Monthly Archives: May 2012

All In the Family

I saw it happening some time ago.  I would look in the mirror and wonder what my dad was doing here.  But more recently, other people have started pointing it out too.  I am sure it has nothing to do with the fact that we now have the same hair color.

My mom and dad.

Maureen and me

Take a good look my son.  This is the face you will see in the mirror in years to come.

Tales of a Four A.M. Nothing

Maureen and I have a saying that we use if maybe we happen to stay out too late and have a little bit too much fun.  We call it practicing for our next trip to Ireland.  Last night we got in a lot of practice.

It all started out very innocently.  A White Sox game with my sister Laura’s boyfriend Norm.  Then a trip over to a small local pub, not too far from the ballpark  with an outside seating area, called Turtles.

Norm left us some time around 11, and had we been smart, we should have headed home ourselves, but we were having a nice time, and I felt like crooning a tune, so we headed off into the night looking for another place to sit for a while.  Our first stop was a bit of a bust, but I did get to sing “Drift Away” before we headed out for another stop.  We recalled another bar that was a bit of a dump, but had karaoke on Fridays and Saturday.  It also happened to have a 4 a.m. licence, and staying there until closing turned out to be the least of our problems.

The nice young lady running the show let me sing “Walking in Memphis” and a long-haired blond “dude” served us a couple of bottles of Miller Lite.  We knew going in that we were going to a dive bar, and  we never shied away from the occasional hole in the wall.  Most of them have more character than the more up to date modern mall bars, and the club scene is certainly not my style.  What we didn’t expect on this late night was a little bit of extra character.

I am no entymologist, but it does not take a degree to know that the large bug that crossed the floor not too far from our bar stools was a cockroach.  And a rather large one at that.  Maureen did not see it, but a gentleman a couple stools down from me did.  I asked him if we should just ignore what we saw, and he agreed that maybe it was best if we did.  That is until our little friend made a return trip.

As if having a giant bug belly up to the bar with me was not disturbing enough, what happened next will be forever branded in my memory.  From down at the other end of the bar, a shriek cut through the music as a young lady spotted the unwelcome guest.  Before I knew what was happening, the girl pulled a blue flip-flop off her foot and hurled it about fifteen feet towards the bug.  And she nailed that sucker, squashing him dead.  Then very calmly she walked over and retrieved her bug seeking foot missile.

The dead bug remained on the floor where it had perished, until the nice karaoke girl finally covered it with a napkin.  The lights come on, confirming Maureen and I had stayed way too late, and we all headed off into the early morning, all except for the murdered cockroach.  He stayed behind.

And judging by the look of the place with the lights on, he is probably still there right now.

Men in Bronze

Just a few of the statues that grace the outfield at what used to be known as Comiskey Park.

The bronze statue of Luis Aparicio waiting for the toss from Nellie Fox.

And a bronze Nellie Fox making the toss.

Billy Pierce in the streatch.

And of course, Frank Thomas.

What Do May Flowers Bring?


It is a little hard to see, but our Lilac Bushes were home to a couple dozen butterflies for a few days this Spring.

The purple irises in our front yard were really cool this year.

Warm weather for The South Side Irish Parade, brought these early blooms. I have no idea what type of flowers they are.

And just to show that not everything this Spring was purple, this was an unexpected surprise in the garden. Two years ago I planted an onion that had started to grow in our pantry. After nothing last year, we have a little onion patch this year. But I will have to give my mom a call. How do you know when they are ready to harvest?

The NATO Summit (live from Bolingbrook)

I have to start with a confession.  I have never protested anything in my life.  That is unless you count the time in high school when four or five of us walked around for a day with black armbands on, pissed off because we couldn’t leave school early for a planned trip downstate for the wrestling championships.  We had already been excused from school, but for some reason we decided to go to a couple of classes before we hit the road.  Once there, we were told that we now could not leave until the end of the school day.  See, if we had just stayed away from school, everything would have been fine.  Our excuses had already been called in, and no one would have said a thing about the missing seniors that day, but because we actually showed up, we would not be allowed to leave early.  So in protest of such unfair treatment, we wore black armbands for the rest of the day.

The idea of taking part in a protest always sounds grand to me, but to be real honest, it also sounds like a pain in the ass.  I have said it before, and I will say it again, the real problem here is that in general, I don’t like people.  I especially don’t like large crowds of people.  Large pushy crowds of people chanting would be a living hell for me.  I am not against the actual act of protesting, what I am against is a protest going on with me in the middle of it.

