Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The reason I didn't win stage 5

Saturday night I found myself crashing on Tom’s southside couch waiting for my phone to ring at 6:30am so I could layer on the clothing for another Tour da Chicago stage. Tom is a generous host and also a wise and motivated homeowner – he is currently painting his living room (fron-troom in Chicagospeak). This places the entire condo in a state of disarray but it is easy to see the forest and not get hung up on the trees. It’s a free, warm place to crash and in a week or so will certainly look much nicer and hipper. At 5 am I became aware that I needed to use the facilities but bargained with my brain that since I will be getting up in an hour anyway, why not just keep sleeping. This is the same logic that results in sleeping through the snooze multiple times on weekdays. Once 5:45 had come all bargaining had ceased and I stumbled through the near dawn down a hallway to the washroom. The only problem (and reason anyone even needs to read this) is that there is a 2X4 along the wall. I slammed my pinky toe into it about as hard as one could. I kept quiet, finished in the bathroom, and went back to bed. After waking at 6:30 I looked down at the wool sock covering my right foot, didn’t see blood stains, and proceeded to cover the sock with an additional wool sock for the race. The toe was in a great deal of pain but I was tired and since there was no bleeding what could I really do? Driving to Chicago to race in the Tour to simply pull out due to pinky toe pain is not very hardcore, and since I live hardcore (particularly at the time of the rent) I had to gut it out. When arriving back in Madison around 5 and jumping in the shower I discovered that my pinky toe is completely dark purple – broken. As of today is a lighter-dark purple. Dr. Chris examined it and it moves and rests in the same angles as the good pinky toe so I’m saying that all will be well. So the reason I didn’t win the race was the bum toe. There can be no other logical explanation.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes."
-- Desiderius Erasmus

Having just finished reading Teacher Man by Frank McCourt I'm left feeling a little confused about how to judge the book and consider how it fits into his trilogy (Angela's Ashes and 'Tis), or if a trilogy even exists. I certainly enjoyed it, but felt that some biographical broadstrokes were to be assumed. I have not read the other books but I understand that when taken as a whole all three span his youth through his retirement from teaching. It was a unique look into the life of a teacher that is constantly wondering if he is doing a proper job while also constantly striving to figure it out, when in the end the conclusion is that he was undeniably an excellent and memorable teacher. It was difficult to divine just how good of a teacher he really was at times because his self deprecating Irish character and personality wouldn't allow him to indulge the sin of Pride (I would assume he would answer that satisfaction is the death of desire and that he had no time to revel in any degree of satisfaction). I wonder if having read the earlier books I would have become more comfortable with his rhythm and found the facts within his voice a little more quickly. Well worth reading, but could easily have used another 200 pages, which I supposed is high praise. Once again I realize how indebted to teachers I am and how unique one's personality needs to be in order to achieve balance and excellence within a classroom (traits I admire so greatly because I know I don't have them).
Apparently when you get a haircut in Madison you must either figure out a completely new language that I do not know yet, or just accept the fact that you're rolling dice. "How do you want your hair cut?" "A '1' on the sides and trim the top. A high and tight." I left with a perfect fade that drifts into a '2' at its shortest. Its not bad but its not what I wanted. Maybe they sell different clippers up here.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Guns update

According to sources: No charges, all guns are legally held by said individual. Since he is a former police officer (briefly, many years ago) he can carry a gun and own a handgun in Chicago. All other handguns/rifles are permited properly. The odds of a good lawsuit against the city are high. He's a gun collector and since all guns confiscated by the police are etched with the po's initials, his legal possessions have been devalued. He was always a character though, and having a large collection of weapons fits.

Guns, guns, we got guns!

