Chicago


Haven’t felt inspired by much over the past couple of weeks. Nothing has happened that I felt worthy of a full blog post. But, a weblog without the log ain’t much. So here we go: my writer’s block of random thoughts:

Random topic 1:
I’m a big fan of jukeboxes at bars. Drop in a few bucks and create a personal soundtrack for the round. Several years ago, I noticed some of the traditional music machines were being replaced by digital ones in NYC and Chicago. At first, I was impressed by all the lights and buttons…
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But in the end, they let me down. I don’t like them for several reasons: 1. They entice you with wide variety of albums on the touchscreen, only to be disappointed by the fact each album has only 2 or 3 songs available. The hits, if you will. Well, I want the whole album! False advertising if you ask me 2. The pricing structure is smart, I’ll admit, but it really ticks me off when some drunk breaks up my string of selections by purchasing the right to “Play It Now” for twice the price. 3. Because I’m now 31 and going through an anti-technology phase. Short-lived I’m sure.

I do give a pass to one digital jukebox I came across in Alice Springs, Australia. This outback staple, Bojangles Saloon, had a video jukebox. Pick an artist and song, and the music was accompanied by video on all the bar tv’s. Haven’t seen it here yet…

Random topic 2:
(Let me preface by saying I understand how lucky I am to be able to walk in to a medical office and get reasonable treatment) How come Dr. office waiting rooms are always so boring? And stagnant? Also, is there a worse site than walking in to a waiting area where every seat is filled? Says two things: you’re stuck putting the wait in waiting room, and it’s a germ party.

It’s the same abroad. Saw a Dr. in Wellington, New Zealand, at a walk-in clinic. Similarly crawling with dirty, loud kids and the I’m-that-loud-guy-on-my-cell-phone-in-a-common-area guy. We all know that guy. Why won’t that guy let us wait in peace?
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Random topic 3:
I’m really looking forward to the football season. It has been the longest summer for having no local sports action to speak of. Unfortunately, it’s off to an unusual start. The only news coming from my Texas Longhorns is in connection to criminal players. When did they turn into the Miami Hurricanes?
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We need some tough love down in Austin. It boggles my mind why these athletes with everything going for them will do things like rob apartments with a dose of aggravated assault. Can’t you buy your own nintendo when you get your NFL paycheck? I still hope some of these arrests are bogus and we’ll have some players left for opening day.

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It’s been about 15 years, but I’m back on the horse again.

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Sure, I’ve taken a ride here and there, but I haven’t owned a bicycle since my high school days in 1993, when our garage was robbed by some local no-do-gooders. By then I was driving. I’d gladly traded in summertime bike rides for cruising the streets with my homies.

And I never looked back. Why?

We walked more than anything when I lived around the University of Texas campus.

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And running, as it has been since, became my exercise of choice.

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(pic from running coach)

Storing a bike in my cracker-box apartments in New York City and Chicago? Not a priority. And to think, I lived right next to one of the country’s most famous bike paths along Lake Michigan.

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Dan Burden)

Maybe I can recreate that scene here in Dallas, as we live close to White Rock Lake and its pretty extensive paths along the water.

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I owe the idea to Erin, who has long been interested in taking to plunge back into the wacky world of bicycles. Until recently, I didn’t give it much thought. Then my knee gave out – no running for a couple of months gave me plenty of time to contemplate less offensive activities for my joints.

So, today is a new day. Came home from Richardson Bike Mart with my basic Trek 7100. It sits tall as you might imagine. Took the new ride this evening along my old running path, and I whizzed through it in no time while practicing my hand at traffic. I even wore a helmet; my how things have changed – wouldn’t have been caught dead in one during my younger, formative years.

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This may just be the beginning of my rekindled affection for two-wheeled transport. Maybe in another 15 years, I’ll upgrade to the motor bike, like our neighbor with the sidecar and goggles for his four-legged friend.
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Who knows. I’ll be sure to take pictures, so stay tuned…

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Summer afternoon, cold beer and fresh cut grass. Two of my baseball worlds came crashing together today in a much anticipated baseball match-up between my first-love Texas Rangers and my adopted Chicago Cubs. We took in game 3 of the series today at the Ballpark at Arlington. I was so excited, I sported a Chicago-style mustache to welcome all the visiting fans.
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I grew up a Rangers fan, though the sport was never my first choice. But, I always enjoyed following our own lovable losers – which is a bit of a family tradition with my grandfather and my mom. I followed them through thick and thin, remembering vividly favorite players like Pete Incaviglia, Jim Sundberg, Julio Franco, Ruben Sierra and Charlie Hough, everything about Nolan Ryan…
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…and the few successful division championships. Pretty anemic compared to say, the yankees.

Fast forward to adulthood. I realized quickly upon moving to Chicago, that there’s nothing quite like taking in a summer afternoon game in the heart of Chicago at Wrigley Field. It was always on my itinerary for visiting friends like Mike and Chuck.
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It’s magical. It’s fantastic. It’s the toast of the town – and I believe the reason for summer work hours. Full Wrigleyville bars spilling into the streets, pageantry of bands and true blue fans milling around the stadium.

