Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hot Pizza with strings attached

How do you explain this to your children? Eat blistering hot food just so you can get more in your stomach.
It's that marvelous pizza from Maryland. How many times did I wander in to the Ledo's near the University of Maryland. We would see that same old waitress. Evidently she didn't taste the pizza because she was all of 75 pounds.
Anyway, it was Mark and Eddie and Tommy, too. We would order a few trays of the stuff and go at it. Of course it was smoking hot and my mouth told me in no uncertain terms that there was a price to pay. The roof of my mouth burnt quickly and strings of skin hung down. However it was a small price for the delightful provolone cheese and sweet sauce of Ledo's. Of course, I would down 6 to 8 pieces in the first few minutes. Mark and Eddie were like the tortoise. Slow and steady. Mark would get a kick and finish off the whole darn thing. There were no manners here at all. It was eat as fast as you can thus hoping that would get more pizza down.
Of course we weren't the only ones enjoying this wonderful treat. After I left DC, a number of branches of this establishment opened up even in Virginia. On our last trip to DC, we had the Ledo's pizza right across the street from H-Man's house.
It's probably a good thing they don't have it in Chicago. I don't think my mouth would appreciate it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The No Thank You Cards

Got the thank you notes in the mail from the most recent birthday party. What an ordeal that is. To try and figure out who gave you what.

All the local kids go to birthday parties. They bring presents, mostly gift cards at this stage, and have a good time. Cake and pizza is served and everyone has fun.

Well, guess what, I hate the thank you notes. Why the heck do we need to send them out? Waste a stamp; waste the mailman's time and waste the environment.

No one wants them anyway. We get those thank you notes in the mail. Our kids think it's another party. Oh, boy. And it's a stinking thank you note destined to be fired hard into the nearest trash can.

Can we just say thank you at the party and move on? Or at least write, you know what, this so-called gift you brought might work for a two-year-old, you idiot.

Of course thank you notes have their place. But not for kiddie birthday parties. Do kids collect them to show that someone likes them?

They are useless. They say the same thing. Thank you for coming to my party. Hope you had a good time. Thank you for the gift card.

Skip it the next time and no one will miss it. Not the kid who had the party and not the mailman.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My favorite new "old" band

There was that great radio station in DC known as WHFS. It exploded with the New Wave songs of the early 80s and introduced me and many others to the rising number of fun bands. It also inspired me to go to many concerts in the DC area. And of course I was making tons of tapes of the station so I could listen to these songs while driving around town.
But I never wrote down who the performers were. Flash forward to my move to Chicago. I sent some of my tapes to a guy in California and he identified some of the performers.
The Chemeleons UK? Who in the heck was that? So on Sunday night, I drove down to Chicago to see the Chemeleons at the Bottom Lounge. I brought the GPS just in case but I still listen to tunes while driving. When I got close, my directions failed so the GPS got me to this place. It was a good bar with a fine beer list and plenty of TV's to follow Sunday night football. Of course, the concert was supposed to start at 9 and the Chemeleons officially took the stage shortly after 11. It was great. Here I'm thinking I'm the only one who ever heard of this band and there were plenty of young folks singing to every song.
I officially pulled into the driveway at 1:37 a.m. It was worth it. Plus, I'm still able to hear after that most loud event. Am I getting too old for this kind of an adventure? Let's hope not

Friday, November 18, 2011

Piels gives you piles

I hope this isn't slander. But for some reason, I recall the statement, Piels gives you piles from college. It had to be uttered by Crazy Tommy or Mark. Even a certifiable beer snob like myself began drinking cheap beer to start with. I had no money so cheap beer was the way to go.
The first beer was the cool taste of Schlitz beer. And then Miller and Old Style. I moved quickly on to foreign brews.
I can't recall if I ever tried Piels. Of course now, I wouldn't go within 20 feet of it. But that didn't stop me from buying this Piels glass that I spotted today. I couldn't wait and poured a Spotted Cow from New Glarus into the Piels glass and drank it down easily. Hmm, it wasn't even 4:00 yet. No matter.
Why buy a punk beer glass to drink fine ales out of? Will this make me bring home Miller and Bud glasses? Nah, it's just Piels. Piels gives you piles after all. What the heck does that mean?

