Friday, December 29, 2006

Doesn't anybody tape "Check, Please!" ?

Every now and again people ask me if I miss Chicago. It’s a valid question and one that I almost have a canned answer for, though I do try and give it a bit of dynamic thought each time. I know that I miss people -- certainly and without a doubt. The geography though strangely holds little allure for me. I love the skyline and will be the first to assert that Chicago is a world class city, one of the greatest in the world. However, I was amazed how quickly the connection with the tangible city vanished. I love racing there in the winter, but I love it even more when I’m driving up John Nolan Drive and see the Capital on the edge of Lake Monona. I guess I left at the right time, or rather I’m in the right place now.

All of that having been said, man I miss certain Chicago restaurants, and the show Check Please! in particular. I would even watch the reruns, swearing at goofball guests that have really strange ways of looking at dining. But that is the whole fun of the show – the mix of people. I hadn’t anticipated missing a silly tv show, but when I think about it I really do miss a silly tv show. The reason this popped in my head today is because Palermo’s was featured on the show recently, or at least I found out about it recently. I cannot illustrate in words how great Palermo’s sauce is. All of their food is great, but the sauce is the kingpin here. It is so sweet and aside from the obvious sugar involved, the rumor was always that beer made its way in. Knowing a handful of ex employees I can attest to the fact that sauce was always made by the owner, behind a locked door, with ingredients hidden before and after the process – though on one occasion there was a small amount of spilled sugar on the floor. I know every town has a handful of Italian places with secret sauces and the requisite secret recipe story, but this is my story and I say it’s the best. I wish I could see this segment, but youtube is not solving this quandary. They visited the 95th street location, which is near my old stomping grounds, yet I have never been inside oddly enough -- I lived 2 blocks from the original location on 63rd street. I have always wondered how the 95th location became a flagship when the 63rd street location predates it by quite a bit and has always had a large dining room. Maybe its as simple as my old neighborhood getting tougher by the day and Oak Lawn not. Who knows. The sauce is the same at either place. Well, with the Tour Da Chicago looming in the near future I’ll get my fix.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Being allergic to cats, yet having a profound fascination and love for all things Hemingway, I am confused as to which side to take in this story.

The Orbea has been reglued and reassembled, and saw some mileage in Indiana over the Christmas holiday. I was initially disappointed in having a repaired frame – one that I would always glance down at and wonder when the piece would crack again – but now I think all will be fine. I rode it a few times and it feels so perfect and smooth and clean that the whole experience has moved away from a disownment of a betrayer and loafer towards the now embrace of an old friend. All is forgiven and it rides again like a dream. If it breaks again it is still under warranty so no big deal. Take care of it as much as possible but ride it like you stole it till it falls apart. That is the plan.

Salma has graciously yielded and allowed a glimpse of the healed outline of her sleeve. It looks terrific. The design is no Mortiis riding a unicorn, but it looks wonderful nonetheless. Hopefully some of her sleeve incorporates a yin yang and a panther, preferably with the yin yang on the panther. All great tattoos do.

After organizing and bagging/boarding about 500 comics in Indy over the weekend I set aside a small pile for rereading. On tap: The New Frontier (haven’t reread it in a year – so wonderful), We3, Seven Soldiers (yep, I dug out all 28 issues plus the bookending issues 0 and 1 – I’ll blow through it all in a few days in the order Grant lists in the rear of each issue. The Filth read much better when time had passed and I was able to reread it in a flurry, though I loved Seven Soldiers to begin with), Darwyn Cooke’s Solo, and JLA:Classified 1-3 (yeah, the Grant Morrison arc). The net has been flooded with Seven Soldiers decompression articles and I really want to avoid their polluting effects before I reread it all again. Grant Morrison is very dense most of the time, but its always worth the time and there is really no way out of the tunnel but through the other side. 30 books here I come.

I am still living on applesauce more than I’d like, but I have resumed molar usage. No chewing of meat yet, but having made it through the experience without the horror of the whispered and threatened dry sockets I consider myself blessed.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Due to OSHA laws prohibiting the return of extracted teeth to patients, I do not have photos of my 4 wisdom teeth. They're gone, headed for an incinerator, and I left not as wise as I was Thursday night. I did photograph some strawberries, er, gauze pads. So at least I can offer some gore, if you want to click through.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Even at the height of my skating ability and lack of fear I would probably have a healthy respect for Burnside in Portland. Its such a tight and burly course that I would be pleased to have carved it. Unfortunately I had no board when I visited last month, otherwise I would have eaten shit for old times sake. It was without a doubt a religious moment -- just to be able to gaze upon its cement.. Not much more can be said.

I have a strange habit of being photographed with male friends and their children, while their wives are nowhere to be seen.

With any luck there will be bloody photos next week of the 4 wisdom teeth that are to be cut out of me tomorrow morning. Fun.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Dahmer Dash was pure brutality, appropriately so given the subject matter. In hindsight it was a complete blast and very challenging, but at the time maddening and frustrating (mainly due the weather and my bad luck following different groups that didn't know Milwaukee as much as I assumed they did). I would expect it will gather some degree of legendary status for its weather challenges, though it was 10 degrees warmer than the 17 at the start of the Tour Da Chicago Stage 1 in 2005. That was brutal. I wore canvas vans on that race but wisely wore sambas in Milwaukee. Huge difference for my feet this time. Great race all around, and a disturbing shirt on top of it all.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Another Dirge

All things come to and end, and in this case, they have come to a sad, unexpected end. My Orbea is currently being warrantied at Machinery Row here in Madison. While talking on the phone a few weeks ago and glancing randomly around the room I noticed the seat stay on the non-drive side looked strange. After closely examining the carbon wishbone’s connection to the dropout I realized it had separated – the glue cleanly popped. No carbon splintering, but a clean break that explains the creaking I had heard the previous week. Annoying, but part of the allure of the brand is that it has a lifetime guarantee. That, along with the wonderful ride it affords, completely justified the price. Still it is sad to see the frame go. There is a slight chance that it will return reglued, but I am more confident that I’ll get the chance to pick a new color. At least it didn’t happen in the summer. So here is a picture from happier times. I’m sure a picture of the new ride will follow in a week or so. Hopefully every fall isn’t a time for a new color. Those 5000 miles were too few…

Dirge for a 9 Speed

Absit omen.
Beatae memoriae,
Consummatum est.
Hodie mihi, cras tibi.
Ego veho, semper!

May this not be an omen.
Of blessed memory,
It is completed.
Today for me, tomorrow for you.
I ride, always!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Skate Videos

I don’t want to become yet another of the uncountable hordes of bloggers that write something to the extent: “Wow, youtube is so cool. There are so many great videos there. Let me show you some” Suffice to say, I am yet again driven ceaselessly into the past, this time down the path of skate videos from my more flexibly-jointed youth. I tend to gravitate towards the videos I never owned and only watched endlessly in Pete’s basement. I sadly cannot find the Madcircle video out there.

Tim and Henry’s Pack of Lies – Blind Promo

Video Days

101’s Falling Down

Kris Markovic in the Color Video

Kris Markovic in the 101 Promo (I remember it either came in a sleeve advertising Golf Tips or Smoking Cessation tips)

Rick Howard in Goldfish

Ed Templeton in New Deal’s Useless Wooden Toys

The Walgreens on the Archer Ave of my youth never seems that far away. I still wear skate shoes out of habit. And youtube has facilitated another reason to endlessly look to the past.

(such a lazy, link ridden, post…)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

In the past I have thrown a few (read: plethora of) good natured spears at Madison’s half-cousin-twice-removed city – Portland, OR. I stand by them, but since I have now visited that cool town I will likely temper my jabs while also defending them via a vague ‘Hey, I was kinda local for 48 hours.’

