Friday, June 17, 2005
The Great Southwest
Southwest suburbs, that is. After a week of not getting more than 2 or 3 uninterrupted hours of sleep at a time thanks to various dog issues, I dragged myself out of bed and drove to the Palos Forest Preserve to hunt for plants. Did I find any? Well, not the ones I was looking for. It was very discouraging. However, I did see other things:
The advancing edge of the cloud mass that made my day cool and dreary. Incidentally, taking pictures while driving is not recommended. I wonder if the limo driver thought I was an international spy?
I found this little guy in Rubio Woods. Spent some time pondering the nature of fear and wondered if he was afraid of me, or if I was just one more thing to look at in this new and interesting world. His mom of course was all about the fear, and lit out of there with her tail flashing the moment I came near.
A sign on an empty lot at the corner of Cicero and 147th St. Hard to imagine that this sign was appealing even in its heyday. In fact, as I drove Cicero all the way from 147th to Irving Park (that's 187 blocks, or 23.375 miles, for those keeping track), I found much of the southwest suburbs to be pretty soul-killingly dreary. It reminded me of big chunks of Detroit, your typical commercial strips from the days before strip malls. Fast food, liquor stores, family restaurants, insurance agents, marching in endless ranks along a busy 6-lane street with stoplights every block. I continue to be amazed by all the little 1950s motels that are still in business ("Air conditioning! Switchboard!"). Who stays at those places? Are they on Expedia? Or do they all subsist on the hourly-rate trade?
Sunday, June 12, 2005
Cubs vs. Red Sox, 6/12/2005
Or, the 2004 World Series That Should Have Been. All in all, a fantastic day at the ballpark. The Red Sox have *never* played Wrigley before, since this is their first interleague match-up (and, for the record, this was the last interleague pairing that hadn't happened yet) and their only other meeting, in the fabled 1918 World Series, was played at Comiskey b/c Wrigley was too small. The Sox won that series, and their next series win was 2004, as everyone not in a coma last October heard over and over ad nauseum. Cubs fans tend to feel a special kinship with the Red Sox, a feeling that may have faded just a bit last year, so this series was highly anticipated. I managed to snag four seats during the first-day ticket sales, in 538 one row down from the back. Other than a pillar in the way, not bad seats, especially since it's *windy* up there, much appreciated when it's 90-ish and muggy out. Being so high above the field prompted us to design some quick exit strategies like batpoles and water slides. We went with my advisor and her husband, huge Sox fans, but they didn't stand out because the whole place was crawling with Sox fans!
So, in the first two innings, things looked bad, and after the 14-6 blowout of the day before, we were afraid the Cubs had used up all their offense and would just roll over. Zambrano gave up two walks followed by a Trot Nixon home run, then another homer to former Cub Bill Mueller in the second. The Sox fans were giddy, the Cubs fans were despondent. Then we answered with five singles in a row, all from the middle of our order, in the bottom of the second, and suddenly it was 4-3. Todd Walker, former Red Sox (Red Sock?), tripled in the fourth and scored on a groundout. (Funny thing about Walker: he was interviewed several times before the game, along with Nomar, and was asked no end of inane questions like "Hey! How does it feel to be traded away from the Sox just before their championship year?" and "How would you compare Cubs fans and Sox fans?" (which is stupid because it's just the media fishing for compliments for the local fans). Of course, all of the good questions were for permanently-injured and yet leading the NL in All-Star votes at shortstop Nomar, who was going to get his ring today for a World Series he didn't play in. Walker's questions were just bones thrown by the media. He looked generally jealous and pissed off, but he got his revenge by getting three hits and three runs scored, plus an RBI. Playing well is the best revenge.)
So, the game was tied up at 4, and the Cubs fans had come back to life. "Let's go Red Sox!" and "Let's go Cubbies!" tried to drown each other out, though we joined together in "Yankees suck!" Zambrano settled down and despite a sloppy pitching job still struck out 8. In the 5th, he got a base hit, slid awkwardly into second on a putout and sprained the big toe of his landing foot and had to leave the game. Along came the bullpen, and Cubs fans chewed their nails anxiously, but Wellemeyer and Remlinger and Wuertz gave up no runs. In the 6th, Walker scored on a sacrifice fly and the Cubs took the lead. Then in the 8th, Ramirez hit the shortest double I've ever seen (it rolled to a stop next to the Cubs bullpen and Manny Ramirez had to run a long way to pick it up), knocking in a run, followed by an RBI single by Hollandsworth, and the score was 7-4 going into the bottom of the 9th.
