Archive for January, 2007

He Didn’t Fall?! Inconceivable!

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Third in a series of “reasons it’s really hard to be a parent.”

I’m realizing now that I have quite a few stories where I make an ass out of myself in front of unsuspecting parents trying to raise their kids right. I’m also realizing I have a lot of stories about really dumb games my friends and I made up. This one has both!

I went to college in New York and for a couple years some friends and I would go up to Vermont right before the spring semester started and do some falling skiing. I’m a mediocre skier. I’ll go down any crazy hill, but I’ll do so in a fashion that makes everyone around me a bit nervous. Still, I manage to stay on my feet more or less. (Now that I’ve taken up snowboarding, little of what I just said still applies… except for the making people nervous part.)

After a full day of skiing (pronounced shee-ing) we grew tired of simply “going down the hill” and decided to play a little game. Seeing how there were four of us, we split into two teams of two and had a race: first to the bottom wins… anything goes.

Now, I’m not an overly physical fella, but I am resilient. I grew up with two brothers and spent countless hours in human piles, often at the bottom. I guess I thought I’d be pretty good at this game. But then, I also thought the abbreviation for pounds was pronounced “labs.” So when I saw my roommate, Dan, stopped, poised at the top of a descent, I picked up some speed and took aim. Things that didn’t occur to me:

  1. Dan’s a hockey player
  2. Dan’s quite a bit bigger than I am
  3. Dan knows I’m about to plow into him.

Nonetheless, I took a deep breath, crouched down, and delivered a mighty blow. It took me a while to assess the situation through the flurry of powder, but when the dust had cleared I was lying on my back… and Dan? Dan was right where I left him, standing over me laughing. All I could do was shout, “YOU DIDN’T FALL DOWN?!”

At this point, I realized that the inevitable father and son were also standing at the top of this particular hill. From their perspective, some out-of-control hack who has no business being on the mountain (NO BUSINESS!) rammed into some stranger and then got upset when said stranger didn’t fall down.

But it’s worse. As Dan laughed and turned to continue down the mountain, I reached over in frustration and pounded on his binding release with my fist. At least that worked!

Dan made it a couple feet on one ski before tumbling for a good 50 feet or so. I laughed and laughed. I think I even pointed and laughed. As I rolled over onto my back to hoist myself up, I made eye contact with the most disapproving father in the history of disapproving fathers. The look he gave me was the dirtiest look I ever received in my life. Dirtier, even, than the lady with the bike helmet.

Why I Wear A Bike Helmet

Monday, January 29th, 2007

Second in a series of “reasons it’s really hard to be a parent.”

Hi. I wear a bike helmet. I have two, actually. One for when it’s hot out and one for when it’s cold out. The one for when it’s cold out is a snowboarding helmet that looks like what the rebels wore on the Forest moon of Endor, but that’s neither here nor there. Except it’s awesome. Anyway, I used to not wear a bike helmet, despite several run-ins with the Evanston bike helmet guy (It’s at the bottom of the page.)

Isn’t that guy in front a little old to be fighting the Empire?

Now, I’ve gotten into lots of accidents on my bike. (The tandem, that is.) Me and my friends used to play a game called “Close Your Eyes And Stick Up Your Head.” It was when we had pegs on the back wheel so we could fit 3 people on it. The person on the back would, well, close his eyes and stick up his head. The others would then ride through low hanging branches. Once I was on the back, closing my eyes and sticking up my head, when my friends rode through a low hanging limb. It hit me in the face and knocked me off. But that’s not why I wear a helmet.

And that time one of the pegs broke off (with someone on them) and messed up the back wheel so bad that we crashed into a cement post? That’s not why I wear a helmet either… although it is why I wear a cup…

One day I was riding my bike when I ended up stopped at a corner near a mother and her son. Both of them were on bikes. I overheard the following conversation:

MOTHER: Put on your helmet.
SON: I don’t want to.
MOTHER: If you don’t wear your helmet, you can’t ride your bike.
SON (Pointing at me): But he’s not wearing a helmet!

That look his mother game me? That’s why I wear a helmet.

Speaking of Trains…

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

First in a series of “reasons it’s really hard to be a parent.”

Waiting for the L at the Montrose station, a mother with her son came up on the platform. I have no idea how old kids are. They’re either babies, toddlers, awkward, or teenagers. Beyond that I can’t really guess. This kid was a toddler… I think.

He was very excited about the train. He reminded me of Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story when they’re opening their presents.

Are we going on a train?!!? Choo choo!?! Look at the tracks!! Wow! Is it coming?? Choo choo!!! Choo choo! Trains!!!

It was non-stop. His mom noticed me chuckling, turned, and deadpanned, “He likes trains.”

