Archive for the 'Stories' Category


Monday, September 17th, 2007

Amanda collects stories about Jellyvision employees. One of her favorite questions to ask people in interviews is, “What are three things about yourself that would surprise me?” I started working at Jellyvision before Amanda so I never had to answer that question, but I recently told her that I had been on Letterman and she seemed quite surprised. Truth be told, I had kind of forgotten about it, but I’ll tell the story anyway.

It all stems from my year as a member of the Columbia University Marching Band, The Cleverest Band in the World™. Ivy league schools have pretty really pathetic football teams. They also have really pathetic marching bands. To compensate for their lack of musical ability, marching prowess, dedication and size, most Ivy League marching bands are “scramble bands.” That is, instead of marching, they run around the field like idiots while reading jokes over the P.A. Occasionally they play songs too.

I was a member of this crack semi-musical unit for a while. I played clarinet in the marching band in high school and was recruited by a friend: “Wait, you actually play an instrument? We need you.” You see, much of the band is made up of “miscies” who play any miscellaneous thing they can find, be it a beer keg, stadium seat, toilet or even, yes, the kitchen sink.

cumb.jpgSay what you will about the band, and lord knows people have, but it is an organization steeped in amazing, ridiculous traditions. In fact, Columbia’s best tradition is probably the semi-annual “Orgo Night,” when the band invades the library at 11:59 the night before the Organic Chemistry final exam and mayhem ensues. We even had a secret equation (yes, we were nerds): G(tb)2. I’m not allowed to tell you what that means, but rest assured, it’s not that interesting.

Anyway, flashback to 1995. During a “rehearsal” one of the drummers (I think) said, “Hey, let’s go play outside of the Late Show studio and see if they put us on TV.” A couple days later we did exactly that, and amazingly, it worked! We got to go on stage and play one of the Columbia Fight Songs (“Who Owns New York”) as the credits rolled. Letterman’s response sums it up: “Hey, how about that Columbia University Marching Band? (Shrugs.) How about their uniforms? (Shrugs again.)”

A couple weeks later, Letterman sent us a check to “get some real uniforms.”

I couldn’t find a video of the appearance anywhere, but I still have the “real uniform” we got with the money. It still fits! Check me out!

Here’s the official rendition of the story from the CUMB archives.

UPDATAE: As promised, my mom digitized the video. Here it is. I’m a dork.

Ah Choo…led you

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

Over the weekend the conversation turned to sneezing… again. A proposition was placed on the table: pretend to sneeze in a meeting and see if you can fool anyone. We decided that was a great idea. Or maybe we decided it was a dumb idea. I don’t remember. Uuhhhhhh.

I tried faking a sneeze during a meeting on Monday. I have violent, spastic sneezes so I really tried to do it up. I suppose it was successful. I mean, I was “blessed” and all, but I can’t say I was happy with my performance. I certainly didn’t believe I was sneezing. I guess I’m not a method sneezer.

Moral: Be vigilant when those around you sneeze. They might be faking… or worse!

A Living Cubs Fan’s Last Request

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

Back in March I received an e-mail announcing the start of the fantasy baseball league I’ve played in for years. I actually wrote a whole big thing about baseball season getting started that I never posted. It went something like this:

“I think last year was one of the worst years to be a Cubs fan. I know those of you who were around in the 50′s and 60′s (i.e., Dad) may dispute this, but there was something about last year that was particularly brutal. They weren’t even lovable losers. They were just losers.”

This year might be worse: losing on a walk-off hit batsman, being thrown out on a walk… they really are amazing.

Normally before our fantasy baseball draft I rate some Cubs players a little higher than they deserve. I figure, if I’m going to have mediocre players, I might as well have mediocre players I want to root for. This year I forgot to rate the players and for the first time ever I don’t have any Cubs on my team. Last time I checked I was in first place.

No one understood it like the late Steve Goodman:


Sunday, June 3rd, 2007

I walked through the Lincoln Square Mayfest just in time to catch the Jesse White Tumblers.  As is often the case, Jesse White himself was there, and he was wearing white pants.  The Honorable Secretary of State did some headstands and other near-tumbling activities as Chicago youths between the ages of 6 and 16 bounded about the street.  I’ve probably seen them perform 100 times, yet it’s one of those things I’ve never gotten sick of.  I’ve also never seen them screw up.  That’s kind of weird, I think.

Today, as one fella was flip flopping and flipping and flopping… his shorts fell off.  But dammit if he didn’t stick the landing.

Math is Hard

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

Ali was asked to sing at her friend’s wedding and she asked me if I’d play guitar with her. Originally I was supposed to harmonize with her as well, but a quick skills assessment confirmed my suspicions that I suck at harmonizing. So Kelly was brought in to do the harmonies, forming the most powerful Indigo Girls-singing-wedding-trio ever! Except for the Police. I think they’ve done Indigo Girls songs at a wedding.


The thing about weddings in Grant Park is your audience isn’t just the wedding party. All the folks milling about Buckingham Fountain decided to stop and watch as well.

After the ceremony, the groom shook our hands and said we did a great job.

GROOM: I hate the Indigo Girls, but that song was perfect!

