Friday, July 18, 2008

Commuter Tales

As a rider of mass transit for over four years now, I can tell you some stories (couple days ago, one of the train cars smelled like an overflowed toilet, primarly, I found out through superior sleuthing, because of an overflowed toilet). Unlike when I first became someone Al Gore would like to kiss on the mouth, I do not get irked at some of the behaviors of my fellow passengers, behaviors that *I* personally would not engage in. I've come to accept that people do not hold themselves to the same lofty standards to which I aspire. Thus, in the interest of community, of Can't We All Just Get Along, I have relaxed my guidelines, which has also caused my stress level to dwindle.

For instance, I used to get quite peeved when tall or large people sat facing me. Because I have long legs and there's a finite amount of space to situate the lower body. I look for seats opposite Asian women or pygmies, or that one lady who's round like a ball and whose feet dangle hilariously a few inches above the floor of the car. That's what a smart person does. Oblivious idiots sit anywhere. "Hey! A seat! Yee-Haw!"

Sure, I'll still flash them a look of annoyance when they suck up all the available space so the rest of the ride resembles a square dance as our knees and feet jockey for position. But I can't expect people to be as aware as I, as forward thinking. It's just not fair to the population at large to hold them to that standard. What I can do is affect my Don't Fuck With Me Face or my Idiot Repellent Body Language. It does work. It's communication and even people who struggle to open an envelope still have a cerebral cortex capable of telling them, unconsciously, not to go near the unspoken danger. Alas, plenty of others fail that test, the kind of people who approach hungry pit bulls wearing a meat condoms.

Yesterday was a new one. The person who sat across from me did not have long legs. His belly protruded a fair amount, but there was plenty of floor space between us. This fact did not stop him from resting his knee against mine. Or putting his other foot right on top of mine.

I didn't look up from my book when he first sat. Saw him in my periphery, leaned my right leg slightly left to allow him safe passage to the aisle and seat. It was only when his knee's caresses began that I took his measure. His totally drunk measure. Fucker was hammered. He had a Peach Nectar juice can in his hand and he smelled like spoiled fruit. Vodka, I guessed. Lots before boarding and quite possibly some in the can he held. When I looked up at him, he gave me a creepy, yellow-toothed grin. He had the red-burnt skin of a man used to working outside and a faded tattoo on his forearm the color of snot, the kind one gets in the military when traveling through southeast Asia. His eyes were bloodshot and his head bobbed with the rhythm of the train.

I carefully re-adjusted my bottom half, gaining space, and went back to my book. I kept watching him, however, peeking above my sunglasses as he twitched. Several times, his legs made contact with mine, a severe etiquette breach in the quiet brotherhood of the train. I sighed, exhaled with purpose. Stared right at him. I'm not sure he'd have noticed if I hit him with a maple bat.

Then he fell asleep and after a chapter or two, so did I. What woke me was his hand gripping my thigh. Not hard, but, as I deduced, for balance. He was very much in danger of toppling right over. The cat had my tongue and all I could do was give him an expression of "Really?," eyebrows arched and arms spread wide. Our friend was clearly not a student of body language, so my only recourse was to grab him around the wrist and prop him up. He stared at me like I'd just wiped a booger on him.

I was awake and standing sentry. Fellow passengers had begun to notice his behavior and I saw wry smiles and nose-in-the-air disgust. Throughout the rest of the ride, his antics included crumbling up his can of Peach Nectar and throwing it under his seat, like he was at a ballgame pawing at me every fucking stop to ask if it was the Fontana Station and best of all, putting both his feet up on the seat when I moved across the aisle as people got off the train.

I think he thought he was in his living room. Or at least his garage.

He was sound asleep when I got off. Fontana was the next stop. I'm pretty sure he took the train all the way to the end of the line.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Beyond the Ivy (and the Pale)

I am not a morning person. Never have been. All my life, I've been the last one up. My college-era roommates used to give me oodles of shit about it, mostly complaining about how THEY were always the ones who had to go to 7-11 for the morning hangover helpers, whether it be Gatorade or a Super Big Gulp (seriously, I used to start my day with 44 oz. of Pepsi; the very thought of it makes me ill).

It's no different now. I was last up both days in Chicago. On Sunday, I slept so late, everyone else had left already. Just me, DP, his wife and the Irish Kid alone in the house. I had to put on pants. But on Saturday, the casa was still a flurry of activity as I aroused my blurry self from the floor of the Irish Kid's room with hardwood-influenced impingements in both shoulders. I had come awake a few times already, of course. It's impossible not to be dislodged from sleep when the so aptly-named Rooster is about. He was up at the crack of dawn, wandering through the halls, talking to the dog, imaginary friends and the ghosts of women past. But he is not a selfish man. Oh no. Before he set off to Dunkin' Donuts, he took my order.

