The low-rent spring break.

The city’s movers and shakers — correct that, the city’s movers and shakers with school-age children — are mostly gone this week, leaving the city in the hands of the junior varsity. It’s spring break, and around here, people don’t hang around waiting for the daffodils to make an appearance. They’re all on beaches throughout the warmer parts of the western hemisphere, with a few odd skiers out in Colorado. We, the thrifty and/or broke, look for less-expensive diversions to entertain our children on their holiday. Pensacola? No, Michigan City! Yes, Indiana!

My neighbor Deb and I packed up a cooler of snacks and set three car seats abreast, then headed north and west to the shores of Lake Michigan, for its lures of shopping (big outlet mall) and nature (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore). Those traveling without kids might throw gambling (Blue Chip Casino) into the mix, but when we outlined our plan for visiting the casino — “You kids just sit here in the car, help yourself to some juice boxes and don’t talk to any security guards. Go to sleep when it gets dark and we’ll be out when we’re finished.” — amusingly enough the kids didn’t go for it. So we did the Gap Factory Outlet, Hammer’s Pasta and Pizza (avoid, fellow travelers!), the beach, the lighthouse and Mt. Baldy, a very big sand dune. As holidays go, it wasn’t a bad one. The kids kept the backseat bickering to a minimum and squealed very appealingly as they ran barefoot around the windy beaches. They enjoyed the diving duck we saw at the lighthouse pier and climbed Mt. Baldy with few complaints, which is more than you could say about the adults, who wheezed like cheap accordions by the halfway point. That is a HILL, I tell you. You stand at the bottom and say, “Oh hell, I could do that on crutches,” and then you start up, and you stop to breathe at the halfway point and say, “Well, we’re halfway there,” and then the second half is basically vertical, and it’s sand,which means one step up four steps back, but somehow you climb to the top and it’s worth it. Even with the NIPSCO cooling tower off there in the distance. It’s Lake Michigan. I’m a Midwestern girl, and the Great Lakes impress me.

And then home. Not a bad day. Kate got four new dresses and a tankini out of the deal. How did I give birth to this girly-girl, who looks forward to summer not for the outdoor-recreation activities but because she can wear dresses every day? When we got home she put on a fashion show for her daddy, twirling around to show the action of the skirt. Work it, girl. She also loves her two-piece swimsuit, which she calls “a belly stick-out.”

Life’s funny wheel: I was in Michigan City with my friend and neighbor Deb. The city used to be home to my best friend, Deb. They have lots of other things in common. Strange coincidences.

The wonderful Jon Carroll is back from his monthlong vacation, and mentioned he’d spent part of it reading “Motherless Brooklyn,” by Jonathan Lethem, which I read last month, too. (I so love being in sync with my heroes.) Anyway, if you didn’t believe me when I said it was a good book, take the considered opinion of this San Francisco columnist: It purports to be a hard-boiled detective story, and it fulfills all the conventions of the genre, but it has a lot more on its mind than just solving murders.

The hero is Lionel Essrog, an orphan from Brooklyn who has Tourette’s syndrome. The book is told from his point of view, which allows Lethem to explore Tourette’s from the inside. Lionel’s obsessive wordplay works as both character revelation and subtext, a sort of involuntary Greek chorus of Freudian slips, illuminating the dark landscape like flashes of lightning.

Yeah, that’s about right.

And I’m pretty tired. Let’s conclude this little travelogue with a see-you-tomorrow. Upload. “Once and Again.” Snore.

Posted at 4:44 am in Ancient archives | Comments Off on The low-rent spring break.

A few questions.

Do you have the answers? I grabbed that still from “Blow” from the trailer on It’s a QuickTime, but it’s lovely to watch and not pixelated at all. It was a big file — 12 MB — but I want to know the magic involved. Why is it so gorgeous and my QTs are not? What’s the setting for gorgeous QTs?

Here’s another: Where would we be without our good friends? Nancy P. of Atlanta found this wonderful follow-up to the nationally televised car chase in Atlanta a week ago. If you don’t have time to follow the link, the synopsis is: If you’re a car dealer and really want to hype your expensive models, get one stolen and chased on television. The one-ton Chevy Silverado pickup, which a car thief used to lead much of metro Atlanta’s finest on a 45-minute high-speed chase, is now a hot property. “The switchboard lit up” after the chase, from underpowered motorists wanting one just like it. The dealer expects to sell it waaay over invoice:

While (a salesman) is sorry the whole thing happened, he said the truck’s performance under pressure was admirable. “If you notice, while they tried to push him and spin him out, the tires held fast,” he said. I guess it’s not every day you can involve the police and a national cable channel in your unpaid sales force. Is this a great country, or what?

