Thursday, August 31, 2006

A tale of two compounds...

MizBubs and I recently returned from fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada, where we:

-belatedly celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary,
-said goodbye to summer and sunshine, and
-spent some good time alone, together, to steel ourselves for the hubbub of school and MizBubs' return to full-time employment.

Our trip involved lots of downtime, a Las Vegas first for us. We hit the pool every day, visited the hotel spa , drank a lot of bloody mary's and visited Elvisarama for the first time.

Anyway, I returned from Las Vegas feeling swanky as hell. And it made me think.

I have always had a vision of my ideal rural compound in my head; my bucolic and heavily armed retreat from the modern world. I love the smell of wood smoke, and good clean dirt, and trees. I like being outdoors, and I like hard work, and I like doing nothing as well. I've had several different images of the compound in mind at any given time, each one moving in and out of prominence depending on my mood at the time. Sometimes the compound is in the mountains, sometimes in the rolling bluegrass of my native Kentucky, sometimes it's in downstate Illinois, sometimes it's in a swamp.

But the thing is, I like my cocktails. And my hi-fi music. And throwing swanky parties for my friends. And I wouldn't mind a pool, either.

What I'm saying is, I'm equally at home in a cowboy hat or a fez. Tin cup full of bourbon or a Singapore Sling. My bride and I talk about this all the time. Like she says in her profile, she shares a vision of a family compound in the country, but with more chickens and fewer guns. We both think there must be some way to blend and transform both the swell and the rustic.

So the question is, what kind of compound is in my future?

Pictures to follow...

Weird coincidence

I'm breathing easier now that I've solved a strange little mystery that's bothered me for the past two days.

I was sitting in my office Tuesday afternoon when I got a phone call from some doctor's office I'd never heard of. The marginal English speaker on the other end of the line was calling to confirm my September 1st appointment with doctor (unintelligible name.) I said I'd never seen that doctor and hadn't made any appointment. The caller responded with my name, and address, and work phone number, and repeated that she was calling to confirm. I replied that there had been a mistake, and to cancel any appointment. I didn't think much more of it after that, just an odd mix-up.

Yesterday I got home from work around 5:45 and found a message on my answering machine. The message was confirming my September 5th appointment with doctor (unintelligible name.) The caller left an office number, which came back to a large medical group associated with a nearby hospital. I've been a patient at the hospital (car crash where I got knocked unconscious, broken leg, needle stick, tuberculosis exposure and what I thought was a heart attack but turned out to be really bad indigestion) but I had not made any appointments with any doctors there.

Just as I finished playing the message back my youngest said, casually, from the next room, "oh, some guy came by and did something with the roof today." WHAT!? Who was it, someone from the village, or a contractor or what? She didn't know, she said our eldest talked to the guy and she didn't know anything else about it.

I began to feel my heart beat faster and could feel the muscles in my neck, arms and legs start to tighten. We're done with contractors, and there was no reason for anyone to be at our home doing anything with our roof. I called my eldest, and she described the person as a "blonde kid in his teens, with a work truck parked in our driveway." She said he asked for me by name, she thought, but wasn't sure, because he "mumbled in that teenage way." And of course, she didn't bother to ask any questions or find out anything else about him, in that teenage way. She did get a business card from him and gave me the information. The place appeared to be a legitimate roofing contractor, so at least I wasn't worried about some gypsies trying to scam my family while I was gone.

I like to think of myself as...prepared, not paranoid. While my children have compared me to Mad-Eye Moody from the Harry Potter books (CONSTANT VIGILANCE!) I don't think I'm unreasonable. I've never really worried about retaliation, and only rarely have I ever run into any former customers on the street. This got me though. Two calls from a doctor I've never seen, confirming appointments I never made, and a visit from a mystery contractor, all in two days. I called the numbers I had and left messages, and made plans to run my own credit the next day. Over the years I've collected quite an assortment of identity theft and harassment horror stories, and I was trying really hard not to get carried away thinking about what could be going wrong.

This morning I hit the phones. 20 minutes on the phone with XXXXXXXX medical led to the discovery that one of their patients must have a name close to mine. Given the English skills demonstrated by some of the folks I talked to, one of their staff ended up pulling up my records and contacting me by mistake. They apologized and said they'd contact the other patient and re-schedule the appointments that I'd cancelled. Boy, that really inspires confidence in the accuracy and security of your medical records, doesn't it?

The roofing contractor called back just after I got off the phone with the medical people. His estimator had gone to the wrong address. He thanked me for letting him know, and told me an amusing story about one of his crews beginning a roof tear-off on the wrong house a few weeks earlier. They stopped when the lady of the house ran outside screaming at them.

I'm proud of myself. I talked to everyone involved without freaking out, I managed to get a full night's sleep, and I didn't pass out guns to the girls and barricade the house. The angry, tuned-up Bubs from a few years ago would've let fly with a string of obscenities while imagining the worst case scenario, changed the phone number and all the locks, and spent all night sitting in a blacked-out house, cradling a gun in my lap while drinking bourbon and black coffee to stay awake and loose at the same time.

Isn't it nice when there's a simple explanation?

Land-o-Lulu: The End of Summer

Land-o-Lulu: The End of Summer

I read this a couple days ago; I've since passed it on to my daughters who are back in school, and I've returned once or twice to re-read the W.B. Yeats poem "The Wild Swans at Coole."

Lulu has much to recommend her: she's a fellow midwesterner, has a fabulous avatar, and has the proper respect for, and love of, the martini.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

John Mark Karr casts his movie







I heard this driving home yesterday and almost crashed my car I laughed so hard. Fortunately for all of us, the good people at www.thesmokinggun.com have a link to the audio.

Here's why the world's most famous jet-setting freak thinks Johnny Depp would be the right choice to portray him in a movie:

"It's because he reminds me so much of me. And he looks like me, and he would play the part perfectly."

