food was still cold, and the food in the freezer was still frozen-- the ice cubes were still frozen! Our old refrigerator would not have kept that food cold for more than 4 or 5 hours. We'd have had to throw a bunch of food out.

Now that we have electricity again, I was able to check where my "new" used powerbook was. I got on FedEx's site and discovered that It's in FedEx's hub in Champaign, Illinois, so it should be arriving Monday. I can't wait.

We ended up with an extra waiter on tonight-- we didn't open the patio-- too humid and threatening rain-- so I volunteered to go home. I was tired-- I didn't relish the thought of a double, even as lucrative as a Friday shift would have been. I wanted to go home, rest-- and blog. Between my hectic schedule and the power outage, I've barely posted in the last week. I've missed it and missed reading all your blogs.

This morning, when I left for work, I grabbed my big ipod-- usually I bring the shuffle for the el ride-- so that I could do my Random 10.

1. Is There Anybody Here?- Phil Ochs
2. Have A Cigar- Pink Floyd
3. Insane, Insane Again- J. Geils Band
4. Naked In The Rain- Red Hot Chili Peppers
5. Forbidden City- Joe Strummer and the Mescaleroes
6. Night Fever- Bee Gees
7. Rock, Salt and Nails- Joan Baez
8. She Don't Let Nobody (But Me)- Curtis Mayfield
9. To Sir With Love- Lulu
10. I Predict- Sparks

1. An anti-war ballad from the great Phil Ochs-- one of his best.
2. From Pink Floyd's great Wish You Were Here album. Their friend Roy Harper sings on it.
3. From J. Geils' 1981 #1 album Freeze Frame. Their first-- and last-- #1 album. They broke up afterward.
4. I had to restrain myself from dancing on the el with this one. Love this song!
5. Can you believe it'll be five years since we lost Joe, in December? If I'm wrong about religion, I hope Joe and Phil Ochs are having nightly jam sessions in heaven.
6. I really hated the Bee Gees back in the seventies for their contributions to disco. Over the years I've softened and grown to really like even their Saturday Night Fever stuff.
7. From David's Album, one of my favorites.
8. Go out and buy the Curtis Mayfield box set right now. I mean it.
9. Love this song and the movie it's from.
10. One of my college roommates turned me on to Sparks. This song is hilarious.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Busiest Day Off Ever

Another crazy-busy, but productive day off of work.

One of the things that I've loved about all of these changes in my life is that it's allowed me to switch most of my transportation to public transit. To that end, I bought a 30-Day CTA pass. What a deal-- it's $75 for, obviously, 30 days. It kicks in the first time you use it. I'd been using a pass I got where you add value and take it off every time you use it. One of the things about having an unlimited pass is that it encourages you to use it even when not just using it to go to work.

Thanks to the CTA pass, I was able a good chunk of my day on the bus and el running errands. First and foremost, I had to go exchange my textbook for the correct one. I hopped on the bus that runs a block from my house, and is a straight shot five minute ride to the city college branch that I'll be taking my Biology class at, as well as the nearby Beck's bookstore. I quickly exchanged for the proper book, which is damned near the size of a phone book, and got on the el less than a block away to run up to Evanston to get my ailing laptop. I grabbed my Ibook and went back into Chicago.

I ran down to the Paulina el stop, where I killed three birds with one stone. First, I needed to pick up a new sticker for my license plate. Mine's running out at the end of the month, and I wasn't confident that if I mailed it in that it would get back in time. I went to the Currency Exchange I've been doing business with for nearly 20 years. I'll tell more about that place another time. In any event, I got the sticker, and walked up Lincoln Avenue to Whole Foods. There, I finally found, in a freezer, what I'd heard they carried: gluten-free bread.

Last night, I had another of my dreams that I was eating a sandwich. I loved sandwiches and used to pretty much live on sandwiches. I've mentioned in previous blog posts that I dream frequently about eating sandwiches, something I can't do since I found out I have Celiac disease, a genetic allergy to wheat and other grains.

I decided I'd had enough. I had a few minutes to kill before I picked up my stepdaughter so I finally took the time to find the non-gluten bread that Whole Foods was rumored to have. It was nearly five bucks a loaf, so I hoped it would be good. Plus, a bonus: they had Artizuri, the wine Kim brought to our first date (it was a BYOB place). I grabbed a bottle-- a 2004, appropriately-- our first date was in November, 2004, right after the election.

I got Mel and we went to wait for the bus. It occurred to me that it would be my seventh bus or el ride of the day.

We got home and Mel went to work on a DVD project for an upcoming family celebration. I went to the kitchen to start cooking dinner for everyone.

And to have a sandwich. It was everything I'd dreamt of.

Last night, work was, as they say in the old country, "balls to the wall." I had a back section that would normally have been a little slow. It was crazy busy last night. I made, last night, about 2/3's of what I would make in a week as a teacher. The reviews have obviously been working their magic.

As I left work, I was walking past the inexpensive little Italian place around the corner that the other servers had told me they met at after a lot of shifts, and saw that about a dozen people I'd worked the shift with were in there. They waved me in, insisting that it was my initiation. I had one glass of wine with them; the last couple of trains on the Brown Line were coming in the next 20 minutes or so.