Hold on, let’s back this up a minute.  Our right to protest and speak out against our government is one of the basic rights that makes this country as great as it is, but let’s put the right to protest into a little bit of context here.  Although we have a right to free speech and assembly, only time will tell us if that protest was indeed just.  No one would dispute that the protest done by Martin Luther King, Jr. helped change the direction of our country, and that individual protestors like Rosa Parks brought light to a system that is now seen as despicable.  But what about those protestors on the other side of the civil rights issue?

History has not been kind to those who protested in support of keeping schools segregated.

Don’t confuse the right to protest with a protest being in the right.  History does not look fondly on the faces of those who protested against the desegregation of schools, but was their right to protest any less a right just because history has shown them to be wrong.  And how do we know that the causes we protest for and against today, may not turn out to be just as despicable when history has had its say.

I have immense respect for those who can carry on a peaceful protest, and have nothing but disdain for those that feel the only way to get their message heard is to wear black masks and cause chaos and destruction.  Both will be seen this weekend in Chicago as the NATO Summit arrives.  Either way, I will not be there.  I will lend my support to those who want to be peacefully heard, and I will also fully  support those who have been charged with trying to keep the peace during these days.  But my support will have to come from afar.  Or at least as far away as my backyard 25 miles from downtown.

I make my escape from downtown Chicago for this weekends NATO Summit.

Happy 21st Stephanie!

I am not old!

That is what I keep trying to tell myself, although the fact that my oldest child is turning 21 today does seem to argue against that statement.  She is having a little get together with some of her friends tonight, and she was kind enough to extend me an invitation.  I politely declined.  I know there are some parents that would jump at the opportunity to start partying with their newly legal children, but I am not one of them.  The last thing I wanted on my twenty-first birthday was for my parents to see me drunk as a skunk.  Even worse, I really didn’t want to see them that way either.  So I wish Stephanie a wonderful birthday, and please have a safe plan for getting home.  And have some fun.  You will be paying for it tomorrow morning.

We have all heard our kids say it.  “Things are different today.”  And I have always been one to defend the fact that human nature as a whole has really not changed all that much in the past twenty-six years since I turned 21 in 1986.  But the more I start to look at it, the world really has made some giant steps in just the short time between my 21st birthday and my daughter’s.

Yeah, you saw it coming,  Another Top Ten List.

The Top Ten Changes in the World Since My 21st Birthday

#10  –  Drinking

By the time I reached my twenty-first birthday, I had already been drinking legally for three years in the State of Wisconsin.  In the early 1970’s, most states lowered their legal drinking age down to 18 after the passage of the 26th Amendment.  Since it lowered the voting age to 18, most states felt it was then ok to also lower the drinking age.  But in 1984, Congress passed the Drinking Age Act, which did not require states to raise their drinking age, but it did threaten to take federal highway money away if they didn’t.  Illinois had already raised the drinking age back up to 21 in 1980, but Wisconsin took a two-step jump.  In 1984, the age was raised to 19, and although I would not turn 19 until later that year, I was grandfathered in because I was already 18 at the time the law changed.  The second step was taken in 1986, and once again I skirted the change.  While doing some research on this topic, I did come across the fact that it is still legal for someone under 21 to drink in Wisconsin, as long as it is in the presence of and with the consent of their parent or a legal guardian.  No one tell this to my son!

#9  –  Smoking

When I started going to bars, even before I started drinking, they were dimly lit, smoke-filled places were loud music played and people shouted above all the noise at each other.  Most of that is still true today, except for the part about smoking.  In 2008, the Smoke-Free Illinois Act banned smoking in and within 15 feet of any public building.  We were not ahead of the curve on this one, but since then smoking has been banned in most states and many countries around the world.  In just 25 years, smoking went from being something that all the cool kids did, to being demonized to such an extent that the appearance of a single cigarette in a movie will instantly give it a PG-13 rating.  I am not a smoker, and never have been, but even I have been amazed at how a once accepted standard has been put out to pasture.  That is until the cows start complaining.

#8 Gambling

As far as I can remember, back in 1986, the only place to gamble legally was in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, and at the time, Illinois was only one of 11 states that had a lottery.  Other than that, the only other legal gambling was Bingo on the Indian reservations.  But after a series of law suits in California, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passes in 1988, allowing reservations to also include card games, but in the original legislation, it was restricted to games played against other opponents, not the house.  After more law suits, the law was expanded to include all games of chance as well as slot machines.  Not surprisingly, the biggest opposition came from lobbyist for Nevada.  Once this door was opened, Iowa became the first state to legalize Riverboat Casinos, but the law stipulated that gambling could only occur while the boat was traveling and away from the dock.  Other states soon followed suit, and soon the restriction of being “off shore” was lifted, and the Riverboat Casinos became a come as you want 24 hour a day venture.

