Sunday, September 9, 2012


Spoiled is what I was. H-Man, who this blog is named for, was not only a swell fellow but he knew people. Or rather his dad did. His father's best friend was the late Abe Pollin. That man owned the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. So what did that mean to me? It was all the concerts and basketball games I could go to for free. Heck, I could do that. So it was time to go see Bruce Springsteen back in 1979-1981. Sure I would go to those shows for free. I loved the "Boss" But temptation took me over. H-Man would pick the lock on the owner's liquor box and I would indulge. Or rather over-indulge. Twice for Springsteen, I passed out by drinking too much. Oh, well, I was young back then.

Now being respectable in my middle age, I bought Springsteen tickets for Eileen's birthday in July. We went with another couple on Saturday night at Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs. Not free tickets; not even close. And no liquor box to pick open.

So we drove down to Chicago and met our friends who were staying at a condo. We went out for a quick dinner and then caught two trains to Wrigley Field. Made it in time to beat Springsteen on stage. Of course he was terrific. We didn't hear Glory Days nor the haunting River but he played everything else. It even rained hard but the Boss never moved. He played from 8 p.m. to well after 11. The sound in the ballpark was terrific.

And here I thought I was burned out by the songs from Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town. Not a chance, and in better news, I was able to walk out under my own power.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Catching a cab in Chicago

It was a time thing. If the boys and I caught the 10:30 night train back home from Chicago, we could get home before midnight. Or soon after. Miss that train and we were stuck in Union Station until 12:30 a.m. And that's late.

So we were at Soldier Field watching my Redskins take on the Bears. And the Chicago team was hammering my Skins. But my watch said 9:40 or so, and it was time to leave the park. By the second half, most of the so-called stars had hit the bars and we were left watching second string folks who were destined to find real jobs.

So we departed for the street. And went looking for a cab. No such luck. All the taxis drove on by. Some woman yelled from a car for us to look for a light on the cab. All lights were out on this night. Hey, it was getting late. Some other stranger said hang by a hotel and a cab will come by.

It was getting really late. I was worried about the boys getting home at 2 a.m. And then out of the blue this non-looking cab stopped. I told him my tale. We needed to get there in about 5 minutes. He was up for the challenge. It wasn't like he was speeding. We got to the station. We ran downstairs. Using non-verbal communication, we headed for the Fox Lake train. It was just ready to leave. We got on board with seconds to spare. And then Brady looked on his phone to see my Redskins had actually taken the lead. Eileen mentioned later that she knows how to hail a cab in Chicago. Well, now you tell us.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Anatomy of a Beer Snob

I wasn't born this way. In fact because I had better things to do growing up than getting drunk, I didn't taste my first beer until I was 18 years-old in Maryland. And that was the legal drinking age. I think it was a yummy Schlitz beer in a can at the quad at the University of Maryland.

But by the time I was a senior, I had left behind the big breweries of the United States. I had gone foreign. Heineken, Molson Ale and Carlsberg Elephant were my choices. I can recall the rush on the local liquor store. There were fellows pulling out cases of Elephant for $9.99. And that was an excellent brew with plenty of alcohol.

By the mid 80s, I was brewing my own beer in my apartment house in Georgetown. It was a mix and it wasn't bad. A few bottles would blow up in the closet but so what. I now talk about my last two bad beers. It was the summer of 1992 and I drank two Coors beers in Nebraska. They quenched my thirst but that was the end of that. I was all microbrews all the time.

On the honeymoon, Eileen and I went from great beer place to another collecting glasses. But that meant we had to drink the beers and I grow weary from all that drinking. We do have the glasses as souvenirs in hand even today.

HMan set me up for a beer tasting on the last DC visit. I did quite well, thank you. But there are some problems with being a total beer snob. You can't drink on a moment's notice. So you have to be prepared to say no if the selection isn't up to standards.

The good news is I don't have to drink. In the good old days, I was a three beer man. And then a two-beer man. Now, I'm a one-beer man. And it better be a good one.