And that’s when the train came. Woah! This kid took it to another level. He couldn’t control himself! His eyes were bugging out and he was jumping up and down. His mom literally grabbed him to hold him back. I’m pretty sure he was making a move to give the train a hug. All the while, he was shouting, “CHOO CHOO! CHOO CHOO! CHOO CHOO! It’s a TRAIN!” What can I say? Kids love trains! I sure loved the crap out of stupid Tootle.

Why Don’t You Worry About Your Own Problems?

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

They can’t finish rebuilding the Montrose station soon enough ’cause the Irving Park scene is messed up!

I was waiting on the southbound platform a few weeks ago and happened to notice that the northbound train was stopped about 100 yards north of the station. This is during rush hour, mind you. (Well, maybe a little after. I stay at work late, OK? Get off my back.) The point is, there were a lot of people waiting for trains.

The conductor of the train was walking down the tracks toward the station. He wasn’t in any hurry. I wasn’t either, which is why I could enjoy the scene that was about to unfold.

I noticed a little girl standing alone on the northbound platform. She was young enough that it was strange for her to be on an L platform by herself, but she seemed rather calm. The crazy man on the platform, however, was anything but. He was gesticulating wildly for the conductor to hurry over. The conductor did not hurry, but he made it eventually, at which point I learned what had happened: The little girl had accidentally gotten off of the train without her mother noticing. The mother was now waiting impatiently on the train stalled 100 yards north of the station.

The conductor formed a plan, which the crazy man loudly repeated, line by line.

CONDUCTOR: Don’t worry, it will be OK.
CONDUCTOR: I’ll make sure your mom gets off at the next station
CONDUCTOR: Get on this next train and the conductor will help you out.

The conductor motioned for the next train to approach the station. (The crazy man, also motioned for the next train to approach, but with a much larger gesture.) When it got there, the conductor made sure the little girl got on the train and explained the situation to that train’s operator.

NEW TRAIN OPERATOR: Why didn’t you just radio me?
CONDUCTOR: I don’t have a radio.
NEW TRAIN OPERATOR: How do you not have a radio?
CONDUCTOR: Why don’t you worry about your own problems?

I’ve often defended the CTA, even irrationally at times, but if there’s one thing the dude driving the train needs, it’s probably a radio. Wouldn’t you assume, maybe, that the radio would be built into the train itself? I mean, I’m all for personal interaction, but as he slowly sauntered back to his train I couldn’t help but wonder what a wrench this 30 minute detour threw into the CTA’s down-to-the-minute schedules. (Pffft.)

All that said, they did (I assume) reunite the little girl with her mother. So that’s nice.

Now, If We Could Only Build A Holodeck

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

I was looking at Innis’s great photos of Millennium Park and I couldn’t help but notice how unbelievably perfect it looks. Like everything I see or hear, it reminds me of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation — specifically, the one where they go to Earth to visit Starfleet Academy. I remember watching that episode and thinking what a lovely vision of futuristic urban life that was. Also, I was thinking that Worf is awesome.



Which one is a Utopian vision of 24th century Earth (with the exception of Deanna Troi) and which one is our fair city?

Bel Biv Devoe is Mentioned Here. I Promise.

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

I used to poo-poo blogs all the time, but my computer started smelling funny. Also, I read Crabbydad’s blog. Now I like them. Actually, I only like a couple of them. Crabbydad you know. I also like A Year of Working and Liberty Valence.

Crabbydad stuck me with some sort of chain mail thing. It involves answering the following questions and then passing it on to three other blogs. I don’t know that many people… but I’ll deal with that later. First, the questions.

Three people/things that make me laugh
A big guy playing a tiny drum set, that time Chris fell on the treadmill, and my grandma playing Dance Dance Revolution.

Three things that scare me
The possibility of street-signs flying off their posts on a windy day and decapitating me, The Dark Crystal, and the playground in Genoa City, Wisconsin that was all rusty and overgrown with vines.

Three things I love
Pancakes, movies about extra-curricular activities, and great crowds.

Three things I hate
Nuts in brownies, nuts in cookies and mushrooms (nature’s nuts.)

Three things I don’t understand
Right before a cell phone rings, the signal interferes with speakers and headphones creating a buzzing noise. You’ve probably heard it. I understand why that happens. What I don’t understand is why the interference sounds like “Poison” by Bel Biv Devoe. Also, why was the Mars Bar discontinued? And why wasn’t the Chunky discontinued?

Three things on my desk
The soundtrack to The Muppet Movie, the original drawing that spawned The Shapes, and a ukulele pitch pipe.

Three things I want to do before I die
Play one great guitar solo live, like the one at the end of “Goodybe Stranger.” I’d also like to beat my brother in ping pong. And is it too much to want to go to space? I mean, I’d like to go to space.

Three things I can do
Make pie crust from scratch, organize gatherings, and coil cables into perfect circles.

Three things I would like to learn:
How to sing harmonies, basic automotive maintenance, and just a little itty bit of fashion sense.