I'm glad I stopped in, though. I've discovered that I work with a very nice group of people. They're mostly, like me, doing this as a way to what they want. Lots of actors. And lots of students, like me. I ended up talking to Christine and David, a couple of people at the restaurant who took me under their wings. They told me that I'm well-liked there, and that regarding the couple of people I've had trouble with, everyone has trouble with them.

I was telling Kim tonight that I've had a backache for the last week and a half. I don't get headaches-- I get a headache in my back. For some reason, if I'm under a lot of stress, I get a pain in my lower back rather than my head. It's finally clearing up, as of last night.

I heard from my mechanic today. My Blazer should be ready tomorrow. The air conditioner will be fully charged, transmission fluid replaced, oil changed, a leak in the rear differential fixed, and the motor in the passenger-side window fixed. Yeah, you spend money on a used car, but in the end, I spend on repairs, in a year, what I'd spend on two payments on a new car.

Tomorrow starts possibly four days of doubles, then up to Minnesota to see my in-laws.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Takin' Care of Business

If you were wondering what that loud cheering sound coming from the north side of Chicago was at about 10 a.m. was... well, that was me cheering. I was on call for a lunch shift at the restaurant. I called at 10 and found they didn't need me-- no one had called in sick. That means I only work my night shift this evening, instead of a double, and had time to do the laundry list of errands I had. And I have all of tomorrow off!

The new job continues to go well. Yesterday, I ended up in a double section for a furious lunch shift. I pulled it off with no problem. The second half of my double shift was slow, but a slow shift there is still pretty good.

Until I get my laptop up and running, I can't post my own pictures. That may be just as well-- the view from the front and rear of our home looks like hell. The back yard continues to look like the Great White Trash Backyard, with piles of scrap and construction materials, with the sidewalk and patio torn out. Apparently there is some master plan to have professional landscaper come in and fix it all up. The catch is that it may take until October to finish. Sigh.

Then in the front, signs went up last week that parking was restricted from August 20 to 24; they're repaving. Cars left there would be towed to another street. I decided to make lemons into lemonade by bringing my Blazer in for a bunch of work that needed to be done-- oil change, fix the air conditioner, fix the windows on the passenger side-- neither will roll up and down properly. I figured that would get it off the street for a few days, and make Kim and the kids happy-- we'll probably be taking the Blazer up to Minnesota in a little over a week.

This morning the city workers came by and stripped the street. When I went out to take care of some errands, I talked to the supervisor, who said that it should be repaved in the next day or two. I've lived here for 9 years as of this month, and this is the third time the street's been repaved. This time, it really needed it-- they really tore it up with the equipment they brought in to fix the broken water main last winter.

In the course of my errands this morning, I opened up a savings account, something I haven't had in a long time. I set it up for money to be kicked in from my checking account every month, as well.

I also signed up for the "Pay By Touch" thing at Jewel's, our grocery store. I found out that unlike a debit, I'm not charged a fee every time I use it.

So for the rest of the week, I'll be waiting. I'll run up to Evanston on the el tomorrow to pick up my laptop, so I can pull the old hard drive out of it, and pop it in my new one, whenever it arrives. Hopefully my truck will be done in the next day or so as well. And then this weekend-- between my two jobs, I may be working 4 straight doubles. Grueling, but lucrative. It'll pay a lot of bills.

And then Monday, I start my class.

I got a little sad news yesterday. Toward the end of the lunch shift, one of the other servers approached me and said that one of his customers thought he knew me. I went to the table, and saw that Ron, one of my favorite regulars at Jury's, was sitting with a woman. Since he wasn't sitting with his partner, William, I had a pretty strong feeling that I was about to get some bad news. Ron introduced the woman, a friend and neighbor, and answered the question I had. His partner of 12 years, William, who had been my friend for about 20 years, had passed away recently of cancer. I'd known William had had some kind of long-term illness for some time-- he was obviously fatigued the last few years, and a couple of times when he and Ron had dinner in the restaurant, I had noticed one of those devices for delivering medicine attached to his arm.

I met William in the late eighties when we both hung out at the Gingerman Tavern, in Chicago. He was chatty and gregarious, and loved music like I did, and we became friends instantly. When I moved out of my Wrigleyville apartment, and became friends with my upstairs neighbors Connie and Lynn, I discovered, when I went to one of their parties (a "Breakfast At Tiffany's"-themed party), that they were also good friends with William.

When Adam was born, I stopped hanging at the Gingerman, and lost touch with William. I started working at Jury's, and got reacquainted when he and Ron started coming in to the restaurant. William's partner Ron, who is a hairdresser (yeah, I know, a gay hairdresser-- that's a first) is a great guy and I'm really glad William had Ron to take care of him after he fell ill.

I'm relieved that William's suffering is done, but I'll miss him.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Late Night Random Ten

I've survived nearly my first week at the new job, by far the hardest time of a restaurant job. Not only did we get a great review from one of the big critics, the new issue of Chicago magazine our oysters as the best in the city. Yikes! They said last night, the place was packed with "oyster snobs" comparing our oysters to those of other restaurants.

Yesterday's lunch was insanely busy, and they put me in the busiest section of the restaurant. I got my ass handed to me. I found out later that the manager wanted to leaven me a little bit. I suspect he also wanted to see if I melted down. I didn't.

