Archive for August, 2008

Hole Encore

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

I live on a resiliant little street.  Well, not the street itself — it’s as frail as a lactose-intolerant octogenerian — but the businesses around it manage to keep going despite multiple floods, a ridiculous sinkhole, a year-long train station construction project, and now… emergency sewer repair.  Here’s the news we all received:

Repeated partial collapses during cleaning and inspection operation have persuaded the Department of Water Management that a full sewer replacement between Damen and Hermitage is necessary.

Repeated partial collapses?  That explains why the neighborhood smells like a toilet.  Still, Roong Petch, Glenn’s Diner, Lather, Subway, Scot’s, Beans and Bagels and my friends at the convenience store keep on truckin’.  Even El Torito has signs that they’ll be reopening soon.  El Torito, which looked like this only a couple months ago:

Kudos bi’ness.

Gonna Drive It All Around This World

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

After 10 months without a car, I finally caved and re-entered the automotive community.  Here are some things I learned over the last 10 months.

  • I read a LOT more when I take the train everywhere.  If I had a car, I probably wouldn’t have made it through all those pirate books.
  • I never get sick of walking.
  • I’m not really into biking.  Despite my best efforts, I just don’t enjoy it all that much.
  • iGo is a great idea, but I barely ever used it.  When I did, it took me 20 minutes to figure out how to turn the stinking Prius on.
  • Without a car, I saw less of my friends who live along the blue line (or along no line.)
  • Buses aren’t as bad as I thought.  They can get you where you want to go.
  • The freedom of having a car is no joke.  I’m totally going to Home Depot today.
  • I can’t think of anything I enjoy less than the process of buying a car.

Oh man, I just went on You Tube to see if they had a clip of John Prine singing “Automobile” and found this great clip of him on Soundstage.  It kills me that they fade it out at the end.

Ahoy, Pagey

Monday, August 25th, 2008

My friend Eddie is responsible for drawing me into several ridiculously long book-seriesesses from Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, to Stephen King’s Dark Tower, and lately, Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey-Maturin books.  I’ve been reading the 20-book series non-stop for the last year or so and it’s become an obsession.  The series follows two officers in the 19th century British Navy, and even though there aren’t many pirates in them I’ve taken to calling them “the pirate books.”

Every time I start a new one, I say to myself, “Okay, after this, I’m going to take a break and read something else,” but then the book ends with a ridiculous cliffhanger and I need to go get the next one.  I’m an addict.  I only have a couple of books left and then I don’t know what I’m going to do… freak out, I suppose.  Stupid pirate books.

Act IV: Daisies

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

I consider my gardening exploits a success if the result isn’t a crumbled brown husk.  I have a grand total of three plants that have lasted longer than a year.  Needless to say, I’m not in charge of our building’s garden.  My neighbor, Carrie, takes care of that.  This summer, as I’ve watched our front garden bloom and transform from month to month, I’ve decided that she’s a genius.

In the spring our tree blossoms and tulips appear.  Then in July there’s lily-fest.  Now, at the end of the summer, I noticed these little blue guys popping up:

A competent gardener will plant flowers and keep them alive for a few months.  Carrie directs a summer-long floral production.

“Damn, I’m Gonna Get a Hot Dog When I Get There”

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

I drove my brother Brian up to Evanston last night to get his bike out of my parents’ garage.  Afterwords we started heading back to the city when Brian asked if I was hungry.  “Mustard’s?”  I suggested.

Mustard’s Last Stand is an Evanston institution that was two blocks from where we grew up and adjacent to Northwestern’s football stadium.  Our family ate there a lot — so much that Brian developed a friendship with the grillman, Keith.  Keith seems to know everyone in Evanston and the two of them could talk sports indefinitely.

Neither of us had been to Mustard’s for probably 10 years, but Keith recognized Brian immediately, recalling his baseball days in high school, his back injury, and of course his infatuation with Notre Dame.

As we were leaving, Keith asked Brian to bring in a photo.