You'll have to listen to find out the ways in which Karr thinks he's similar, and dissimilar, to the character of Willy Wonka. I'll be taking a scalding bleach shower and knocking back a bourbon to try and feel whole again.

I am a terrible failure

I've gone and left out too many wonderful New Orleans musicians to even begin to list. Here's a few:

Fats Domino
The Nevilles
The Meters
Dr John
Clifton Chenier
Buckwheat Zydeco
Ernie K-Doe
The entire Marsalis family

That's for starters.

Mea culpa.

I think I'm going to delete that sub-par Jolie Blon and get it off the page completely. I was just so desperate to hear its sweet melancholy strains last night, and maybe even see someone performing it, that I put it up there without the proper forethought.

Yeah, I've come a little bit... unglued the past couple of days.

I subjected my coworkers to a 10-minute long rant yesterday that ended with one of them asking (a little more than half seriously) if they could just take me to a bar and get me a drink to calm the f*ck down. Well, there's no mistaking now exactly how I feel about the current administration and what I refer to as their avalanche of f*ckups. My coworkers brought up what's now being referred to as "the rant" in roll call this morning, and we had another brief but spirited discussion. Here's what I've discovered: a year or two ago I would've been shouted down by Fox News-watching, talk radio-listening Bush cheerleaders. Now, they all went pretty much quiet when confronted with a few facts. Making fun of Clinton, Gore and Kerry isn't much of an answer any more, and in the face of the news from horrid third-world hellholes like Iraq and New Orleans, Clinton/Gore/Kerry bashing doesn't seem to bring the same self-satisfaction to Bush voters that it used to.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tipitina

Ain't misbehavin'

Chicago, city of the big shoulders...and the monkey attacks

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your wild monkeys under the gas lamps attacking the teenage girls.
--Carl Sandburg (1878–1967). Chicago Poems. 1916.


Remember, people: nature hates you. As Chicago PD Sergeant Ramos says, "Monkeys are very smart animals. If you mess with them, they will mess with you."

Back to real news...

Dog's driving lesson ends in crash

...A woman in Hohhot, the capital of north China's Inner Mongolia region, crashed her car while giving her dog a driving lesson, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Do you know what it means?

Bullshit artist of the week

Oops: Imposter scams Louisiana officials

Members of an activist group called "The Yes Men" scammed their way into a conference in New Orleans by pretending to be HUD officials. They refer to what they do as "identity correction":

Small-time criminals impersonate honest people in order to steal their money. Targets are ordinary folks whose ID numbers fell into the wrong hands.

identity correction
Honest people impersonate big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else.


Here's another story about them in the New Orleans Times Picayune.

We were Americans

That's something you could say during our response to Katrina. When I say "our" I don't mean our government's non-response, but rather the response of all the decent big-hearted Americans who sent money, and volunteered, and opened their homes to other people in need. And all those good people trapped in horrible circumstances who did their best and helped their brothers and sisters. Like September 11th, it was a grand moment of ordinary people rising to the occasion and performing heroic deeds in the face of tragedy. I never want to forget that.

This is how a good part of New Orleans looked back at the beginning of April 2006. This is a house a couple of blocks from where the Industrial Canal levee broke in the lower 9th Ward.

My anger meter just pegged at 11 so I shut off the television. The spectacle of watching two pompous blowhard f*cks like Pat Buchanan and Al Sharpton on MSNBC arguing over whether the levees were dynamited to kill black people was too much. CSPAN was running interviews with people in St Bernard Parish, filmed on 8/16/06. Da Parish looked about the same as it did when we were there in March, depressingly enough. It looked like they'd gotten control of the trash levees, (trash levees was how everyone down there referred to the huge piles of debris next to all the gutted houses) and there were more vacant lots where houses had been demolished and hauled away, at least.

I admit my liberal partisan bloodlust runs pretty high lately. Even so, I sometimes find the postings on Daily Kos to be a bit much. But today, I found this post by a blogger named DarkSyde and I really appreciated it. I'll leave y'all with this excerpt:

I predict the anniversary of the worst natural disaster in decades will be quickly pre-empted by stirring speeches sung over the graves of 9-11 by meat puppets of the right clothed in designer suits and wearing somber, rehearsed expressions for the multitude of cameras. They will be read in carefully scripted, grave tones, in front of bronze statues of soldiers sacrificed and granite monuments to the dead of wars past, and they will be read mostly by those who never choked down a stale MRE in the desert heat or freezing cold.

I imagine in the not too distant future, Ph.D. dissertations and classes in political science will be devoted to analyzing how this crop of neocon miscreants lurched clumsily from one monstrous failure after another, and still held solidly onto a third of the electorate. Maybe the academics will figure it out. Part of me hopes someone will. For now, as one who has lived it, I find the phenomenon incomprehensible. When a co-worker defends Bush or Iraq or the handling of Katrina, I have to consciously try not to stare in open contempt, jaws agape, as a half dozen possible explanations for why they could be so sadly misled and yet so confident, wrestle with one another in the small part of my brain that insists on finding order in chaos.



Can these bones live?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Remembering Katrina

Ok, I'm a cop, so I'm supposed to have a shrine to 9/11 and be prone to exclaiming "never forget!" any time there's a discussion that's even remotely related to September 11th. The thing is, that's not what I'm remembering, or what I want other people to remember right now. Far as I can tell, we've got a presidential administration that's done a fine job, thank you, of making sure that no one "forgets" September 11th. I'm sure our current administration would much rather we remember 9/11 than think about the reality that our government f*cked up on a colossal scale as a major city drowned. Not me. I'm remembering Hurricane Katrina. I still have a hard time controlling my rage whenever I think about it.