Portland had rain, as promised. But returning home to Wisconsin on Sunday night and approaching my truck in an external lot yielded different November surprises. It had snowed a few inches and with the sun and sub 32 degree nights I was given about 2 inches of ice in the entire bed of my truck. The top was a little slushy. That makes it very easy to come screaming off when you find an empty part of the lot, put your vehicle in reverse, hammer it, and then slam on the brakes. The snow is all gone now, not because the weather is back to normal, but because Wisconsin is being uncharacteristically kind this week. Portland’s rain may be the target of some jokes, but I only kid because I love. If there is going to be snow it should at least get cold enough to make some ice. Pond Hockey needs to begin soon.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Amazingly, Portland was rainy

It is very difficult to try and accurately capture all the interesting and new things I enjoyed in Portland, OR visiting Melissa and Paul. As much as I visited them purely out of our longstanding friendship, I can't help but feel that there is also some silly sense of electronic-blog visiting in the mix. I guess that's life in 2006.
Aside from being in the company of gracious hosts, I was shown:
-- The Pacific coast and Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, OR, where I bravely ate a tasty fried oyster sandwich.
-- Burnside skatepark, which was the religious portion of the trip (Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages).
-- The mighty Powell's bookstore.
-- Downtown Portland along with overcast stolen glances at mountain ranges crying out for a summer return trip.
The trip was all too short, but wonderful nonetheless. In the above photo we can see that Sam is obviously fascinated by my superior verbal ability to caption photos before passing them on to others. I will hopefully be back soon in the summer with some camping and hiking in mind, along with the spelunking the rain robbed us of by washing out the road to Mt St. Helens.
For reasons I honestly cannot understand, Bigfoot keeps finding his way into my geographical life. I canoed in northern Wisconsin this June and overlapped in time and region with a Bigfoot expedition. I can appreciate that he dwells in the dense forests up north, but apparently he's moving south for the winter. In the first report, Bigfoot tried to snag a doe off of a pick up. In the second, he leaned against a tree and hung out. All within 60 miles of Madison -- close to Milwaukee actually. Its things like this that make me proud, while also offering a smile and a shrug, when telling people I have adopted Wisconsin as my home.

Monday, November 06, 2006

When I turned 24 I announced the beginning of my "Year of Fear" -- after Bob Probert, #24 on the Chicago Blackhawks. For quite a while Bob was the most feared fighters in the NHL, and to this day is easily one of the greatest fighters of all time, if not the greatest. People always seem to talk most about his reclamation of the NHL heavyweight belt in the Domi fight, but I am partial to the Marty McSorley fight.

The following year I chose to announce that I was a "Quarter Century Man." Silly, but something to hang your hat on. It seemed more interesting than just telling people I was 25.

The funny and quirky attempts have drifted into the ether as time has marched beyond my mid 20's. Anyone know a witty brand for 31?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Work being busy and not having a computer makes blogging slip just a bit from my grasp. All work and no play makes Homer a something something.

Halloween in Madison usually means some combination of dressing up, getting loaded, and standing on State Street till the cops tear gas you at 2am to send you home. For men there were many Borats, some pirates, a bunch of other misc things, and strangely more than a few 6ft-plus inflatable penises. The women had costumes far across the board, though it seemed that the overwhelming majority followed this simple formula:

Costume = sexy/slutty +

Sexy Cop? Many. Sexy Nurse? Yep. Sexy Wench? Check. Sexy Mechanic? Saw one. Etc, etc, etc.

Before all of that terrible sexiness in the 30 degree Wisconsin night, I raced the Scaredy-Cat alleycat race earlier that evening. We all met on picnic point, ensuring that the start of the race would find us all barreling down the dirt jogging trail to get back to pavement and city streets. There weren’t too many joggers or dogs on the path as we freight trained through the woods and if it sounds like a clusterf***, it is because it was. Its an alleycat and some confusion and non conventional cycling challenges at the beginning are to be expected. You roll with it. As much as we took off like bats out of hell, the race was clearly structured in a way where finishing order didn’t matter – it was all about hitting the stops in order and getting the most points. That was made crystal clear in the beginning, yet everybody still has to ride balls out, at least to the first stop. That’s how alleycats go. We bobbed for apples, scavenged for playing cards down a hill with optional weights(I went for 20lbs – Jason went for 50lbs – most went for none or less than 20lbs) loaded in our bags, told dirty jokes, put condoms on our bike seats, and other things that have drifted out of my mind at this point. Since the weather was nice and Madison isn’t as riddled with bike thieves as Chicago, I saddled the Orbea, hoping to finish higher than I usually do in these things. I’ll never win an alleycat, but I was pleased with my placement. All around it was an excellent time -- the stops were interesting and challenging, and the after party had great food and beer and hospitality. I only regret having to leave in the middle of the skid contest.

I rode home, finished a too short phone call, jumped in the shower, and shuffled quickly to Real Chili for my 10pm Halloween shift. In short, it was packed beyond belief, we were able to stay on top of customers and the clearing of tables, and in the middle of the blasting hip hop and vulgarity spewing employees we managed to survive. There was almost one fight, and yes it included an employee. At 2am the cops cleared State St and while that is an excellent idea for many reasons, for our little part of the world it meant that our customers dried up. That part sucked. So we slowed down much earlier than expected and I ended up walking in my apt at 4:10am – after the clocks moved back. All in all a fun night. Good costumes, good attitudes, and good tips.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Hockey hair, or a mullet, is always present in the NHL, but not so much in the last decade. Jagr had a terrific mullet in the early 90’s but few have attempted to take that crown these days. My Chicago Blackhawks have one Michal Handzus that easily wears the crown these days. And just in case you are not so informed, the hair is not a fashion statement, it merely exists to protect the player’s neck from errant pucks and stick slashes. A purely utilitarian choice. I had hoped to find my way to Chicago in the near future for a game to experience the beast in all its glory, but it is not to be. A knee injury has him out for the year. I may still see a game this year, but it just won’t be the same.

I read “Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron” by Clowes last week, which is easily one of the strangest comics, much less stories, I’ve ever read. I found myself trying to put it together with that awful high school question that would always come up in English class: “What does it mean?” It’s a useless question by the time you get to college and have to ability to talk about aspects of a text without generating an overly general concluding sentence for your paper. Yes Huckleberry Finn is about how slavery is bad, but that is not really an adequate comment. Nonetheless, I tried to find a place to start on Clowes and was drawn back to that silly question.

I wonder if it works as a threat to not try to hard to get what you want, because you might get it – or rather, don’t fixate too much on what goes on behind the scenes. If you ever uncovered all the layers you’d simply find a base level of filth, corruption, violence, and ugliness.

I also considered that the only characters in the book that looked physically normal (the cops, etc) were the most evil and vicious. So, maybe the main character was too normal and only after descending into his own strangeness and becoming an amputee was he able to find his comfortable place in the world. Our true selves are ugly and strange, but they are our true selves after all so we might as well embrace them. I suspect this idea might be closer to what Clowes had in mind.

So I’ll say that it tells us that being ourselves, however strange, is good, like Robin Williams told us all in Dead Poets Society. That is a very mean sentence to put into the world but Clowes’ images are a little unnerving at times, so we’ll call it even.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The leaves on my little weekday cycling loop are almost all gone. I remember Madison soon after moving here this time last year and seeing more leaves. I can only assume the cold snap was a little sooner and more brutal this year. Riding in the wind on Saturday was so unforgiving. I dressed for winter riding but was never able to warm up. Maybe I need to get my winter legs yet.

I am still recovering from the Bears game last night. My blood pressure is barely coming down a day later. Nothing more can really be said. I hope it is a case of a great team finding a way to win games the shouldn't win. I hope. And the Blackhawks are doing well also. All is well

Monday, October 09, 2006

Poe never had it so good

Riding a century is always unique in a way that 60 mile rides are not. The weather, stops, scenery, and pain always become more memorable. It is much easier to crystalize images and moments due to the length and mental challenge of the ride, or simply the mandatory recovery you’ll feel happening the next morning. The weather was simply perfect – 70 degrees and sunny, though a little windy. Considering it will be a high of 40 this Thursday and it is October, we had nothing to complain about.

After lunch at 3pm we found ourselves cracking 70 miles and feeling the distance. Perhaps we still had much of our physical strength to draw from, but chatter was down, the hours were mentally taxing, and the wind was no longer a mild annoyance but a beast that was winning the war. We finally turned north for the last 20 miles with the wind at our backs and found that our legs were happy to spin us at 22 mph as we caught glimpses of the capital in the distance.

Earlier, we were investigating the availability of a small café with outdoor seating in Paoli and found ourselves in the middle of a wedding that was emptying out in the parking lot. While chatting about our next option of food we were apparently blocking the way for some wedding guests, so the middle aged man in the car told us, rather sternly, “Could you please move so my family could get through?” It was very funny. We weren’t being loud, much less swearing or doing anything that could be considered rude. I felt like we must then be some sort of a biker gang, albeit one wearing underwear and pedaling. I really don’t know where he was coming from, or why his family couldn’t have said, “Excuse me.”

Aside from taking many fantastic shots along the way, Frank easily won the coolest bike contest. His late 1980’s steel Merckx with tubular tires classed up the ride a great deal.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Tomorrow at 10 am I will take on 100+ miles of Wisconsin hills and country roads. It'll be a bear for sure, but I'm up to it. Saturday night I will be sleeping about 12 hours.