Yet another: Is Jesse Ventura crazy? After reading all the materials connected to this dust-up, yet another tiny little molehill made mountainous by the Minnesota governor, I’m revising my opinion. He’s not a peckerwood, he’s a crazy peckerwood. Again, for the time-challenged, the nutshell is Jesse’s pissed again, at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s outdoors writer for a Sunday column. That part is inside baseball for the most part, but what’s fascinating is the transcript of a meeting between the writer, the staff and the Body. In it, the governor leaves much of the heavy lifting to his staff, while he goes off on such weird tangents as this one:

Ventura: …when it comes to hunting — I got your resume. You ever done military service?

Anderson: You have my resume?

Ventura: Yeah, I got your file. You ever done military service?

Anderson: No.

Ventura: You haven’t? Well, Commissioner Garber and I have. He has two tours to Vietnam and I have one as a Navy SEAL and then 17 months in Southeast Asia and I’ll just tell you this: Until you hunted man, you haven’t hunted yet. Because you need to hunt something that can shoot back at you to really classify yourself as a hunter. You need to understand the feeling of what it’s like to go into the field and know that your opposition can take you out. Not just go out there and shoot Bambi. Or go out into the field and shoot pheasants and things like that.

: This doesn’t have anything to do with conservation.

Ventura: No, but it has to do with being a sportsman, in my opinion.

Anderson: The military has something to do with conservation?

Ventura: Yeah, yeah, ’cause it’s called hunting.

Anderson: I miss the connection.

Uh, me too. He comes back to that theme three more times. Then he throws in a reference to his wrestling career. Covering this guy must be a laff riot. A friend suggests some of the governor’s erratic behavior may be tied to steroid abuse in his youth. Or maybe Mad Cow Disease, from a high-protein training table. Jesse Ventura — the Mad Cow canary in the coal mine!

Still more questions: Is shaving Down There another cultural phenomenon I’ve missed out on by living in Milwaukee? So writes Deb. I can report that yes, it is. All that pornography I scoped out last week had the hairless pubis as a common theme, and I was as horrified as Deb was: The whole idea is too repulsive for words. Think of the razor stubble you get on your CALVES, for God’s sake. Yes, exactly.

One more question: Is this a joke, or do Muslims really do this, too?

See you Monday.

Posted at 4:44 am in Ancient archives | Comments Off on A few questions.

Crashing, but not burning.

It’s Spring Break this week, and kids are swinging from the trees all over the city. I took the dog on a Full Park power walk today, and ran across a little knot of them back in the woods. Middle schoolers, it looked like, so of course I feared the worst. Your average middle schooler is capable of both sleeping with teddy bears and huffing solvents; what would this group be doing? Smoking pot, giving one another blow jobs or just hanging out. Answer: The latter, along with some serious bicycle acrobatics. They’d gone to some trouble to craft a BMX course out of found objects in the woods, and had made a nice jump between two hillocks. One was lying in the gap taking pictures as each one took his or her turn in flight. I admired his courage, as I’m sure sooner or later he got hit by a falling friend.

My editor mentioned seeing the same thing in a different venue not long ago, and the kid was crashing over and over, leaping up after each one to try again. My editor, riding in pain from a torn rotator cuff, which he suffered after a fairly routine spill, was envious. I know how he feels. It occurred to me today I couldn’t do a cartwheel at gunpoint. Maybe I should try one next time I’m back in the woods, just to be sure.

So it was with this vision fresh in my mind that I came home to discover my child clomping up and down the sidewalk in her brand new Junior Rollerblades. Deb was buying them for her own, and graciously agreed to get a pair for her, too. She was attacking them with the physical fearlessness of the preschooler, although to be sure, she was better-armored than Russell Crowe in “Gladiator.” She hasn’t really figured out the gliding part yet, just stomps around and falls on her butt every 12 feet or so, but I suppose she’ll pick it up sooner or later. I grabbed the camcorder and shot some footage, which has some continuity problems — the sun went behind a cloud and the temperature dropped midway through principle photography, so we’ve got some jackets-on/jackets-off, shadows-and-light discrepancies. I don’t care. I got what I needed, marched it inside and edited it while they played Barbies. The whole thing rang in at two minutes, which I figure is just about right.

It was a movie kinda day. I discovered filmwise today, although I didn’t have much time to explore the site, only swing by its most maddening quiz, Invisibles. Here’s the setup, which sounds like pathetic pornography, but isn’t: Basically, an Invisible is a screen shot from a movie in which some or all of the actors have been completely removed from their clothing. It’s your job to figure out what the movie is. This doesn’t mean naked actors, only empty suits created by Photoshop whizzes. I think I got ONE correct answer. Is someone paid to do this? Amazing.

