Monday, July 24, 2017

Mister Soltis



As I stood out on my front lawn spraying the garden hose at cars that were speeding down our street, I was reminded of Mr. Soltis. Mr. Soltis was a neighbor of ours when I was a punky little teenager. He always yelled at me for driving too fast down our street. He was about three hundred pounds, and he would waddle on down to our house to berate me and snitch to my parents about my speeding. I, being the ever most intelligent smartass of our block, once schooled him on traffic laws. "The speed limit on un-posted roads is thirty miles per hour." I informed him as he tattled to my dad. They both looked at me, my dad with sadness and Mr. Soltis with pure anger. "That's the speed limit for a main street, you little asshole. This is a residential street and the speed limit is twenty miles per hour on residential streets." Mr. Soltis sneered. Of course he was correct, on all counts. As I sprayed another car speeding by, I realized that I was now Mr. Soltis. I was now the old fart who yelled at people. I am old. Best evidence of that is the fact that I get up every hour on the hour, all night long, to pee. I am actually awakened by dreams where I am peeing. Luckily for me, they are only dreams. I have a lot of markers that let me know I have reached the age of old fart. I can't climb stairs without hanging onto the banister and pulling myself up. Getting out of bed nearly requires a crane to lift me up and out. And then there is the lawn. I am regularly out there picking up trash and shouting "Pigs!, Pigs!" So now in addition to that behavior, I am now out there squirting cars with the hose to slow them down. Which isn't all that horrible. The guy across the street runs after them with a crowbar.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Beware the Yellow Water



Something has bothered me since I moved into this neighborhood. At first I didn't nottice it, but over the last thirteen months of walking the dogs it has become quite apparent. Water bottles, mostly empty water bottles everywhere. They are strewn across lawns and scattered on the street. I'm pretty sure that I know where these water bottles are coming from. Uber drivers. I know that when you get into an Uber car, the driver often offers you a bottle of water as if he has just picked you up in the middle of the Sahara Desert. I am pretty sure that either asshole passengers are getting out of the car and tossing the bottles, or it is the driver who cannot stop working long enough to slake their thirst in a proper location. Like a shark, an Uber driver has to keep moving or go broke. So they grab one of those water bottles when they get thirsty and keep on going, checking their phone with one hand, sucking down the water with the other hand, while steering with their knees. And that's not the only problem with the water bottles. Some Uber drivers don't want to stop to take a leak either. So you have to be very careful when cleaning up those bottles from your front yard. Yesterday was the last straw. I walked outside and there at the curb were not only a couple of water bottles, but two bags of garbage. Somebody had dumped everything from their car onto the street in front of my house.

In my anger a plan came to me. I remembered a record from 1967 by Arlo Guthrie. It's a long narrative about a bunch of hippies getting together for Thanksgiving, I believe. At some point they have to get rid of some garbage, but being out in the country meant that they had to carry it all the way to the dump. The lazy hippies, instead of going all the way to the dump, tossed it out on the side of the road where the Sheriff found it. By picking through the garbage the Sheriff figured out where it came from and arrested the hippies.

I grabbed those bags of garbage that I found in front of my house and took them into the backyard where I proceeded to pick through them. I was going to figure out who dumped them and mail that garbage back to them, maybe with an extra package included. An extra package of dog poo. I have plenty laying around here. Sure enough, there were a bunch of letters, bank statements, and other things with the person's name on them. Sadly, there is nothing I can do about it. I won't mail them a dog shit filled package with their garbage. I won't even mail them the garbage without the dog shit. You see, the garbage was dumped by my next door neighbor. Obviously an asshole, but I am not in any mood to start a neighborhood war. So I took all that garbage, all those water bottles, and tossed them into my garbage can out back. It took very little effort.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Don't Fence Me In



Yesterday I put on my gardening gloves and went over to my neighbor's yard and started pulling weeds. No, I didn't get a job with a landscaping company. I didn't suddenly decide to be Mister Neighborly. What I did was make a bad mistake when I had my new fence installed. I told the fence company not to take down my neighbor's fence. I had no permission to take it down, and since the owners of that property do not live on the property, I never took the time to track them down and ask if I could. No big deal, I thought. Their chain-link fence would just stand there next to my wooden fence. Two problems with that. One problem, putting the water-proof stain on the wooden fence. Not so easy getting around all those crisscrossing chain links. Problem number two, weeds. When the fence was installed there were no weeds growing. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Now I have trees, vines, and various noxious weeds growing between the fences. That makes it even more difficult to put the stain on the wooden fence. So now I have to find a way to fix my mistake. I found that just trying to pull the weeds out from between the fences is nearly impossible, unless you're very strong and have very thin arms. I have neither. But not to worry, I got a brain storm while walking the dogs through the alley. Every day there are Fred Sanford trucks roaming the alleys, looking for scrap metal. I'm not sure how much thirty or forty feet of chain-link fence is worth at the scrap yard, but I'm sure one of them will take it away for me. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Home Sweet Home (rerun)

Before I even met Mark, twenty years ago, I had planned to sell my house in Florida. I knew it would be financially unsustainable after I retired. I figured I could take the profit from the increased value and buy another, nicer place. Here is how that went four years ago, when I told Mark what I had planned.