Friday, November 4, 2011

I told you I was sick

I first heard the expression, "I told you I was sick" at Harper College. The head football coach John Eliasik, gave me the slogan for a gravesite and it really stuck in my head. Can you imagine putting that on a grave? The guilt of the remaining family would be incredible. Gosh, was he really that sick? And he must have had such a grudge not to put his name on the grave.

Wait, I really wanted to tell my favorite Eliasik story here. Recall, I'm from DC where egos are really out of control. Well, coach Eliasik had a giant-sized ego but he was fun.

So I pull into his office as sports information director (1989-1998). I was there to interview him for a press release. Football was kind of fun to cover at Harper because there were good players and the coach was crazy.

So then phone rang. I sat down. Eliasik answered and here it goes.

"What you are quitting,'' he asked the person on the phone.
"Well this is what I want you to do. Do you have a mirror in your house? I want you to go to the mirror and tell yourself five times, that you don't have the guts to be a football player. And then come back and talk to me."

Yeah, right, I'll do that and then drown myself in the bath tub, you nut case. Oh, that's what I would say.

How many curse words did I count during my time covering this coach? Let's go with 12,245.

Friday, October 28, 2011

What the heck was I thinking?

Off the record some of the guys at the dorm called me Spacey. That of course was a compliment to my great imagination.
But this was just a typical day in Lake Zurich. I walked to Wal-Mart and barely noticed as some painters worked on the sidewalk by Sears Hardware. Naturally I came home the same way. And then I walked on the wet paint. I didn't really pay attention until I saw my footprints on the road. Oh, gosh.
Did I care that I made a mess on the road? Not really but what about the bottom of my shoes?
So I went and took pictures of my accident today. I took them with my camera phone. And then I noticed one of the co-owners of the store coming by with a cigarette in her hand. I had my headphones on and listening to the IPOD so I didn't notice if she had any comment about the photos. I figured she was doomed to a short life anyway with that smoking gun in hand. But I truly hope she doesn't read this blog.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

To the Evanston Hospital and spices to boot

Once a year Mom returns to Evanston Hospital for a check-up. It is the site that she had her leaky heart repaired. So during her two-hour appointment, I take my IPOD and walk by Northwestern's football field. I'm on a mission. I'm off to the Evanston Spice House.

I told the guy in the store that this was kind of a religious experience for me. That was a stretch. It's not like looking for obscure beers. But this store has it all for spice lovers. Of course, I picked up a hot cocoa mix that they make up.

What was I really looking for? I'm sure a decent garlic mixture for cooking would be nice. I did find some simple granulated garlic but kept on moving around the store. They might have a few too many employees for such a specialty shop. Does one girl just worked on Eastern Chili and another does Chicago neighborhood spices? Makes you wonder.

They do have taster containers but I would rather just spell them. I finally found the the shelf that had a better collection of garlic. I opted for some garlic with a few different salts. It's called Fancy Garlic Salt. It says kosher salt, green onion flakes and plenty of garlic. That's 3 oz bottle for four bucks.

Of course I picked up freeze dried shallots for Nolan's chicken. That's the olive oil, rosemary and potatoes recipe. And finally I chose Ozark Seasoning. It says it's for fried chicken. I like dipping various seafood and meats in spices like this.

I recall when one of Eileen's friends came to visit. I made my shrimp with creole spice and various salts. Riley washed off the seasoning and ate away. Kim, Eileen's friend, wrote that it was the best shrimp she had ever had and called Riley silly for washing it off. Oh, well.