I wish I had made it to Chicago to see Negative Approach at the Touch and Go fest, but that's what youtube is good at fixing. I just wish a clip existing of the song "Nothing," because I'm certain they played it. Easily one of the greatest hardcore songs of all time.

Battlestar Galactica is tonight, along with carb loading.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

If you are guessing that this is paintball in Southern Wisconsin you would be wrong. If you instead opted for an explanation involving the Forest Moon of Endor, move to the head of the class. Everyone agreed that the face protection is surplus Rebel Alliance gear.

The whole paintball scene is an odd one, though one that is highly addictive and fun. Most people there are completely into the event to the tune of far too many dollars towards clothing and technology. It had a very militia feel to it.

In the first game our patrol of 3 fell into an ambush in tall grass. We were pinned face down to the ground for about 5 seconds, after which Greg rolled over to return some fire. Within the next split second each of us had received head shots from the sniper 10 feet away. Yes, they hurt. I never fired my weapon. The problem was us creeping towards the enemy encounter.

The second game we sprinted, not crept, into position, ensuring our arrival before enemy units. We nestled into sniper positions and waited. After 5-10 minutes I had 2 kills and it was obvious that our flank was no longer a threat so we went back to protect the actual flag at the fort. We successfully protected our flag and Paula got a kill in the process.

The third game was by far the best. It involved close quarters and about 100+ barrels scattered and stacked in a small area, with a road running right down the middle. Yes, it was a lot like Raiders of the Lost Ark. I advanced very far up the obstacles and never was hit, but I ran out of paintballs and had to leave the game.

It is funny how often people take headshots. I figured on shooting for the chest whenever possible simply because its larger. But, while sitting in the weeds and peering between barrels all you want to do is shoot somebody in the head. Its odd, but true. Greg felt the same thing.

Go Bears.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I wanted to write a Fall themed entry, concentrating on the incoming color change, the crispness in the air, and the buildup to Halloween. Aside from that teetering a bit too much towards romance than I dwell in these days, its not the most accurate snapshot of the Fall changes afoot in Madison – at least my little piece of Madison.

Starting on Monday I had to begin wearing arm warmers on my nightly rides. Shorts and summer jerseys are still passable, but the writing is on the wall. As long as I can put off wearing knee warmers, and the inevitable tights, I’ll remain happy. There is a subtle red speckling across the south central Wisconsin foliage that will surely be full blown within 4-5 weeks.

Like most people, I have a plethora of interests, hobbies, money holes, etc. Gaming is omnipresent, but it usually goes on a break of sorts during the summer, only to ramp up when crisp air creeps in. The photo above represents my newly burgeoning dwarf army along with the yet to be read new Warhammer rules. 52!52!52! (Rip Hunter said that for time not to break Scott must send me 52 dwarves, or at the least all that are in the Skull Pass boxed set).

Fall always means that the warmer cycling gear comes out, and the gaming element of my life increases its presence and time demands.

I will never alter or upgrade my contempt for the Green Bay Packers. Nothing personal, its just the way it is. But, I have married myself to the state of Wisconsin to a legitimate degree so I need to find some teams to root for. I want to fit in. Enter : Team America’s Dairyland. Aside from being an all women’s cycling team dressed like cows, their mission is” to promote Wisconsin milk products.” They have passed me in team gear while on training rides in the Madison area and they are very fast. Serious cyclists with a serious cause. Show me where to donate and cheer and I’ll be there.

As a final cycling note, I am helping organize a century Saturday October 7th (8th is in the rain date) here in Madison. Check out the myspace group page. Any ideas for a theme, name, snappy art, or cool October 7th event to commemorate are encouraged. (It is the day Poe died and the anniversary of a beer tax rebellion)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I hope I’m not getting mentally slower as I rapidly tumble towards the old folks home. I have an English degree. I push my nose into a book everyday, usually multiple times, not counting comic books. Given those facts, I had trouble keeping track of the characters in the Hardy Boys story within “Hunting for Hidden Gold.” I read enough mysteries here and there to not be taken aback by whodunits and ‘hey, wasn’t he a good guy.’ But, I couldn’t keep pace with this Hardy installment. It had adventure in the Rocky Mountains and the Montana wilderness, but alas, it outran me. Its possible that its written a bit more sloppily than the other stellar entries, but I don’t want that to be my crutch. I read it within a few days, so stretching it over time and losing the thread isn’t a concern. No crutch to be found there. Maybe the DC continuity changes I’m attempting to memorize are shoving it aside. That must be it. I am not proud of this.

Watching the Ironman competition Sunday morning was fascinating and inspiring. At 8 am I stood on John Nolen Dr. watching the lead competitors ride their time trial bikes while still trying to secure their feet into their cycling shoes (that were already clipped in). I kept wondering, why not burn 30 seconds to fasten the shoes before mounting the bike? They must know what they’re doing, considering they were in the lead. They were off in the 50 degree drizzle for their 112 mile ride, followed by a full marathon. Crazy. For about 24 hours I thought I could do it, and made vague, wide-eyed plans to do so. That desire has now passed. I could do the swimming and cycling rather easily, but the running is impossible. I hate running. I don’t think I could even knock off the half Ironman. Maybe a double metric century is a better goal. It all adds up to fight back the grave a little bit at a time.

How about those Bears? 26-0 against Green Bay. Behind enemy lines, I couldn’t be more pleased.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

If you look in the right hand corner of the above photo you’ll see highway C continue on snaking through the north woods of Price County, WI. I’ve swam in this tiny lake before and its pretty much as big as it looks – perfect for a quick swim with a small group of people. You’ll also notice the insidious leaves starting to turn. Visiting Prentice is always a journey to the heart of things for me. The hills on my bike ride were a little tougher than Madison’s (thanks to Timm’s Hill being right nearby), but the scenery more than makes up for some extra pedaling. While fishing I saw 3 bears (a sow and 2 cubs), which brings the bear count this summer up to 4. I should add a ticker for that in the right column of this blog.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

As you can see from the growing pile of bags at the bottom of the picture, someone is moving out. My roommate is moving in with his girlfriend this coming weekend so I’ll be alone for the time being, though the possibilities always exist that another person will come along in need of a living room (fron-troom in chicagospeak) to inhabit indefinitely. Its not fancy but its right downtown and the price is cheap. The point of this post is the wonderful print hanging on the wall – Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” to be exact. Ty framed it like a champ and Scott and Clare drove it north –thanks is given all around. I wanted a print that I enjoy, but one that will yield new insights as the years go on when it becomes harder to “see” each day. I think this threads the needle nicely, though the probability for nightmares is certainly higher than average. The rightmost panel is the prime candidate for REM gremlins. To the left of this, above the tv, hangs 3 great photos of the Uptown Theatre (in Chicago) sent to me by Melissa in Portland. In an attempt to be a bit more of an adult I’m trying to surround myself with some art, yet the façade will surely crack immediately when the bikes and comics are seen to be littering the apartment. It’s a start in the right direction though.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The woman in the Seney train depot told her dog to stop barking just before giving me a 10 second run down of what the little museum had to offer. There was a fair amount of old photos and artifacts from the pre-1900 Seney lumber town that had a substantially larger size than today. That wild west atmosphere had burned out by 1919 when Hemingway visited and though it wasn’t literally filled with burned out stumps at the time of his visit, the impression of a ghost town was accurate. The Hemingway exhibit in the train station had an interesting display case filled with 1919 era fishing and camping equipment – the same type described in the equipment list Hemingway had written at the time. While it isn’t known exactly where Hemingway and his 2 friends camped in 1919, it is known that they camped among some late summer blueberry pickers, and those pickers camped along the east branch of the Fox River near its intersection with the highway (top picture). Hemingway fished the main branch of the Fox as well (primarily it seems) and so did I (second picture). Both are very deep and cold rivers, even by north woods, trout standards. I caught nothing in either but used a Hemingway fly (yes, they make an Adams fly with that specification/title). I suspect this elevates my geekiness above the previous Star Wars/comic book/Warhammer nexus it had previously inhabited. Fair enough. The river and country were just as beautiful as the Wisconsin north woods I know so well, only with an added dash of history I enjoyed. I doubt I will be back to Seney anytime soon, but there is something (with ALL hipness certainly aside) to be said for having fished the same water and stood in the same woods as Papa himself.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ernest Hemingway

