Monday, August 2, 2021

Lessons From My Father

I was looking at the sun streaming through my porch windows on Friday. Filthy. They were filthy and the window frames looked rough. They needed cleaning and painting. So I got out my bucket of paint, the Windex, and the ladder. I stretched the ladder out to its full length and leaned it against the wall of the porch. It seemed so long when it was laying on the ground, but now against the house it was obviously not long enough. I ignored that and grabbed the Windex and a large wad of paper towels. As I climbed towards the top I noticed a warning on one of the rungs. Something about extending the ladder too far. I assumed that was not meant for me and kept climbing. For some reason I figured that I could reach the second story windows by standing on the top rung. I never got that far. As I neared the top fear set in and a childhood memory flashed through my mind. It was a memory of sitting in our kitchen on Ravinia Drive, eating lunch, and hearing my dad screaming as the ladder he was on made a rat-a-tat sound while sliding down the side of our house. We all ran outside to see Dad writhing in pain and cursing as I had never heard before.

I could feel the ladder bow and bend as my fat ass started back down. There would be no painting of the window frames. No washing of the windows with Windex and paper towels. You can't say I never learned anything from Dad. I learned how to curse really good.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Southside Chicago


Grandma in front of 5026 South Ada Street (c1940)

I went down to visit my friends on the Southside yesterday. Driving there from near the northern city limits makes you realize just how big the city is. Seventeen miles and over thirty minutes drive via Lake Shore Drive and the Dan Ryan Expressway. Even driving that far, you're still only halfway across Chicago. My friends live in the next neighborhood over from Bridgeport, an area that has been part of my life forever. Mom and Dad both grew up near there, in a neighborhood called Back of the Yards. Going down there brings back memories. The stockyards, Comiskey Park, International Amphitheater, and The Daley's. 47th Street and the Free Fair, where Mom would take us to get free vaccinations for school. Sherman Park, where I almost got drowned by a Black kid for swimming on the wrong side of the city swimming pool. What did I know? Even though Both grandmothers and my grandfather still lived in the neighborhood, I was a dumb suburban kid. I didn't know all the city rules that included, "Don't go to the other side of the viaduct." No explanation, just don't do it.

I always enjoy taking a trip down there to see a part of the city that is a bit grittier and real than those vast swaths of the Northside that have been taken over by gentrification. Seriously, I could even live on the Southside if not for the fact that most of my adult life centered on Northside nightlife. There's nothing wrong with the Southside of Chicago if the banks hadn't redlined it. Nothing wrong with it if the NRA and the politicians of a certain political party hadn't promoted unfettered access to guns. Anyway, about that gentrification thing. I've noticed over the last few years that there are more trendy bars and restaurants slowly pushing their way out south of downtown. Maybe, in one more generation.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Stupixent, Rebelsus, and Humidra


When I was a kid, long before DVRs, advertisements were an effective means of selling things. Now I just fast forward through most ads, but back then I watched them and they influenced me. Mostly the beer and cigarette ads. Hamms had that cartoon bear selling 'Hamms, the beer refreshing'. I wanted it. I wanted to be refreshed. What the Hamms bear didn't tell you is that you can get violently sick from getting 'refreshed'. And then there were the cigarettes. I was told that "Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should", so at the age of fifteen I started smoking Winston cigarettes. Later I switched to Marlboro Lights because... well the cowboy. I wanted the cowboy. I wanted to be like the cowboy.

Now cigarette ads are banned and beer commercials are rare. Most of the slack has been taken up by prescription drug commercials. As if I would demand that my doctor put me on some crazy drug I saw on television. They usually have names that kind of sound like words but aren't, like Unbilitate. These commercials are run during news shows, because that's what we old people watch. Often the ads start with happy people walking in the park with best friends, followed by the happiest of the bunch doing some kind of Asian exercise routine in a field with a bunch of other very healthy looking people. "Take Unbilitate and this could be you." Anyway, over the weekend I took my 1929 Ford to a car show not too far from here. It was held in a lovely park, on a grassy field, and in my imagination I saw myself in one of those prescription drug commercials. I fully expected shiny families and smart older folks chatting and smiling while I showed off my car. It wasn't like that.