Mom says she is done with Evanston Hospital. But what about my spices? Field trip anyone?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Promoting the Hopleaf

That's pretty cool to be listed as one of the top 100 bars in the United States. Well, H-Man (visiting from DC) and I got the back story from the folks at this bar on Clark Street in Chicago last night.
I really didn't like being evicted from the bar to the upstairs edition. I didn't know there was an upstairs bar to begin with. It was simply too crowded on a Thursday night. Despite the nice bartender, he didn't have the excellent selection the downstairs bar had. The owner and bartender told us that this was a nice neighborhood bar before the world found it and now it's really popular. When all the attention came, they said there were lines down the street.
This wasn't the episode in which Dan and Dave showed up and drank the darn place down. We had a cab waiting for us that night.
I had to drive home so drinking and driving was a concern.
HMan liked talking to the upstairs bartender and then slipped him a copy of my book, "A Stone's Throw." I didn't anticipate he was in a selling mode but appreciated his efforts.
It really is a nice bar. Being a certifiable beer snob there was even a nice selection for me. I don't think I have had a beer since Madison so I was a little out of practice.
We went downstairs to get our good beers and then upstairs for more talk.
Put it this way, I'm sure I damaged my ear drums because I blasted my stereo coming home. I needed to be alert driving home. I hope I'm not getting too old for these long drives and mild drinking episodes. Of course not is the answer for that.

Monday, September 19, 2011

On Madison

It's fun to plan these trips. There is Dan, Dave and I working on a place to meet in the Midwest and then coming up with a date that works for the three of us. The right place was Madison, Wisconsin. What a great place. We met at a hotel and then took a cab ride to the Old Fashioned. Oh, my gosh. They sell nothing but great Wisconsin beers. Now this is living.
I did learn a lesson in basic hamburger. I always order it medium. Dan said medium rare. That's a much better idea. So after our fine meal and libations, we walked for awhile. We came upon the Great Dane where we had visited the last time. Had one more brew and found a cool tee-shirt to run around in. Now how many beers was that? Oh, that's right these are great beers so there are no limit on them. We took the same cab back. What were those stories from the lady cab driver? Oh, that's right, she was jealous of her sister who cheated on her husband with her husband's boss. Give the sister credit though as she got the boss to marry her with her four kids. And only then did the driver admit to having five kids of her own and of course her husband was a dirt ball.
Oh, well, Madison is highly recommended. Maybe the true highlight was sitting around in the morning telling funny stories. No alcohol needed for that.
Dave and I are always in a search for the Big Thought. And that's a very big one. Find friends you can hang out for your whole life.

Monday, September 12, 2011

On Kiddie Football and it's all good

Ah, kiddie football. No one really gets hurt unless they break a bone or have a concussion. It's all fun. We've mostly enjoyed our days watching the boys play football. Of course, I once came up to Brady and barked, "There is a long drive to left field and it's going, going, gone. No, it's called back because of holding."
The point is penalties kind of hurt the sport.
This season has been a blessing. Our fine coach recognized that Brady could do some good things with a football in his hands. This isn't baseball where everyone can be a hero. In football, there are blockers. Those kids are very important but no one really knows who they are. That's Riley's job. He does it because it's helpful and he's a strong kid.
Yesterday, Brady had a pair of interceptions and scored a couple of extra points. That's a good day. His younger brother was so excited when it was announced that we were so far ahead that he would get a chance to carry the ball. Of course it was Riley's turn to do that and someone on the line jumped so his carry didn't count. Oh, well, it's the thought that counts.
Here's hoping the boys stay healthy and have fun. And thank you coaches.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

On boats

It's a distant memory now. My dad did have a small motor boat that we would take slow rides on the Potomac River. I recall a dreadfully long voyage to an amusement park a good four miles down river.
I got older and met the H-Man. He really had a boat. I mean a real boat. It's actually a good way to travel. It's complete recreation if you are the passenger.
In the Midwest, we've been on Captain Terry's boat in Traverse City, Michigan, Captain John in Lake Geneva and of course Captain Bob in Lake Bluff.
Friday afternoon marked an almost perfect day. We drove to Captain Bob's house and he took his boy's Ford up to Waukegan. He treated us to a fine lunch at the Waukegan Yacht Club. Nolan was especially impressed with the clam chowder. And then his boat was ready to be boarded. We had a bumpy ride on Lake Michigan heading to a place to go swimming. If I didn't know better, I might have thought it was National No-boater day. There were no boats out. The four of us jumped in the warm water and tossed the football around. And then it was time for tubing for the boys. Each boy had two turns being dragged along the lake. Of course I was a tad nervous to see my children tossed and turned but they survived. After this exhaustion, we headed back to land. Captain Bob treated us to ice cream despite my protest. Nice guy. All three boys said awesome and other superlatives to describe the magical day on the water.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