So here is something interesting that happened in my old Chicago parish/grade school/neighborhood:

Police arrested James Patrick, 63, on Wednesday, of the 3700 block of W. 62nd Place, where they found a cache of guns consisting of 117 handguns, 154 rifles and shotguns and thousands of rounds of ammo -- which police believe was being supplied to street gangs.
*The shocker: The arsenal was located across the street from St. Nicholas of Tolentine grade school!
Reading this online caught my eye for a few reasons: I went to St Nick's, I recognize the address as one 2 blocks from my old house, and James Patrick was MY SCOUTMASTER growing up! Nothing about this story makes any sense and I really hope more information comes to light. I suspect some CPD friends of mine will get the full story from the arrest report and that it will filter throughout the eagle scout alumni of St Nick's. Its completely crazy. The neighborhood definitely has a growing gang problem, but its usually the crotchety old residents that rant and rave at CAPS meetings about these things -- not embrace Capitalism brutally and join 'em.
The funny thing is that when I have told this story to people in Madison and start with , "So I read a story about my old Scoutmaster in the paper...," I immediately see their faces wince at the assumed incoming pedophilia arrest. Thankfully he was not abusing children, just selling guns, allegedly of course. I'm sure more information (and hopefully a mug shot) will help me sort through the facts.
Hey, my neighborhood is on the news!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Bear fan survives trip to Packerland

This past Saturday I had the pleasure and pain of attending the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic at Lambeau Field in Green Bay where the outdoor hockey found the Badgers taking on the Buckeyes. While it certainly was a hometown crowd, everyone seemed to simply be happy to be at such a unique event and there was no visible animosity towards the Buckeyes. The crowd was mostly Badger red, although there were more than enough fans in Packer blaze orange (some with their hunting tags still attached). I had always heard that the look of Lambeau at times resembles a collective mass of hunters that have stumbled out of their shacks simply to consume mass amounts of beer and sit on a freezing aluminum bench. Its tailgating at its finest. Having been to Soldier(s) Field in my life and having many friends that have season tickets, I know tailgating at its finest. So throughout my visit to the Packer Kingdom I was asked what I thought of the stadium and the experience in general. I was mostly polite -- I respect the fact that they are an old franchise and still have an outdoor field, I respect the fact that up until a few years ago the place was an old dump (as was SoldierS Field), and in general I respect teams with loyal fans. With all those polite remarks aside, I hope that place burns to the ground, and said as much later in the evening when asked again. I don't want anybody to get hurt, I just want the franchise to become so sad and depressed that the Packers lose every game for the remainder of my natural life, and the lives of any children I may eventually have. The Bears are in my heart and blood for the long haul and Brett 'Interception' Favre can just drift into retirement unless he wants to be forced there by Brian Urlacher. I used to be polite about things like this but life is too short to politely watch people waste their lives on a loser. I owe it to humanity to tap all on the shoulder that decide to follow such a dim and fading light. Those poor souls. I hate frats for a variety of reasons and once had a friend in one. I was polite and opted for the road of 'hey, if it makes you happy, that's cool -- you're my friend.' She ended up being not that nice of a friend in the end (I don't talk to her anymore) and dearly regret not throwing in my two cents about how she bought her friends. I may have saved her had I intervened. I cannot abide as these drunken hunters walk deeper and deeper into a pit of despair following a guiding light of nothingness. I only regret that my desire to hurt that large inanimate structure is tempered by my need to also injure the Wrigley Field Beer Garden/Yuppie Palace. I'm so confused (and mature) about these things that nothing of consequence will ever get done. I joke, I joke. I live in this state and have to take the fact that I have not been beaten up while wearing my Bears shirt as a gift from the good people of Wisconsin. I ought to be mature and polite about these things, but I can still see Jim McMahon being body slammed 20 years ago.

Outdoor hockey is great, hanging out in Green Bay is plenty of fun, and everyone at the stadium was so nice to a covert Bear fan that I guess we'll call it a truce till next fall. I've traveled throughout Wisconsin quite a bit but never hung out in Green Bay so it was nice to check out a new part of the state. Green Bay was fun, but the Bears are still #1. (Rhyme unintended, bitterness intended).

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Skates and Skins

But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.

