Archive for the 'Summer' Category

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.

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:

Piefest 8

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

For the last 8 years I’ve been hosting a pie baking contest at the end of the summer. Piefest 8 will take place on Sunday. Today I’m working on making prizes for the winners, as I do every year. I also make prizes for our bowling league. Once my friend Rachael told me, “You’ve made every prize I’ve ever won.”

We were brainstorming ideas for this year’s Piefest prizes, and I think Shama came up with a good one, but you’ll have to come to Piefest to see what it is. (If you want to come to Piefest, send me an e-mail.) Piefest prizes are usally framed plaques with the name of the award on them. One year they were little 4×6 paintings and one year they were paper cuttings, but last year was my favorite. The prizes were based on weird photos found on the Internet. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Here’s the one for “Best In Show,” although we agonized over it since there were so many other great photos.


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Google Just Don’t Understand

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

My softball team, Ben Felt and His Traveling All-Stars, is in the second round of the playoffs. (This isn’t the Jellyvision team, but rather a team I’m on with my brothers and some other folks.) Next week we’re going to be playing the team that ended our season last year. The final play was a weak grounder that hit a rock, and subsequently, my brother’s face. The winning run scored, they went on to the next round of the playoffs, and we went to the emergency room.

Bri, after taking a ball to the face.

None of us want that to happen again — especially Brian — so we’re going to hit up the batting cages this weekend. There are several batting cages in and around Chicago, but my favorites are at Novelty Golf on Devon Avenue in Lincolnwood. Not only do they have batting cages, but they have mini-golf and a wonderful arcade. There’s an ice cream stand next-door called The Bunny Hutch. It’s technically a separate business, but people often refer to the whole Novelty Golf complex as “The Bunny Hutch.” It is, after all, a superior name. Plus there’s this freaky dude:

So naturally when I went to look up the address in Google, I typed in “bunny hutch devon.” This surprisingly accurate result was one of the top hits:

“Housing headache for giant bunny.”

Do You Smell How Badly We’re Losing?

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

At Jellyvision, we have a cardboard cut-out of The Rock. He’s been with us for ages. Once, when the alarm in the office went off and the cops showed up, they pulled their guns on him as he stood silently in the dark. Thank goodness they didn’t shoot!

The Rock came out to cheer on our Jellyvision softball team during our last game of the season. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough. Though we played our little hearts out, we ended up losing in a fairly lopsided fashion.


After the game the umpire told us we were his favorite team — the season’s Miss Congeniality. We got that from other teams as well, often as they were hitting back-to-back-to-back home runs.

My other softball team is currently undefeated. No one ever tells us we’re their favorite team.

Water Water Everywhere… And You Can Drink It, But It’s Gross.

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

In Chicago, and probably many other cities that reside along lakes or oceans, there are two types of people: beach people and everyone else. Beach people go to the beach every chance they get. They need to live near the lake. They read at the beach, run at the beach, eat at the beach, and if all the e coli swimming warnings are any indication, those probably aren’t the only thing they do at the beach.

I’m not a beach person. I’ve gone whole summers without setting foot on the beach. It’s not that I don’t like it there, it’s just that I don’t need it like others do. But I like beach people. Some of my best friends are beach people.

When Thea asked me if I wanted to go to the beach, my initial thought was, “nah,” but I didn’t have anything better to do and it’s only a couple blocks away, so I figured, “why not.”

The beach is great!


We built two different sand castles, ran out in the water, and, most importantly, dug an awesome hole. I don’t know what it is about beaches that make me want to dig a hole, but dammit if digging a hole at the beach isn’t the most fun in the world.

We dug and we dug and eventually we hit a layer of greyish clay stuff that stank real bad. REAL bad.

THEA: I think I’m gonna fill in the hole. It really smells.

We also talked with one of the metal detector guys. He’s a beach person. He told us about his greatest success (a diamond ring and some sort of gold jewelry from India) and seemed generally happy that someone wanted to talk to him. We put some change in our hole before we filled it in. I hope he finds it and not the other metal detector guy… the evil metal detector guy.

It was a pretty awesome day. We even got poopsicles, although I almost immediately dropped mine. Blip blop.


It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone’s House Burns Down

Monday, July 16th, 2007
Midwestern thunderstorms have always been one of my favorite things about living in Chicago. On the night of Chicago’s fireworks, some friends and I sat on the front deck and craned our necks to see the show. Later that night, the lightning put the fireworks to shame.

Thunderstorms are fun and exciting, but sometimes it’s easy to forget how destructive they can be.

On my way home from work last week I stopped to get a sandwich and lightning struck the building across the street. The sandwich shop folks called the fire department, who came and did their thing.

I couldn’t leave since the firetrucks blocked me in, so I took some pictures and tried to stay out of the way. I don’t know how much damage there was, but the roof was smoking something crazy.


It’s Been Mild in the Midwest

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

Every day Yahoo shows me the top 5 news stories of the day. Today one of those top five stories is “East Swealters in 2nd Day of Heat Wave.” The story explains how temperatures are expected to hit 93 degrees in New York today. Yesterday in Chicago the high was 94.

A couple of days ago, one of the top headlines was “Heat Wave Broils West.”

It used to bother me that the entire center of the country gets no respect or attention. Now I like it. This town is our little secret — all ten million of us. Then again, maybe it’s just hard to write headlines without a coast: “It’s Really Hot in That Part Of The Country Between the East and the West.”

I think I want to work on the Olympics.

We Were Using That

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

It’s summer at work and the battle over the air-conditioning is in full swing. Every so often folks sidle up to the thermostat and try to subtly nudge it into their comfort zone.

As we bickered over the difference between 72 and 74 degrees, I noticed that we might actually have a bigger problem outside:


UPDATE: Holy crap! It turns out all the copper was stolen and sold for scrap. Let’s see. Copper’s going for $3.15/pound… 100 pounds… that’s $315. The cost to replace four air conditioning systems this size is going to be well over $10,000. Someone should come up with a crime efficiency table. This might be the least efficient caper ever.

UPDATE 2: It’s freaking hot in here.


Saturday, June 16th, 2007

Remember that asparagus that started growing in my back yard a year after I planted it? Well now it looks like this:


What am I supposed to do with that thing?

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.

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 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!