What's not to like in Minneapolis. The weather was perfect. I love the GPS. It's not perfect but it took us places and we didn't have to worry about getting lost.
It was vacation time starring two Minnesota Twins games. The boys had a chance to run the bases after the White Sox beat the Twins. They faked making catches at the wall and took a lap around the bases. Who knew that we would have tickets in the last row? Oh, well, we saw plenty.
I had a list of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. It would have taken us almost a month to see all those spots. We did get to try Psycho Susie's. Is it my imagination but are more and more people getting tattoos? They are all over the place. Oh, there was fried snickers and funky pizzas on the menu. Eileen tried a barbecue sauce and onion pizza and one slice was plenty. I did find an amazing beer there from a local brewer. I again used the GPS to find a really cool liquor store. I didn't see the beer on the shelves so I asked a clerk about it. They were hiding it in the back of the store. They had a case left but I wasn't that ambitious. A nice kid (over 21) behind asked me if I was going to take the entire case. I told him my wife wouldn't approve. I grabbed two four-packs and watched as he grabbed the other two.
Oh, at the Mall of America, we ran into a Lake Zurich family. Now that was fun. At the Water Park of America in Bloomington, we watched our boys try surfing. They designed a fake surfing site where if you screw up it really throws you back and off the board.
We would go back to Minneapolis. What a fun time. We also tried Sebastian Joe's ice cream. It rated four stars.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Insulting Carlos May and Keith Van Horne?

Now, I get it. Carlos May is the only Major League baseball player to have his birthday spelled on the back of his jersey. May 17. He was also the Sporting News Rookie of the Year in 1970. Van Horne, played several seasons in the NFL as a tackle and was on the Super Bowl Bears team of 1985.
Now on with our day. Riley and I bought tickets to the Red Sox-White Sox game on Saturday. It was in memory of my dad who died of Lou Gehrig's Disease 30 years ago. The former players were in attendance to help awareness of ALS. We were in the Miller Lite box (I wouldn't drink that beer if I was dying of thirst). Anyway, we had a nice time. Riley and I went up to Mr. May and Riley was horrified that I asked him about his older brother, Lee. Ah, the Big Bopper, Lee May. I also brought up that the great Brooks Robinson robbed his brother Lee of a certain double in the series of 1970. Next up was Horne. Riley was wearing his Red Sox uniform and Horne wasn't happy. I added that Riley was a Patriots fan, too. Horne went back to his meal.
Riley was certainly happy as his Red Sox put a hurt on the White Sox. The food wasn't bad in the box with somewhat fatty but tasty pulled pork. Riley feasted on the pasta and fruit.
It was all for the fight against ALS. I hated to break it to them but 30 years later, they still haven't found a cure for this misery. I still recall how my dear Grandma drove up to see her only son, only to be cut off at the door at the Veteran's Hospital telling her that her boy had died.
It was important that Riley and I were there that night. And sorry for the insults players but we have other teams that we root for.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Advertising for the Osthoff?