Bedside service.

Anyways, everyone was feeling a little under the weather and it was too early for that. We had to make Favre-ian comebacks, minus the dickheadedness. Gatorade. Check. DP had stocked the fridge with G2, which tastes like an oil slick, but does the hydrating job. Advil? Check. Not quite as pain-numbing as Favre's drugs of choice, but solid nonetheless. And coffee and donuts courtesy of The Rooster.

Cagey. AND a giver.

The shower parade began, slowly at first, while DP serenaded us on the piano and told us all we were beautiful. And it was off to the rooftops.


I don't think my limited vocabulary (and I never really thought it was limited until I got hooked on Scramble on Facebook; for instance, what the fuck are "jatos?") can describe the Level 12 Awesomeness of the rooftops beyond Wrigley. We did the bleacher thing last year, which ruled, but is crowded and there's all the up and down to get beers at the concession stands, which eventually led me, Iggy, Daddy and The Hashman to spend the final few innings on the balcony behind the centerfield scoreboard where we couldn't even see the game (and were surprised when it was over since we never heard/saw anybody score).

No such issues on the rooftops. Our tickets paid for all the beer and food. I forgot about the latter for the most part, grubbing one measly (but long and spicy) Italian sausage and completely whiffing on the ribs and burgers. You could sit in the steep bleachers. You could move around on the lower balcony, in the bar, up top in front of the seats. It was like being at a party, which it is. The view of the field was nearly 100%, losing only a bit of left field. The skyline rose beyond the rooftops. The weather was perfect.

I suppose the only drawback was the fear of heights. Three in our party have this issue, in varying degrees. DP and The Rooster were never without a tight grip of something. By my fourth beer, I'd forgotten about the vertigo I first experienced when I'd gotten up there (I stacked my cups all game long to keep track of my imbibement, ending with 9, not bad for 7 innings).

The Rooster got over his mild aversion and worked the entire crowd, or at least the female portion. At one point, some ladies walked by and he called out to them, "Hey! Hey! Stop!" and one of them turned around and sighed, "What, Joaquin?"


I was rocking my new-ish Fernando Torres jersey (Liverpool away, not Spain), which always leads me into conversations with proper football fans, which is a good way to meet fellow fans of the beautiful game, since I hate people. Had several entertaining conversations, including a wide-ranging one with DP's buddy Zach.

The Cubbies (and Marmol, and some sketchy fielding) blew a lead--and our hope for a 7-2 final score--in the 9th, which flattened the atmosphere everywhere but in StB's pants. A couple haters took off before the conclusion (because beer wasn't served on the rooftops after the 7th), but the rest of us stayed until the gripping conclusion (wasn't gripping, more relieving).

Thenceforth, shenanigans (and dancing and worming and something resembling a Russian jig and pizza) ensued.

Speaking of pizza, among things that were "eaten" this weekend, included The Rooster downing 5 oz. of A1 Steak Sauce for $60 and April and Grubby doing Butter Shots. For free.

I leave you now to contemplate that. Look how the sodium-y thickness clings to the side of the glass like shit in a sewer pipe.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Non-Chronological Rendering of Remembered Events -- Now With Clever Subheads!

Batting Practice

This weekend officially began, as they all do, when The Rooster called to wake me up at an inappropriate time (two a.m., shattering my hope to get at least 4 hours of sleep before boarding my early morning flight), drunkenly slurring about how much heart he has and that while I'm "brown," I am also, unlike him, "not down."

It rhymes, you see.

After about fifteen minutes of him alternately sounding like Bette Davis after a carton of Pall Malls and a giggling schoolgirl at the opening of the Hannnah Montana movie, I got rid of him by saying there are only two reasons I get calls at 2 a.m. either something happened to AJ or The Rooster is drunk.

"Alright, that's it," he shouted back, indignant. "Bring the kid into it. Bye."

And he was gone.

Throwing Out the First Pitch

The Minnesota/Wisconsin Faction beat me to DP's pad, as did The Rooster. Chad was playing his usual tight style, which works well on this crowd, but not until we've each had 12 drinks and then we forget that Chad is tight. The Rooster was explaining how much heart he has. Drizz was limp-calling flops and then folding. Stb was doing that thing where he scowls at you every time you raise. DP was just sucking, as usual.