Bad news on my ibook today. The screen problem was apparently caused by a bad logic board. That's a $400 or $500 repair. Instead, I went on ebay and grabbed a G4 (my old one was a G3) for $345 plus shipping. Yes, I sniped it-- I'm the sniper extraordinaire on Ebay. In any event, I can just transfer the hard drive of my old one to the new one when it arrives.

More good news was that I was able to get in and change my class to the correct one this morning. It was a good thing I did; there were only 2 seats left in the section I wanted. The next chance I would have had to switch would have been Tuesday-- the section would certainly have been closed by then.

I had a chance to chat with a counselor, and discovered that a bunch of people have gotten into the University of Illinois- Chicago's Pharmacy program from Truman College. She pointed out that it's important to develop good relationships with the professors teaching your classes, so you can get letters of recommendations from them.

I did my random ten with my ipod, since the ibook's in the shop. While I listened and blogged with the headphones on, Adam was listening to Dick Biondi on the oldies station and writing an email to our Congressman, Rahm Emanuel, with suggestions for strategies to encourage the use of environmentally-friendly energy production, including tax incentives to farmers who who allow wind turbines to be built on their land. We had a discussion about alternative energy, and I suggested some reading to him.

I've mentioned before that everybody's called him the "little man" since he was very young, and that he has an old soul. You can see why.

I have to figure out how to download pics to the desktop, so I can't show you our white trash backyard yet. This week, it's been filled with the detritus of renovation. They're working on the garage now, so there are siding panels, scrap wood, and a bunch of other crap-- in addition to the canoe. I can't wait for this to all be done.

My random 10:

1. Brown Eyed Girl- Van Morrison
2. Chevy Van- Sammy Johns
3. Maxine- Donald Fagen
4. Lookin' After No. 1- The Boomtown Rats
5. CIA Man- The Fugs
6. Guns On the Roof- The Clash
7. Maggie's Farm- Bob Dylan
8. Baby Don't Go- Sonny and Cher
9. Atlantis- Donovan
10. Uncertain Smile- The The

1. I'm old enough to remember this being played on the radio in 1967.
2. Yeah, that Chevy Van. Up there with Afternoon Delight and Disco Duck with stupid '70's songs.
3. From Nightfly, solo album from Steely Dan's Donald Fagen's, one of my favorite albums of the eighties.
4. From the great '70's punk collection No Thanks!
5. Great spoof of "Secret Agent Man," by the 60's Kings of Irreverence, The Fugs
6. The Clash's song about being arrested for taking potshots at pigeons with an air rifle. Seriously.
7. "He hands you a nickel/He hands you a dime/He asks you with a grin/If you're having a good time...."
8. Remember when Sonny and Cher were marketed as a hippy act? That was before Sonny was a Republican congressman and Cher was a diva.
9. A few posts ago, I mentioned Don't Look Back, the documentary about Dylan's 1966 tour of England, and Natalie mentioned a scene where Dylan was ripping on Donovan. I love Donovan, and particularly this song, a story-song about the fate of the fabled Atlantis.
10. Love this dark little song by Matt Johnson. In 1983 and 1984, when I was in college at Eastern Illinois University, there was a bar called Mother's that was normally a jock bar, but on Thursday nights, our friend Eddie deejayed, playing lots of punk and new wave, and we ruled the place. This song always grabbed me and carried me away-- the piano at the ending is ethereal.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Catching Up

I finally had a day off, and ran around like a bat out of hell getting my page-long list of "stuff to do" done.

One of those things was to pick up contact lenses I'd ordered last week when I got an eye exam. I'd gotten some news I'd been expecting for awhile-- that when I order new glasses I'm going to need bifocals. I know that a 46-year-old needing reading glasses is no rarity, but it's something that happens to other people, not me. Like getting older.

I guess I can salve my pain by the fact that a couple of days ago, a young co-worker thought I was in my early thirties.

The last week has been crazy-- I worked five consecutive shifts at the restaurant-- two doubles and a lunch. It was good, though-- I finally got my footing there, and made a butt-load of money. Whenever you start at a new place-- a new restaurant, school, office, whatever, it's crazy the first few days, learning all the procedures, practices and what-not.

The first week was interesting-- observing the different kinds of people working there. There was one guy who really floored me-- he was incredibly unhappy. After my first shift with him, when I was training, I realized that he needed to get out of the business. He was incredibly pissy. I started to avoid him-- he was very negative. Yesterday, he was fired. Apparently I wasn't the only one who noticed that he was really unpleasant to be around.

Back to "Johnny Yen's Day Off." High up on my list was to go register for my first class. I got that done. It turns out that I should have put one item higher up on my list-- purchasing the new reading glasses my eye doctor recommended. When I got home and read over my material (with my new reading glasses), I discovered I'd misread the schedule and signed up for Biology 120, rather than Biology 121. I have to go Friday and fix that.

Other updates. On Saturday, the backlighting on my little Ibook started going schizo-- it would work after a restart, then conk out after a while. I ran it up to Nabih's, a Mac-friendly repair place in Evanston that fixed it this February. It's funny how we are about our comfort zones; I can post just fine from the household Mac Mini that sits on the 100-year-old desk in our dining room that my great-grandfather made, but I miss sitting at the counter in the kitchen on my Ibook. Plus, it's harder to download photos from my digital camera on the desktop. I've got all the settings for it on my laptop. So in addition to all the general work craziness, I have to be posting from a computer I'm not used to using.

