Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Whatever went away, I'll get it over now. 

It's not that there's nothing more to say. It'll just have to come in a different way.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

People Pretending to Care and Have Conversations 

Well, it's NCAA basketball tournament time, and I guess the title of this little missive pretty much says it all for me. Around these parts, people are whiny and downcast because the Badgers got embarrassed by some skinny kid from a small school that they didn't know about.

The thing about college basketball is that no one really can keep track of all these kids. It's impossible for anyone with any sort of responsibility in their lives to dedicate the time and effort to read and watch all that one must read and watch to understand and speak knowledgeably about college basketball.

Sure, it's better than the pros. Of course. They actually play hard. And fast. The fans are more excited about it. It's sports in which the competitors truly press for it all game long.

But enough already. I don't need to make casual talk with some lady who doesn't even know where to find North Carolina on a map. You put some money in a pool. You picked some teams, and you're watching ESPN. Congratu-fricken-lations.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Unfinished Ever-Changing Picture 

He's still the same kid.

He still has the same smile. He will still surprise us. He will still learn, grow, change and do great things we could never predict.

It's not that the experts are wrong. They've just drawn a blurry, unfinished map to the way he sees the world. A map, not a wall.

I don't know how hard it will be, how much work it will take. But I suspect it will be tough, and I don't think there's a way to make this easier without sugarcoating it.

But he's still our Jack. He will still get so excited that he crouches down, clenches his fists and seems to almost explode because he's sharing that secret grin with you.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


If you watch the movie, "The 'Burbs", there's a striking moment when Corey Feldman is describing his neighbors: he describes 'Art' as the fat guy. Looking at him now, sure, he's a little bit overweight, but fat? But I'm sure back in the 80s, that was fat.

I think that the expansion of the American waistline -- why did I lapse into that cliche? Let's just be blunt: I think that the fattening of America can be linked, symbolically, to the change to how soda is distributed. In the 80s, there weren't so many glass bottles anymore. It was a lot of cans. People were pretty slim. Then sometime during the 90s, we were introduced to the "big gulp" top. I remember people being surprised and a little bit excited about this -- it was a little easier to get more soda down one's throat faster! Now, if you come across a can, it's a surprise when it doesn't have a big gulp top. But I don't see too many cans. Soda seems to mostly come in 16 oz plastic bottles. At restaurants, large sizes (64, 80 oz) dwarf this. People are ordering buckets of soda.

I'm not making some grand statement that if we all just stopped drinking soda, we'd be slim again. But we seem to have gotten used to getting fat.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Talking About New Life with The Boy 

I'm not sure why my wife tried to climb this mountain . . . .

The Wife: Your Aunt Amy is going to have a baby, so you are going to have a new cousin. And your buddy, Jack, will have a new brother or sister.
The Boy: Where the baby now?
Wife: It's in Aunt Amy's tummy. And when she has the baby, it will come out and be your cousin.
Wife: No, the baby is just in her tummy. Then it will come out and be Jack's brother or sister.
Wife: No, Aunt Amy doesn't eat babies. You can see her this weekend and talk to her about it. She might show you the baby she has in her tummy.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Let's All Just Step Away from the Revolution 

I think we've all taken it a bit too far with the word, "revolutionary". Everything is revolutionary these days: mp3 players, coffee makers, bras, pens, shoes, siding, and the list goes on and on. I heard an awful song lyric the other day about starting a revolution of love. Maybe it was Lenny Kravitz. Sounds like something he would write, doesn't it?

But as trite as that is, the straw that broke this camel's back was my Lean Cuisine dinner tonight. Sure enough: it included a "revolutionary" grilling plate to use in the microwave.

I think I have a pretty good idea of what a revolution is. It's dark, bloody, awful, and forever changing. Thank God, my Lean Cuisine sandwich was none of the above.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Keeping Up with Our Shadow 

The Green Bay Packers were always an embarrassment to me. I associated them with one image: my father on the floor of the living room, slapping the carpeting with his hand, lamenting our awful predicament. Because for nearly 25 years it was almost always an awful predicament.

That all changed in 1992, my sophomore year of high school. The newspapers were excited about the new GM and Coach. And they thought that the team might finally have a real quarterback.

I began seriously watching games then, and reading the paper during the week. I watched games in the living room of our new house with my dad and grandpa. The Packers began playing well for the first time in my life. I remember the excitement of Chris Berman on the postgame shows. My dad stayed up late to watch those shows even though he knew exactly what had happened during each play of the game.