My friends Dan and Dave and I go looking for these wonderful establishments that sell fantastic ales. We have some great adventures in the great world of American craft breweries.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Land of Waterparks

Third time the charm? The first visit to Wisconsin Dells with the family was lowlighted by a ride on the Ducks. A big vessel took us over land and water and then in the middle of the woods, the young driver stopped this vehicle and made a speech about how he needed cash for his college education. It was an old fashioned hold-up. He passed hit hat around for tips. No, I didn't spit into it.

On the second visit with the family, I broke down and bought myself a fancy camera. No, I didn't know how to use it properly. I took some photos and then left the camera somewhere. I called weekly but either one of patrons or employees now is the proud owner of my camera.

So was I looking forward to the Cougars baseball trip to the Dells? Well, maybe not. That town gives me the willies as maybe it was just built up in the middle of nowhere. It has a little Atlantic City to it with the fudge shops and souvenir stands.

The resort (Chula Vista) was very nice. It was clean and the room was plenty big enough for Brady and me.

The Cougars parents are nice bunch.

It's still interesting the dynamic of a 14-year-old baseball team. All the parents are rooting for their team, but in a year or so, those kids will be competing against each other for spots on the high school team. And maybe things will be different.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

At the Stadium Club

I will admit it, I'm a bit spoiled in the baseball world. Even back in 1979, Mr. Lind took me to the first game of the World Series in Baltimore. It was rained out but we dined on lobster and assorted goodies in the press box. And then came my stay with the Orioles and all-expense trips to Boston, Chicago and San Francisco.

But last night at White Sox Park was delightful. The Stadium Club? Who knew it was there. Mr. Morand took Brady and I into this great place and with no lines and we feasted on a truly great buffet. Not the standard greasy stuff but fresh salmon, rice with duck, pot stickers and tons of fresh vegetables. No one was getting fat.

This fine dining room hides out down the right field line where we watched a homer and some fine defensive plays. And then we ordered this enormous ice cream dish (The Landslide) for the four of us. Coffee ice cream, chocolate ice cream with syrups and candy. Now this was fattening. I'd say 60 calories for each spoonful and 20 spoonfuls is oh, never mind.

It was just the fifth inning when we moved to our real seats. They were all of six rows back of third base. We saw an excellent game and naturally ordered nothing from the vendors. Yes, I'm still spoiled in the baseball world.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

We paid good money for this?

We thought we were cool. We weren't going to settle for Jimmy John's for the early lunch, we were going to a cool barbecue place in West Chicago. And we actually found the place a good 20 minutes before it opened. Fine, we will have our meal and get back in time to watch more baseball. The boys had a football and tossed it around.

The cool barbecue place had electrical problems on a sunny day and the owner came out and apologized. It wasn't opening. Heck, what about us?

The nice guy at the closed cue place told us about a nearby pizza place (not as fun) but when we drove by it was closed. Screw this. We settled for Subway. Actually we could have taken a ride on the New York Subway and got better service than we got. If we weren't so famished, we would have dashed out of this place screaming.

This is what you do when your boy signs on with a traveling baseball team. We got up at 5:30 a.m. for this 1 hour trip. Our team took some lumps. You root for everyone on the team but you live and die with your boy's ups and downs. Please don't have my kid be the goat.

There were games at 8 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. In somewhat better news, we went out for ice cream at a Mexican ice cream joint. Rice water anyone? Actually the boxes said Ashby's so they didn't make it but truthfully the sugar in the pralines ice cream woke me up enough to drive home. Oh, well, let's have a better game next time.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

On Eighth Grade Graduation

It's a big deal out here. The kids get dressed up and march in alphabetical order. The speeches were great and we all had a fine time at Brady's graduation ceremony held at Lake Zurich High School.

How did I handle the pomp and circumstance at my 8th grade graduation? No such thing of course. Have no memory of it in fact since the schools in my day could care less about eighth grade graduation.

I don't recall anything significant at all about eighth grade. That's enough about this. We are glad Brady got a hair cut and behaved himself at the event.