On came Dempster. Sigh. What we wouldn't give for a lights-out closer! Instead, we get these guys (Borowski, Hawkins, Dempster) who like to make things interesting. We don't like interesting. Dempster gave up two hits and a run right off the bat. Cubs fans clutched their hair while Sox fans danced in glee. Along came powerhouse David Ortiz with a man on, but he grounded out, a miracle considering the show he put on during BP. Then Manny came up and knocked in another run. It was 7-6 with a man on second and two outs. Trot Nixon, hero of the first inning, came up to the plate.
And popped out to Ramirez. CUBS WIN!!!
I said in the morning that I hoped for a close game with lots of offense. Having received exactly what I asked for, I kind of wish I'd asked for a one-sided blowout instead. That game was *stressful*! Not helpful were the drunk guys behind us, who spilled beer on us twice and then became verbally abusive when we had the gall to complain. I was so pissed but couldn't do a thing - bullying bullies just encourages them. Luckily they left in the 8th, to get seats at the bar no doubt. It's almost enough to make me want to sit in the family section. Do I sound old? Tough.
The Cubs are 5 1/2 games behind the Cardinals, and 1 back from the Wild Card lead. We're not even halfway through the season yet.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Bad boys, whatcha gonna do?
So I was walking to the Halsted Blue Line stop yesterday, and as usual I looked down towards the platform to see if I would need to run or not. I saw two men of sturdy build with buzzcuts and sunglasses, both casually dressed, one of whom was wearing a Cubs jersey. This is not an unusual sight, except I knew that it was an off day and it was way too hot to be wearing a jersey "just because", and they just looked out of place, too casual for a Thursday afternoon. I said to myself, "Those guys look like cops." I headed down to the platform just in time to see the guy not wearing the jersey fetching his badge from under his t-shirt (and casually flashing his gun for all to see). I watched long enough to verify for myself that they were in fact cops and not thugs, and then I kept my distance but strained to hear their animated conversation with a young black man. The conversation went on at great length until finally I decided there was no danger and walked past them to My Spot on the platform. As I walked by, I heard one of the cops say to the young man in a despairing tone:
"You're gonna be on fucking drugs forever! For-EVER, man!"
Thursday, June 09, 2005
I joined a fantasy league for the first time this year. I think it's not a *real* fantasy league, in that the stats are simplified and it was free, but it was a good place to start. I was hovering around the 40-50th percentile for most of the season, but recently my percentile has just gone up and up inexplicably until today I'm in the 81st! And I'm 7th on the Chicagoist team of 36! WTF?!
Unfortunately, I have a turkey I want to replace (Casey Blake of Cleveland), but I can't afford to, if I'm reading the stats right (I'm still a little confused by the columns of mystery numbers). If I sell him, I will be left with roughly negative $4 million to buy a replacement. And I don't know many left fielders who will pay $4 million for the privilege of playing.
Today's ecology lesson: mourning doves are usually ground-feeders, not known for their eating-while-clinging-or-perching skills. They're also fairly large birds that you wouldn't expect to be interested in thistle seed. Well, it turns out that if you put a hanging pot under your thistle sock, the mourning doves will happily snuggle into the plant, leisurely reaching up for seeds when the mood strikes, and aren't especially concerned about nearby humans or dogs. Which is how I got this:
The dogs got me up at about 6:15 this morning, and I let them out and then wandered off to putter around the house as usual. When I returned to let them in, Libby was standing in the wayback garden, cautiously sniffing something through the fence. I yelled at her a few times, but it was clear there was something worth sniffing and she was going nowhere. I went in search of clothes and when I returned she was still watching the fence but nervously pacing and pooping, not frantically barking as she typically does. I went out to drag her back into the house and rescue the bird/bunny/possum/cat in question. However, when I got close to the fence, I saw a whole lot of silvery brown fur, on an animal with a wolfy head and a body too large to be a fox. A coyote!! In Irving Park! It decided it had had enough attention and ran across the neighbor's yard towards the front. I followed, stopping in the house to grab the phone, but when I got out to the street it was gone. A neighbor saw me searching and asked if I was looking for the coyote, so I at least had independent confirmation that I wasn't hallucinating. I called 911 and reported it, and I really hope it can be rounded up and returned to the woods. The operator was sympathetic to the coyote and did not say any of the fearful and aggressive things I was expecting (especially after the time I reported the stray rottweiler and the operator seemed to think our lives were all in danger).