Other miscellaneous stuff. I'm digging having reading time since taking the el to work rather than driving. I'll enjoy the reading even more now that I don't have to hold it out at arm's length. And I'll enjoy ride even more since I found a set of headphones that won't break. I loved the little Sony headphones I had that folded up, but I broke three sets of them. Today, I got a lightweight headphone set I like made by Phillips. The part that broke on the old ones is made of metal on this one.

Adam called me last night to discuss Karl Rove, and the Iowa straw poll. For what it's worth, he's a Barack Obama guy. You might want to get on that bandwagon now, kids!

It's weird-- I missed only a day of posting, but I feel like it was two weeks.

I've got the new earbuds on, listening to my big ipod (as opposed to the shuffle). It's hellbent on playing great songs-- The Velvet Underground's I'll Be Your Mirror, Elvis Costello's Two Little Hitlers, Aretha Franklin's Chain of Fools and Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues.

I mentioned that video last week, when referring to the Dylan documentary Don't Look Back. Seems appropriate to put it on this post, especially since Allen Ginsberg is in it-- I just read that On The Road, by Ginsberg's friend Jack Kerouac, is fifty years old now. Time flies.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Just came off a "double" (a double shift). It was my first official shift on at my new job.

I've mentioned that we got a three-star review from one of the two major restaurant critics in town. We're across from Millenium Park, a major tourist attraction (the city spent a half billion dollars on it). We're about a two minute walk from the Palmer House, a historic and popular Chicago Hotel, and about a three minute walk from the Congress, another historic and popular Chicago Hotel. We're roughly kitty-corner from the Art Institute of Chicago. And jeez, we're right on friggin' Michigan Avenue.

The place is busy. Damned busy. A slow day there is still pretty good. It serves great food, and in general, people tip well. I made a lot of money. I made today about 2/3's of what I brought home as a teacher in a week (remember that worked a double). I'd say that says something really sad about our society's values, and how appalling it is, but for now, with two kids and school and textbooks and some car repairs and a couple of trips to see my and Kim's families to pay for, all I can say is it's great and I'm relieved and happy.

I like the people I work with. There are some people there who are unhappy with their lives and it shows-- you see that in any business-- but most are happy to be there. It fits for them. It solves a problem-- how to make a decent living while working on something that doesn't make a decent living until you invest some time and energy into it. More on the place later. I'm tired, and I'm pretty sure I'm working another double tomorrow.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

"Oh Boy, Is THIS GREAT!"

To paraphrase Flounder, from Animal House, "Oh boy, is THIS GREAT!

Came home from work tonight to see that Mitt Romney had won the Republican straw polls. I've dreamed that the Republicans would nominate someone so unelectable-- a guy who is so far out of the mainstream, yet has pissed the whacko fringe that is controlling his own party off by being pro-choice in the past.

I'll sleep well tonight.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Freaky Friday Random Ten

It was strange getting up this morning and not having to rush off to work. I almost forgot it is Friday.

I have one more training shift at the restaurant-- a "runner" shift; you basically stand and watch the food come out of the kitchen in order to see different dishes, in order to be able to identify them, and of course be able to describe them to a customer.

One of the things I like about this place is that they email the schedule to you. I start Monday morning, with a lunch shift, though I have a feeling they may ask me to come in tomorrow night.

After I post this, I'm going to run over to Truman City College and start the ball rolling on signing up for classes, thus starting the next chapter in my life.

1. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue- Bob Dylan
2. Barely Breathing- Duncan Chic
3. The Walls Came Down- The Call
4. Send In the Clowns- Judy Collins
5. Miles From Our Home- The Cowboy Junkies
6. If I Were Only a Child Again- Curtis Mayfield
7. Smokin' In the Boys Room- Brownsville Station
8. Hold On Loosely- .38 Special
9. Rock, Salt and Nails- Joan Baez
10. The Witch- The Sonics

1. This is the version from Biograph, the marvelous Dylan box set. It's live, recorded in Manchester, England on the same tour that the D.A. Pennebaker documentary Don't Look Back was filmed. If you haven't seen it yet, do so, if only to see how many spoofs and homages there have been in various movies and rock videos, including:

  • Spinal Tap (the scene where they get lost in the basement on the way to the stage)
  • Bob Roberts (same as above)
  • Fear of a Black Hat
  • The INXS video Mediate (when Michael Hutchence is showing and throwing down cards with the words to the song on it)

2. Great little one-hit-wonder. Kim told me that Duncan Chic is now writing Broadway musicals.
3. The Call were one of my favorite underappreciated bands of the '80's. They were based in San Francisco, but singer Michael Been grew up in near Chicago, and was friends with John Belushi, who he did improv with.

I included the vid for this song at the bottom of this post. Yes, that's Garth Hudson, from The Band, playing keyboards. If Been looks familiar, it's because he played John the Apostle in Martin Scorsese's movie The Last Temptation of Christ.