New Orleans is the closest thing to my adopted home town--I love the place, I feel more comfortable there than I do almost anywhere else, and I've been in enough eateries and gin mills there that I nearly feel like a local. Only without the regional dialect that sounds like a Brooklyn accent on quaaludes. I like the premium that New Orleans (and most of southern Louisiana, really) puts on hospitality, food, music and showing people a good time. I like their goofy stories, and the way they tolerate eccentricity. And being from Cook County, Illinois, I appreciate the breadth and depth of their public corruption.

When Katrina hit, and the levees broke and the city descended into chaos, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I started calling places like the Red Cross to see if I could volunteer in some way--yeah, I have no real skills but I'm good at dealing with hysterical people and I'm cool in a crisis, and I've got a gun and 17 years of law enforcement experience, which it certainly looked like was needed at that moment. The Red Cross suggested I sign up for a volunteer orientation-- the next month. Yes, in October 2005.

I was eventually lucky enough to be part of a group of police officers who volunteered to go down there, and I spent nearly a week working in the 2nd District of New Orleans (the Uptown/River Bend area) in the aftermath of the storm. I was blessed again with the opportunity to go to St Bernard Parish in March, gutting houses with Habitat for Humanity as part of the St Bernard Recovery Project. When we got down there I was shocked to see how much was still undone 7 months later.

I've been reading the various Katrina-one-year-later stories, and catching a couple shows on TV. It's just too easy to be enraged, or maudlin, and no one wants to read stuff that just relentlessly brings you down.

So, let's talk instead about food and booze, and wish the people of New Orleans strength and courage in their recovery.

Sunday afternoon we had my mom over, and actually managed to get both daughters home at the same time for a nice sit-down family dinner. It was, if I may say so, delicious. One of our better efforts. Here's the menu (recipes available on request):

-Sazerac cocktails (a delightful blend of rye whiskey, absinthe and bitters, invented in New Orleans)

-Chicken & smoked sausage gumbo

-Southern style greens (mixed turnip, mustard & collard greens cooked in beer, with a little vinegar and molasses)

-Corn maque choux with crispy bacon

-Abita Turbo Dog beer

-And for dessert, a peach blackberry crisp, made with fresh fruit from our farmers market.

I'll try and post some pictures from last year, and from our trip to do rehab work this spring.

Put Fun Back In Flying

After experiencing the constant 1984-esque threat level announcements and endless lines of grim passengers when we flew to Las Vegas last week, it was nice to see anyone involved in commercial air travel with a sense of humor.

Thank you, Ryanair:

New Airport Security Procedures

That is a link to the official Ryanair website. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Saturday morning coffee

Lately, over the past 3 weeks especially, it feels like our lives have really accelerated. To the point that all of us feel like we've been shot out of a cannon. This weekend is providing a welcome breather, and I find myself in one of my favorite situations: awake in the house on a weekend morning, while everyone else sleeps.

18 years as a cop has created in me a near-total absence of the notion of "weekend." It's not that I don't like weekends, it's just that my days off fall during the week so often that I don't really have the typical view of THE WEEKEND as being that magical time that you spend all week grinding toward. It has no special significance for me, and I don't find myself looking forward to it. I'm just as likely to sit in my office on a Tuesday afternoon looking forward to all the fun I'm going to have, and all the stuff I'm going to acomplish, when I'm off Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Combine that with homeschooling and a bride who works part time (and was a stay-home mom before that) and you have a pattern of family life that's flexible, bordering on chaotic. It's a wonder how the Miz Bubs and the girls have adapted to it all these years. I've been spoiled by never having to fight weekend crowds at movies, restaurants, grocery stores and Homeowner Hell.

All that's changed now. Miz Bubs is now on the classic M-F 9-5 schedule at the library (oh lord, I do love saucy librarians. And saucy library assistants, for that matter.) Youngest daughter is in high school M-F from 7:30 to 2:45, and eldest girl has classes M-W-F and works several evenings each week. Don't get me wrong, I'm not whining about having to live like everyone else in the suburban world. I just feel blessed that I didn't have to for so long.

Here's some of the things we were able to do over the past 3 years because of the combination of homeschooling and a cop schedule:

-Multiple visits to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum and Brookfield Zoo during the week.

-Camping trips to uncrowded places during the week: Kickapoo River in Wisconsin, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Wyandotte Woods in Indiana, Shawnee National Forest, and Sleeping Bear Dunes. Other places too numerous to list. Of course, while I have fond memories of some of these trips, my girls--especially my youngest--will describe an experience that sounds more like the Bataan Death March.

-Road trips: San Antonio, New Orleans, Louisville.

-Two big trips: Ireland, where we spent 3 weeks, and the Florida Keys, where we relaxed in a tropical paradise.

-And perhaps the greatest thrill of all, being able to go to the movies during the middle of the week, to the cheap shows that start before 6pm.

Both of my kids are prone to be night owls now, but they seem to adapt well to daylight, so I haven't screwed them up too badly. MizBubs has gotten on a regular workout schedule and seems to be coping well. Everyone is pitching in with little things like laundry and dishes. My big test will come after Labor Day, when two things happen: I go back to working nights, getting home between midnight and 1am, and my next set of days off fall on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I'll be poking around the Compound with my coffee, rubbing sleep out of my eyes. By myself. I hope I'm going to become one of those regular dads, the kind of guy who takes his day off when no one's around and does stuff. Like, keep an immaculate yard, and fix things, change the oil in the cars, and organize the basement and hardwire a generator into the circuit breaker box and put a new roof on the house. Not the kind of dad who sits in his robe at the computer, blogging and playing online poker. Oh shit. Too late.