Speaking of which, I also found this, a set of dirty pictures with the figures removed. This was fascinating, as I’m as fond of examining backgrounds in photos as I am the ostensible subjects of the pictures. Check out the bedside lamp in this one. I think my grandmother had one like that.

I hope this link works, too. It’s a transcript of something I heard on NPR this weekend. Their search engine is unbearably slow, but “Calling Dante’s Inferno” made me laugh.

I have to sign off early. There’s Lieutenant Fancy’s farewell on the barely breathing “NYPD Blue,” plus I have to write the Arts United letter. The less said about that, the better. So I’ll say no more.

Until tomorrow.

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10 p.m. in Ohio and Michigan.

So Alan goes in late on Mondays, and on this particular Monday “Today” had given way to the 9 a.m. hour of chat/Judge Judy/etcetera. Alan had chosen chat — Regis and ol’ what’s-her-name. This morning’s musical guest was a reggae/rap fusion artist named Shaggy. “Talk about a culture clash,” Alan said, speculating what a nation of Celine Dion fans was thinking of Shaggy’s tune, which included the line, “You stood by me during my incarceration.” (No, I don’t know what the rhyme was.) Sort of like when the Stones played Ed Sullivan. Even as a young’un, I recall thinking, huh?

Or it could be that Alan’s the one with a cultural disconnect. Someone’s buying all those records.

But whatever his or our disconnect with the world of hip-hop, it’s not as severe as the Journal Gazette’s, which had a piece in Sunday advancing a concert by the Baha Men. The Baha Men, you may or may not know, hail from the Bahamas. So what did they Journal call them throughout, including in the headline? Bohemian.

Did our self-appointed local media critic pick up on this, the way he pounces on the slightest mispronunciation by a weather person (who is, after all, doing an extended improvisational ad lib)? Nah. Guess the headline wasn’t big enough. Speaking of media criticism: Dr. Laura was cancelled, finally. I’m shocked she hung on this long, as her show was particularly merciless in capturing her essential personality, described by an LA Weekly writer as having “all the warmth of a staph infection.”

Today was the first business day of Daylight Saving Time in the rest of the civilized world. Here, it’s always Eastern Standard Time, which meant this was the first day of adjusting to the new pace of things. It will take approximately a week or more to settle in. I can read the Jon Carroll column earlier, watch TV earlier. I won’t be seeing “King of the Hill” until October, because it’s on at the formerly inconvenient/now impossible hour of 6:30 p.m. Sunday. But I’ll catch more Letterman. At least until it’s warm and light enough to start the 5:30 a.m. exercise thing again. Frankly, I’m looking forward to it. I got a 10-mile ride in today after work and felt great. The labored huffing I suffered Saturday was not in evidence. I was the wind. All you skaters, just step aside.

I forgot to mention Friday afternoon’s entertainment. I was flipping around looking for news and stopped on Fox, which was covering a car chase live. In Atlanta. The perpetrator was not a murderer, rapist or other dangerous-to-humanity felon, but … a car thief. This went on for about 20 minutes. Apparently the thinking was, we’ve got the technology. Let’s run with it. So a nationwide cable channel gave over a third of an hour to a story that might not even have made Page One in Atlanta. They report. You … go figure.

An entertaining e-mail exchange today with a regular correspondent who checks in often, but who shall remain nameless because he might be job-hunting soon, and God knows what a search engine might find. We were talking about drugs: I always love it when I’m around a bunch of guys, and they’re complaining about how fucked up their past relationships were. I tell them “I can top all of them”, and then sit back and listen to their little geek stories. Then, when it’s time, I pull out about the girl in New Orleans that slowly went from casino blackjack dealer to crack user to crack head to turning a trick with a dealer IN MY HOUSE IN MY BED for some rock. I then collect my bets and the conversation continues.

That girl is in the same place as the guy who played the father on “Alf,” captured today on the cover of the National Enquirer sucking on the glass dick, apparently on home video. (“Hey, you brought a camera? Great! Let me get out my crack pipe and you can get some pictures!”) Same as Robert Downey Jr. Same as Daryl Strawberry, working to see what will kill him first, drugs or cancer. Meanwhile my very own congressman called a man who testified before his subcommittee, who’s trying to get medicinal marijuana for cancer and AIDS patients, “evil.” It’s a public health problem, folks. Deal.

Posted at 4:44 am in Ancient archives | Comments Off on 10 p.m. in Ohio and Michigan.

Kind of blue.

Yeah, I think these are the colors I’m looking for. Not coincidentally, they’re the ones J.C. came up with when he first drafted this site back in October of last year. It took him about as long as it took me to walk the dog around the block. That’s why he’s a highly paid graphic artist/computer whiz, and I’m just a word person. But I’m getting better at this GoLive stuff — I could probably whip up a site like this fairly quickly now, although I lack the artist’s eye of the Burns boy. Alan has it, too (although he cares so little about this site, he isn’t about to help design it).