The train went on up the track out of sight, around one of the hills of burnt timber. Nick sat down on the bundle of canvas and bedding the baggage man had pitched out of the door of the baggage car. There was no town, nothing but the rails and the burned-over country. The thirteen saloons that had lined the one street of Seney had not left a trace. The foundations of the Mansion House hotel stuck up above the ground. The stone was chipped and split by the fire. It was all that was left of the town of Seney. Even the surface had been burned off the ground.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I don’t attend nearly as many hardcore shows as I used to, largely out of my taste not keeping up with the times, economics (more so a reason when I was still in school), and a general lack of time. Life is busy and it can be tough to find the time to stand around in a small space listening to a bill of small acts trying to get it together for the first time. It can be an amazing, enlightening, and unexpected experience (ie. the way I first was exposed to The Murder City Devils), but most of the time it is a bust. I know the journey is what counts. I buy a handful of comic books each week and only a few are truly memorable, but you’ll never find those diamonds if you don’t keep showing up every week for new book day. Not having been to a show in a good while, I expected a mixed bag at Gorilla Biscuits Saturday night. I was mildly excited to see the gig, my excitement only tempered by the possibility it would mostly be a sluggish cash in by tattooed men in their late 30’s. Joyously, I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Murphy’s Law was everything it was supposed to be, along with Jimmy Gestapo’s birthday cake being thrown into the crowd. GB was tight, in a great mood, and played almost every track they had in their canon (I honestly can’t think of a song they missed). 50 minutes, nothing but smiles from the band and crowd, and aside from some brutish bouncer behavior, a perfect show. Nothing more could be said. A+.

On the drive home I was able to tune in to one of my favorite late night radio shows, The Nick Digilio Show. I listen in Madison over the internet at times, but its enough of small project to make it so that it doesn’t happen often enough. They were chatting about strange, anachronistic phrases people use and I called up and chatted with Nick on the air, offering the phrase “take a cure.” Being on the radio isn’t the coolest thing to claim, but it was a fun cap to an already great night.

Friday, August 04, 2006

If you don't hear from me within 7 days, you now know where to start the search.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Stay off my lawn!

I just really like this cover.

Who gets to say that they were at the nascent stage of a given movement? I mean really at that first moment before the thing became watered down, which is probably when more than a handful of people heard/saw it. In this case I’m thinking specifically about hardcore, or punk if you want to describe that particular branch of rock music another, slightly broader, way. In American Hardcore, the period of 1980 – 86 is considered not so much the first era of hardcore (which it certainly is), but the only real era of it, before things drifted towards metal, emo, etc. I would disagree that the later eras are invalid (at least in being labeled “hardcore”). In fact, I might even attempt to argue that they are closer to a better definition of hardcore, sort of like an extra polishing or refinement. For me the sound of the late 80’s into the early 90’s remains fairly close to that of the early era (Black Flag and Bad Brains being some of the better examples of the standard sound, if that can even be quantified), even with the creeping in of metal. NYC and Boston produced a pure sound, but with a tighter message. In my experience the largest difference was in the turning away from the excesses of punk, and in the direction of straight edge. Bands didn’t need to be straight edge – the idea that it was a strong element in the scene had a subtle effect on what would be tolerated and what was considered foolish. As an example, it seemed like heroin raced through the scene in the early 80’s but was not a strong thread later in the decade, according to American Hardcore. I yield to no one in my love for the Misfits, but SOIA and Slapshot always seemed more direct and focused, even when they weren’t screaming about sxe or the like (I know SOIA was never straight edge). I can’t say anything bad about the book though. Reading interviews with all the heavyweights is inherently interesting, even if it makes some of them look like fools. Perhaps the simple reality is that I was young and into hardcore for the first time in the late 80’s and the author was first exposed in 1980. The kids today seem to think that their records are “amazing,” though they seem weak and should be in the cut-out bin, and by cut-out bin I mean garbage can. I suspect the author of American Hardcore laughs at the way I hold “Step on It” and “We’re Not in this Alone” close to my heart. He can wait to take me on with his “ROIR” cassette until I tend to the kids running around with their American Nightmare and Fall Out Boy records. I think there is some truth in all the perspectives flying back and forth across the generations, but the fact that music nerds can be so foolishly passionate at times makes books like this endlessly fascinating in their attempt to describe and document something so wonderful, pure, and beyond description. As more books are released I expect I will read them all and argue incessantly with each of them.

I am such and old man.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I hate those Leeward Islands so much. For years they have silently mocked me. Never again.


If you are ever in the mood to see something completely unique, yet akin to walking in a living kaleidoscope, see the House on the Rock. Its about 40 miles west of Madison and is well worth the admission. The Infinity Room was very unnerving as it swayed ever so slightly as I walked out towards the viewing station near the end of it. Very unnerving.


Sometimes when cycling in the country you will run into Bears. Literally.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Howl like a wolf and a witch will open the door…

The inevitable fact about enjoying even the most obscure pop culture interest is that someday some other fan of said obscure interest will find himself creating something for mass consumption and the interests of his youth will rise. You will rejoice with a knowing nod to this artist and know that all along that record, comic, movie kicked ass (take for example any of the plethora of modern fashions and attitudes filched from the then shunned skateboard world circa 1990-1994). Clerks 2, aside from being a great movie, has prominent King Diamond music, songs from “Them” to be specific. I still don’t think we’ll King Diamond shirts at Hot Topic, though it might be funny if we did. The last thing I expected to hear at the multiplex was King Diamond.

MOTAB is a monthly bike race/parade. The best way to describe it is this: bring a crappy bike, place it in the stack of other bikes, wait for the start, hear the start, run and retrieve your bike, do many laps around the old paint factory (this involves gravel, some off road riding, and much silliness), at the end of 24 minutes the first person to cross the finish line wins. Crossing the line has nothing to do with the number of laps completed, nor the speed in which you are traveling -- it is mainly luck. In celebration of the Tour de France’s doping scandal this was the all doping MOTAB. Your spokecard had the name of a banned rider on it and you had to drink a cup of EPO (read: cheap, red wine) before digging your bike out. It happens every month and I will certainly be there for the next one. It is every bit as fun that it sounds, probably more so.

Congratulations to the Mennonite Tour de France Champion Floyd Landis. His performance in Stage 17 is nothing short of legendary, right next to Eddy Merckx. I can hear Yarrow, BC rejoicing.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Always on the wrong side of whatever side there was

My softball debut at Bowling Green in Middleton was not exactly a trainwreck, but not exactly a star spangled spectacular. I went 0 for 5, but lined out once to the second baseman and then grounded out to the first baseman. The conclusion to draw is that my swing was slow. I tried to make some adjustments but all I ended up with was some fouls. I'm happy, like they tell the 8 year olds in little league, to have made contact. They stuck me in left field and my first fly ball was in the fifth inning on 2 outs. I caught it cleanly and ended the inning. It turns out that if I had let it drop we would have lost due to the run rule (if you are losing by 8 runs at any time after the 5th, you immediately lose). In little league we called it a slaughter rule. I misjudged a few other balls after that first one, but I'd like to think that my most important fly of the day was caught. In my defense I have never played fast pitch softball with a 12" softball. Since I'm from Chicago I'm used to 16" softballs, slow spinning pitches, and mangled fingers. These people here use gloves and pitch around 80+mph. When I arrived I mentioned that I was only used to Chicago clincher softballs, not the 12" 'kitten' balls. The response: "Yeah, we don't play with that size. We're straight." I felt like part of the team. Maybe if I could commit to an entire season and take some batting practice in the spring I could play much better, but I suspect cycling will always win my time when summer comes.

A big thankyou to Salma for the American Hardcore book. I'm enjoying it but like any book documenting something as underground and as much a life force as hardcore is to many people, there is plenty to disagree with. The book Dance of Days was a a great read, but too obsessed with kneeling at the Ian MacKaye altar and enshrining DC punk. So far American Hardcore is painting a smarter and wider picture, but a few things are sticking under my skin. I'll finish the book first and rant at that time. It has me digging into my cd collection so it must have an inherently good core. Any book that talks about such importand bands, music, and songs are welcome.

Friday, July 14, 2006

You haven’t aged well, nor have you learned

I think it was Scott that first came up with the expression “ it’s like swimming with your clothes on” to describe riding a mountain bike after being used to riding a road bike. That is a perfect phrase. It is also how I have felt lately regarding the books I’m ‘reading’ right now. Just thinking off the top of my head, here are the books that currently have bookmarks in them:

American Hardcore: A Tribal History by Steven Blush
Showcase Presents: Green Lantern
The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
Jack Hagee, Private Eye Graphic Novel
Cell by Stephen King
Spider-Man/Black Cat: Evil That Men Do by Kevin Smith

I use old concert stubs as bookmarks and am all out of bookmarks right now. No new books are allowed to be started. That is the rule. I impulsively feel that my reading volume has spiked downward, but I ultimately realize that I’m reading just as much as before, it is just that nothing is getting finished.