I graduated high school and entered college, and continued watching games, this time in my dorm room with my roommate. It was my first introduction to aggressive rival fans from the other side of the state. I had never had any thought of that team until that first year. As years passed, I watched games at our college house with friends. I remember an older friend of ours who had graduated, but was still in town, would come by on game days. I always thought that made it a little better when he just showed up unannounced and watched with us. I probably haven't seen him since the '98 season, but I still miss him not showing up for games. Win or lose, it was communal. And we all had something worth cheering for again. And behind the whole team, there was someone to believe in, making it all happen. After the team won the Super Bowl, I walked outside and kissed the cold, Wisconsin ground. Everyone should be a winner once in life.

There was a coaching change in '99, and I began watching games in my new apartment with a friend. It was a tougher year, but worthwhile. I graduated, moved back to Milwaukee, and started a job.

My grandpa was no longer with us to watch games. There was another coaching change, and I watched with my sister and my dog at her house, back in Milwaukee, and occasionally at my dad's. I lost my job, then watched at our new house with my girlfriend wondering why I spent so much time watching football, reading about football, and wasting my life on football. We got married, and we watched as the team came so close, then missed.

We moved again and I watched at my new house. There was another career change for me and another coaching change for the Packers. I had been back in town a half-decade by then. My kid was born, we got a new dog, and I watched with my boy and the new dog. I still liked going to my dad's house and watching with him every once in a while. There was no more carpeting to slap; they'd gotten an addition with hard tile heated floors.

But it wasn't just living rooms and family or friends. Each year I would make two or four trips to Lambeau and sit in our seats next to strangers, watching the team play. I saw the great games, and some bad ones too. I slapped hands and screamed with strangers. I heard all sorts of debate over whether they had a chance, whether he still had it, or whether they should move on.

Throughout this entire period, I had picked up running, gotten good at it, just missed my chance at the State meet, began college racing, raced the fastest I would race in my life, began writing, slowed down, finished three manuscripts, stopped running, gained weight, lost it, began running again, got my consistency (and some of my speed) back, and put writing on the back burner.

And finally, this year, he did it -- he had the greatest season any 17-year veteran had ever put together, proving time can be beaten back.

Some people say that it's a good thing, or that we're making too much of this. They might be right. It's a game that will keep going along with constantly changing characters. A month or so ago, one of my friends from another state berated a group of us Wisconsinites for devoting so much of our time to football. He derided us for wasting our lives on a game.

I didn't say this to him, but I pitied him for that comment. This whole time he thought it was just a game. This whole time he just saw what happened out there on the field, not believing it was tied to anything outside of it, or anyone watching it. To him it was only rules and numbers; not tradition, community or symbolism. Maybe you have to grow up in Wisconsin to appreciate it.

The season will start again. Brett will move on to something else. And we'll continue to watch. But everyone who has followed it together for all these years from place to place, through tough times and great times, will know that something important has passed. This one person -- who throughout this entire time has never stopped -- has tied so many improbable events, experiences and people together into an era that is over.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Ham and Mushrooms 

Anyone who knows me -- even at the level of mere acquaintance -- knows that I dislike ham and mushrooms. And I can't figure out how that happened.

To me, my tastes are very reasonable. I've chosen two foods -- two out of the vast pantheon of edible items -- not to eat. Everything else is fair game. And it's been this way for almost my entire life. Early on I didn't go for olives, but that faded.

And sure, there are still foods I'm not crazy about. My mom always used to serve warm, cooked peas, straight. I wasn't a big fan. Peas themselves are OK. I like 'em cold as part of a salad. But on their own? Eh. I'll eat 'em. I just won't be so excited about it. Ham and mushrooms are the only foods I refuse to eat.

That is to state that -- if I'm at a fancy dinner party where they only serve ham as the main dish . . . yes, then I'm only eating appetizers. I don't think I should have to suffer through a dinner I'll hate. I've rejected two things on the planet. That's it. Nobody should take offense to that. It's two things. What about all those people who carry around a list of things they won't eat? And it's never a simple list, is it? It's got all sorts of clauses like, "anything creamy" or "anything tomato-based".

One of my co-workers got pizza with shrooms on it once, and another co-worker told him I wouldn't eat it. The first guy said, "What -- is he some sort of picky eater or something?" TWO THINGS! THAT'S NOT PICKY! And the guys at work are always getting pizzas with either ham or shrooms on them. Come on -- what ever happened to good old-fashioned pepperoni? Who thinks of pizza and gravitates to mushrooms? When did a slimy, stinking, mud-like vegetable become enticing?