A rare non-manic weekend. The secret is planning; also, don’t do anything. Laundry was wrapped up Friday, which left Saturday free for a 10-mile bike ride, haircut and color, grocery power shop and random relaxation. That sounds like a lot on paper, but really, it was the bare minimum. The bike ride set the tone for a weekend of self-loathing — I’m so out of shape, I disgust myself. After writing Friday on the problem of childhood obesity, I decided it was time for a little work on the personal front. I wore my heart-rate monitor, and was appalled at how easily I moved into the high side of the anaerobic range — in other words, how easily my heart got into “stop, stop, I can’t take any more” territory. Ugh. The haircut followed, a guilty pleasure for a million reasons. Allow me to name but two: No kid and In Style magazine. I love In Style, although I wouldn’t admit that to anyone but YOU, dear reader. I love any magazine with letters to the editor like this:

Thanks so much for the cover story on Andie MacDowell! She’s been a favorite of mine ever since “Greystoke,” and it was so wonderful to see both her beautiful house and the look of happiness on her face in the GORGEOUS pictures. How great to see this gifted and talented actress get the recognition she deserves!

The issue I read wasn’t a regular one; it was the special edition on makeovers. I learned that I’m hopelessly out of date. For one thing, I have pubic hair. Very last year. In Style told me that on my next trip to NYC, I should visit such-and-such salon, where all the Sports Illustrated swimsuit models go “not for the bikini wax, but to go COMPLETELY BARE!” Sorry, no. I don’t care if you can wear a bathing suit withough adjusting it, and that it improves oral sex for both parties. The day I pay a perfect stranger to slather hot wax on my yoni and then rip out all the hairs by the roots is the day … well, that day won’t come. The most I might consider is a little laser work on the fringes. And I’d have to be extremely drunk. Laser hair salons don’t exist next door to tattoo parlors, so I guess that’s out, too. But really — can you imagine such a thing? When people talk about it improving sex, I have the same thought as when someone touts tongue piercings as just the thing for enhanced fellatio. Which is: What’s wrong with regular, hairy sex? And plain old fellatio? Gentlemen, look deep into your conscience, and make this admission: The day you feel the need for enhanced fellatio is the day you need to admit you’re jaded and corrupt.

Old joke: What does a man say after the worst blow job of his life? Man, that was great.

Found this site Saturday — Apple’s iMovie gallery, where regular old iMovie users, many of whom apparently do this sort of thing for a living, submit their DV movies to show the rest of the broadband-gifted world. I watched half a dozen and quickly realized I’m at least as good as these folks, so I pointed them to “Trick or Treat” (you can find the link on the links page, if you have the connection to sit through a 7MB download) and am eagerly awaiting the verdict. This site was big medicine, because if there’s one thing I’ve been craving since I started doing this stuff, it’s a basis of comparison. I’ve even contemplated starting an iMovie users group here in F.W., although it’s fairly low on my to-do list. One of the movies I watched was scenes of the 2000 St. Patrick’s Day parade in Chicago, a flawed effort but proof of what I’ve come to think of as Adrian Lyne’s Rule: When in doubt, go to the soundtrack. It used a John Hiatt song I haven’t heard in a while (and had nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day), which sent me on a John Hiatt kick this weekend. I love John Hiatt. I know I’m a big fat target for what he’s selling, but I don’t care. Wade, if you see him in the grocery, kiss him for me, and thank him for “Slow Turning.”

Got the garden going Saturday too. Damn the weather. If those goddamn peas freeze in the ground, then so be it. We planted some sugar snaps, a patch of “California mesclun blend” lettuce and greens, and a couple rows of spinach. Kate helped. She touches worms without fear — that’s my girl. Evidently she and her dad went to get some topsoil while I was being coiffed. “We went to the dirt store, mommy,” she told me. “And we got cow poop, too. Do you know what dirt is? Cow poop!” I didn’t know that. Today she helped me make a cherry pie, yelling all the while that I should just leave her alone and let her do it herself, including hefting the bowl of filling, about five or six pounds of cherries, Pyrex and potential mess on the floor. “Kate, I’m the teacher here, and you’re the student. Let me help you,” I said. “NO!” she replied. God, I see a bad moon rising on adolescence.

In response to popular demand, I’m starting an archive tomorrow. Actually, it’s up today, but all it has in it is a duplicate of what you just read. I’m unsure how I’m going to structure it — suggestions, anyone? — but there’ll be some way you can read previous material if you miss a day or three. The January, February and March archives aren’t up there yet, but April will be preserved for posterity.

Talk about your great leaps forward.

Posted at 3:44 am in Ancient archives | Comments Off on Kind of blue.