Thankfully I am still keeping up on my weekly comics, mainly the all important weekly 52, and I was able to finish Cell at lunch.

Cell was a tight, excellently paced, short novel. I genuinely appreciate a longer Stephen King novel and the way he slowly weaves different characters into each other’s lives, sometimes taking a few hundred pages of characterization and action before they ever meet. This rarely feels bloated or wasteful, The Stand being an excellent example. The Cell is much different and is successful in its own way. The intense doom of the unknown zombie threat and its source functions best when it is unknown to the characters as well as the reader. We only meet characters when the main protagonist Clay meets them – no omniscient storytelling here. At the end we’re never sure of the true facts of the Pulse – we only know what the characters know when we they know it. Not a great book, but a very good one. For me, it all successfully hinged on the third person point of view that veered constantly towards a first person one. Also, there are many zombies to be dealt with, a healthy fear of technology premise that harkens back to the fear of atomic energy centered films of the 50’s, and the omnipresent political underpinnings all zombie tales possess. A solid grade of B.

The fast pitch softball team a few coworkers belong to has felt a pinch of dwindling members so I’ll be playing in a double header tomorrow. It’s a kitten ball, not a Chicago softball, but I’ll survive.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Dirge for #28

Better in the long run by far, but sad for the Hawks right now.

Dies iræ! dies illa
Solvet sæclum in favilla
Teste Dale cum Wirtz!

Bell destituet et
Maestitia invesperascit impers.
Havlat attinet spes et
Somnia hodie.

Day of wrath and terror looming!
Heaven and earth to ash consuming,
Dale’s word and Wirtz's truth foredooming!

Bell is gone and
Sadness grows dark.
Havlat holds the hopes and
Dreams now.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Time is not your friend, it spites you

I love the Rev. Paul Bearer's lyrics.

I had been out of town for most of the past week so updating is sparse, and my life has been somewhat uneventful. Sleeping in and simply getting some miles in on the Orbea is wonderful and uneventful and welcome. I swapped my worn out tires for some Hutchison Tour de France tires in a nerdy nod to this months grand tour. Yes, yellow stripes are involved. George Hincapie had a dud time trial today and I fear as a result his hopes of a tour victory are nil. All of USA's hopes are now on Floyd Landis' capable shoulders.

I have an itch to purchase an art print for framing in a grasping attempt to class up my life. Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights has been the front runner in the back of my mind for many years, and it still is. I only wonder if it is too busy and dense to be enjoyed at the width of 4 feet. Would a smaller portion of it blown up be better (probably from the right panel)? Any ideas? What about Memling's Last judgment?

Such a short post -- maybe this coming week will bring more excitement. Maybe I'll get into a fight with a vulgarity screaming hippie -- I mean 'free thinker.' Maybe the Cubs will find themselves on a winning streak and I will write a tear soaked dirge exploring my sadness. Maybe I'll mention my bike.

Friday, June 30, 2006

I would test positive for Real Chili

The Tour de France Post-Lance starts tomorrow and in the last 24 hours everything has turned upside down due to the doping scandal out of Spain. Many, many favorites are out as result. Ullrich is out. Basso is out. Vinokourov is in but his team has been halved. Gorgeous George Hincapie is quickly looking to be a favorite, particularly considering his team (Discovery Channel) is not implicated in the scandal, and is also very strong. Its a wide open tour and since there is no clear favorite each day will bring random, exciting attacks. Go George and Go White Sox!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Here is a Reason People Don't Like Me

Yesterday, at the top of his lungs and seemingly with all of his being, a man called me an asshole.

I’m sure many people probably agree with him. People that know me probably expected some degree of conflict between me and the hippy faction of Madison at some point. We still coexist happily in our own truce, but at time it seems we must clash. Driving down Williamson on Madison’s east side during rush hour yesterday I came across a man and woman attempting to cross the street. The were close to the middle of the road, oncoming traffic (in relation to me) was at a standstill, and he was waving a red flag in a strange, irritated, fencinglike manner. I had a 4 car gap ahead of me and no cars behind me. As I approached, going 30 mph, the intensity in which he shook his foil/flag increased to a strange, maddening pace. My Chicago radar went off and said, ‘maybe a crazy person, maybe not – just get past him and leave him behind.’ I just kept moving in a straight line at my normal speed. This apparently was a mortal sin, to say the least. As I just about passed the flag man he yelled loudly enough for the whole street to hear into my car that I was an asshole. At this moment my sin revealed itself when it all clicked in my head. I forgot about the cute little red flags and what they really mean to the good natured folk of Madison. It had been explained to me once and I chuckled and obviously filed it deeply away, next to Mr. Moriarty’s freshman Biology class. If you want cross the street, grab a flag from the receptacle on the sidewalk, hold it up, and start walking across the street like Moses. A decent idea, but I would argue unreasonable at times. If the stoplight (excuse me, ‘stop-and-go light’ in Wisconsinspeak) is only a block away and its rush hour, isn’t it a wiser idea to walk that block before crossing? I know the pedestrian always has the right of way, but don’t these flags foster a deadly sense of false security? Wouldn’t orange be better? Lets say I was visiting Madison for the first time yesterday and didn’t know any better – would I deserve to be called an asshole? I ultimately laughed at his righteous hatred in that moment – he was very mad and I could see him making faces at me in my rearview. Another Chicago truism popped into my head – words have a price. If you swear at strangers you should expect a fight sooner or later, probably sooner. That is why I don’t call strangers names. This hippie (he was obviously one, trust me – I’m not making a great assumption in the slightest) did not look like he was the fighting type, yet he seems to want to court that possibility. Maybe it flies in his neighborhood in Madison, but not in the rest of the world. So I guess I need to play ball and respect the cute red flag. I’ll do my part, but that man should also make a few changes and avoid his impending fistfight.

Other people also feel the red flag is misguided.

Part of being in a subculture (hardcore for example) that identifies itself through a style out of the mainstream that implies individuality, is that when you are gathered among many other individuals from this subculture you all look like you are wearing a uniform of sorts. It’s a reality, for better or worse. Here is a hilariously captioned flickr set exploring shoes at a gathering in Chicago.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Lancelot Link

I try not to generate posts on this blog simply offering links to websites. Its not that creative but I'm going to break that rule today. 4 Star Courier, along with being a new bike messenger company in Chicago, threw this past years' well run Tour da Chicago. Here is an interesting Chicago Reader article about them. Its well worth a read.

Monday, June 19, 2006

There is a reason no one likes you

What to say regarding the wonderful canoe trip? I ended up with a 23" Northern Pike, many smaller Northern and Muskie, some Perch, and a clam. Yes, I caught a clam, and so did Tater for that matter. We were fishing the bottom with worms and ended up catching clams. Odd. I got the biggest fish with the Northern, but Tater easily won overall with a fat 16" Smallmouth and a nice 18" Walleye that we ate for a breakfast appetizer Saturday. We saw a few bald eagles as well, essentially completing a perfect trip. We shall return soon. My tent leaked from many, many places for the second trip in a row, which would explain why it was last seen leaning against a dumpster at the boat landing on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage. Perhaps some poor soul has the interest in resealing it and giving it another try. Not me. It was 10 years old and $50 to start with so I have no real argument with it, though we must now part ways. Its a sin to simply throw it away.

Also, no Sasquatch was afoot, at least from our research on the 1 acre island we slept on. We did see a sign in Philips, WI on our way declaring that "Sasquatch was sited 2.5 miles north." The hunt goes on.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Operation: Sasquatch Quest

This evening I'll be driving up to the north woods to crash with my Aunt and Uncle in Price County, before heading out for a canoe trip Friday morning. Its not a long trip (through Sunday) but should be excellent. There are many islands in the canoeing area we'll be in so aside from having the charm of camping on an island, we'll also be able to avoid hanging our food from a tree. I know bears can easily swim if they are so inclined, but we should be fine. Famous last words, huh. The area we'll be in is about 20 minutes north of this month's upcoming Bigfoot expedition. I thought Sasquatch mainly lived in the Pacific Northwest, but apparently he's also in Price County, Wisconsin. The trip is mainly about fishing and camping, but now Bigfoot is in the mix. As a child that literally devoured UFO and Bigfoot books at the West Lawn Public Library on the south side of Chicago, I am somewhat interested to say the least. If we run into these people and t shirts are involved I might bite.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Yet another thrilling Alleycat

This blog may not be about many things, but I would like to assert that it is about more than just alleycats. Not today though.