A proposal that I submitted back in early August got rejected, so that's a good chunk of cash that won't be coming my way now. I made up for it, somewhat, by picking up a couple of side jobs. I took a day off to work the first one on Wednesday: a 7am-10pm surveillance on a woman who'd been fired the day before. The company was afraid she might return (and what? shoot the place up? create a scene? women are low-risk candidates for workplace violence, but my feeling is this--if corporate America wants to feel safe, I'll be there to collect the check) so we sat outside her house with directions to follow her if she left. Someone had followed her home after she got fired the night before, and watched until 10pm, when she apparently went to sleep. On the day I watched her she didn't move from the house until 7:15pm. Then she drove to a fried chicken place, bought a bucket at the drive-thru, and returned home to console herself with her new deep-fried friend.

The next side job comes up in September. I get to dress in a dark suit and provide security for a convention that's in town. 16 hours of standing around looking sharp for a nice little bundle of kale. I even get to wear an earpiece and talk into my lapel, all well-dressed and courteous and vaguely menacing and all. One thing that's really nice is that, now that time with family is at a premium, MizBubs' new job allows me to be way more discriminating in what kind of side jobs I work, and how often.

Speaking of MizBubs. She is one of the most remarkably upbeat and optimistic people I know. She's great at encouraging others. She's been telling me about her efforts to lift the mood at her workplace (she's in the same department as she was as a part-timer) and it seems to be working so far. They've adopted some kind of department mascot, and she's working on getting some greenery and artwork in there. I hope her coworkers understand how lucky they are to have her. Right now the dear thing continues to sleep the sleep of the just. I'll bring her coffee in a bit.

Our youngest is getting ready to spend the day and night with her best friend (who is still homeschooled, so they see each other WAY less now.) Our eldest is excited--she's going to meet Jhonen Vasquez, creator of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Invader Zim. We're both wondering if he's going to be a jerk--he's an angry little fella, and kind of known for being contemptuous of fans. He better be nice to my girl, or she'll kick his ass.

The 1st anniversary of Hurrican Katrina arrives this week, August 29. Tomorrow night we'll be having a commemorative dinner in honor of the people of New Orleans: seafood gumbo for sure, some type of greens or corn maque choux depending on what's at the farmers market, and of course a couple of Sazerac cocktails and some Abita beer.

There are so many things I wanted to catch up on and write about. Other than the occasional bourbon-fueled late night youtube posts, I try and put some thought and care into what I write and post. The longer I wait to have the time to put, say, the experience of seeing Tom Waits, or of visiting Las Vegas with Miz Bubs, into proper form, the less likely it seems I'll ever have time to do that. I guess that's just the nature of things, and it's really not a bad thing at all.

Hope y'all have a good weekend.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hindu nazis?


Thanks again, Kate. I heard this on the BBC yesterday, and wasn't sure I was hearing it correctly. Some asshole in Mumbai opened a restaurant called "Hitler's Cross" complete with swastikas all over it. He got really snippy with the BBC reporter during the interview I heard. Picture a belligerent Apu splitting hairs with a classic BBC reporter.

Here's a link to the story as it appeared in the Boston Globe.

According to this follow-up story on the BBC website, the owners have already changed the name. Now it'll be known as McManson's, that way they can keep the swastika--it will be carved into the forehead of the new corporate mascot.

I'm not done with snakes just yet, either. I'll get back to reptile news later. I might have some midget stuff too.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Snakes in a theater. And eating an alligator.

Thanks Kate.

It's now officially snake week at the Compound. Multiple sources, including Reuters, the Guardian and the BBC, all reported that someone released live rattlesnakes at a screening of Snakes on a Plane in Arizona. It's a good story, something right out of the William Castle

Predictably enough, the so-called "authorities" are denying such a thing ever happened. A spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department says no one released snakes in the theater. He goes on to state that one rattlesnake that was found in the lobby "had likely slithered into the theater on his own." WTF? That's supposed to be reassuring? That's right, no one
released venomous snakes into the theater, but Phoenix, and the entire state of Arizona for that matter, is so infested with rattlesnakes that they just slither into the theater "on their own" from time to time!?! Get me some Coke and a corn dog, I feel way safer now! No, what they need is some motherf*cking alligators to deal with that motherf*cking snake problem, is what they need.

I take that back. It turns out that, in a fight, a big-ass snake and an alligator are a good match. Remember that picture of the python that died trying to eat an alligator? This story from Salon.com says that the Everglades may be infested by anywhere from 1,000-10,000 Burmese pythons. Turns out that python-owning freaks, once they tire of the thrill of caring for a 12 foot long beast that can kill you, like to dump them into the Everglades.

And, finally, Venezuelan Dr. Jesus Rivas, a noted expert on Anacondas, is willing to take you on tours of the jungle to help hunt snakes. He likes to wade in,
barefoot, and poke along with his bare toes to find the elusive green Anaconda. You can visit his website here.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Freaks


Freaks is the title of a movie produced in 1932 and directed by Tod Browning (better known for Dracula starring Bela Lugosi.) It's one of our favorite movies. It was largely reviled when it was first released, and wasn't widely shown again until the late 60's or 70's when it became popular on the midnight movie circuit. I first saw it on a double bill with Eraserhead in 1979.

While everyone here at the compound has more than a passing interest in freaks, and Freaks, our youngest daughter has an especially developed interest in the subject. She's currently reading Freaks: We Who Are Not As Others by Daniel Mannix, a history of freaks and sideshow attractions. She tells me that, while well-written and entertaining, it contains more than a few factual errors. And she should know, she's like my personal freak expert. She's especially familiar with the lives of Joseph Merrick, the "Elephant Man" and Johnny Eck. She recently sent me this link to the Johnny Eck Museum. Johnny Eck also appeared in the movie Freaks, and was quite an amazing fellow. Visit his museum page and do some interesting reading.