I jumped right into the game and promptly got felted, because when DP raises, more likely than not, he's got nothing. 'Cept that time. And the next time too, when Chad and I both got all in with him on the flop. Top pair for me, bottom two for DP, flush draw for Chad. I made a bigger two pair on the turn, dodged the outs.

That is how you suckout, my friends. And then I ran over the table, benefitting from the turn every time. Flop two pair and get it in against The Rooster's OESD? Fill up on turn. Hold a ten on a T44 board? Turn a ten to demolish The Bracelet's (who had arrrived in style) four. After a couple hours, I was up $70, which I'd need to cover my prop bets the rest of the weekend. Jesus. Drizz is an A-List Sandbagger at bar games.

Snack Bar

We made it to Tango Sur, Chicago's finest Argentinian Steak House, with time to spare so thought we'd go next door for a beer like we did last year, except they were having a private party, a fact we only learned when the dude at the door put his finger into my chest--a little hard, I have to say--as we tried to walk in. Naturally, The Rooster had already glided right past him and into the soiree.


I went with El Filet, because I like meat and easy-to-pronounce foreign food and I've been not enjoying much of of either lately. The spinach mashed potatoes were a fine compliment, but not as fine as the wine The Bracelet brought. It was so good that I was threatened with excommunication when I accidentally spilled some of it on the table and was saved only by maigs's quick-thinking tongue as she was able to lap up most of the spillage and no, she didn't lap it up with the gracelessness of a dog, but rather with the dainty class of the Princess she is.

Hit By Pitch

The Rooster ran into an ex-girlfriend. From college. Long ago from another place and time and of all the Argentinian Gin Joints she has to walk into this one when the Rooster is four sheets and on a flap meat jones. Long story short, she was good-lookin' (The Bracelet, unveiling the time-honored RoosterBlock for the first time of the weekend: "The Rooster usually dates ugly girls...") and before you could say "KA-KAW!" our hero was transported to simpler times, before the weight of the world came crashing down and delivered this vision of now-married loveliness to his doorstep. On the way out of the restaurant, I put my arm around him (go ahead) because if anyone in the area code at that point knew about heartbreak and lost opportunity, it was I.

Rooster perked right up. Well, first he started smoking and telling every woman we passed on the street, "Don't fall in love! It's a dead end!"

But then he was fine.

"Alright, Let's Get Two"

The last song I heard on the radio before getting out of my car at Economy Lot C at LAX was "Working for the Weekend" by Loverboy, which is appropos of nothing but being awesome.

Besides being a gracious host, DP also gifted us his excess mileage points which meant I boarded first and settled into my cush first class cabin where hostesses in togas fed me grapes and worked on my lats. The flight was otherwise uneventful as I pulled back an hour of sleep (thanks to space and legroom), watched an episode of "The Riches" on the laptop and did a little writing with a fat, incandecent red and blue pen with palm trees and the Hollywood sign on it because I forgot to bring one from home and the gift shop purchasers at LAX are apparently blind.

I had some bladder issues as the only things I'd put in my mouth (shut it) an hour into the flight were 1) Coffee 2) Water 3) Water 4) Fruit smoothie 5) Water. I went twice in the Terminal, once on the plane before takeoff and then attempted to immediately go on the plane once the Fasten Seat Belt sign went off. Several other people in Rirst Class had that same idea, so I eneded up going about 7th and as I waited I imagined I smelled the scent of stale piss coming from my pants, with stress and sweat on my hands from the takeoff mingling with drying droplets of piss I left behind in my boxer briefs and the more I fixated on the smell, it began to take on substance, color, like a rising plume of fetid smoke, pollution in the air.

Aren't you glad I bought a pen?

In the Big Inning

DP had two extra tickets to our rooftop digs. He sent The Rooster off to find girls to give them to. "Hey ladies, I have two seats. All you can eat or drink!" And Rooster still couldn't convince any ladies to come with him. Probably all the Brut he was wearing. Seriously, he was still upstairs in the shower when we first smelled it downstairs as it cut through the lingering fog of Beer and Ass. "Puerto Rican Shower," said StB.

So still two tickets available and DP decides to tell some of the ladies already on the rooftop to call some friends. He finally convinced one to do so and around the 5th inning, these two young blondes show up and immediately tilt the entire male population of the rooftop. Soon after, the following pic was taken and a new term was created.