Looking up Michael Been, I discovered that his son is the singer for The Black Rebel Motorcycle club.
4. My favorite Judy Collins song is her cover of Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now. The Crosby, Stills and Nash song Suite: Judy Blue Eyes is rumored to be about her-- she was dating Stephen Stills at the time.
5. I love this little gem. I saw the Cowboy Junkies at the Park West back around 1990 with my friend Mark.
6. From the splendid Curtis Mayfield box set, People Get Ready.
7. This song (the original, not the Motley Crue cover) was a hit when I was in junior high school.
8. A guilty pleasure. It was written by Chicago native Jim Peterik, who had a huge hit in 1970 with Vehicle with his group The Ides of March, and in the eighties with his group Survivor (Eye of the Tiger).
9. A beauty from Joan Baez' David's Album. When her husband David Harris went to prison as an act of civil disobedience, for refusing induction into the military during the Vietnam War, she went to Nashville and gathered a bunch of the great Nashville session musicians and recorded a country album, one of my favorites.
10. A classic from the Seattle legends The Sonics. From the ever-present Nuggets box set.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I'd Like To Thank The Academy...

With the new job, I haven't had time to acknowledge some kind awards from various bloggers.

Danny at Finely Tuned In Babylon, gave me a "Schmoozing Blogger" award. He stated that the criteria were “to converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection.”. He cited the "mysterious canoe" post in awarding this.

Joe, at Joe's Movie Corner gave me a "Thinking Blogger Award." Thanks! Joe lists his age on his profile as 14-- I'm not sure if he's joking or not, because he writes about movie matters and other things with a maturity and eloquence that seems older than that.

The fractional Splotchy, who iis rumored to now be on every blogroll on the internets, bestowed me with 1/4 of a "Schmooze" Award." He and I shared a Schmooze Award from the always-fascinating Samurai Frog.

Since I have to finish off my list of "Things to Do" left over from yesterday, I will put off finishing the obligation of my Award-- giving my own-- until tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Reason To Believe

Had a busy day today, given that I finally had a day off of work-- I got about 102 of the approximately 106 errands on my list done.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I ended up working a double yesterday. Another server and I worked a party-- a bunch of airline pilots-- members of the pilot's union who'd watched the Democratic Party debates that were held in Soldier's Field last night.

The big news yesterday, though, was when I finally met the restaurant's Executive Chef, Dirk. My jaw dropped when I saw him. It was the same Dirk who was a buddy in my old punk rock clubbing days. He was a bouncer at the Cabaret Metro, which was, from the mid-eighties to early nineties, one of the best venues to see great punk and "alternative" (whatever the hell that is) bands. I saw the Ramones, Iggy Pop, Naked Raygun, Fetchin' Bones, Galaxie 500, Dead Milkmen, the dB's, The Replacements, Black Flag, the Slammin' Watusis, Reverend Horton Heat and about a hundred other bands there back in the day. And I got to see those bands with The Elk, Atwood, Tim, Andreas and a few other of my favorite people.

To the best of my recollection, in 1989 or 1990, Dirk was working the door of the Metro, which was also the entrance to the Smart Bar (or the "Stupid Bar" as we dubbed it) and I was going in with friends Dana, Mark and college friend Dennis (Dennis' real name was Diana-- she was nicknamed after Dennis the Menace-- you remember, Elk-- "Nice shoes!" That's a whole other blog post). Dirk and I had some kind of miscommunication-- what it was is lost forever in the haze of the years-- and almost came to blows. This would not have been a good thing for me. Tangling with bouncers is never good. Dennis knew him, and made us sit and talk and in true guy fashion we bought one another beers and were great friends ever after. Friends were always impressed when I got waved through a crowd waiting to get into the Metro or Smart Bar without even showing ID.

Over time, I lost touch with Dirk-- obviously, he took another road in life, as did I. Hanging around or bouncing in four o'clock bars is a game for young guys.

We were about to start a busy lunch shift, so we only had a couple of minutes to play catch-up. We talked about Bobby Scarpelli, who was my son's godfather (yes, he was Siciilian!), who was the bouncer at the Gingerman, next door to the Metro. Bobby, a Chicago legend, was the nicest guy in the world. He died in 1998 at the age of 49. More about him in another post. Dirk and I talked about where a couple of people were now, and then had to cut it off as the crowds started coming in.

There were a few servers who overheard our conversation and word quickly went out. The "new guy" was an old buddy of the Executive Chef, who used to be a bouncer. People were in disbelief. Dirk seemed to get a kick out of it all-- it added to his reputation as a badass, which is not necessarily a bad reputation to have in his position. And of course the irony is that he's actually a really nice guy.

The new job is going well. This place is great. Most of the people there are very good at what they do. Most of them are also very nice. I've had trouble with one person, but quickly discovered that she's got a problem with everybody. I think she's a problem I can manage.

As I've mentioned, the place got three stars from one of the respected restaurant critics in Chicago last week. The place was already doing well, but they've rocked since the review. I arrived there at a good time.

The family that owns the place are great. They have extensive experience in the business. The patriarch of the family, the owners' father, a gruff, enormous, but sweet Irishman, came up to me Monday, told me "I don't believe we've met," shook my hand and introduced himself.

I had a moment last night when I realized just who I was working for as I got ready to work the party; Billy, the owner, who knew I (like most of the rest of the crew who were on last night) was working a double, stopped me and asked me how I was doing and if I'd had a chance to grab something to eat. Of all the places I ever worked in this business, I can count on one hand where that would have happened. This is a place that is probably grossing nearly $2 million a month, yet also buys its produce from organic sources, and locally as much as possible.

Earlier today, Adam and I were talking on the phone-- he'd read my last post, laughed and said that it was funny how you can start out not liking someone, and things end up differently. He knows that my best friend Jim-- who is one of his favorite people-- thought I was an asshole and hated me the first time we met.