#7  – Hair

No, not the musical.  Mine. As in, when I was 21 I looked like this:

Brother Tom, circa 1986

Now I look like this:

Brother Tom 25 years later!

#6 –  Architecture

In 1986, the Sears Tower was the tallest building in the world.  A title it held until 1998, when the Petronas Towers in Malaysia surpassed it.  But that was met with a lot of controversy, since the twin antennae on top of the Sears Tower actually surpassed Petronas in total height.  Even though Sears was more than 20 floors higher, the decorative spires atop of Petronas we ruled to be part of the building structure, and therefore it claimed the title of World’s Tallest Building.  But in the long run, it was all to be a moot point, as they were both soon to be surpassed by Taipei 101 in Taiwan, and then completely overshadowed by the Dubai Tower in 2009.  That same year, the Sears Tower was bought by a London-based insurance company, and the name of the building was changed.  Many in the great city of Chicago, myself included, have refused to adopt the new name for the building.  Change the name of the Sears Tower?  What are you talkin’ about…..

#5  –  The Glass Ceiling

Although the sexual revolution and women’s lib had come and gone, most families in 1986 still consisted of a father who went to work, and a mom that stayed home.  But then on September 8, 1986, just two months after my 21st birthday, something happened that changed everything.  The Oprah Winfrey show debuted in Chicago.  Now, I am not silly enough to say that Oprah changed the world, but hell, maybe she did.  Like her, Love her or Hate her, there is no denying that she set a standard for women that has kept on expanding ever since.  Heads of industry, CEO’s of major companies, political front-runners, all former male dominated fields that women have made major strides in, trying to collapse that glass ceiling.  Sure, we have not all the way there yet.  Virginia Rometty did not get her invitation to join Augusta as so many other male CEO’s of IBM have been offered in the past, but there is no denying that 2012 is much more welcoming and full of potential for my daughter than it was back when I was 21.

#4  –  Gas Prices

The average price of a gallon of gas in 1986 was 93 cents.  The average price of a gallon of milk in 1986 was $2.22.  Just the other day, I went to Costco and bought a gallon of milk for $1.68.  Do I need to say more?

#3  The Super Stations

In 1978, WGN began selling their broadcast into other smaller markets.  There was nothing fancy about it.  They just took money from other markets, and they would just broadcast the WGN signal, the same as if it was right here in Chicago.  But then in 1989, the rules changed, and the individual markets had exclusive rights to syndicated programing, and so those stations that carried the WGN signal had to black them out any time a syndicated re-run was shown, which was the main programing for WGN outside of baseball games and the local news.  So to combat this problem. in January of 1990, WGN started a national broadcasting company called WGN America, and the Super Station format was born.  Since that time, we have seen this same concept adapted by other businesses.  The Super Stores of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club and Costco have taken over the world, and the idea of a mom and pop store is almost a thing of the past.  It seems like these days, just about everything is Super Sized.

#2  Chicago Sports

On January 26, 1986, the Chicago Bears won Super Bowl XX, slaughtering the New England Patriots 46 to 10.  It was the only major Chicago sports championship within my lifetime.  And before I hear any whining from the soccer geeks, the Chicago Sting championships of 1981 and 1984 do not count as a MAJOR sports championship.  How important could they have really been? The Sting folded just four years after their last championship.  The important part is that since that time, Chicago has won six NBA championships, a World Series, and the Stanley Cup.  Since that time, Comiskey Park has been torn down and rebuilt, redesigned, and then ultimately re-named.  The old Chicago Stadium is no more, and has been replaced by the modern United Center.  Even Solder Field got a facelift.  The entire face of Chicago sports has changed over the past 26 years.  That is until you look towards the North Side.  I guess some things never change.

#1  Technology

I could have done this entire list on just the advancements in technology since I was 21.  Land lines and typewriters are almost non-existent; replaced by cell phones and laptop computers.  We have seen the birth of the VHS machine, only to be replaced by DVD and then Blu-Ray.  The vinyl record album was pushed out by the CD and now even old farts like me have an iPod that stores more music than a whole bookshelf of vinyl.  Special effects in movies are something I never dreamed of as a kid, and Pixar opened up a whole new world of digital animation.  And then there is that whole internet thing that Al Gore invented.  World Book officially stopped printing their encyclopedia, replaced instead by Wikipedia.  Social Media and Facebook may be the ultimate downfall of modern civilization, that is unless Words with Friends or Mafia wars takes over first.  But there is still one old friend from 1986 I am not ready to give up yet.  I am not ready to replace a good old fashioned book with one of those Kindle things. A guy has to draw the line somewhere.

Happy Birthday, Stephanie.  I can’t wait to see what wonderful things await us by the time your kids are 21.

On second thought, I can wait!