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And that timeless field and scoreboard, seen here behind my parents several years ago.
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Unfortunately, the Cubs are THE lovable losers of baseball. I was blessed with some successful seasons in Chicago, inlcuding the Bartman debacle. But the championship drought continues – curse that billy goat! Didn’t matter though. Each game was a priviledge in itself.

I was pumped to see the teams play each other today in a rare interleague game. If I was a betting man, this would be the last match-up I’d put mony on for the World Series. So I had to catch them now.

The game didn’t disappoint. Came down to a final hit to score the winning run for Texas. Long drive back to Illinois, Cub fans!

And there were many sporting Chicago gear – more than half the fans were Cubs fans. They must have been horribly disappointed in our 7th inning stretch rendition of “take me out to the ball game.” It’s a celebrity tradition up north.
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They also must have wondered where our local bar district is, how so many seats can be empty, and how a stadium can feel so darned hot at 80 degrees.

It’s a little different here. But, hey, when it comes to teams that just can’t seem to win, I’m sure the Cubbie fans felt right at home. And, was it a little bittersweet to see longtime Cubbie Sammy Sosa hit his 600th home run in a Rangers uniform? Not to mention, a silly banner under the scoreboard to rub it in.
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I just love going to a neighborhood market for a quick cultural glimpse and some good deals on local stuff. Sure, some of them cater to the tourists and offer items no more unique to the area than Miller Beer is to Milwaukee. But sometimes, you’ll run across a market that’s made for locals. Either way, the people are always interesting and watching them is great way to spend an afternoon, getting a feel for the community

Today, Erin and I visited the annual Addison Art Fest. Erin was on location for her radio segment.

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I was optimistic, in spite of the rainy weather, that we’d have a local cultural experience in this northern urban neighborhood in Dallas. Peruse lots of regional and national artists and their crafts; hear a little live music; munch on some festival food. Good times right?

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But, the never-ending rain dampened everything, but it did put me in a market state of mind. Got me thinking about the variety of festivals and markets I’ve seen, and got me hungry to visit more.

Summer in Chicago means street festivals galore. I swear, there’s one or more every weekend! And if you’re heading to the windy city, look one up. I went to the Oyster Fest several times in Old Town. Rock n’ roll set to Guiness and raw shellfish – it’s always like 100 degrees too. A combustible but fun mix.

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Also festive, the Paddington market in Sydney. We found all sorts of unique artisans and surveyed their crafts. It felt more like a local thing than part of the tourist itinerary, as plenty of Sydney folks not only suggested this market, but also joined us on the bus from downtown.

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Speaking of markets made for locals, Erin and I spent many a Saturday morning trolling the Union Square green market in New York City. Surrounded by the towering buildings and bustling city, it’s a chance for city folk to sip the apple cider and stop and smell the fresh cut flowers. Lots of cheeses and jams, too. My favorite: the wheat grass.

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Then there’s the farmers market at Matakana, which is serves the surrounding small towns and the weekend warriors from Auckland, New Zealand. It hammered home the point that fresh and local go hand in hand. Tasty goodness.

In Huanglongxi, China, a town near Chengdu and famous for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, we experienced a market that is vital to the farmers in the communities. This is, in many cases, the only place farmers conduct commerce: buying, selling and trading for all daily essentials. I attempted to buy a roll of toilet paper and spent 5 yuan. That was apparently worth about 5 rolls, and they felt bad for taking my money – language barriers make markets even crazier.

Hong Kong is known for all types of markets. Kowloon feels like one sprawling market, block by block. Burned in my memory are the bird market and women’s market. The island is no slouch either. For example, strolling this market district in central Hong Kong, near Happy Valley, after picking up a batch of laundry. Yeah, lots of live creatures waiting their turn to be fresh dinner for locals.

Are you in the market for a good cultural exchange?

Check out this cool site, world wide panarama, and this 3-D group of famous markets around the world – starting in Huanglongxi.


Chicago Rooftop

Originally uploaded by espeedy123.

Texas Mike remembering when…

Erin uploaded a bunch of older photos to the flickr account recently. Everything from old apartment pics to vacations. And there were many a Chicago picture to contemplate.

I remember May in Chicago so well. By the time April ended, we were just plain sick and tired of the dark, short and frigid days that make Chicago winters so notorious. Where’s spring? Sure, there’d be a day here and there where the temperature would rise into the 70’s. But it was just a tease – a mean, ugly kick-me-while-I’m-down reality check of what we’re missing elsewhere. Sure enough, May would creep along, and more of the same. My box of warm-weather apparel collecting dust in the closet. Some of the coldest days I can remember were mid-May: baseball at Wrigley Field, on a river cruise with my parents over Mother’s Day and trekking through Lincoln Park Zoo.

Not to state the obvious, but I’ve long retired the winter wear here in Dallas for the season. Don’t worry Chicago, yours is coming; I know you’ll celebrate heartily during your precious months of relief with summer hours, street festivals and fun around the lake. And you’ll have the last laugh come July as we’re sweating the triple digit temperatures.