Grandparents showed up and we all ate afterwards at the Wild Onion Pub in South Barrington. It was half-priced craft beer night so I ordered the Hopfest beer. The waitress said that wasn't half priced because it was too high in alcohol. Yes, that's called bait and switch. I said nothing and drank the one high alcohol brew.

Congrats, Brady. This means in another four years, he'll be a high school grad and another four years, a college grad. Why, he was just a baby not that long ago.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

70 cents a ticket for pro baseball

Was that a misprint? How in the heck was Stub Hub listing baseball tickets at the Milwaukee Brewers game for 70 cents a ticket? Of course there was a catch. There were plenty of service charges. So for four nice tickets on the third base side cost me 13 bucks. So even with that, it's less than 4 bucks a pop.

Now I recall back in Baltimore, you could get an upper reserved ticket or maybe a bleacher seat for 85 cents. But I'm guessing that was back in the late 1970s.

So Mr. Coffman came from near Wrigley Field and we met Captain Bob and his son Will and drove up for an afternoon game. It was a few quick beers in the parking lot and then we walked into the stadium.

I was a little concerned that they weren't going to take our nearly free tickets but that didn't come up. Again the seats were nice and the roof was closed so we didn't freeze inside. We took in a pitcher's dual. We even saw a Cincinnati relief pitcher throw the ball 101 miles per hour. Naturally that ball wasn't hit.

We got our money's worth in the first inning and left the game after eight innings with no score on the board. When we got the parking lot, the Reds finally scored.

And then we headed to Leon's for great frozen custard. That's a tradition. Of course.

Heck, I could get used to ticket prices like that.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Worst City in America?

But what about the clock tower? And the cool minor league baseball stadium if you can ever find it.

I was living in Chicago when Mobil Magazine (is that magazine still cooking?) gave Rockford, Illinois the title, ''worst city in the United States" tag. Wow! How about Newark New Jersey or Apopka, Florida? There has to be worse places, I thought. My friends and I drove through a neighborhood in Apopka a good 30 years ago and we never uttered a word. It was so poverty stricken we thought we had detoured off onto another planet.

Anyway, Brady's team had a tourney in Rockford this weekend and heck it wasn't so bad. It had some top 40 restaurants but I guess that's anywhere USA. What really bugged me was finding the home of the minor league team where Brady's team would be lucky enough to play.

My directions said turn left off of 90 and find it. And then at the exit, we saw a sign saying turn right. So, I followed the sign. And drove and drove and drove. I think we must have driven five miles. How in the heck do you hide a professional baseball field anyway? Well, these folks did.

Evidently, it was all of walking distance off the highway. I know they were pinching pennies in the Rockford government but all I asked was to see one more sign. Like, TURN LEFT HERE TO BASEBALL PARK. I would have gladly checked in with 10 bucks for that sign since I used $15 dollars of gas money driving through town looking for the place. I did hear folks saying I missed the run down section of Rockford but I guess that's a good thing.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Finding Sarasota by accident

As the story goes, my parents decided to make a break for it from the cold winters of Northern Virgina. I was finding out about girls and the Orioles were great and we moved away from it all and made a dash to Cape Coral, Florida. My first day of school presented me with a race riot. I was robbed of my lunch money. Did my parents check out the schools before sending me off to hell?
Mom understood and one day after work, she made a plan to drive to Orlando to find a school where her child wouldn't be killed.
But she pooped out. She drove as far as Sarasota and found a nice town. She got my Dad to move there and life returned to normal. At least the kids were friendly.
So that's my lead-in to the family trek to Sarasota this week. What a great place. We had a condo crawling distance to Turtle Beach. We saw the Orioles and Red Sox play spring training games. We ate at wonderful Sharkeys and the kids even survived a two-hour wait for dinner. We played catch for most of that time in a nearby field. We had one beach day on Siesta Key which has been picked as the top beach in the United States. See, if my Mom wasn't so tired that one day back when, the family wouldn't have ever found this gorgeous spot in America.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Another cool 80s band

The amazing thing here is the lead singer (Dan Zanes) of the great Boston band, "The Del Fuegos" actually sang children's songs at Nolan's day care back when he was quite young. Sure, I recalled this band with their great songs, "The Longest Day, Don't Run Wild and I Still Want You."