Don't mistake the movie Freaks with the movie Eight Legged Freaks. Mistaking it for Bloodsucking Freaks would be even worse. (Bloodsucking Freaks is the only horror/splatter/exploitation movie Miz Bubs ever walked out of. Matter of fact, the sound was so disturbing that she called out to us from the next room and requested we turn the movie off until she fell asleep.) And it goes without saying not to mistake it for the movie She Freak. Now She Freak, there was a disappointing movie. Except for one part where some hillbilly chick says "Ah knowed it. Ah knowed it all along." We had a lot of laughs with that.

Stuff to do...

Gots plenty of it. Stuff to do, that is. This is a busy week, coming on the heels of the busy week before it:

-Miz Bubs starts her full-time job.
-Eldest girl, who is technically a high school senior, is now a full-time college student at the community college thanks to the joys of homeschooling. She also is this close to getting her drivers license, finally. But that means I've got to make sure she gets more driving time and studies her manual.
-Youngest girl starts high school tomorrow, after 3 years of homeschooling.

Then there's stuff I wanted to write about:

-Finishing the epic de-whitetrashification of our house and yard, and putting up the "after" photos. Which reminds me, there's a leak in our pond that we can't seem to locate and fix, so we have to either call a pond repair specialist (and how the f*ck much does someone with an obscure skill like that charge?) or tear out the concrete/stone border ourselves, drain the pond and totally replace the existing liner. Tear out the 1,000 pounds of concrete and stone my ass.
-I still haven't really talked about the Tom Waits show.
-Las Vegas. Tom Jones. (Think about it--two Tom shows in a week.)
-A trip to 6 Flags Great America, where I grappled with my insane fear of heights and falling by going on 8 roller coasters in one day.

On top of all that, I have a backlog of freak stories I wanted to post. And snakes, I got snake stories too. AND we saw Snakes on a Plane, in Las Vegas. And we liked it.

Man, I hate it when the drive to be a blabbering storyteller conflicts directly with the fact that I have to work and actually earn a living.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

People ask, so: how was Las Vegas?

Las Vegas was great. Once Friday afternoon rolled around, and all the southern Californians started showing up, it was just like this. Except, far less charming or sincere, and far more irritating. Many of the swankiest clubs and ultra-lounges now offer something they call bottle service, where you get to pay $20 or so to get into the club, so that you can have your own table with a bottle of your choice for about $300-500 more, and sit around and look fabulous. I imagine it's something like this, but with more obnoxious Californians on cell phones:

Friday, August 18, 2006

Reporting from the fabulous Orleans Hotel & Casino

It's 8:17am here in sunny Las Vegas. Miz Bubs is sleeping soundly and I am rehydrating. This has been a wonderful and unique trip for us so far, notable especially for:

--Lack of Vegas nerves. I've slept like a rock, at least 8 hours, both nights so far.
--Sleep. Lots of sleep.
--Early bedtimes!?! Yes, early bedtimes. Just after midnight and just before midnight. I have no idea how this happened.
--Tom Jones. A god-like figure among men. Get me to 60 years old, bring on the hair dye and permatan baby! I have a plan!
--Time by the pool. At least an hour or two every day.

Time to go. I have to try and find a flower shop, there isn't one in the casino.

See y'all soon.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Vegas nerves

Vegas nerves. That's what I call the inability to sleep more than about 4 hours when I'm in Las Vegas. The last couple times I've been there it's been pronounced. Sometimes I profit from it, like when I woke and showered at 5:45am and went down to the poker room at the Luxor and cleaned up against the drunk tourists who'd been up all night. At one point one guy's girlfriend actually leaned over and sniffed me, and announced to the table "hey, no fair, he just got up, he hasn't been up all night like you guys."

Other times it's just a nuisance, and it results in fatigue and a tendency to drink way too heavily to balance the jitters.

But this is the first time it's started before I even get on the plane. Here it is, 12:27am CST. The bags are packed and the girls are tucked in. Maybe it's the fact that my mom, who was going to be watching over the girls, has been sick with stomach flu and can't really take them in. Maybe it's the fact that one of my surgical incisions from May opened up and began bleeding a bit today, resulting in a trip to the doctor. Which in itself resulted in me getting 3 shots to my belly to numb me, so the doc could poke around the wound and scrape out any bad stuff. I'm referring to this as the first time I've visited Las Vegas with a lucky bleeding belly hole. What it was, was a piece of dissolvable suture that didn't quite dissolve, and worked its way out. Doc says the hole will close in a few days, no problem. Now I'll fit right in with that guy with the seeping tracheotomy bandage I saw on my trip to the Gold Spike. Just another freak in the freak kingdom.

The taxi comes at 4:30am to take us to O'Hare. I'll try and give y'all some good stories when we get back. Enjoy the rest of the week.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Watch that first step


The de-white trashification of our home is nearly complete. The process started way back in May, with me calling some contractors. We hired the brick porch guys in June, and they started on Friday.

I'll put up all the "after" shots some time in September I think.

Work is behind me now

It's time to focus on Las Vegas. Enough of work, I have to get it out of my head. Here's the email I left my boss:

Subject: Gone fishing

Fishing for luck,that is.

I’ll be out of the office until Sunday, August 20 at 0830 hours. I will be out of state and out of contact from Tuesday night until late Saturday night.

In my absence, no one will assume my responsibilities and all my detectives can run wild. I wish them well.

Happy trails.



I was able to finish downloading the Las Vegas Playlist. Theme music is important. Here are the tracks, in no particular order. I still have to burn them onto a disk.