It's almost perfect. The great getaway to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. I found this place on the internet way back when and it looked so inviting. And then I forgot about it. Mainly because it was too expensive.
Flash forward to the last three or four years. Grandpa found it as well. He and his wife Betty takes the family up to the Osthoff every summer for a few days of swimming, drinking, drinking, drinking and a few meals.
The weather cooperated perfectly. I seem to be operating on auto pilot over there. Bring my IPOD and walk around town with tunes so I get a little exercise. Head for the one store in town and pick up plenty of New Glarus Brews. Kind of nutty having adults sitting by the pool all day long slowly getting blitzed on liquor. I don't recall my parents doing that.
Oh, yes, one complaint. We opted for an outdoor dinner that the Osthoff provided. The food was just fine. But then I found out they charge extra for sodas. Oh, come on now, the stinking airlines give away sodas. Still, a great experience for all.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

He was my camp counselor

The guy in the White Sox uniform was my camp counselor when I was young. Tom Bradley, not the LA mayor, was my brother's friend in high school in Falls Church, VA. I remember hanging out with him for time to time. He was a nice guy. Now as a young kid, I got to watch him pitch for the high school team. He wore specs and wasn't bad. But he was no Buster Ellis, who was the team ace on the Falls Church pitching staff.
Of course when my brother headed to Missouri for his education, Bradley went to the University of Maryland.
Bradley, the second-best pitcher on his high school team, won 55 Major League games pitching for the White Sox, Angels and Giants. That's 55 games. He had back to back 15-win seasons for the White Sox (1971 and 72).
And then I read how he returned to Maryland to coach baseball. That's where I got my degree from. By the end of the 1999 season, he had racked up 650 wins as the coach of the Terps.
All from the second-best pitcher on his high school team.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Anatomy of a book write

Who writes a book when they are angry? I suppose many. It was 2003 and I was fed up. My paper had fired the great TJ Brown and in a public relations disaster let prized reviewer Virgina Gerst go.
I told Eileen I had to do something. I was going to write a book. Now how does one go about that task? First, a topic would be good.
Let's go back to 1980. My dad was dying of Lou Gehrig's disease. I had a dead-end job at the Voice of America. I had been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. But I did have that special team in Baltimore to keep me entertained. The Orioles were great. I remember that August asking my great friends Mark and Eddie to turn on the radio because Stone was pitching on the coast. He had a no-hitter in the eighth.
Steve Stone was a below average pitcher who toiled for both Chicago baseball teams in the 70s. I remember laughing out loud when the O's offered him an extra 10 grand in any year he won the Cy Young Award. The truth was he didn't have a prayer of winning that award. That was reserved for great pitchers not him.
And then he captured some magic. He had an incredible year. So that was it. I would write a book on that stunning season of his. The folks at the Lake Zurich Library were great to me while I was researching. And then good news came from the East Coast. The 1983 Orioles were having a 20-year reunion of their World Championship. Eileen blessed my trip back East. I of course hung out with H-Man and Joel. I headed to Baltimore for serious study of all the Baltimore Suns and Washington Posts. And then on that Sunday, I took Eileen's tape recorder and interviewed a good handful of the Orioles players and coaches. They had the same feeling I did. How did that Stone guy win 25 games?
I was ready to write. To be honest, looking back, my second chapter was crap. So I had to make changes. I found a publisher in Toronto who was interested. Another Nebraska publisher was excited. A self-publisher in Baltimore wanted it but I had to pay for that. They all went away. I even got a literary agent involved but he couldn't sell it. Why not? It's a rags to riches tale.
Finally after all the heartache, TJ Brown stepped up and edited the darn thing and together, mostly him, we put up for sale on Lulu.com.
It's for baseball fans. Now it's up to me to sell the darn thing.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thank You Stub Hub

I know a few thing about ticket sales. I even got a 20 dollar tip in the Orioles store around 1986. But did we ever think we could choose our tickets at home and then print them?
I used Stub Hub to buy Redskins-Bears and Patriots-Bears tickets in the fall. And again to buy tickets for our August trip to Minnesota.
I hadn't really thought about it for Brewers games. That is against tradition. It was always about the fine ales in the parking lot and then stumble towards the ticket booth. But I did track five tickets on stub hub for Wednesday's day game. Heck, it said six dollars and change in the upper deck. Tim V was looking for a senior discount but six bucks was still better than that. So, I opted for those tickets. Even adding the service charge it was less than 9 bucks. Plus, I just printed them at home.
We were still late for the game as we missed a leadoff homer by Arizona. But it was another fine day riding up in Captain Bob's Cadillac. Sure, we found Leon's on the way home. And being a day game, I got home at 6:30.
Tim reported I snoozed on the way home but that's what drinking in the afternoon will do for you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