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"Oh look Alan. This one is so cute and it's well within our budget."
I walk over to where Mark is and take a look at the computer screen.
"That is nice. Where is it?"
"Memphis."
"I never heard of that neighborhood. North side or south side of Chicago?"
"Memphis, it's in Memphis Tennessee. Look at the kitchen." Mark was drooling.
"Why are you looking at houses in Memphis?"
"They're very inexpensive. You get a lot more house for your dollar."
"But it's in Memphis."
"I know but..."
"Memphis. You do know that Memphis is in the south, right? Middle of nowhere, Elvis lived there, hot, boring."

I recently took stock of our financial situation and although everything is okay right now, when I reach retirement age (go ahead and laugh) I will lose some of my income. I informed Mark that there is a good possibility that we will sell the property we have now, pay off all my debts, and pay cash for a less expensive home. Well, nothing stimulates Mark as much as the prospect of spending money on something. So he started researching the most inexpensive places to live, places where you can get a lot of house with a great kitchen for little cash. That is how he found Memphis.

"We're not moving to Memphis. In fact the only two places I will consider are Chicago and Wilton Manors, Florida. We'll either stay here in Florida or go to Chicago. I'm not moving to some place where the first thing people ask you is, what church do you attend."
Surprisingly, Mark shrugged his shoulders and agreed. Five minutes later he called me back over to his computer.
"Look at this place. I have to have this house. It is so adorable."
"Memphis again?"
"No, Springfield Illinois."
"Hmmm, you do know that Springfield is two hundred miles from Chicago don't you?"


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Monday, July 17, 2017

Pee Berries




The rain that is flooding towns all around Chicago has done my garden wonders. More cucumbers are bursting forth, tomatoes are filling the vines, and the flowers have gone crazy. Illinois soil, even the urban stuff around here, is so much more fertile than that sandy, dry crap I had in Florida. Hell, it was hard to even grow weeds in Florida. The dogs have discovered that their favorite tomatoes are back. They love the little pear shaped, yellow tomatoes that Mark grew last year, so I planted a vine at the edge of the garden. Chandler and Scout have been snatching them off the vine for the last week even though they aren't completely ripe. Over on the other side of the yard, the golden raspberry bush I planted last year has gone bonkers. The branches hang low with the weight of ripe fruit. These raspberries are super sweet, and super delicious. All summer, ever since they've been ripe, I've been picking them and eating them right off the bush. Like a feral pig, I root around in that bush every day, looking for ripe berries. It turns out that I am not the only pig in this sty. Mark also has been eating them right off the bush. Yes, it seemed like the perfect treat every morning, a handful of delicious home grown raspberries. And then, as I sat in the back yard Saturday while the dogs wandered around in the grass, I saw Chandler sidle up to the raspberry bush and pee on it.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Picnics and More Fried Chicken



Some years ago when we lived in Florida, Mark bought a cute picnic basket with dishes, wine glasses, and all the other accoutrements necessary to recreate a Georges Seurat painting. Ever since he dragged that thing home, he has been begging me to go on a picnic with him. I have been pooh, poohing that idea because I know it will end up with me schlepping that heavy picnic basket across hundreds of yards of sand, or through woods infested with bugs. He brought that thing up here to Chicago with the intention of having me lug it along for some genteel gathering in the park that he imagined we would be going to. Wrong! I’ve seen picnics here in Chicago parks. Basically they consist of Mexicans and Puerto Ricans barbequing chicken, and kicking a soccer ball across gay boy's picnic blankets. 


I'm not sure when I started finding picnics distasteful. I used to love picnics when I was a child. Mom and Dad would take us out to at least two or three picnics every summer. There was the Tau Club picnic, a club my mom and dad belonged to consisting of all the folks they knew from the old neighborhood. There was the church picnic, the Parkside neighborhood picnic, the picnic thrown by my dad's place of work, and after my brother entered the seminary, there was the seminary picnic. Each picnic had its own flavor. I especially liked the church picnic that was held at Carlson Springs Woods. I mostly remember all us kids roaming deep into the woods, far beyond the call of our parents. Today you probably wouldn't let kids do that. It's not that we didn't have perverts and child killers back then, it's just that the area wasn't as highly populated as it is now. Basically not enough pervs to go around. My second favorite picnic site was the seminary that my brother had been sentenced to... I mean that my brother attended. The picnic was held on the grounds of the seminary that included five large ponds, a dam, a stream, a spooky little chapel out near the woods, and spookiest of all, a dead kid inside the large church. Yes, a dead kid. Inside a glass box, inside the church, was the desiccated body of a child that had been made a saint. We just could not leave until we had snuck into the church to see the dead kid.

Out of all those picnics we went to as kids, there is one that stands out vividly in my memory. The picnic my dad's place of work held. I remember the day, the place, and what the weather was like. The Associated Truck Lines picnic was held in a forest preserve on Ogden Avenue in Lyons, Illinois. And the only reason I remember it so clearly is because that was the day that I discovered Colonel Sander's Kentucky Fried Chicken. That was what the company had provided, buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was like crack cocaine to me. I couldn't stop eating it. I possibly ate an entire bucket of chicken all by myself that day. Funny thing is, I don't really like KFC anymore. Not sure if it's the recipe that changed or me. Or it could be that without the bugs, flies, dirt, and heat of a picnic, KFC Chicken just doesn't taste the same.