Monday, July 31, 2017

Vacation in a Coal Mine

That's me, next to my older sister.

Summertime, vacation time. Of course I'm pretty much always on vacation, but still, summer reminds me of my childhood and Dad taking us all on the big summer vacation trip. On good years Dad would rent a lakeside cottage and he would pile us all in the station wagon and head on out. Those were pretty good vacation trips. And then there were the lean years when there would be no lakeside cottage. I suspect that those were the years that Dad found something better to do with his money. Either Mom had just had a baby, or Mom was about to have a baby and Dad needed cash to pay the hospital. So on those years we would go downtown to a museum for the day. That was our vacation. Not that a museum is a bad vacation, you just can't go swimming in a museum. My all time favorite was the Museum of Science and Industry. It still is, but now who can afford it? Eighteen dollars to get in, thirty if you want to see the coal mine or the U505 submarine, and twenty two dollars to park. When Dad took us, it was free to get in and parking was also free. It was one of the cheapest forms of entertainment available. I understand that the museums still have occasional "free" days, and that is great... if you like hoards of little children running around. Yet even at the price that they charge now, if you have never gone before, you should go to the Science and Industry Museum. I don't know if they still have all the great exhibits. Do they still have the farm with the chicken hatchery? I loved that because you could walk through the farm house, there was a real farm tractor right there on the museum floor, and they were hatching little chicks right before your eyes. Among the other exhibits I liked, were the beating heart that you could walk through and the model train sets. Huge layouts of model train sets. They had antique cars, antique planes hanging from the ceiling, and that coal mine. The coal mine was the best. You got in a rickety elevator that took you hundreds of feet beneath the museum. Then you got in a little coal tram that ran hundreds of feet below Chicago's streets where they mined the coal for all the furnaces in Chicago. At least that's what I believed when I was seven years old. It turns out that the coal mine is in the museum basement, it isn't real, and it was all an illusion done with moving screens. So if you can't afford a big time vacation in a little cottage with sand on the floor and an outhouse for a toilet, go to the museum. It's almost as cheap as going to that cottage.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Mark on LSD

The old Z Curve.

I drove down to visit Mom again this week. This time without Mark next to me whining, crying, and shouting out in fear at every turn. It's a tossup when it comes to Mark accompanying me to Mom's. On one hand he helps with the conversation if he is there. On the other hand, I enjoy the drive if he isn't with me. Seriously, I find driving on Lake Shore Drive very calming, very soothing. Especially if I have some of my favorite CD's with me. Sure, there was a horrible accident on LSD two days ago. Killed the woman who jumped her car across the median. But I still find it a very easy drive. Yes that inner lane, the one that hugs the wall with just inches to spare, can be intimidating. It doesn't bother me. And in many places the lanes are barely wide enough to accommodate a Mini Cooper. No problem, that's what the lines are for. The speed limit is a bit slow at forty miles per hour, but that's okay. I just set the cruise control to sixty miles per hour and let the car cruise. In fifty years of driving on that highway I have never seen a cop pull somebody over. The very best part about Lake Shore Drive is the view. On one side, Lake Michigan. It can be placid and blue, looking like an innocent pond, or it can be a wild, foaming monster. Best of all, in the summer months it's beaches and bike path are full of bodies. Shirtless, shapely bodies. On the west side of Lake Shore Drive is the city. Huge, soaring sky scrapers, and tree studded parks make it a spectacular sight.

The city has recently announced plans to revamp my favorite highway. They plan to make it even more beautiful and they want to make it safer. As a guy who still remembers the Z curve that used to snap you around a large apartment building and take you onto the approach of the river bridge, I will kind of miss the challenge. You see, they want to smooth out the other big curve in that highway. The S curve at Oak Street. I especially like tearing around that curve as fast as I can with Mark in the car. There is just something special about hearing him scream in terror.

Proposal for the new Oak Street S Curve

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Scout Update

One year ago this week we were introduced to Scout. Our fifth rescue dog that we've taken in over the last twenty two years. She came to us through Cairn Rescue USA, and as crazy as she seemed at first blush, I was not worried. I knew that I could tame her. After all, I lived with Mark for twenty years and compared to him, Scout would be easy (I'll hear about that one). Here we are one year later and I couldn't ask for a better dog. She has learned her lessons well. Right now I'm working on teaching Scout to stop at every cross street or alley and look both ways before crossing. It's something that Chandler learned long ago. Mark wanted to return Scout the first week. I said no. Now Mark and Scout lay up in the bed together, the very best of buddies. Chandler pretends like she's a big nuisance, but in reality, he loves having her around. The little squirt follows me everywhere. A year ago if the backyard gate was left open, Scout would make a mad dash for it. Now I can open the gate to take the garbage out to the alley, and she has no interest at all in going through it. The little bitch knows where her bread is buttered. So happy anniversary Scout. You get an extra tomato and chewy stick today. (Did I mention that my dogs love the little tomatoes?) 
Scout with her tomato

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.