H-Man on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

We are big fans here. It's Guy Fieri's show on Food Network. Of course diner in itself is a scary word. But this show gives me new hope. Good cooks all over the country open up small carry-outs and do great things. So the boys and I were watching one night last week and it's a place in Virginia. I made a point that this is a place that H-Man might visit. This dive did a good job and made French Toast thus giving me subliminal advertising so I made French Toast the next morning.
Late in the show, H-Man is interviewed while enjoying his meal. I start screaming. The boys all scream loudly at 10:30 at night. There is our friend on television.
So I texted and then called H-Man. He said it was filmed last November. He said it took three days for the show to get the episode down. He really didn't think they would use his quote. Of course everyone says good things. What if the food was really bad? "I just broke a tooth on this,'' he said. Or "I wouldn't feed this to my dog,'' she said. I guess that's why they tape it in advance.
Oh, the boys and I took in a diner in Des Plaines named the Paradise Pup that we saw on the show. It was smaller than a closet but the burgers were super. I guess I'm officially a member of the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives cult.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Heat your oven to 500 degrees

No doubt Marie will find the recipe. But this is a keeper. On this night, I couldn't find a whole chicken so I went with a chicken already cut up. The recipe calls for shallots which I neglected. Hey, I was rushed. It was a drop off at basketball and dash to Joe Caputo's. All was well until the air conditioning guy called. Oh that's right, they were coming.

Anyway, you blast your oven up to 500 and roast the chicken for about 20 minutes. Oh, wait, first you give it a bath in olive oil and rosemary. Make sure you salt it nicely. I added a few spices. After the hot oven, you take the chicken and potatoes (also in the mix) out. You turn the oven down to 425 and turn over the chicken. After another 20 minutes, you pull out the chicken and turn it over again. Next you turn the oven down to 350 and finish the bird off in about 45 minutes to an hour.
One of our neighbors felt it might mess up the oven. Nonsense.

Nolan here grabs all the potatoes. You just dip your pieces in the lovely rosemary/olive oil sauce and all is well.
It's something about the differing temperatures. I forgot the shallots on this night and it mattered not.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sing, Boom, Tararrel

The three boys and I took off for the Brewers game at around 4 p.m. Heck they closed the road I usually take to the ballpark but the detour was excellent and we got into the parking lot with little trouble. There was a guy selling tickets in the lot so I grabbed 4 $10 buck tickets and we were set. We even got this guy's permission to switch seats during the game. Heck, I used to sell tickets for a living and that's not permissible. Of course, we moved to some really nice seats after our dinner. Anyway, the game was terrific. It might have been the best game we had ever seen. The Mets from New York scored 5 runs in the top of the 8th to put the game away. Evidently that plan didn't work as Milwaukee answered with 4 runs in the bottom half of the inning. It was getting late so the Brew Crew won the game in exciting fashion. We came out of the ball field at around 11 and then dashed to Leon's. By this time, it was lightning and raining hard. We ate our ice cream and hit the road for home. That is until midnight struck and stinking 94 closed for the night. Luckily the boys went to sleep cause I was taking back roads and following big trucks. Got home exactly at 2 a.m.
The next trip is a day game in Milwaukee with Arizona on July 6. Hope someone can make that one or I'll take this nice group of boys again. Oh, sing, boom, tararrel? One wacky line in the Roll out the Barrel sing a long in the seventh inning.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Brew Crew notes and fun in Milwaukee