Sunday’s WMD Choose Your Own Adventure alleycat was thrown by Jonny of Jonny Cycles fame, and was as excellent as a race could be. For $5 you got a veggie burrito at the start, coffee, beer at the end, and a race. Quite a deal. The theme was a weapons of mass destruction hunt styled upon a Choose Your Own Adventure book. You are the weapons inspector! We were only told the first stop, where we were then given a piece of paper with 3 choices/locations on it , 2 of which were incorrect. This continued for about 6 stops. Each piece of paper would have some discussion about the lead up to the Iraq war with 3 courses of action. At first I wasn’t sure if the correct location was the answer stating what should have happened, or what actually happened. It ended up being what actually happened, with politics and jokes thrown on top of the verbage of course. I’m not the fastest rider, but I ended up getting every answer correct the first time, which was an accomplishment considering most people made a few errors at least (Its funny that I got so many correct considering my politics are very different from most of what the race focused on). There was even a time trial in the middle, unexpectedly no less so as to take advantage of tired legs. I ended up foolishly waiting till the end to get a bunch of WMD components -- an inflated balloon, yellow cake(very tasty), a paper airplane (which needed to be thrown a certain distance), and an aluminum can (ie ‘tube’) – so my correct decision making earlier in the race ended up getting sacrificed towards the end of the race. I did finish in time and made all the stops, which is better than many people did, so I’m happy. Three hours on a track bike is long when you’re racing so I ended up sleeping soon after getting home. I’ll be up north camping this weekend otherwise I’d be at this weekend’s alleycat. Its almost ridiculous, but how can you complain? I’ll make the inevitable dozen or so more races planned before summer drifts away again.

Melissa at allbuttonedupyayportlanditrainstoomuch sent me some excellent b+w pictures of the Uptown Theatre that will soon be hanging on my wall, classing up the sparse dojo I live in.. Hopefully the theatre’s restoration will see fruition. With the rapid gentrification of Uptown I suspect the odds are very good. Thanks again to Melissa for the art – even though I never lived in Uptown I’m a sucker for Chicago history and loved the movie Backdraft more than I should admit.

Friday, June 09, 2006

At the race last Sunday the prequel event was the "Lip Gloss Paper Toss." The bike I'm riding here had "Lip Gloss" decals all over it with sparkles and other shiny things. It also had full suspension. The game was to throw the papers you see hanging off the front of the handlebars ala Paperboy. You were not allowed to cross the chalked line while throwing papers at boxes. I did poorly, but it was just as silly and fun as it looks. More pictures here.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

June is Alleycat Month in Madison



Though I much prefer the sound of Sheer Terror, Joe Coffee’s softer (relative to Sheer Terror) style is well worth listening to and since the lyrics are written and howled by the Rev. Paul Bearer, it’s a winner. They only have an EP out right now but supposedly a full length is on its way come fall. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to tour much beyond NYC but Paul keeps writing the best heartbroken songs around so I’ll happily keep buying them and hoping for that Midwest show. Paul always has something nice to say that is worth listening to.

. . .

There is a ridiculous amount of alleycats here in Madison. An excellent Choose Your Own Adventure styled race will be coming up this Saturday, and another one the weekend after that. All $5, and most offering some degree of food/beer. What a deal, specifically if you’re like me and you know that you have no chance of winning.

Sunday night was the start of alleycat month (apparently) here in Madison with the Tracks race. You had 2 hours to visit multiple east side bars and record the name of the song for your manifest’s given disc/track in the jukebox -- “Tracks” you see. Everyone pretty much headed to Paradise first, and so did I. It’s a great dive bar right off the capital square, deep within a nest of one way streets. I ended up being the second rider there, but due to barreling down the street alongside the capitol in the wrong direction and then burning a red right in front of a cop to cut down a one way street going the wrong way, I was pulled over by said cop with the lights and everything. He gave me a hard time about legally being a car and riding safely and obeying traffic laws and what not. I apologized and said that I only rode that way because it was Sunday and the capitol is dead. I was very polite. He never asked me about the 20+ bikers behind me racing and stumbling down the sidewalk to drop their bikes and go running into the bar. A little annoying, but I earned it and the race didn’t get busted and I didn’t get a ticket(though it was threatened) so no worries, though my chance to place highly as the dark horse import from Illinois was sullied as I was one of the last ones to get in the bar and fill in my manifest. I made all the stops, met some people, and didn’t finish last by any stretch. And since its Wisconsin, there were brats at the finish line. A very fun time and well run.

Madison has a fair amount of fixed gear bikes, but they are mostly conversions – not too many pure track bikes. And very few seem to be without a front brake. Smart people. I am not smart.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Amy has left Decatur,IL and triumphantly returned to Chicago to further her journalistic career in the Windy City. I predict the appearance of her debut column in the Sun Times within the next 5 years, probably entitled "The Click." I seriously believe this to be true, though I may be wrong on the title. Her blog is gone and we all eagerly await the existence of a new one.

I have never met nor even communicated with Up In Alaska, but she is a prolific blogger, journalist, cyclist, and recent Alaskan -- and therefore very interesting. She'll be taking Amy's place in the journalistic link category on the right until Amy reclaims it.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Gauntlet

Nick had one good trout. He did not care about getting many trout.

Every time I head into the north woods alone with the intention of fly fishing I am drawn to Hemingway's Nick Adams Stories, "Big Two-Hearted River" specifically. I don't think I carry any of the pain and fear Nick does (I sure hope not) in that story when I'm wading Pine River in the far North East corner of Wisconsin, but I do constantly recall the spirit of that story and hope that the luck Nick has catching trout rubs off on me.

This trip was a wash, pun somewhat intended -- yet in the end the rewards were substantial, almost priceless. The weather on Saturday was very hot, almost too hot to fish. I dabbled in the stream a bit but had no luck. No complaints though as the scent of pine trees for as far as the eye can see is good company. I had lunch, read a bit, and then hopped on my bike for a 30 mile ride, planning on returning in time for dinner and an hour of working the evening hatch on the river. This did not go as planned in the slightest. I was so close to the Upper peninsula that in tribute to Hemingway I decided to poke my bike into Michigan for a few miles. Crossing the Brule River I peddled north on highway 189 for 5 miles, turning around and starting back to camp (Tipler, WI). It was so hot and clear that day -- not to mention that it was supposed to be hot and clear through Tuesday -- that it came as a great shock when a torrential downpour began, coupled with the raging lightening and thunder. Thankfully I was able to duck into an awning of a bratwurst grilling family to get a dry place to stand. They offered me a brat but I thankfully declined, hoping that the weather would let up so I could cook up the turkey dogs in my cooler. The weather did in fact let up to a slight drizzle, which considering the circumstances was wonderful. Many things are relative and its important to take them in their context. I happily peddled south and made it to Tipler (7 miles from camp) when the downpour started again. I was already soaked, as was my bike, which is a tribute to how strong this downpour actually was -- I had to stop and get out of the rain. Usually you hit a wall and say, "Eh, I'm already wet and wet is wet so I'll keep going." Not this time. It was a new level of wet and I had to run away from it. Tipler has about 50 residents but God bless 'em, they have a county park with a picnic shelter, under which I happily passed the next 30 minutes. As an aside I must note that at this time I was deeply aware of the fact that my gear/backpack(with clothing) was on the picnic table and that my tent had the flaps down. My camera and books were in a bag in the tent and would be fine, but everything else was most likely soaked. I tried to think the best while sitting amidst Tipler. The rain eventually let up and I headed for home. I was thankful to meet the brat grilling people that were weekending from Green Bay, and even more thankful that the good people of Tipler built a picnic shelter. The drizzle still was annoying but I could deal with it. I have a decent sense of adventure and I was happy to have a story to tell. I figure it all builds character and that most things that are difficult have their own rewards. I was right, in spades. A mile away from camp I came upon something I will never forget. I can only guess that the quiet of a bicycle made it all possible. About 25 yards ahead a black bear came out from the woods and stepped up to the road (its really more of a paved logging road so its about as isolated as could be). I stopped quickly and whispered ,"whoa..." Under my breath. I was far enough away to feel safe, but I was close enough to be in real trouble if the bear had designs on me. The bear either heard the slight rub of of my brakes or my quiet exclamation, because he turned his head towards me. He then shuffled across the road and into the spruce with a little spring in his step. I have seen one black bear in person (Minnesota) and literally hundreds on television via endless documentaries. This bear was easily the largest black bear I have ever seen anywhere in my life -- all national geographic specials included -- so close, so massive, so beautiful.Wisconsin certainly has bears, but its not known for them, so seeing one this size is extremely rare. My heart was very much racing -- somewhat out of fear but mostly out of excitement. He was there for a moment, and gone into the woods the next. I stood still and tried to relax. 20 seconds later a car drove by the moment I had just witnessed and thought nothing had happened. He drove in a dry car and I was soaked after getting caught in the rain 15 miles from camp. I was the lucky one.