Three favorite foods
Can I use pancakes again? OK. Then pancakes. Pancakes, cupcakes and cake doughnuts. But not wedding cakes. I’ve had, maybe, one good wedding cake in my life. Why does fancy food taste so nasty?

Three beverages I drink regularly
Root Beer. Let’s just go with 3 root beers.

Three TV shows/Books I watched/read as a kid
There was this one book I remember loving called Tootle. It was about a train that didn’t like running on the tracks so he’d go off and prance in the fields. A couple years ago I got a chance to read Tootle again… and it sucks! In the end he learns that life is better if you stay on the tracks. That’s the moral of the story: don’t go smell the flowers, stay on the tracks and do your job and be miserable. What kind of stupid moral is that for kids? Good thing I was too big an idiot to remember that. I guess I just liked the trains. All the stuff I liked as a kid is terrible. My brother an I used to wake up on Saturday mornings to watch The Mighty Orbots. I still remember the theme song. Even now we talk about how great that show was. At least we did until I had a chance to watch it recently. TERRIBLE! I did get a chance to see 3-2-1 Contact again, though, and that was pretty good. In fact, setting TiVo to record it is one of the reasons my TiVo now thinks I’m an 8 year old girl.

And that about wraps it up. Now, three people to send it to? How about Innis, Shama-la-di-da, and CNN.

One-Person Bike

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

I got a one-person bike today. I keep calling it a one-person bike because I’ve spent the last 15 years riding around on “The Fastest Bike In The World:” a metallic purple 1966 Schwinn Twinn Tandem bike.

What with the Montrose L station closed for a year, I figured I should find some alternative transportation. As much as I like the tandem, I can only take people yelling “you lost someone” so many times. Also, it is equipped with a Tire Of Perpetual Flatness (-2 Dexterity.) Also-also, the thing is not the most efficient piece of machinery in the cyclesphere. It weighs, like, 5000 pounds. Also-also-also, one of the pedals keeps falling off. So I bit the bullet and got a one-person bike.

Before it begins its long, solitary life next to the hot water heater, I thought I’d share a tandem story with you. There are many to choose from: The time we ran into a tree. The time we ran into a wall. The time we ran into that other tree. The time we ran into an old lady. The time we got hit by a car. The time we got arrested for trying to catch a duck… they’re all good stories, but here’s my favorite tandem story and it happened about a year ago…
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Uncommon Ground

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

You know the drill. Uncommon Ground. Tuesday night. Dancing bears, etc.

Here Is A Yard. Please Stomp It

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007

I set this website up so I could get shows. But I only play at one place and they know me so it’s pretty obsolete. Also, it turns out I’m too lazy to even get shows there these days.

My point is, since I have no musical news, I wanted to write about something very important to me: movies about extra-curricular activities. I just saw a preview for Stomp The Yard, and if you know me at all you know that I am very excited. It’s hard to get as psyched up for this as I was for Drumline since a) I was in the marching band, albeit a much lamer marching band and b) it has a slightly inferior tag-line (He Will Challenge Their Traditions. Their Traditions Will Change His Life vs. Halftime Is Game Time.) But I’ve been known to do some stepping from time to time, so we shall see. If you’re not doing anything on January 12th, I’ll see you at the picture show.
Anyway, here’s my (incomplete) list:

  • Drumline - “Whatever the beef is between you two you better grill it up and eat it.” Best extra-curricular dialog. Also makes the marching band look cool. Maybe someone should make a movie about stage crew or programming computers after school. Then I’d feel really hip.
  • Breakin’ II: Electric Boogaloo – Am I the only one who liked Turbo better than Ozone?
  • Honey - Could form a sub-category with Breakin’ II of movies about saving the community center.
  • Stick It - The director really needed to get something off her chest, but this movie rules. It barely makes the list since gymnastics is a sport and I’m not including other sports movies, but if you see it I think you’ll agree that it belongs here.
  • Breakin’ – As I later learned in Honey, Hip Hop dancing is about the flow. And if that flow tells you to rip the sleeves off of your tuxedo, dammit, you better rip the sleeves off of your tuxedo.
  • Bring It On – I have a lingering Eliza Dushku crush from Buffy.
  • The Cutting Edge – D.B. Sweeney was in one of my favorite TV shows that no one ever saw: “Strange Luck.” So… points for that.
  • Bring It On Again – Worth watching if just for the “herky” scene. What the hell was that? I couldn’t find it on youtube, unfortunately, although someone did upload all of Bring It On. Just now I spent the last 10 minutes watching it. Damn you, YouTube.
  • You Got Served – The longest feud between friends with the most chances for reconciliation you will ever see.
  • Bring It On: All Or Nothing – I confess I haven’t seen this one. I feel inadequate to write this list. I will rent it this week and report back, promise.