There is another Brewers trip scheduled for next Wednesday night with the Mets. But first some memories of a few of the trips I took up there with friends. Marty M and Dino are traveling in my old Toyota Tercel. And then on the other side of 94 is a horrible sight. A truck is flipping out of control on the highway. It was stinking scary. And wonder of wonders, a big dog comes racing out of the truck and starts racing down the highway. Once we escaped this horror scene we engaged in some make believe stories. Like the dog (Rin Tin Tin?) was saying, "Get me the hell out here. This guy is a crazy driver."
What was that dog thinking anyway? Sure, it wanted to get away but was it really going to out-run cars going 60 miles per hour?
Second story. Dave and I ride up in my Mercedes. This was soon after my divorce. I was not in the best of moods. It was a terrible day outside so we sat in the Mercedes and drank our beers. After about two brews, a cop on a motorcycle came next to us and told us to get in the stadium. Sure, pal, now take a hike.
On the third beer, the cop came back. He was averaging two miles per hour on his cycle checking things out. Get this, as soon as he got my car, he slowly turned his head away from us. I swear it. Dave and I entered the game in the 5th inning. There was no score. The game got exciting once we sat down.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How to live to be 100 years old

While I was wasting my life at the Voice of America, I heard an interview on tape of some Russian explaining in broken English how he lived to be 100 years old. "Yogurt and whiskey,'' he explained.
I had to laugh.
Study the woman in the photo. That's my grandmother photographed in around 1995. It's in her apartment in Maryland. Based on that year, Grandma was 94-years-old. She still had plenty of life in her. A year later, she got herself on an airplane and flew to our wedding in Illinois. She even danced at the wedding at 95 years old. At 96, she flew by herself again to Switzerland to visit relatives.
Heck, most folks are dead by this time. Dead and buried. But not Grandma. Now what was her secret? She ate sparingly and loved fresh fruit. She drank even less having an occasional glass of wine. Grandma loved to say that if you have your health, you have everything.
That was true. Who wants to live with pain and misery? Well, like everyone, Grandma did get older and one day fell down. She made the usual trips to rehab and then it was decided she would move to a nursing home in Lake Zurich. That's where she celebrated her 100th birthday. I'll be honest, she didn't get really old until she made it to 101. She was able to see two of her great grandchildren grow up a little. She outlived both her husband and son so that was hard for her. She was really a great grandma to have.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The last concert?

I can recall traveling to day care with a very young Brady. That's close to 12 years ago. And to entertain him, I had a Buzz Lightyear and Toy Story CD playing. We were moving along when the CD moved on to some instrumental music. And then Brady started wailing. What's wrong, I thought. Brady told me that Buzz was in trouble. Huh? There were no words to that effect. He wasn't happy though.
I was talking to my friend Eddie about that incident. Eddie told me that Brady had musical memory. Our first child was able to tell what was going on in the movie just by the music in the background. Wow!
And maybe that's why he hangs on to the violin. Anyway, the so-so pictures here are of Riley's farewell concert. He was handed the viola and told to follow in his older brother's notes. Simply, it's not his cup of tea. He wants out. Nothing personal but he just doesn't like to play an instrument.
What's my musical history? I listened to a record player when I was young. It never came up. Between Little League baseball and watching television, I never picked up an instrument to play it. I wonder what happened. I did make up for it by buying all those records, tapes and CD's.

Monday, May 9, 2011

On Hate Mail

And what was awaiting me when some nut case cut and pasted one of my articles?
Here it is:

Seriously if you were any more of an arrogant dick to people you'd be blocking out the sun with your schlong sized big headedness. The worst part is you are offensive and not even subtle about it to people. Oh look at me I used to work for the Baltimore Orioles...who gives a crap seriously? And now you aren't it was like decades ago according to your profile and you brag about it like it was two days ago and act like you are doing kids some huge favor by gracing them with your presence. You must think people are really stupid. People are on to you. Next time someone gives you an uncomfortable laugh when you are talking to them it isnt because they are laughing with you it is because you creep them out.