The song was called “Power of Two.” It’s a nice enough song, but I do have a problem with it. The titular line is: “Adding up the total of a love that’s true / Multiply life by the power of two.” Now, I’m all for the love/math metaphor. Lord knows I use it myself, but you can’t multiply anything by the power of two. You can raise life to the power of two or multiply life by two, but you can’t multiply life by the power of two.
That line ruined the whole wedding for me.

UPDATE: I’m aware that in my math song, the line “You’re as complex as the square root of negative one” isn’t quite accurate. Complex numbers must have real and imaginary parts, so the square root of negative one is actually just an imaginary number. Hee haw.

I’m The Best… Around.

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

Speaking of unexpected victories and 30th birthdays, I was at Joanie’s 30th birthday the other day. Her husband Jon has a ping pong table in the garage and he gets really excited when folks come over to play.

I have an unfortunate ping pong history. More often than I would prefer, I accidentally hit the ball off of my knuckle. Also, I have an uncanny ability to swing at a ball and, defying all laws of physics, propel it backwards. I’m also known for a powerful backhand that lands in play approximately 3% of the time. When it does, though, it has never been successfully returned.

My main complaint with ping pong, however, is that I’ve never beaten my brother Aric. Never. Ever. There are times I’ve gotten close, but I’m pretty sure he was toying with me.

I’ve never beaten him, that is, until this weekend. On the 26th day of May in the year 2007, Evan beat Aric 21-19 in Jon and Joanie’s garage.

Here’s some bootleg video of the match someone captured:

The Thrill of Victory… And Burning Cars

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Speaking of brutal, I just received the schedule for this year’s Team Demolition Derby. Last summer Claire wasn’t sure what to do for her 30th Birthday. I had just learned about Team Demolition Derby and put the idea on the table. Claire’s response: “That’s perfect!”

So one rainy July afternoon, we trekked down to the dirt oval in Joliet to see some hot station wagon on station wagon action. The rules are simple: each team has four cars. The first team that gets one car around the track 5 times wins.


I wouldn’t have known it, but we (apparently) saw one of the greatest team demolition derby matches in the history of this storied track. The heavily favored Orange Crush jumped out to a quick lead, but their opponent, the resilient Junkyard Dogs, staged an amazing comeback. After 20 minutes of twisted metal and muddy wrecks, the Junkyard Dogs only needed to get their car 50 feet to win. Unfortunately it had stalled… and overheated… because it was on fire. The only other functioning car on the track was an Orange Crush Oldsmobile barely visible through the smoke billowing out from its hood.

As the remaining Dog furiously tried to restart his engine, the Oldsmobile slowly accelerated to ramming speed. My friends, when children dream of glory on the dirt oval, this is their dream: The Orange Crush’s attack was mere feet from ending The Junkyard Dogs’ surprising run when the whir and sputter of a dilapidated engine catching hushed the crowd, albeit momentarily. For as that pathetic piece of crap car plodded through the mud towards the finish line, the frenzied audience drowned out the even-more-frenzied P.A. announcer with an unparalleled ovation reserved for the true heroes of team demolition derby.

I hear the halftime show during the finals involves melting a car with a jet engine. So that’s cool too.

By the way, the Junkyard Dogs got killed in the finals. Also, I’m not sure if they were actually called the Junkyard Dogs. But the rest of this story is mostly true, I swear.

The Most Brutal Store in Chicago

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

The craft and flower store on the corner of Montrose and Damen closed and a new store recently re-opened in its place: Metal Haven! I assume it’s the same owners.

Metal Haven has a website, but on it you will find this note:

“…The fact remains that metal is itself far more important than the internet. Metal eats the internet for breakfast. And you know this.”


The store is pretty fantastic. I might have to go to the Alehorn of Power show in a couple weeks. Who’s down?

The Key To Gardening: A Year of Neglect

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

Last spring a friend of mine realized he had ordered too many asparagus seeds or roots or pods or whatever asparagus thingers are called.

I took the extras, threw them in a hole and waited all summer for a slender green stinker to pull itself through the dirt. Nothing. Granted, I didn’t water or fertilize or, um, hoe? I did nothing, and I figured my lack of effort earned me an appropriate lack of asparagus.

But this weekend I was in my backyard and looky what I saw:


Take that, earth!

Giving Me The Bird

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

I got a new phone a year or two ago and I eventually set my ringtone to be the song Tex Avery’s down-on-his-luck wolf character used to whistle while he was walking… usually into an inevitably painful situation.


It’s a mighty catchy song and often after my phone rings, I hear people around the office whistling it. More than once I’ve reached for my phone only to realize it’s just a spaced-out co-worker.

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This morning I tried to answer my phone, but it wasn’t ringing at all. The bird outside of my window was whistling the wolf’s tune!

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Are you seriously going to wear that?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

10_13_06_chicago_2016.jpgThe US Olympic Committee is in town today to evaluate Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games, so everyone tuck in your shirts. Try not to look like such a slob for once in your life.

I know there are some of you out there who don’t like the idea of millions of people from all over the world descending on Chicago for a two week party, but don’t ruin this for the rest of us, okay?