What blows my mind is that so many people remember these two things about me. I don't remember what most people don't like. Everyone I meet seems to know that I hate these foods. Every once in a while, someone challenges me, saying I'm closed-minded, that I probably haven't tried ham or mushrooms in years and am holding out purely on memory. So I always will test in front of them. I have no problem proving that I still find them disgusting and that I'm just a consistent person.

My issue with ham is that it's got this awful, salty flavor. People invariably ask me if I eat bacon, and I do -- that's completely different, crispy and tasty. Ham brings on retching. Then I get the Canadian bacon question. Folks, Canadian bacon and prosciutto are just other words for HAM.

Mushrooms, I can take two different ways:
A.) They are not food. They are fungus, and not for human consumption.
B.) They're disgusting and horrendous. If forced to choose between a slice of ham and a half-bite of shroom, I reluctantly choose the ham every time.

Then I have to hear the nonsense about how mushrooms don't have any flavor. If that were true, WHY ARE THEY USED IN COOKING AT ALL? I can always tell one someone slips shrooms into spaghettis, lasagnas, or casseroles. I'll do my best to eat around them or push them to the side, but sometimes it's just not worth the effort.

I guess that would be my version of hell. Not necessarily a banquet full of ham and mushrooms. A banquet full of food I like, each dish infiltrated by ham or mushrooms, Satan laughing at me from the corner, little bits of ham and mushrooms stuck between his teeth.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Just imagine the speed, it's just what you need. 

The wife and I got sick on February 3, and have been ever since. Just this week we got better. Mostly anyway. It's amazing how much I began to value health once it had been absent for so long. I began wondering what it would be like to have heavy chest congestion and coughing in June.

I missed so much running, but for the first time didn't miss it. I think that was just because it's also been crappy weather outside ever since we got sick. Also, I lost my appetite and haven't really put on any weight even with the layoff. It's a joy to run again, but my whole training calendar seems pushed back 7 weeks even though I only lost three.

I bought some great beer from Bell's brewery. It's a double cream stout. Beautiful, full and tasty. It's like the brewer put cake in a bottle. Bless him.

The Brewers season is gearing up, and I for one can wait. February is too early to be talking baseball. Plus, I just don't see them winning the division. Too much has to fall their way. We won't be getting season tickets this year. Too expensive and too much of a commitment. But we'll go to some games. I got a little frustrated with the seating options. You're either paying practically nothing for a crappy view, or you're paying with your vital organs for a decent seat. There's no in-between.

I'm listening to snippets of the new Joggers album right now, and it's so good that I can't even describe it. They are the best band not from Portland to come out of Portland.

I recently bought 100 sci-fi 'classics' -- let's emphasize those quotation marks -- for $37. It's really hit and miss, and I find myself apologizing for the 1950s filmmakers. I don't know what happened in the 70s, though. All that made-for-TV crap.

Buddy Miles, one of the Band of Gypsys, just recently died, which is a shame. He was a terrific drummer with a lot of style.

I think I'd better get organized fast, or this year is gonna blow by me.

And that is the end of a quick and terribly scattered post from someone who hasn't posted in a long time. I'll have to do this again some time.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Once Again Into the Fray 

My Dear Mr. N-----,

If I believed in drops in the bucket, I would consider the matter of voting one of more importance than a menial task such as, say . . . combing my hair.

Seems ridiculous? But then, combed hair is considered to be an important part of the presidential process. Integral even. If you don't believe me just read any major news outlet's review of a presidential debate: they always spend plenty of time or space on how the candidates looked. Did they look presidential?

And when I think about it more, I realize that I'm not really voting for McCain, Clinton or Obama. I'm voting for the people who vote for them. In fact there was a little article in the paper today that one of these delegates was a 21-year-old college student who had never voted in a presidential election before. Yet here he is, a 'super-delegate', they called him, taking calls from the Clintons and John Kerry, among others. He's among the best and the brightest in the democratic party, they say. And I wonder how it's possible for a person who's never voted before and who has so little life or political experience to be considered for such a position. The only result I can come up with is that he is not the best and the brightest. Political parties do not even desire to enlist the best and the brightest. But I bet he's excellent at following directions. I bet he was a hell of a multiple-choice test taker in his day. I'm sure he's quick with slogans. And I can tell you he already looks the part. And that's exactly what the political parties want -- loyalty without a whole lot of thought.

I watch these great ads about changing this and changing that, but they don't tell me how they're going to do it. Nobody ever asks me to sacrifice. Everybody wants to give me something (tax cut, guaranteed health care, an end to war, etc.) . . . presumably so I'll give them my vote. It's all a little too reminiscent of life on the animal farm . . . hearing the pigs in the other room, dressed all in human clothes now, and not being able to tell whether they really were pigs or humans. As a kid I loved politics. It's all the same snorting now.