- Hemingway

At Vilas Park last night I found myself in a terrific pick up game of rat hockey, and as is most often the case, I was the worst skater. I almost always get chased down on a breakaway, but I don’t fall anymore, unless I’m involved in an accidental body check. I would say I’m improving quickly – my confidence is up and I’m able to pass the puck adequately. We played for about an hour and while my team lost, both teams probably scored about 20 goals, 3 of which were mine. Yeah, I threw down a hat trick. I did get a nice cut on my right forearm from a hook/slash/high stick, but I like to think of it more so as a badge of honor. I woke up with a sore arm and hip from a crash along the boards, but my tenacity remains undefeated and I had a 3 point game (without counting my assists, which I assure you were numerous). Game on again tonight. I’ll probably still get smoked by the rest of the skaters, but I’m in it for the long haul.

If I see the kid that hooked me at the rink tonight I’m dropping the gloves.

. . .

Working late Saturday nights at Real Chili is such a blast – lots of fun to be had, loud music, and heavily tipping customers. Talking with all the drunks around 3am is always fun. This past Saturday night as it slowed down around 4am I chatted up a couple of grad students eating at the bar. He was dressed as a Dickens character – wool buttoned coat, black top hat, forest green vest, plaid pants, sensitive beard, etc. His girlfriend had a pretty straight up goth look going. I have my money on a Philosophy Masters candidates (or maybe English Lit.), in which case they will soon be cleaning grease traps on Saturday nights as well. She asked me where I bought my hat, to which I chuckled, Kohl’s. Cool, she replied, I really like the newsboy look and want to get one myself. I then told her I wore it more so out of a connection to being a near skinhead in the past and generally being into hardcore. Its an exaggeration and a bit of fib (in hindsight, I could have went SHARP if I had been surrounded by them at a certain short period of my life), but that’s part of the fun in talking with drunks late at night. Her face dropped like I just stabbed her dog and was laughing in her face. ‘You don’t still..roll that way, do you?’ I then realized immediately that for her skinhead = racist. I then went into a nickel explanation of how the majority of skins aren’t racist and that originally it was a non racist movement. She was genuinely interested to find this out and stated repeatedly that she didn’t know any of that. I concluded by stating that most skins may not be racist, but they still like to fight (mainly other skins). Just stay away from red suspenders and red laces, I advised. So there you go – educating the drunks on State street.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Last night I drove over to Milwaukee for the opening/preview of the new exhibit Saint Peter and the Vatican: the Legacy of the Popes at the Milwaukee Public Museum (a natural history museum, kind of like the Field, only smaller). The exhibit doesn't formally open until Feb. 4th, but I'm a big shot and well connected so obviously I would be able to get in to the closed door preview with ease. They even gave me a name tag with my name already printed on it. No marker needed! Seriously, my cousin's firm in Milwaukee is connected to the museum, and after a few more connections past that you end up with my cousin on the list of invitees. Aside from the open bar and snacks you were able to tour the exhibit at your leisure with a bunch of big shots in suits. Its the only way to tour a museum for me from now on. The mayor of Beer City was there -- I sure didn't know who he is but my cousin keyed me in a few minutes after he and I had been standing next to each other reading a description of a painting.

The exhibit was really overwhelming to say the least. One highlight was being able to look at the first known map of Australia. That is just an amazing thing to be able to see. The other impressive portion was a walk through pseudo-tunnel designed to emulate the scaffolding and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as it was being painted -- essentially the working conditions of Michelangelo Buonarroti. The Sistine Chapel bit, and everything else in the exhibit, gave me an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction, curiosity, interest, and a little instance of that nagging idea living in the corner of my brain that I'm not doing enough with my life. The whole 2000 years of history, art, and knowledge was simply awe inspiring.

Some people, as they were moving through the exhibit, mumbled something to the extent of ,"the Vatican certainly isn't poor." Its a valid point -- the Church is committed to helping the poor and collection priceless artifacts and objects isn't a terribly direct path to satisfying that end. Selling some of that stuff could feed a lot of people. True. But also, how much more enriched are all of our lives for being able to observe these works of art and history in an exhibit such as this? Mine certainly was. If they were scattered across the globe in private collections would we ever see them? How many would be lost or destroyed? The Vatican is undeniably an exceptional curator.

My goal to travel to Europe and Italy in particular is stronger than ever. Perhaps next year -- Alaska is the dream to refulfill this year.