VIVA LAS VEGAS Dead Kennedys
THAT’S WHY THE LADY IS A TRAMP Sinatra w/Red Norvo

MY WAY Sid Vicious

LUCK BE A LADY Sinatra

COME FLY WITH ME Sinatra w/Red Norvo
THAT'S WHY THE LADY IS A TRAMP Sinatra w/Red Norvo
I GET A KICK OUT OF YOU Sinatra
SOMETHING Beatles
MACK THE KNIFE Bobby Darin
FEVER Peggy Lee
FUNTIME Iggy Pop
NIGHTCLUBBING Iggy Pop

GOING OUT WEST Tom Waits
MISTER SIEGAL Tom Waits
HEARTATTACK AND VINE Tom Waits
PASTIES AND A G STRING Tom Waits
KIZMIAZ The Cramps
CAN YOUR PUSSY DO THE DOG? The Cramps
GREEN DOOR The Cramps
VIVA LAS VEGAS Elvis
A LITTLE LESS CONVERSATION Elvis

ROCK A HULA BABY Elvis
RUBBERNECKIN’ Elvis
I’VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN Louis Prima & Keely Smith
JUMP JIVE AND WAIL Louis Prima
JAMES BOND THEME Monty Norman, Dr. No soundtrack
CASINO ROYALE THEME Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
PETER GUNN Henry Mancini
BABY ELEPHANT WALK Henry Mancini
SHE’S A LADY Tom Jones
KISS Tom Jones
HELP YOURSELF Tom Jones
BOTTLE OF BEER AND A SLOT MACHINE The Dempseys
WALKING ON THE SUN Smashmouth
BREATHLESS Jerry Lee Lewis
DRAGULA Rob Zombie
LIVING DEAD GIRL Rob Zombie

MORE HUMAN THAN HUMAN (Meet Bambi...mix) Rob Zombie
MONEY Pink Floyd

Now all that remains is to take our youngest to freshman orientation, pick up drycleaning, and pack. Las Vegas is waiting for us.

Monday, August 14, 2006

One reason cops get angry

A few weeks ago I talked, briefly, about "de-policing" after I worked an overtime detail and spent the better part of my night being accused of being a racist. I talked about the phenomenon, seen in Cincinatti and other places, of cops who, when accused of brutality, racial profiling and bigotry, go into a fire department style of policing--stopping all proactive patrol activity and simply responding to 911 calls.

I thought of that after I saw this video today. In it, San Francisco Police Officers Association president Gary Delagnes gives the assembled media a piece of his mind. On July 26, San Francisco PD officer Nick Tomasito-Birco was killed in the line of duty when his squad car was struck by a van full of robbery suspects fleeing the police.

Evidently, a significant amount of media coverage focused less on questioning why a 19 year old with prior arrests and pending cases was out on bail, and instead focused on the conduct of the police involved in the pursuit. The head of the police union gave a brief press conference and gave voice to the frustration that tens of thousands of decent, conscientious, hardworking cops feel all over the country.

Once again, here's a link to the video. You have to sit through an ad first.

Here's a link to the memorial page for Officer Tomasito-Birco.

Bear crisis grows worse, calls for National Guard increase...

This was the heading for an email I got first thing this morning from a friend in Florida. He's referring to this story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the increase in Pennsylvania's black bear population. He also claims, convincingly, that:

Over 18,000 people have been killed by alligators in Florida this year alone although the number is largely suppressed by the media. And technically, I don't think the state of Florida counts minorities so it's probably much higher.
As long time readers of sprawling ramshackle compound know, there's not many things I like more than stories about bears. Except for stories about alligators, or freaks. Or any animal attack stories.

So reading this bear story got my week off to a good start, especially coming on the heels of Paris Hilton's mauling at the adorable little paws of a kinkajou. I have to check my friend's alligator attack stats, but in the meantime, here's some more animal attack stories:

-An Anchorage man is mauled by a brown bear.

-A Chinaman gets a face transplant after his encounter with a black bear. Lesson learned? Don't try and chase a bear away with a stick.

-Bear vs Pitbull: Pitbull wins when owner stabs bear in the back.

-Killer mountain lions stalk the streets of Evergreen, Colorado. People live in a "vale of fear."

-Hunt them and kill them all you want: it still won't reduce killer mountain lion attacks.

-High-speed low-drag eye gouge technique saves boy from alligator attack. Thank you, Discovery Channel.

-Anti-immigrant Minutemen are now deploying venomous snakes along the border.

-A possible Darwin award here: if you get drunk, don't play with coral snakes. They will kill you.

Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret.

"You may drive out nature with a pitchfork, yet she still will hurry back." Horace, c 23-13 BC

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Snakes on a Plane

Kicking Asp: Jackson is fed up with snakes

This is a neat little story in the Chicago Sun-Times about the upcoming release of Snakes on a Plane.

I cannot wait. Miz Bubs and I will be in fabulous Las Vegas when it opens on Thursday night. We will see it there, in the Orleans Hotel Casino movie theater. Miz Bubs, voice of reason, expressed some doubt. My response:

"Come on: Snakes on a Plane, in Las Vegas, at a casino-based movie theater, after a few drinks." She got it then.

It's like I've been saying: what else do you need to know? It's snakes on a plane!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Hey! Someone likes us!

Hey, dig this: the compound got mentioned on another blog. And not one belonging to another family member, either!

Melinda June, who certainly seems like a bright and discerning blogger, saw fit to mention us:

My site meter lead me to a new site that had become a regular favourite. Tom Waits fans, eye for goofy news stories, silly Jesus pics, and a youtube shout out to Andy Kaufman. Them's my kind of folks.
The attention whore in me is doing a jig.

Dig my cool ashtrays







My eldest daughter has a cool boyfriend. For one thing, he tells me about cool websites like the Solar Death Ray: The # 1 Death Ray on the Internet. And really, who doesn't like a solar death ray?

Well, the latest thing he's done is to present me and MizBubs, girl dynamo, with some vintage Las Vegas ashtrays from his grandma. We got five of them, in varying degrees of old school cool:

The Sands
The Riviera
The Flamingo Hilton
Caesars Palace
Ballys

It is official. I am now entering day one of the inevitable pre-Las Vegas trip frenzy. I laid out the prize ashtrays to photograph them, and decided that tonight would be a fabulous night for a beer tasting with Miz Bubs. Nothing says Las Vegas like boozin and smokin, right? I don't smoke, but I can booze. We started with a RedBach Flemish Sour Ale and have now moved on to Lion Stout. The Lion has a frisky 8% alcohol content and is brewed in Sri Lanka. For now the ashtrays will just have to sit there, artfully arrayed on the tiki bar, while we indulge.