Everyone tells me I have to vote for change, and the logician in me snaps right back in his chair and thinks, "Bush ain't on the ballot, folks -- we're guaranteed change no matter what happens." Would I not vote out of spite?, you ask. I guess it depends on how motivated I am when I get up in the morning. Either way, with or without me, Wisconsin will have chosen.

By the way, I'm surprised to hear such virulent democracy coming from your (former?) communist pen. I guess I'll take that as a sign of healthy progress. Who knows, in 10 more years you may become a certified Libertarian. Eh, maybe not.

Anyway, I wish you good health and bright days in the golden land west of the St. Croix, and hope to remain--

Yours Truly,

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Best of 2007 

So it's that time again, and I remembered that I forgot to do this last year. I didn't buy much music last year, so here's my five favorite discs:

Best of 2006
5. Neil Young - Living With War
4. Chin Up Chin Up - This Harness Can't Ride Anything
3. Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam
2. Tom Petty - Highway Companion
1. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America

For 2007, I have:
Caribou - Andorra
I have to listen to this one again. It's a nice, pop album without being too cloying.

The White Stripes - Icky Thump
This is one of those albums I respect, but don't find very listening to very often. Doesn't bear many repeat listens. Kind of grates. It's very rough, and sounds like they're trying awful hard. With that said, it's a rocker.

The National - Boxer
This is very downbeat, and is a grower. It's very earnest.

Ryan Shaw - This is Ryan Shaw
Nobody's got a better voice than this guy. Amazing.

Les Savy Fav - Let's Stay Friends
They're that band that nobody knows who can crash a battle of the bands competition and blow every band away. People can never be ready for these guys.

The Bees - Octopus
I can't figure out why people have forgotten about this band.

Neil Young - Chrome Dreams II
Through the bouncing around, there are real stalwarts here. This is one that will float on by -- that people will forget about. But years down the road, this will be the sleeper from the later years that keeps getting play.

Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Probably my favorite of the year. I saw them in November and had forgotten how good this album was. Not for everyone, but right up my alley.

Radiohead - In Rainbows
I'm really not a true believer, not some diehard, Radiohead nut. There are aspects of this band I generally dislike. But this is a beautiful piece of music. Damn near perfect.

Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
I couldn't not put this as #1 because I kept coming back to it more than any other album. Very simple and direct, but also catchy and outspoken.

Best opening track: "Don't Make Me a Target", Spoon
Best 2-song sequencing: "Fly Trapped in a Jar"-"Education", Modest Mouse
Best track: "Reckoner", Radiohead

Best music purchased all year: A tie between two Chin Up Chin Up records -- their 2004 debut, "We Should Have Never Lived Like We Were Skyscrapers", and their 2005 follow-up self-titled EP. They are criminally overlooked and ignored.

Best Popcorn Movie: The Bourne Ultimatum
Best Film Movie: The Kite Runner

It was a good year. Time management is still a rough spot, though. I would have liked to have run more. In 2006, I averaged 34.9 miles a week. In 2007, it'll end up being 26.4. I kept the consistency, but never really maintained a long enough string of 40+ weeks to ramp up workouts and get in better racing shape. I'm at 35 right now, so hopefully that's a good start for '08. I would like to do another marathon, but '09 is looking like a better opportunity with the kid in school more. But, who knows? If I get in good shape with time enough to plan a nice, 12 week cycle . . . anything could happen. And that's what I love about new years. Not "New Year's", mind you -- new years. That built in idea we all have that we can start all over again. It's partially bullshit to think there's nothing on the slate -- but that's OK. It's better to not think about how hard it will be. Otherwise, we may never begin.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Til the Time is Right 

I was on a night run last week when a '1st' occurred. When you've been running 16 or so years, there aren't as many firsts as there used to be. I was just jogging along old Superior Street here in good old Bay View -- you know, "the friendly south side", they call it. And it was dark out -- and cold. So cold -- and of course I was underdressed -- that I was running fast with fists clenched to stay warm. And as I approach this parked minivan with only its parking lights lit, I hear the minivan 'lock up' upon my approach.

I've never thought of runners as intimidating, but I guess everything changes when the light goes down.

I thought, at the time, that I would like to explain to the person that I wasn't a threat, but now I think it was good they locked up. I think carjacks would be cut down significantly if people just hit the locks. What's so hard about that? And what carjacker wants to shoot the person through the window, ruining the car, getting blood everywhere? And of course they'd still have to move the body to drive it. It doesn't make any sense. Lock up, then drive away. It can't be that hard.