But they broke up way back when. I purchased their so-called big hits on CD and played them for the boys when they were young.

And on Sunday, Eileen and I drove down to Evanston to see the Del Fuegos. They had reformed. We actually had the GPS but still couldn't find Space until the band had already come out. No matter they played a good two hours. And I was singing in the background all night long. At my seat, of course.

I have that Longest Day album at home and see that I paid a whopping 25 cents for it back in the 80s. I think Eileen liked it, too, but it was a late night for her. And get this, neither of us had anything to drink.

As I write this, I have the Del Fuegos blasting in the shrine. Thanks to I-Tunes. Maybe if I was younger, I would have followed the tour that hits Milwaukee, St. Louis and Minnepolis. No, I have better things to do.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Be careful or you will break your neck

Those are real comforting signs at X-treme Trampoline in Buffalo Grove. If you jump this way, you will break your neck. If you land that way, your back will be broken. A broken back? That has to be a serious pain. And this is all in the name of fun?

On Saturday, Brady took three of his friends along with Riley, Nolan and I to Buffalo Grove for two hours of tumbling and leaping on trampolines. Of course, I just read the news on my phone as the boys got their exercise. This is the place where you have to sign a waiver before jumping on the mats. Now its true there is a lawyer in this house but I don't think that waiver is worth much if someone actually gets killed over there. They are still going to get sued.

Enough of that legal stuff. No one got banged up. They all had a good time. I watched Nolan play dodge ball on the trampoline. He told me later how he had made a nice play against two older kids.

I wonder if they had such a place like this when I was young. I probably wouldn't go as I'm not the jumping type.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The art of a game-winning shot

My friend Dan said it best when he texted me stating that every kid should have that kind of experience.

Basketball game tied with seven seconds to play. Brady's YMCA team had the ball. Brady (13 years old) drove down court. Five, four, three, two. Brady flips a shot that goes swish. Game over. See ya. My oldest child did make it just past half court when he was knocked to the floor by his excited teammates.

Now where is the video? Or the close-up photos? Sorry I can't do those things. His brother, Riley, called home to scream at his mother about his older brother winning a game. I called Grandpa Maloney and gave him play by play of the last seconds. I texted to whomever would listen.

It's a huge deal to win a game like that. It's something Brady should never forget.

Is sports the only place where it can happen? You can get a standing ovation for a being in play or for performing a music piece. But it isn't the same. Sports allows us this opportunity for the last-second shot or the game-winning homer.

Riley asked before the game if Brady won the game what would that get him. I said a coke. Instead, he opted for Dr. Pepper. We found a cool pizza place in DuPage County where we made pigs of ourselves eating pizza and wings.

When Brady got to baseball practice that night, a parent had already heard the news of the game-winning shot. That was a good day to be a parent.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Another one of my favorite places

I must admit I was secretly stashing away gift cards to this place. I can't recall where I first found the Yard House in Glenview. It was probably TJ since he lives right around the block from it.
It's really a great place with unlimited brews. On Friday night, I, the IPA freak, found a wonderful one in Three Floyds Dreadnaught. It was wonderous with the Belgian tinges in the hop heavy brew. I had just two as that was enough. Plus, I think this lovely liquid hits close to 10 percent alcohol.

TJ and Bob joined me for drinks and appetizers. The last time I was there followed by layoff from the 20-year old job. I drank too much that day. No doubt I needed to do that following the job loss. I was well aware I was drunk while driving but I blasted tunes and stayed safe on the road. Yikes.

Anyway, the Yard House must stock more than 100 beers on tap and most of them I would gladly sample. It's a great place to celebrate and I guess drown your sorrows as well. This, time, I finished the night with a cool glass of water.