My camp was soaked and my sleeping bag was also wet. A complete wash. Its Sunday night now and I'm home a day early. The main goal of the trip was to give my camping gear a once over before the canoe trip next month and that goal was accomplished.

Tonight I headed over to the Black Earth Creek near Madison and tried to make up for a little of the fly fishing I missed out on up north due to the Old Testament rain. I have caught many decent sized brook trout in my time, but never a rainbow. I caught a beautiful 12 inch rainbow trout tonight. The colors are so beautiful alongside the fish. It hit the fly at the farthest distance possible, meaning that the fight was long. Feeling the wiggling fish on the end of my line brings Nick Adams quotes to the front of my mind. It was simply wonderful and that large rainbow is now back safely in the creek as I write this.

I paid the price of discomfort but the dividends have easily been worth it. I'll be back to the Pine River soon and I can only hope I get to see that bear again.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Poor Planning

While I still plan on heading to the North Woods tonight, I deeply regret the overlap with the World's Largest Bratwurst Festival, here in Madison. It may be a hippy town of sorts, but its still Wisconsin. They expect to sell about 200,000 brats, at only a $1 a piece. I may have to head down on Monday if I get home in time.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Still no Haunted Tank. Supposedly it will arrive next Wednesday. This is coming on 2 weeks late and it remains sadder and sadder that it matters a great deal to me.

This coming 3 day weekend looks to have amazing weather -- 80 in Madison. I'll be up north in the Nicolet National Forest at the Chipmunk Rapids campground trying for some Brook Trout as well as breaking my camping gear in for another season. The canoe trip next month will go a lot smoother if the gear has been given a trial run. With any luck I should have a nice 70 degree weekend in northeastern Wisconsin. I truly love the northwoods and this will be my first visit up north this year. I can't wait -- my waders are ready.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Haunted Tank

Comics very often do not ship on time and instead come out several weeks later than the publisher's website promises. Like a simplistic fool I still become dejected when leaving the comic shop on Wednesdays and find that I had been lied to by the website. You would think I would adjust my expectations and let it go. I do this 99% of the time, but every now and again I get sucked in to a well of disappointment. This past Wednesday the Haunted Tank trade paperback was due to be released, but to my sadness was not. What is the Haunted Tank? It is easily one of the weirdest comic ideas to ever be released, at least in the 70's. I'll quote from the wiki entry:

The story of The Haunted Tank involved the ghost of the long dead Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart (who was a historical figure), who was sent by the spirit of Alexander the Great to act as a guardian over his descendent, Jeb Stuart, a fictitious character.

My conversation with the middle aged owner of the shop, whom does not look like comic book guy:
"I thought the Haunted Tank was coming out today?"
"Its late, maybe next week."
"I was really looking forward to it," I whined.
He looked at me with a serious, intense, yet empathetic gaze, "We were all looking forward to the Haunted Tank."
It was a moment.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Rainy Days

Today was pretty much the first day in a week where there wasn't any rain. Its tough to experience a warm April only to be hit with a rainy, 45 degree Saturday in mid May. I've been trudging through Jim Marrs' Alien Agenda -- all 600 pages of it. Its an excellent, thorough book, but an amazingly dense one. All you ever wanted to know about UFOs is there in the most complete and scientific way you are likely to see it presented, but man is it a thick fog to get through. Now that I'm done I plan to jump back on the Hardy Boys list and knock out the Missing Chums. I'll treat it as a pallet cleanser on my way to the next 600 page, dense brick (which is unknown at this point). The weather is better now and the alien agenda has now been revealed so I'm off to Bayport and more miles on my bike.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Expense Account of the Beast

After completing my expense account reimbursement sheet for work upon returning from Chicago I had to sum all of my mileage (multiplied by $.445), hotel bill, and food expenses. The total was $666 and some change. I was immediately reminded of the Iron Maiden documentary 12 Wasted Years (1987) I had watched way back in high school. The little nugget from that flick that popped in my head was that the band's bus was in a fender bender way back in '81 with a priest and the total for the damages was $666 and some change. The priest would only pay $665 or $667. The band was taken by this and come 1982 we were presented with The Number of the Beast, one of the toughest records of all time (I am partial to the track "Children of the Damned"). So my trip to Chicago was metal and I didn't even know it. At the very least it prompted me to listen to some Maiden, which is always a good idea.

Upon returning to Madison from Chicago the plan was to head to Sam's Club and fill my empty freezer with big frozen bags of Salmon and Chicken Breast, as well as vegetables, etc. I'm glad I waited. Greg (or "Tater" -- the man ate a bag of tater tots after every St Rita High School football practice) gave me about 25 pounds of Michigan venison to take back from the southside. My freezer is literally filled solid with venison. I've eaten a tenderloin each day since Saturday. Delicious. The stew is cooking now and I'll give it a try tomorrow after it settles overnight. The way I understand it, I have parts of 2 bucks and a doe in my freezer.

My girlfriend Marisa Tomei will be in the new season of Rescue Me. I rejoice.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A week in Chi Town

Some other places were not so good but maybe we were not so good when we were in them.

-- Hemingway

I have long prided myself on never having lived in the suburbs of Chicago. For the 29 years I lived there I never lived in a suburb, much less lived on any other side of the city except the south side. Its important to have pride, however foolish it may be. I have been asked at times if moving to Madison was a betrayal of this self imposed southside creed, and I've always answered no. The betrayal is living in the burbs or, let it never be spoken aloud, on the northside. Leaving the region is permissible. I left, settled in Madison, found a nice gig, and generally did well. So my triumphant return to Chicago (the less educated in vernacular might refer to it as a trip for a 5 day Sun class in JSP/Java development for my job, but they would be incorrect and uninteresting) was a bit of a let down in a geographical regard -- they put me in a Downers Grove hotel room. It was very close to the class so it made perfect sense, but it was a defeat of sorts. As I said, pride is often foolish and weak and I do have it and some days it is worth a great deal and I feel I should go to confession for this transgression. Very mature. Ultimately, staying in a hotel for a few days and sitting in a class is a small vacation from work so no complaints.

I did get to hang out on the southside a bit, as well as other parts of my old stomping grounds. I think I easily came back 5 lbs heavier thanks to: Palermo's on 63rd and Hamlin, Hooters in glorious Oak Lawn, Francesca's, and El Cid in Logan Square. Seeing all the great old faces (Tom, Matt, Holly, Danielle, Ty, and Scott) certainly made me miss Chicago. The people are great as always, but the traffic had me praying for cheese filled air. I'll always miss the people, but the move was at the right time for me.

Melissa at allbuttonedup has written a very sweet entry about me. Since I started by talking smack about Portland and she responded with such pleasantries, I can only conclude that she is admitting defeat through a face saving maneuver (Dwight on The Office would definitely view it that way). Truce then. Please visit and comment on her blog -- its prettier and happier than mine. Her picture of me with my old neighbor's brick backgrounding me has me wearing a plaid shirt I cannot for the life of me remember owning. This is more troubling to me than it should be.

I'm a little disappointed with the ending of Infinite Crisis. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the twists, the deaths, and the larger sci-fi concepts regarding parallel time and worlds, but the ending just wasn't final enough. I suspect this is directly related to 52 and its immediate publication. Usually the last issue of a crossover unravels things into a polite little pile, but in this case the unraveling has 52 issues over the next 52 weeks to work with so I should be quiet and feed my habit next week like a good little fanboy. I was pleased to see Alan Moore's mid-80's Green Lantern filler story pop up in a way that mattered unexpectedly in the last issue of IC.