That's why I can't stand the horror movie cliche in which someone is being chased, and they're too afraid to think coherently. And they run -- and don't they all run like pansies? -- until they trip. Then they keep tripping, because that's convenient, isn't it? That hasn't been done before.

I guess what I want is a horror movie in which the people prepare really well, don't make any mistakes, and avoid all the silly cliches....but still the bad guy gets in. Now that's scary. Not people being stupid and getting stabbed. People playing it smart and still getting it.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

You Might Think You've Seen The Coolest Thing, But This is the Coolest Thing 

Of all time:

The Apple Girl 

I know I've talked about this before, but it bugs the absolute fuck out of me that this ex-girlfriend I had like . . . more than 8 years ago didn't want to hear my rant on hypocritical gender values in the post-feminist era.

Really, I just had an issue with the whole medieval concept of the guy laying down his cloak over a puddle so the woman could walk over the puddle without getting wet.

What bullshit sense does that make? You're telling me that the water won't soak through the cloak and get her feet wet anyway? Come on.

That's all I really wanted to say, and she couldn't entertain me. Right then I knew -- not just that we wouldn't last together, but -- that I disliked her fiercely. I wasn't asking for give and take. Just hear me out.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

When You Take Your Grandmother to Her First Packer Game in 30 Years 

On the walk in: "Why are we walking all this way? I would have paid these people for parking! This is such a long walk. You know I'm not that young anymore?"

During the National Anthem: "Grandpa always cries during this song."

When the crowd boos as the Eagles are announced: "Oh COME ON! Let's be good sports now! Really. That's just shameful. Do they really boo like that?"

On their chances, repeated once per quarter and throughout the fourth: "Oh, damnit, they're going to lose! Damnit, they're going to lose! I just know it!"

Answering my question as to whether she wanted anything to eat: "What? HERE? We're not eating here. We'll go home and eat Grandpa's food. We're not eating this junk."

On other people eating the food: "Look at that. Look at him eat that. Everyone's eating like that. They can't make their house payments, but they can come here and stuff their faces."

On the girls next to us: "How many times are they going to get up and walk past us?! That's the seventh time they've gotten up and walked past us! Unbelieveable! You come to a game, and you don't watch it -- you're always UP!"

On the woman in front of her: "This woman in front of me is drunk. She keeps talking to me. She's drunk. I don't know what to say to her because she's drunk and I can't understand her. She seems to think we're friends. I wish she'd turn around. She's drunk."

Many people in the family have told me that she had a great time. After all, they did win.

New Release Tuesday 

It's always a great feeling to have a new Neil Young release in stores. I make sure to go to a store to get mine, these days. I still do plenty of Internet shopping, but some bands are worth a new release Tuesday visit to the music store.

It's a strong album by Neil, and I say that for just one reason. Most people reviewing the album know that it's cobbled together with old and new stuff. My ear tells me there are three different sessions on this disc, covering 20 years, different players, not to mention some additional production and mixing for this release. And while I agree that it's sort of a lazy release, the fact that it works is what's most important. And the kicker is: if people didn't know it was cobbled together, it would be getting raves.

I think he's cobbled together worse albums -- "American Stars and Bars", "Hawks and Doves", "Are You Passionate?" are three that come to mind, and I like all those albums. But they don't work quite as well as this one. As Neil puts it, "They just keep on comin in a long, long line. I'm a Believer."

Time for Pimento 

The thing I don't understand about all cracker advertisements is how the cracker people always want to portray these things as if they are so 'versatile'. Then they proceed to show the viewer all the hundreds of ways one can use the crackers. And the thing that's got me chapped is how it's never a simple presentation. They never show somebody with his hand digging into the bag and then stuffing the things in his mouth. They never show a simple cracker with melted cheese.

But we get plenty of shots of cucumber with a tomato slice, topped with a perfectly-placed dollop of sour cream. There's crackers with three different cheeses, with the cheese cut into triangles and angled just perfectly so the viewing can see equal amounts of each type of cheese. They've got the dollop of cream cheese with a sprig of mint -- a fucking sprig of mint -- offset with a garnish of pimento. I just want to know who has the time to get that fucking pimento in place so it is equidistant from the mint and the edge of the dollop.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Go Back to Wrigley, You Yuppie Chicago Scum 

That's what I say.

What other conclusion can I reach after encountering boorish Cubs fans during a non-Cubs game at Miller Park . . . just so they could cheer against the Brewers and be general cockmouths about everything.

But Michael Hunt really says it best.

I laughed so hard when the Brewer fan sitting next to them -- fed up and not about to take any more shit -- rose from his seat, grabbed that stinking Cubs hat, and threw it onto the field.

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