I guess the thing that struck me about running into Dirk again in my life is that it illustrates the nature of our lives-- or at least my life in the last year and a half or so. An old friend had the tagline, from an old proverb, one I've mentioned in other posts, "Do you want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans." So much of the unexpected has happened in the last year and a half of my life. I've buried a friend who I assumed I'd be friends with until I got old; I walked away from a career I thought I'd work in until retirement; I've gotten back in touch with people I'd given up hope on finding (that's you Kringle); I've buried the hatchet with an ex- whom I'd assumed I'd be at war with until my son turned eighteen; I've enjoyed parenting both my son and my stepdaughter in ways I never thought I was even capable of. And I've felt joy like I feared I'd ever be able to feel again after my friend Mark died. Between the things I have around me that I know-- two lovely kids and wife, great friends, living in a great neighborhood filled with nice people, art, culture and, of course, baseball, a couple of jobs I enjoy-- and the wonderful things that I have no idea are coming, it gives, as the late, great Tim Hardin sang, "Reason to Believe."

Okay, Now That That's Out Of The Way...

Sorry-- got home after working a double, catching the last el home from downtown and racing a thunderstorm home to see that asinine reply to a post.

I'll post tomorrow (actually, later today, technically) about my day-- but let it suffice to say that I finally concede to Lulu and TenS; I do know everybody, as I found out while meeting the Executive Chef. It turns out that he and I have known one another for nearly 20 years, and that we nearly ended up in a fistfight the first time we met. Details to follow.

A Special Message To One Person...

To the idiot who posted this comment on my post with the picture of some classic Chicago bungalows:


1. Most of the people who read my blog regularly seemed to find it interesting. The Chicago bungalow is well-known in architecture circles, and, people with interest in art, culture, etc. consider it a classic-- a distinctive feature of Chicago.
2. I'd have taken your criticism of my post a lot more seriously if you yourself had a blog; I'm assuming that since you posted as "Anonymous," you don't. If I'm mistaken, please give me the URL of your fascinating blog so I can return the favor and leave a lame, mindless comment on yours.
3. If my blog and that post are so boring, why are you reading it?

Wait, I want to cater to my audience. Please, by all means, tell me what interests you-- Power Rangers? The Backstreet Boys? Your favorite coloring books? Let me know, and I'll post something that's at your level of interest and intellect.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Why I Should Always Carry My Camera

Today was day two at my new job-- more training. Since I had to be there earlier than normal in order to train (9 a.m.-- the regular start time for a lunch shift is 10:30), I rode in with Kim. It was a nice treat-- we've never had a chance to go in to work together.

We dropped my stepdaughter off at day camp, and as Kim drove her Jetta down Lake Shore Drive toward downtown, we talked. We passed Belmont, and I looked over west into Lincoln Park. I saw what I thought was a dog-- by the color and big ears and paws, I thought it was a Weimeraner (as did Kim, I found out later). I was curious-- there was no owner in sight. Why was this dog sitting there, alone in the middle of a field, scratching behind his ears? As we got closer, I got a better look at it and realized that it wasn't a dog-- it was a coyote!

I said to Kim, "Hey, that's a coyote!" She looked over at it and replied "Oh my god, it is! Do you have your camera?!"

To my regret, I didn't-- since I don't have a place to keep it safely at work, I didn't bring it with me. (the picture on this post is not one I took).

I did call the police, who connected me to Animal Control. The coyote had already been reported. I laughed at how this stealthy creature sat there like some big dumb porch dog, scratching his ear in one of the most visible places in Chicago; an open field just west of the busiest non-expressway road in Chicago. Thousands of people must have seen him.

I've been reading about people spotting coyotes in and around Chicago. I finally saw one with my own eyes.

Work was good today. I got thanks from the manager and owner for taking tables yesterday with basically zero training. I've been a waiter on and off for 27 years; 75% of the job is identical wherever you work.

I trained during a fast and furious lunch shift. I was impressed to see Billy the owner (not to be confused with Billy the waiter I'd trained with yesterday) in there seating people, schmoozing, tending bar here and there when the bartender got slammed, checking on servers to see how things were. He clearly loves the business, and is a nice guy.

The big hurdle today was working the documenter-- the system that you ring up the check in. It automatically sends a ticket to the kitchen on what to cook. It's great having a system like it-- it allows you to do things like split checks and time meals much better than the manual system we use at Jury's (i.e. handwritten checks and telling the cooks special instructions). However, the program that runs it is Byzantine and not very user-friendly. It'll take a little getting used to. The stuff I have to plod through today and maybe tomorrow will be effortless by Friday.

Tomorrow pretty much all I'll do is watch food come out of the kitchen while the line chef/expediter tells me what it is. I'd say I can identify about 50% of the menu already. On Friday, I'll take tables, and I'll be on the schedule next week.

On the train ride home, I was able to finish reading my New York Times-- a rare treat. One of the things I most look forward to is that I can get there on the El instead of driving. It builds a couple of hours of reading time into my day.

I had one concern, though. I was reading an article in the New York Times on scientists doing a CT scan on a mummy named Demetrios. Looking at the portrait of Demetrios that archeologists had found buried with him, I wondered....

...has anyone seen actor John Turturro lately? Should we be worried about him?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The First Day

I started training at my new job as a server at the G. today.