Hope y'all are having a good weekend.

PARIS HILTON NUDE


Really I have no idea whether Paris was nude or not. All I know is, the happiest news I've heard all week is that Paris got bitten by a kinkajou. Her own pet kinkajou. Her own pet illegal-to-own-in-L.A kinkajou, according to this story. For us here at the compound, this story is a perfecta: sleazy celebrity freak news combined with a genuine animal attack story!

There are many horrors in the world, but I'd have to imagine that being Paris Hilton's pet would be one of the worst. Good luck little kinkajou.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tom Waits' Chicago set list

The Eyeball Kid: Chicago setlist

Here's a set list from Tom Waits' Chicago show at the Auditorium last night, courtesy of the Eyeball Kid:

Make It Rain
Hoist That Rag
Shore Leave
God's Away On Business
All The World Is Green
Falling Down

*Note: these two were done with just a piano and upright bass:
Tango Till They're Sore
Tom Traubert's Blues

Eyeball Kid
Down In The Hole
Don't Go Into That Barn
Shake It
Trampled Rose
What's He Building In There
Who's Been Talking / Till The Money Runs Out
Murder in the Red Barn
Lie To Me Baby
Get Behind The Mule

1st Encore
Day After Tomorrow
Singapore

2nd Encore
Whistlin' Past The Graveyard
Time

I think I've had it with Las Vegas

Want to know why? Because I can find that same swingin' action right here in the midwest, baby! And I'm not talking riverboat casinos or a road trip to Tunica. I'm talking FantaSuite Hotels.

Yah, you betcha. Set in such fabulous midwestern locales as Burnsville, Minnesota and Dodgeville, Wisconsin, FantaSuites has it all. From their website (and dig the mom jeans on the female in the first pic and the porn mustache on the dude):

Suites With A Unique Fantasy Theme

From the ancient land of Caesar's Court to the futuristic Space Odyssey, let our FantaSuite Suites transport you to the world of your dreams.

Each is a unique experience, an adventure, a romantic retreat designed to completely immerse you in the getaway of your choice.

Every FantaSuite Suite includes a spacious whirlpool spa, one or more color televisions, customized furnishings and other amenities.
No matter which you choose, you're sure to be delighted with these extraordinary accommodations.
They're the ultimate in escapes, perfect for a Honeymoon, Anniversary, Valentine's Day, or Birthday getaway - or turn any night into an unforgettable evening of fantasy and romance!
All FantaSuite Hotels feature a variety of FantaSuite Suites which may differ from those shown here.
Robes, chocolates, flowers, and baskets are also available at some locations.
Check the FantaSuite Hotel nearest your location for information and reservations for your next special occasion or getaway!!

Tom Waits at the Auditorium Theater

What an amazing show. Tom played about 2 hours, two encores, just a fantastic and amazing set. I'll talk more about it later today.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Penguin Spill

KTBS - Local - Truck Hauling Penguins, Exotic Fish Overturns on East Texas Highway

A tragedy. Fortunately, though, the second truck in the convoy did not crash--it was carrying snakes and alligators.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Dazed and Confused. Fatuous. Pompous.

Main Entry: fat·u·ous
Pronunciation: 'fa-chü-&s, -tyü-
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin fatuus foolish
: complacently or inanely foolish : SILLY fatuous remark>
synonym see
SIMPLE

Main Entry: pomp·ous
Pronunciation: 'päm-p&s
Function: adjective
1 : excessively elevated or ornate <pompous rhetoric>
2 : having or exhibiting self-importance : ARROGANT pompous politician>
3 : relating to or suggestive of pomp :
MAGNIFICENT

And yet, I can't stop myself from listening to this shite.

Dixie Fried

What a great weekend

Man. I wish the weekend were longer. Even getting called repeatedly from work didn't piss me off enough to mess up my weekend with my in-laws. We got to do some catching up with MizBubs' dad and stepmom. Me and my father in law looked at the little canoe that could and started coming up with a restoration game plan (you hear that Kate?) MizBubs and the girls and mother in law headed for IKEA.

We ate reallllly well this weekend. We tried out a few new recipes.

First off, MizBubs told me she was going to give me something she should've given me a long time ago: a

Bum's Rush (from Beachbum Berry's Intoxica)
1 oz triple sec
1 oz honey liqeuer
1 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz apple juice
1& 1/2 oz tequila

Shake well with crushed ice, pour into glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with lime wedge.

This happened on Friday after I got home from work. Man. The drink was mighty tasty. I think it might replace the Suffering Bastard in my hot weather strong drink lineup.

This weekend was all plank cooking. I had to use my kick-ass grill as much as possible, and I decided everything I cooked on the grill had to involve wood planks. MizBubs had gotten me some cedar planks as a gift. Saturday night it was:

Cedar Plank Trout from Emeril Lagasse's Louisiana Real & Rustic

2 untreated cedar planks or shingles
6
trout fillets
3 teaspoons rustic rub (I use Tony Chacere's Creole seasoning)
1 bottle white horseradish
6 teaspoons grated orange zest
6 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons sugar

Soak the shingles in water at least 2 or 3 hours. Rub one side with oil before cooking.

Season the fish on both sides with the rustic rub. Combine the horseradish, lemon, orange, salt, cayenne and sugar.

Place fillets on oiled side of shingle. Spread horseradish mix over fillets.

Place shingles on center of hot grill, close lid and cook for at least 10 minutes, until fish flakes easily. If shingles catch fire, shpritz with water. Mmmmmm.