It was hot, very hot. They had a DJ who played loud music, which for some reason was Christian rock. Most of the cars were not old cars, but newer cars that unless you're driving them really fast, are boring. Worst of all were the people who owned those cars. Petty little souls who all talked bad about each other. One guy even asked if I would vote for his car as best in show, he would vote for mine. He handed me a ballot and I filled it out per his request. Then I stuck it in the door pocket in my car, where it still sits. I left soon after that because it was too fucking hot and I was not really having fun. Some prescription drugs might have helped.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Grunts and Farts


My dogs watch my every move. They know exactly where I'm going at all times and will follow me everywhere. I think maybe it's just in case what I'm doing involves food. One exception is when I leave the house. That's when they break out into a chorus of barking because they hate to see me have a life of my own. Then there is the bathroom. Chandler and Scout have never followed me into the bathroom. It is my inner sanctum. I don't know what it is that they think I'm doing in there, but they respect that room. Maybe it's the sounds that keep them at bay. I know they don't like to get wet, so maybe it's the water. Also, I think they have figured out that once I go in there I cannot get away without them knowing. Whatever it is, they lay quietly in the dining room waiting on me to finish. I think if I wanted to design a home that would enable me to sneak away from my dogs without them knowing, I would install a door to the outside in the bathroom. I would also have to make a recording to mask the sound of sneaking out that door. A recording of shower water, toilet flushing, grunts, and farts.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Time to Turn on the Robot Vacuum


I really like a clean house. For many years I had a man come in every other week and clean my place from top to bottom. He was great, he even washed my clothes and if there were dishes in the sink, those too. You bet I cheated on that last bit. Sometimes there were four days worth of dishes in there. Anyway, when Mark moved in with me, he didn't like the guy. Also, the cleaning guy didn't like Mark. So that years long arrangement ended. We tried new cleaning people. One guy would stop working at exactly noon no matter how far he had got cleaning the house. Twelve noon happened to coincide with the opening time of his favorite bar. He was let go and another guy was hired. After two weeks he simply disappeared. So I gave up and since then I have cleaned my house myself. Like I said, I really like a clean house. I like the smell of a clean house, the look of a clean house, and the order of a clean house. Unfortunately, I hate actually cleaning my house. To help me, Mark bought me two of those robot vacuum cleaners. I love them. But just like I don't like cleaning house, I don't like cleaning those robot vacuum cleaners. So I turn them off, sometimes for as long as a week. What I get then are piles of dog hair under everything.

Yesterday I posted on the neighborhood Facebook page a request for cleaning services recommendations. I'm going to see about hiring somebody again. I just hope they like dogs. Oh, and I hope they like to work cheaply. I'll even wash my own dishes for the right price.

Friday, July 16, 2021



I have a manual for my 1929 Ford. All sources tell me that the manual I bought is the best. It tells you exactly how to fix your ninety two year old car when things go wrong.

About two weeks ago I went out to the garage and started the Model A. I pulled out of the garage and out onto the street. One thing I noticed was that the ammeter was not registering anything. The car wasn't charging, it wasn't draining the battery. So I did the one thing that made sense. I tapped on the ammeter's glass cover. Doing that did not fix it. In fact, tapping on it made it fall behind the instrument panel. The glass had fallen to the floor of the car, while the actual meter was wedged mostly out of sight. Once again, I did the one thing that made sense. I gently pulled it back up from behind the instrument panel. This made a loud cracking sound along with a nice spark. Now the car would not run, it would not start. So I looked it up in the manual. Sure enough, you cannot start a Model A Ford if the ammeter is not connected. So I ordered a new ammeter and installed it. The car would not start. So I went back to the manual and followed the circuit. It told me to measure voltages and resistances off the coil. Ah, ha! It was all wrong, so I ordered a new coil and installed it. The car would not start. In the circuit is the ignition switch. Had I shorted that out? So just in case I had ordered that too. It hasn't arrived yet, but up to this point I have spent over one hundred dollars. I was kind of stumped. I stood there with the hood open looking at my lifeless car. That's when I noticed a small cylindrical object on the side of the starter. A fuse. A small fuse attached to the starter and it was blown. So I ran off to Home Depot, bought another fuse for seventy nine cents, and put it in. The car started right up. The manual and every source I have ever read, stated clearly that Ford did not put any fuses in the Ford Model A automobile. So I didn't look for one. Although, I am glad that one of the previous owners had the good sense to install one.


Monday, July 12, 2021

The Pile


I remember when I was a kid, my grandparents basement was jam packed full of things. A whole lot of things. Old newspapers, old tools, old venetian blinds, old coffee cans filled with other old things. There were narrow aisles between the piles of old things so that you could access more old things. I found a lot of that old crap fascinating, but most of it was just junk. Oh, and Grandpa also hid his liquor down there, up in the rafters. He told me not to tell my Grandma Mae. I never did.

I still like old things, but I don't care for clutter. Mark loved clutter. Actually, he liked shopping and never stopped. He would buy two, three, and more of the same thing. Mostly gadgets for the kitchen, but sometimes things for me. Like the rug shampoo machine that is still sitting in the dining room... unused. As sick as he was last year, he kept shopping. All day long he would watch the QVC shopping network, stopping only to watch Judge Judy at four in the afternoon. I never saw him call in, but packages were still arriving days after he passed away. Most of that stuff is now in a large pile in my basement. I had planned to have a garage sale in the spring, but it's now summer. I look at that pile and shudder. So much work to go through it all, price it, and then schlep it on up to the garage. The garage that now houses my 1929 Ford. I told you, I like old things.