Last night, Kim's best friend, who is the sommelier (wine expert) at The G., and got me the interview there, came by to drink Bombay and tonics and hang out with us. The television news was on the background, and we stopped to watch popular Chicago critic Phil Vittel's review of The G.. It was a rave review, and I had a feeling what to expect today.

I got up at 6 am, and made and ate breakfast. I missed making my kids breakfast. On the weekends, I like to get up and make my kids their favorite breakfast-- Adam likes smoked salmon, rice and french-cut green beans (like me, he likes dinner food for breakfast) and low-fat sausage links. Mel likes toaster waffles, low-fat sausage, fruit (usually her favorite, grapes) and a little low-fat frozen yogurt on the waffles. Since I wasn't sure how long it would take me to get downtown-- it's been years since I worked in the Loop-- I took off at 7:30 to get there by 9. Fortunately, Kim picked up the ball and made them breakfast, as well as taking them to see the Simpsons movie, and took them out to lunch. I definitely wouldn't have been able to even consider these changes without her.

It turned out that I could have stayed and made breakfast-- I got downtown by a little after 8 am. I stopped and got a cup of coffee and read my newspaper. I got to the restaurant at 9 am to find unexpected things. First, the guy who was to train me wasn't there. In fact, he never showed up-- everyone's worried about him. Fortunately, Billy, the "opener" (the server who opens the restaurant-- makes the coffee, ice tea, gets the server stations ready) was there and greeted me a big smile and a "Hi gorgeous!" I quickly ascertained that he was very gay, a super nice guy, and that he and I were going to get along well.

About ten minutes after I arrived he said something funny--

"You've probably heard this before, but has anyone ever told you that you look like Bill Clinton?"

I got a good chuckle-- I have. A lot.

Between the great review-- and the fact that Lollapalooza was taking place a block away-- we were insanely busy. Billy quickly got "weeded" (restaurant slang-- "in the weeds"-- very busy, to the point of almost being overwhelmed), and the floor manager asked me if I felt I could take a table. I did. And then another. And then more. Finally, other servers arrived, but I still kept taking tables.

I'm supposed to have three more days of training. The floor manager quickly figured out that I've got a lot of experience, and started asking me about my availability-- and if I would mind working some doubles soon.

I was nervous as shit going in there today. I always am in a new job. And it's been a long time since I did this for a living. Not only that, but I'm now working in a whole other level.

This business has been good to me. It's allowed me to do the things I've wanted to in life. It paid for me to go back to school and get a teaching certification. It allowed me to work as an underpaid teacher. It allows me to do nice things for my kids and my wife. And the fact of the matter is, I love doing it. We'll see how things go tomorrow.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Chicago Bungalows

5800 block of Navarre Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.

The Sunny Snack Shop

The Sunny Snack Shop, Lawrence and Elston, Chicago, August 3, 2007, 3:30 P.M.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Last Day

Since it's the last day of summer school, things are pretty quiet here. We've actually turned in the grades already, so we're just showing movies and kicking back. It gave me a little time to muse about the changes about to happen in my life, what I've done in the last year and leaving the education field.

I was over at Amy Guth's blog and read a great post about reaching out to people.

It reminded me about an article I read yesterday about 20-year-old Jeremy Hernandez, the hero on the school bus that ended up on the 35W bridge in Minneapolis when it collapsed on Wednesday.

When the bridge collapsed, the bus had fallen against the concrete embankment, making it impossible to open the door. Jeremy, who is a gym director for the summer program for children on the bus were in, jumped to the back of the bus and kicked the door open and started handing kids out to passers-by who had run over to help. There was an urgency to what he was doing-- a truck nearby had caught fire. Thanks to him, there were no fatalities on the bus.

In the article, I read that Hernandez had been studying to be an auto mechanic and had had to drop out around Christmastime last year because he ran out of money. If I had it in my financial means, I'd get my checkbook and write a check for his tuition today. I hope someone with deep pockets reads about him and does this.

I feel a special empathy for Mr. Hernandez-- he reminds me of our students. The school I have been working at for the last year takes young adults who have dropped out of high school and gets them working toward a high school diploma, and hopefully a better future.

When I started here last year, right around the time I started this blog, I was a wreck. I'd been RIF'ed from a job I loved, and had buried one of my closest friends, who was murdered by young gang members.

As I've reflected on what I've done the last year, a couple of specific moments, and students came to mind.

A few days ago, Ludovia, who we graduated in June, came by to say hello-- she was picking up her transcripts for her new job. She hung around for a while and told me about it. She's training to be work in an assisted care facility. I told her to keep an eye out for oppurtunities: that a lot of places will pay for her to upgrade her skills if she agrees to work for them for a set amount of time.

Ludovia talked about plans-- she was hoping that with this job, she'd be able to afford a nice first birthday party for her daughter in a few months. To see how excited she was about the prospects of her first job-- it was really moving. It was hard to believe that this friendly, sociable kid had been kicked out of high school for repeated fighting. It felt good to have been part of her transition to a functioning adulthood.

A little while ago, I wrote a letter of recommendation for one of my favorite students, Raul.

Raul had not dropped out of school-- he'd never attended high school. His life got off the rails somewhere along the way, but now that he's settled down with a long-term girlfriend, whom he now has two kids with, he wanted to move forward.