The best part really was when I told the neighbor about the excitement she'd missed in her yard. Her eyes got VERY big!!
Saturday, June 04, 2005
1) Free donut at Krispy Kreme!
2) Paid a visit to the brand new Barnes and Noble in the Loop. Am SO happy it's there, just a block from the Blue Line, chock full of some of my favorite things: books and coffee. (I don't think they have gelato like the swanky B&N in Deer Park has. Stupid suburbanites have all the luck.) Even on a Friday afternoon, it wasn't nearly as crowded and annoyingly full of disdainful art students as the Border's on State usually is. I noted how the inventory is geared towards a Chicago and downtown "need the latest popular book before I get on the train" audience. I also browsed the garden books for a while, finding a nice one with urban designs that I have neither the funds nor the energy to duplicate. I counted on the garden shelves no less than TWELVE different books on how to grow marijuana. Hmm, there must be a college nearby...
3) Saw an elderly black man walking down Jackson carrying a long orange balloon of the type used for balloon animals. Only it hadn't been animaled. I like to think that he will encounter someone else carrying a different color of long thin balloon, and they'll joust.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
This, I like
The ribbons annoy me for the simple reason that they are trite, ugly, and ubiquitous. "Support Our Troops!" they bleat. Is there any reasonable person who doesn't want our troops home and safe? I mean, come on!! I should start a ribbon campaign called "Food Is Important!" I will offer no helpful insights on how all the people of the world can have access to affordable food. My statement of obviousness is enough, I think.
But the cartoon reminds me of the big conflict back at Alma during the Gulf War, my sophomore year, when I was a member of SPAN (Students for Peace and Non-Violence). A group of students had tied yellow ribbons to all the trees along Superior, in support of our troops. SPAN decided that plastic (i.e. oil-based) ribbons were the height of irony in an oil-based war, and we tied our own ribbons, made of white cotton, to the same trees. Members of the yellow-ribbon group went out at night and ripped down all our ribbons because they somehow viewed our independent show of support as some sort of aggressive, anti-American statement. It seems rather silly in retrospect but at the time there were a lot of tears and anger on both sides. "We care more!" "No, WE care more!!"
My days as a radical were short-lived. I just didn't have the energy for it. Plus, I had homework to do.
I am an html goddess
So today I was fixing some broken links and such on the CUPPA-AAaaaAAAaaAAa website and suddenly all the pics on one of the holiday party pages just vanished. Poof! I stared and stared at the html source, and at the remote file list, and it all *seemed* right, and yet... no pictures. Then a thought occurred to me and I wandered the menus until confirming that, yes, my mouse buttons had gotten away from me and I was now blocking all images from that server. DUH!
Today = stupid and boring. Visited Wrigley on the way to work to pick up our Red Sox tickets. It's amazing how empty Wrigleyville is on non-game days. I only see it on game days or weekend party nights, when it is awash in a sea of 20-something drunk humanity. This morning, it was downright bucolic.
I finished reading An Instance of the Fingerpost this morning. It took rather a long time, being probably the longest book I've tackled in quite a while. It's definitely a book that would benefit from a second reading. It's divided into four retellings of essentially the same story, but each teller has a very different perspective on events. The first was lying through his teeth (as we find out in the third story), the second was lapsing into insanity (as we find out in the fourth story), the third saw political conspiracies lurking behind every tree, all of which were unfounded, and only the fourth was objective enough to reveal the actual truth. One of the truths revealed made me gasp a little, although I'd guessed it a page earlier. The other, the actual Big Thing going on that ties everything together, was like, "eh, whatever." I suppose anti-Catholic sentiment was a bigger deal in 17th century England than it is in my 21st century American mind.
Have houseguests from Belgium for a couple of days. They are seeing the sights and wearing out the soles of their shoes today. They brought us chocolate, and an issue of Tintin. I read the first couple of pages and it's very offbeat and cute!