Madison is getting greener by the day and my Orbea (along with its new wheels, chain, and bottom bracket -- thanks to Matt on Tuesday night in Evergreen Park, IL) is getting all the mileage my 30 year old carcass can give it. Its beautiful today and I will be putting in 2 hours at Real Chili tonight. A few employees bailed so the bat phone rang and I will be slinging chili yet again. Its not finals week yet so the UW kids will be drunk and tip happy for another week. A fact I am grateful to accept.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Roadside Wisconsin

Sunday I went on a group bike ride with the Bombay Bike Club here in Madison. They are weekly free rides that a lot of people attend, enough so that there is a slower group, a killer fast group, and everything in between. I hung with the fast group for the first 16 miles and then got spit out on a hill -- I was proud to hold on that long. I then found myself drifting back into a small group and finishing the 66 miles with them. We took a few wrong turns on the way to New Glarus (America's "Little Switzerland"), but soon got back on track. Riding that hard (22mph +) and long is definitely a lesson in suffering, and as my teachers in grade school said, "Offer it up for the poor souls in Purgatory," or simply "Offer it up." So I went with that idea and was rewarded by an amazing sight during our 1 mile wrong turn -- a UFO. I returned later that day to get the pictures you see above. It is a car, converted into a drivable UFO, in the style of the deathmobile in Animal House. There is nothing more to be said. A half mile down the road we passed an old aluminum boat with "dick fuck" spray painted on the side of it. The ride and the wrong turn were easily worth it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Portland can mow my lawn and pay me a $1/hr

My friend Melissa has a blog -- allbuttonedup. She married my good friend Paul. Yes, they met each other because of me. I'm the best (though its not hard to trace it all back a little further to Scott and his Cornerstone days). They live in Portland, have a wonderful son Sam, and smile and act happy all day long.

But underneath it all there may be some trouble brewing. This article asserts that if they were to lose the Trailblazers their city would descend into "the heap of lovely but forgettable towns," like Madison, which they name numerous times. We might be shy a pro sports team, but who won the 2006 NCAA frozen four for both men and women's hockey? Yep, the UW Badgers . In the end it is all about hockey.

Where did they film The Giant Spider Invasion?
Where did they film Back To School?

Not Portland, that is for sure.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Misty water-colored memories, of ...

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald

I came across a blog entry somewhere that escapes me now that had some discussion of the first comic you remember buying/reading/having – really the first comic that stuck in your head that you physically had in front of you at one point. It’s an interesting exercise in walking down memory lane, and it took me about 2 seconds to come up with my answer. I split it into the first comic I remember digging to the point where I realized just how great comics can be, and the first super hero book I loved. As is the case, my first favorite comic was not a superhero book. While I recall sometime in the early to mid 80’s a box of Archie digests making their way home from the flea market in Joliet to my room (Montana Charlie’s Flea Market – right down the road from Old Chicago, which still stood amongst the growing parking lot weeds at that time), I do remember a few comics before that time. I distinctly remember buying $.60 Archie books at T&B foods on 63rd and Hamlin. T&B was a dump even in those days, when the majority of the neighborhood looked infinitely nicer than it does today. But, it was a convenience store that had comics on a spinner rack and I could walk to it and Chicago was generally much dirtier back then anyway and what difference did I know anyway? Driving up to Prentice, WI for vacation around this time with my grandmother yielded a Whitman grab bag of comics from a gas station along the way. I think for $.60 you got 3 random Whitman books. The 2 you could see where Bugs Bunny books, but as it turns out the middle book was Grimm’s Ghost Stories #59. I liked the Bugs comics just fine, but the revelation that horror comics existed was pretty impressive. That was the comic for me. I really loved that comic, read it many times, and my eyes were truly open as to what the medium could be at that young age of 8. I loved reading horror stories so the existence of horror comics really put me over the edge. I recently thumbed through that exact copy and remembered the stories perfectly, even though they now seem pretty bad -- I now know and deeply love the golden era of 1950’s EC comics: Tales From the Crypt/The Haunt of Fear/ Vault of Horror/Crime SuspenStories/Shock SuspenStories. I was a cheap plot/story date back then, but ‘ol Grimm still is a treat and I couldn’t see ever getting rid of it. It’s a milestone it seems. I have since tracked down a few other issues in the run but they just don’t have the charm of the green cover with the frightened sailors.

Within a short time after that a friend Dan gave me his previous year’s subscription to Amazing Spider Man (#’s 227-238). He had read them many times and just passed them on as read and therefore useless. God bless him, wherever he is these days (last seen in Oak Lawn about 17 years ago…). What a prince. I read them all many times and was just in love with Spidey and the whole superhero world. I loved the idea of the cliffhanger, the deceptive/lying cover, and the ubiquitous splash page. I still have those exact, crumpled, stained copies in my collection. The book that stood out the most was easily #238 – the first appearance of the Hobgoblin (yeah, Dan gave me the comic with the Tattoos already used and gone). It took me about 3 more years to track down #239 and finish that storyline at one of the comic shops I soon regularly haunted. Within a few years I was buying Spidey and X books monthly, including all the McFarlane and Larson books as they hit the stands, but I still favor that year run on Spidey by pencilers and writers that still are unknown to me (I can’t say I’ve ever looked them up). #238 is still an expensive back issues to buy and it would be nice to have one that doesn’t look like a car ran over it and also has the temporary tattoos, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to replace my collection’s copy. It is simply worth too much.

By the end of high school I had become a fiercely DC superhero only customer and grew to love the EC books the most, but Grimm #59 and Amazing #238 still tower over them in their own way.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

DYS - City To City

It's begun -No turning back
City to city
We're fighting back
Haven't changed the world
But we've made a start
We're digging in and fighting smart
And like a plague,We'll continue to spread
Fight their values until they're dead
We're serious and we won't go away
We fight for a better world - today
Laugh or frown, it's all the same
Won't play by your rules
'Cause we hate your game
One of the great side effects of moving is being forced to pack/unpack your cd collection, which in turn brings long forgotten music to the stereo once again. I probably haven't listened to DYS in 7+ years -- not for any specific reason mind you, it just hasn't happened. I still have most of the songs memorized so it was very easy to slip back into a sing along when I threw the disc into my stereo on the way to some errands tonight. It holds up much better than I had thought it would. I always remember the LP because of the Nazi in the crowd on the back, but sadly have forgotten just how good some of the songs are, City to City specifically. Boston hardcore never disappoints. Its definitely time to start digging through the entire cd collection. Such a sin to neglect all the great music there, not to mention the vinyl that hasn't been touched since September that remains in storage. I haven't listened to Bold or Gorilla Biscuits in a while...

Sunday, April 09, 2006

While watching the Hardy Boys on Thursday night (er, I mean Supernatural) I was tickled to see that this week's episode was set in Fitchburg, Wisonson, which is an immediate suburb of Madison. While the real Fitchburg is not as rainy as the Western Canada where the show is filmed, they did name the hospital correctly -- Dane county is the correct county. I ride my bike through Fitchburg quite a bit but haven't seen any Strega. Its a decent show, though not as smart as the X-files, but the imagery is excellent so if you take it for a spooky hour of tv its just as fun and much cheaper than a splatter flick at the movies. I will give them credit for mentioning the names of other towns in Wisconsin where the Strega had been in the past century -- Ogdenville, North Haverbrook, and Brockway. It took me a minute to get the reference, but it came and that will enough to get me to tune in next week. Its typically a flashy, action based show so it is nice to see geeky references make their way to the surface.


When does a comic book character's death mean a lot? When its permanent and happens to a major character(Barry Allen, Supergirl)? or when it happens to a minor character that is beloved, sometimes even more so in death (Blue Beetle, Golden Age Sandman, Hawk)? Not to spoil this past week's Infinite Crisis, but where does its death fall into the scheme of things? I would have to say in the middle. I didn't love the character too much but the character's death was heroic and important. This is far too vague. Help me out, Wayne.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

While I certainly love science fiction and fantasy, I've never been a big Doctor Who fan. I've seen plenty of the Tom Baker episodes on the channel 11 of my youth, but I never cared to keep up throughout other incarnations. I do understand that the thing with the show is that the plots are good and the effects never are. This was initially born out of economics, but after a while it became part of the show. MST3K would not be any better if the budget went through the roof -- probably worse. That having been said, a little extra money pushed towards the BBC show would help a great deal without sacrificing the show's identity (a Dalek should always look like a Dalek -- cheap and boxy). I tuned in for 5 minutes to the new Doctor Who on sci-fi over the weekend and realized that while the budget has gone up a bit, so has the cheese. There might be a big inside joke I'm missing, but the pig piloting a ship was too much. Maybe its like giving white trash money -- you get a jungle room. You give Doctor Who money, you get a midget in a pig costume.