Raul may or may not finish high school-- he's got a lot of credits to make up, and even between this place and night school, it may be difficult to finish. However, he has a plan. He has started an apprenticeship to work as a tattoo artist.

Yesterday, Raul came by my room and asked a favor: he'd had to bring his tattoo-artist tools with him to school because he had to go to work right afterward. He asked me to keep his tools at my desk. He could have left them at the security desk, but he asked me to safeguard these tools that are the key to his new livlihood and future. I suddenly realized that I had provided something that had been lacking before in his life: trust.

Last October, I wrote a post about the death of my friend Mark, and how working here was very healing in dealing with my grief. I'd commmented on how I'd had the realization that everything in these kids' lives up to this point had let them down-- school, family, church, etc. As I get ready to leave this job, I've been reflecting on how difficult it was at times. But I don't think anything else I could have done could have done more help me past the pain of my friend's murder.

In her post, Amy talked about a terrible automobile accident she'd had, and how some truck driver had come to her aid immediately, and mentioned other situations where people weren't so eager to help. It got me to thinking about something I read years ago: "Who would have to be in what kind of trouble for you to change your life to help them?"

That's a real challenge, isn't it? I think about times I've helped someone: I've bought homeless people meals; I've pulled my car over and jump-started strangers' cars; stopped and helped up people who have fallen; jumped in and broken up fights when I saw bullying or a mismatch. None of those things really required a life change. Being a teacher on other hand, did. I'd have to say that my time as a teacher, particularly this last year, have been the times I have most felt like I was really helping someone.

In our lives, we get these moments in which we face a choice: to help or not to help. The other day, Jeremy Hernandez faced that choice and jumped in the saddle and helped. I hope someone sees that they too have a choice-- to help this kid finish school.

I'm leaving teaching because I had to make some blunt economic choices-- I have two kids who'll need college tuition in a few years, and a pretty wife whom I want to make sure is comfortable when we retire. But in leaving today, I feel good. I feel like I made a difference. And I hope, like Amy wrote, that people look for chances, big or small, to make a difference. Because, you see, it's the best damned feeling I've ever felt.

How Will I Tell Him?

A couple of weeks ago, I was waiting to check out at Jewel's, and I made my usual scan of the tabloids, looking to see if the Weekly World News had a particularly good headline. I didn't see the headline, or a Weekly World News, for that matter.

And then last week, my world caved in on me. I discovered, while reading Samurai Frog's blog that the Weekly World News has ceased to exist. This was confirmed by Evil Genius.

The Weekly World News and I go back a long time. When I was in college in the early and mid eighties, I roomed with three of my best buddies. One of us would ultimately buy the News every week, and some of the particularly absurd headlines and articles would end up taped to the walls of our apartment. Once in a while, the household activities would stop as one of us read one of uberconservative parodist "Ed Anger's" columns to everybody.

After college, I continued over the years to pick up the Weekly World News once in a while. When I was rooming with my good friend The Elk and our late friend Mark in Wrigleyville in the eighties, I got The Elk a subscription to the Weekly World News as a gag (yes, it was me, Elk!).

A couple of years ago, my son Adam took a shine to the newspaper, probably partly because of their frequent stories about his hometown, Chicago. Somehow, the Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune, both of which he subscribes to, missed the breaking stories on sea monsters and UFO's in Lake Michigan.

So this weekend, I will have to break the sad news-- that the greatest, cheesiest tabloid ever, the Weekly World News has gone to that big newsroom in the sky. I'll have to do something to ease his pain. Maybe I'll pick up a National Enquirer for him on the way home from work today.

Random Ten For the End

As I start the last day of my teaching career, I was hoping there'd be an appropriate song-- I was hoping maybe Jeff Buckley's achingly beautiful "Last Goodbye." No luck there, but Roy Orbison obliged with his equally beautiful "It's Over."

I start training at The G. on Sunday morning. They got a great review in one of the Chicago papers yesterday, so I think I'll have to hit the ground running.

1. Come Dancing- The Kinks
2. 'Til I Hear It From You- The Gin Blossoms
3. In The Evening- Led Zeppelin
4. Two Swords- The English Beat
5. Misty Mountain Hop- Led Zeppelin
6. Deadbeat Club- B-52's
7. It's Over- Roy Orbison
8. Oye Como Va- Santana
9. Welcome to the Boomtown- David and David
10. Mustang Sally- Wilson Pickett

No, Really?

The headline on the New York Times online:

U.S. Underestimated Iraq Political Problems: Gates

He figured that out all by himself, I'll bet! No wonder they got him in charge of the Pentagon and all.

Sears Tower, Chicago, Illinois, August 1, 2007

I got to work yesterday to discover that we had a field trip to the Sears Tower. We packed the kids and ourselves in a school bus and went downtown.

It was a little hazy yesterday, but the view was still magnificent. This is the view north. The Chicago River North Branch ambles north and west, passing about a block from our home.

If you look west you can see...

...the United Center, where the Black Hawks and Bulls play.

This is the view to the south.

To the southwest.

To the northeast. When I was a kid, the Prudential Building, the building in the center of the picture with the blue sign, was the tallest building in Chicago. There was almost nothing between the Prudential Building and Navy Pier, which you can see in the background.

Yes, that's a steeple on top of a skyscraper.

You can see the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium in this one.

This is Millenium Park.

The Northwest Side, where Kim, the kids and I live.