Then on Sunday, it was:

Sage Pesto Pork Loin from Plank Cooking: The Essence of Natural Wood

2 pound pork loin
20 fresh sage leaves (we have a healthy batch of sage growing in the herb garden)
4 cloves garlic
Rind of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Soak cedar plank in water at least 2 or 3 hours.

Blend sage, garlic, lemon, salt and olive oil in food processor

Shmear over pork loin and marinate in a ziploc bag for at least 4 or 5 hours.

Rub oil on one side of plank. Place pork loin on oiled side. Grill at 350 degrees at least 1-1&1/2 hour, until pork reaches 160 degrees.

At the end of the day we all ended up in the backyard, sitting on the deck and talking. My eldest girl's boyfriend graced us with some clove cigarettes. Minus the AquaNet, it smelled like the 1980's out there. It was fun. My mom came by and I even made some mint juleps with fresh mint from the garden. Yeee haw.

Oh, and one more thing. My eldest is going to be able to see Tom Waits after all. As long as I pay for cab fare from Schaumburg to the Auditorium Theater, anyway. She gets off work at 8pm, the show is scheduled to start at 8pm (which means 8:30 or 8:45) so things look good for her. Life goes on.


Sunday Morning

Sunday morning, quiet, cloudy and cool. I was the first one up, not counting nervous little dogs, and followed shortly after by my younger daughter, which was a nice surprise. Now I've got some company. Oh--here comes the rain. Guess a visit to Kane County Fair is out now. Maybe I'll bake a coffee cake with some fresh blueberries. But then I'd have to wake MizBubs, however briefly, and ask where she got the recipe. My daughter and I are negotiating who will make a fresh pot of coffee.

I love the Velvet Underground. I know it's hokey to play obvious theme music, but the song Sunday Morning is just so perfect. Here it is, with some old VU film footage:


I just finished reading Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City. Highly recommended.

Moving along with my love of all things swampy, I just started
The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise. Excellent book so far.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

A perfect moment



I'm always on the lookout for the perfect moment.

I think I might have heard that phrase in a Spalding Gray piece years ago..."perfect moment." It's a moment where everything is, well, perfect. Time kind of stops, there are no worries, everything at that time and place just feels right, the way it's supposed to be. It can be a moment of natural beauty (it usually is for me), or a moment of achievement, or with loved ones. It all depends.

The thing is, you got to be on the lookout for them or you can miss it. I mean, sometimes it's easy to have a perfect moment; when you're on vacation in the Florida Keys, for instance, and you're having a great time with your family, and you're standing on the beach and the sun is going down and you're drinking a rum & tonic surrounded by people you love, and who love you, and the sky is amazing colors and you're smoking a delicious cigar... well, you see, that's easy. It's easy to have a perfect moment there. What I'm talking about is more the surprise perfect moment, the one that sneaks up on you and makes you go "ah." It's those that keep you going if you ask me.

This morning I drove up to Wisconsin to go shooting at an outdoor range with other police officers. It was pouring rain pretty good when I left the compound and headed north. A day outdoors, shooting, just beats the hell out of a day at the police department, so I was already off to a good start.

I got to the range, and helped the rangemaster hang targets while everyone stood around and bullshitted and smoked. I try and make myself useful while I'm up there. The range has targets at 25, 50, and 100 yards. Each group of target frames is backed by a big earthen berm, and the whole range is surrounded by trees. It's a really nice place.

As we walked out to the 50 yard line and started to hang targets a light rain was falling. The air smelled like grass and dirt and rain, and after several days of 95+ heat, it felt like a cool washcloth on your forehead. There are all kinds of weeds and wildflowers growing behind the targets, against the 20' high earthen backdrop, and as we walked up to hang targets we startled a goup of about a half dozen goldfinches that had been in the weeds behind the target frames. There I was, holding a staplegun, just gawking as all these beautiful birds took flight and headed up into the trees. And then I noticed two little chipmunks in the weeds, they ran up the embankment and disappeared over the top. The rangemaster was intent on getting the day started, and I don't think he saw any of it. I kept my observations to myself, but I felt blessed.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Countdown

6 hours, 45 minutes: Until I can leave work, go home and get some sleep after spending last night walking low-income apartment complexes (in the 90+ humidity) as part of a "street crime suppression" team

21 hours: Until shooting at the outdoor range tomorrow, always a good time. I have to qualify with the shotgun, M14, MP5 and AR15.

2 days, 2 hours: Until we get to see MizBubs' family this weekend. It's been a while and we've got a lot of catching up to do. I'm going to cook something on a cedar plank, and make fresh mint juleps.

1 week: Until Tom Waits at the Auditorium Theatre!! (*Troubling news though--my eldest just called in tears to say she can't get the night off. Dang it. I hate to tell her this, but she should've asked for the night off earlier than one week in advance. We ordered the tickets on July 15, but she didn't put in for the night off until this morning. I can't say that though, she's devastated. Poor girl, I don't know what to do to make things better, hopefully I'll figure something out.)

2 weeks: Until me and the Miz escape the compound for three days in fabulous Las Vegas.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Drive-In Movies Make a Comeback


It's turning into pop culture Tuesday here at the compound. I just ran across this story about drive-in theaters. While there's nothing like the 4,000+ drive-ins that there were in the 1950's, the good news is that 20 new theaters have opened in the past year.

Did you know there's an association of drive-in theater owners? You can visit the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Assocation website and find a drive-in near you.

MTV 25th Birthday

MTV debuted on 12:01 a.m., Aug. 1, 1981, with "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles. The first VJs were Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, J.J. Jackson and Martha Quinn. Jackson passed away in 2004. The rest now host the Big '80s channel on -- wait for it -- Sirius Satellite Radio. Oh, the irony.

I miss Andy Kaufman

What can I say?