I’m no world traveler, but I can’t imagine it gets any better than Chicago in the summer. The world needs to see that this is the greatest city in the country. Hell, if it gets all those east coasters and west coasters to shut up about their stupid coasts for, like, 10 seconds, it will be worth it. Mostly I’m excited because the Olympics are a great excuse to take on some big, crazy, weird construction projects. I’m telling you, we’re gonna end up with a 30 story glow-in-the-dark sculpture of a cow that gives people rides into space before you know it. Make no small plans!

My favorite part about the pitch is that Michael Jordan has said he will be available to help “when he’s most needed.” It will come down to the final vote and Chicago will just throw Jordan into the conference room and be like, “kaBLOW! Michael Jordan! Chicago!”

It’s in the bag.

That’ll Do… Elephant. That’ll Do.

Monday, February 26th, 2007

On my way to watch the Academy Awards last night my very excited friend said the Oscars are like the Superbowl for her. I told her I just watch them for the commercials. This was my favorite part of the Oscars this year:

I haven’t gotten choked up at a commercial like that since that Office Max commercial with the teacher and her husband. (Anyone want to try to find that on YouTube? I couldn’t. It might have been Staples.)

I used to love the Oscars, but I never forgave them for picking Braveheart over Babe. I guess I just like stuff with animals.

You Must Whippet

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

It’s once again time for the International Kennel Club dog show at McCormick Place. I don’t know if I’ll make it over there again this year, but I was there last year. There are a lot of dogs — pretty much everywhere you look. If you don’t want to see dogs everywhere, it probably isn’t the place for you.


If you want to see a guy grabbing his dog’s balls for a good twenty minutes then it definitely is the place for you. We passed by a fella grooming his Old English Sheepdog (one of my favorite breeds ever since the archery scene in Disney’s Robin Hood.) He was super-nice and told us all about the breed while he delicately brushed his dog’s coat with his right hand. And his left hand? I don’t know what he was doing with his left hand, but let’s just say Chester looked a little uncomfortable. After casually wandering through the grooming area we walked past him again… and his hand was still up there! Anyone into showing dogs know what that’s all about?


My other favorite part of the show occurred at the agility competition. You may have seen this on TV. It’s basically a dog obstacle course. It was exciting to see the really fast dogs bolt through the slalom obstacle and leap over the hurdles, but most of the dogs were pretty mediocre. Some clearly had their minds on other things. One little feller decided after a couple half-hearted leaps that it was the perfect time and place to squat out a little kibble surprise.

The International Kennel Club was prepared for this. A woman wearing an official IKC polo shirt appeared carrying a bucket of cleaning supplies. I figured that she was charged with cleaning up after the inevitable accident. That was not the case. Instead she handed the bucket to the dog’s handler and watched as the handler cleaned up Sparky’s deuce. I was shocked (and incredibly amused.) Isn’t it embarrassing enough that your highly-trained dog took a crap in front of a couple hundred people? Couldn’t the IKC at least provide a crapper-picker-upper and leave the handler with a little bit of dignity? Apparently not.

By the way: Wow! Two dog poop stories in a row!

Happy Poop Day

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

I have a terrible sense of smell. If there’s ever a gas leak, I better hope someone else is around. I also have bad tastes in smells. I don’t like the smell of coffee. I recently admitted to kind of liking the smell of horse manure. Kind of. Shut up.

Thanks to temperatures way up in the 40s, the sun is shining, everyone’s smiling, and the snow is finally melting… revealing countless piles of dog poop.

My neighborhood reeks.

Happy Poop Day!

All Hail The Break-Up Song

Friday, February 16th, 2007

Last week at the Double Door I played all breakup songs. I like writing breakup songs. I like playing them. I like hearing them. I just wrote a new one over the weekend. A breakup (of sorts) is the reason I started writing songs.

There’s something about them that just about everyone can relate to. I was in my car yesterday and heard the Tom Petty song “You Don’t Know How It Feels” and was all, “Yeah, you said it, Tom.” And I don’t even smoke pot.

I think it’s possible that half of all songs are about breakups. So I’m going to do a scientific experiment here: I put iTunes on shuffle and will list the next 25 songs that come up. The ones in red I’ve categorized as breakup songs. Before I get to the list, some ground rules:

  1. Don’t judge my crappy taste in music. This is for science!
  2. I have a couple Lucinda Williams albums in there and that might throw off the sample set since I’m pretty sure all of her songs are about a guy what done her wrong.
  3. I was going to count songs about jilted romance as well, but after receiving this argument from resident music expert Kurt Hirsch, I changed my tune: “I think at least a semblance of a relationship is necessary in order for a song to be a ‘breakup song.’ I understand your ‘turned down’ = ‘break up’ hypothesis, but, at first blush, I do not think I can subscribe to it. It is a slippery slope, my friend.” So to be considered a break up song, there must be evidence of an actual relationship.
  4. I’m skipping instrumentals, sound effects, anything under 30 seconds long, podcasts, jazz, classical music, Andrew Bird songs and other misc. crap in my iTunes library. I’m also skipping my songs if they happen to come up.

Here are the results:

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