Keith: We’ll put it up on the wall.
Me: (Pointing to a photo of Michael Jordan mid-layup) Maybe you can replace this guy.
Keith: You know, we have the only photo in the world of Michael Jordan not dunking.

To truly appreciate Keith’s wit and sense of humor, read this article he had in the Sun Times last year.

Sometimes It’s Good to Be the Dummy

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Sometimes when my aunt Renee is in town she and I play bridge with my grandparents.  Neither of us understand the game all that well, but it’s fun to see my grandparents so competitive.  Even my grandfather, whose age is catching up with him, remembers every bid and trick.

My grandma (who was my partner) made some aside comments to Renee in the middle of a hand.

Renee: I think you’re trying to trick me.
(A few cards later)
Renee: You were trying to trick me.

At this point, my grandmother stood up and did a little dance on her way to making “game.”

The skill in bridge centers around giving subtle hints to your partner through bids and leads.  I’d often ask my grandma, “What do you think I have?”  As I eyed the glut of clubs in my hand she’d say something like, “10-12 points and at least 4 hearts.”  Whoops.  By the end of the night we started to get on the same page, although I spent much of it as the dummy.

Idiot Camp

Friday, August 8th, 2008

A few weeks ago I went on an annual trip to Michigan with some old friends from high school.  Each year it offers all of us a chance to get together and act like idiots.  There is usually at least one trip to the Walmart in town where various shenanigan utensils are purchesed: bb guns, screen printing supplies, watermelons+Crisco, or in the case of last year, a model rocket kit.  After immediately losing the two actual model rockets, we began looking around for other things to strap rocket engines to.

Behold the launch and recovery of the RacketRocket:

Thick Skulls Come In Handy Sometimes

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

You want more overloaded minivan stories?  Here’s one from college — actually right before college.  I went on one of those wilderness orientation programs lots of schools offer to incoming freshman.  I have a vague memory that one of the trails or peaks was named after Mickey Dolenz, but that’s about all I remember.

After the trip, two minivans were supposed to pick us up and take us down the mountain, but only one came.  We decided all 11 of us (and our backpacks) would just cram into the car.  After all, it was only a half-hour drive.

There were three of us in the passenger seat.  I was positioned in such a way that my head was actually leaning on the windshield.  As we twisted and turned down the mountain road, a voice from the bottom of our passenger-seat pile said, “I don’t like this,” and managed to jimmy-rig the seatbelt around (at least parts) of all of us.

Seconds later we made a particularly sharp cuve and the next thing I knew the car was plowed into a tree.  There we shouts of, “Is everyone okay,” amidst the smoke.  Remarkably, everyone was.  It turns out there was so much weight in the car, one of the rear tires actually fell off of the wheel.

I remember three things from after the accident:

  1. As the last person stumbled out of the van, we heard a poof.  The airbag finally went off.
  2. As I stood in a daze in front of the car, someone pointed at the windshield and said, “Evan, did your head do that?”  The windshield had shattered right where my head was.  I didn’t have a scratch on me.  I have a strong head.
  3. A woman ran out of the only nearby house.  “Everyone crashes into that tree,” she said.  Then she invited us in and served us lemonade.

Not To Exceed 2000 Lbs.

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

On the way home from Michigan the minivan in front of our car had a tire blowout at 70 mph.  It scared the crap out of me.  I pulled over to make sure they were all okay and offer a ride into town.  As I approached the still-smoking wheel, a large woman in a bright yellow dress stepped out of the car, followed by a large man in a yellow suit.  One by one, large, yellow-clad folk stepped out of the door until they were all standing around the shredded remains of their tire.  It turns out they were a gospel choir on their way to a show.  As the choir director retrieved the jack and spare tire, the bassist surveyed the damage.

BASSIST: We just had too much weight in this car.

They thanked me profusely for stopping — “There are still nice people in this world.” — and said they’d be fine getting into town.  That little doughnut spare tire has my sympathy.