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.