Of course I didn't reply angrily. But reading it again there is clearly some interesting observations. Let's be honest, I am still proud that I worked for the Baltimore Orioles. Yes, that job had its ups and downs but it helped me grow up a little.
How about that last sentence? "someone gives you an uncomfortable laugh." Do people really laugh when someone is creeping them out?
The good news here is this really didn't bother me. I suppose that's a sign of getting older. It's important to gain a thicker skin as we move on in life. But the question does come up. Why would someone send a letter like that? Why on earth would you be so mad at a stranger? It's still an odd planet we live on.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My first true love

No, I'm not talking about that girl from the East. I think I was crying at the time when my older brother announced that we should abandon the losing Washington Senators and take on that improving club from Baltimore. Now, Dec. 9 is a holiday in my world. As in Dec. 9, 1965. That's when the Orioles dealt a fine pitcher in Milt Pappas, reliever Jack Baldschun and outfielder Dick Simpson to Cincinnati for an "aging" outfielder named Frank Robinson. The short story version is Robinson was with the Birds for six seasons. In four of those years, the Orioles went to the World Series.
I was hooked for life. And then came my chance to work for my favorite team in the world. I was an Orioles employee selling group and season tickets for fans in the DC area. My first year working for the team, the Orioles won another World Series title. I was in the World Series parade in Baltimore. And then the winning stopped. I would get drunk at Orioles parties, and tell folks who would listen, that I wanted to be a writer. OK, it wasn't the greatest job ever but I had plenty of memories to take to the Chicago area.
And ever since our Brady was born, 13 years ago, the darn team hasn't posted a winning record. That of course is disgraceful.
Three boys in this house here are named after former Orioles players. And not one of my boys have adopted the Orioles as their favorite team. But who can blame them?
I'm an Orioles fan for life.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Traveling 60 mph in the mountains, my doors opened

Lugubrious or ridiculously sad was the one word that came on the GRE test. I wanted out of government work and set my sails to Ohio State University for graduate school. Alas, I had to wait a whole semester to get into their sports administration major. So I chose James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA for the same program. That's where I met my roommate Dave Buck who greeted me with "oh, you from the state of Northern Virginia."
I still had my ties in DC and would make the 2.5 hour trek through the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains. I had the same trip every time just listening to tunes and motoring along.
So one time, the Tourists (Annie Lennox) were blasting when my doors started opening. How could this be possible? I heard voices. "Hi" and "And I'll get out."
What the hell was happening?
I was looking all over my car and saw no one. And then I heard my great friend Joel's unmistakable voice. "There doesn't seem to be anything on this tape,'' he said.
And then click. The music came back.
My heart beat returned to normal. And then it dawned on me. Those car door openings and voices were on the tape. Joel evidently had borrowed it and pushed record instead of play. I could hear his ex Sara on the tape and one of our old roommates.
I told him about the scary road incident and he flatly denied it. Of course I asked if it was osmosis that got his voice on my tape. I wasn't angry. After the scare, I was glad to have my friends voices on the tape.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Darn right I voted for John B. Anderson

1980 was kind of fun. I lived in DC with H-Man and Joel. My Orioles had a near-great year. And living in the capitol of the US, there was politics. When Joel would go out with Sara, I would listen to his great radio. The music was fresh as it could be. Marshall Crenshaw was belting "Someday Someway" and "Cynical Girl." And on that same radio came primary results. I wasn't happy with Jimmy Carter and that California governor scared me. Yes, it was Ronald Reagan. But also in that Republican primary came George Bush Sr and some unknown congressman from Illinois named John B. Anderson.
New Hampshire and Vermont held primaries and my new candidate John B. was right in the hunt. I was excited. The Washington Post chief cartoonist did a drawing of flowers with the same old politics. And then he drew a smiling flower named John B. Anderson.
History says it didn't work out. But on election day 1980, I ran outside to my 1974 Plymouth Scamp. I was headed to Laurel, Maryland to cast my ballot. In fact, I wasn't going anywhere. The DC cops had placed a Denver boot on my wheel. OK, I guess I was supposed to pay those parking tickets. I took a bus ride to my bank. I pulled out the $300 bucks and paid my debts. I waited for the boot removers. And then I saw my wheel go in and out as they took the boot off.
I made it. I drove to Laurel and was met with a big line of voters. I cast my ballot for John B. I got back into my car and it was announced on the radio that he had lost.
It was still a good year.