Behold the "Face Boner." (© Joe Speaker, 2008)

Jeez. This could take a while. I'm gonna pause here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


The weekend went by way too quickly (the top of the 9th excepted) and I'm home and feeling that familiar tug that I always get when I have to leave my hilarious, fucking insane friends. While it's good to be home and in my own bed (my sleeping arrangements the last two nights were a hardwood floor and a cozy bed with DonkeyPuncher, who said this morning, "Thanks for not cuddling too much") and looking forward to seeing AJ again tomorrow, I just bleeping wish the times I got to spend with these people were more frequent and less between.

As usual, The Rooster stole the show (although DP had a strong 5 hours on Saturday afternoon), this time without hitting anything (other than the bottle) or wearing a wifebeater. Contrary to popular belief the Defending Champ and Ultimate A-Lister does tilt. He'll also do pretty much anything for $60.

More when the brain cells settle. If they do. Here's a pic from near the top of the rooftop stands where we saw the Cubs beat the Giants, the single greatest live baseball game experience of my life that didn't involve the A's beating Clemens in the playoffs.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Slow Clap

Congratulations Iggy.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Step One Complete

I've been engaged in a continuous debate in my head about this post. Not that I wasn't going to write it. I always was. It was whether or not to include pictures.

Because it's not about vanity.

Maybe a little. Fifteen percent. Tops.

But it didn't start out that way.


Ninety days ago, I decided, with little-to-no idea of what I was getting myself into, that I'd had enough of being unhealthy. Not out of shape, but unhealthy. So, on Monday, April 7th, I quit smoking. And drinking.

After three days of detox, I began a 90-day workout program on April 10th. I also incorporated a strict nutritional diet.

I looked like this:

Now sure, those pics are shitty. Sorry, 'bout that. Perhaps I did it (and by "it," I mean not figuring out how to work the timer on my camera, so I didn't have to shoot into a mirror while holding the damn thing) on purpose because, truth be told, I was chagrined by the state of my body. Two years of not playing soccer, of drinking too much and sitting on the couch playing poker...well...that's what you get: a concave chest, a beer gut, whatever the hell it is that you call that fat above the stomach and below the sternum, flabby arms, a total lack of definition and saggy boxer shorts.

So, why am I including pics? Because if there's one person out there who is looking to become healthier, who is results-oriented, then I want them to believe. And I say this with the utmost sincerity:

If I can do it, anyone can.


Now, I don't want to give the impression that I've adhered to the program with a boot camp-style mentality. Yes, I did at the start. It was no less a matter of life and death to me. For five weeks. In that time, I did not smoke, drink or go off a strict, low-carb, low-fat high-protein diet. Since then, I've partied a few times. I've socially smoked. I've eaten burritos. I've missed workouts (though, only four).

How did I feel about that? Fine. Absolutely fucking fine. Which might be the biggest change, in that I didn't beat myself silly for "slipping." What I did was get right back on the Non-Smoking, Broccoli-Infused Horse.


I finished Day 90 of the program earlier this evening. I start Day 1 of a new, more intense, pysical program on Monday. From now until then, I'm gonna celebrate. Not because I lost 11 pounds. Not because I lost two inches in my waist and gained nearly two on my arms. Not because I feel better than I have in 10 years.

No, I'm going to celebrate because I showed a discipline with the program that had been lacking in my life, one that has already bled into other aspects. Because I've re-discovered that motivation and energy I had in my life many years ago. Before X, before I allowed my life to become something I thought it should be instead of something to be attacked with vigor and optimism.

I'm no Adonis. I will never be. Again, not what it's about. But I'm proud and thankful to the many of you all for your words of encouragement.

If anyone wants information on how I got here, I'm happy to share via e-mail. I don't want to shill for the program. I will say it takes less than an hour a day, incorporates a gradual progression that guards against soreness and injury, comes with complete nutritional guidelines and recipes, and an online support system that is, at turns, invaluable and hilarious. Get in touch and I'll point you in the right direction.

Next pics in days. Until Monday, I'm gonna forget about all of this. If you need me, I'll be at the bar.

Go Forth, My Little Friend

We (that's me and some of his little friends) are here to wish Iggy good luck and smooth sailing today.

Follow along with the rest of us, including the spirit of Eddie Gaedel, over at Tao of Poker (though let's hope we are spared further mental images such as Isabelle lowering herself to choke on Dario's tongue) as our diminutive hero, atop 8 or 9 Everest Poker seat cushions, makes his wee way through the massive Main Event field.

Is it me, or does mini-Peter Criss look like Lars Ulrich? They're the same height, I know that much.

Boss! Boss! The turn! The turn!

I know. Dwarf/midget jokes. I'm hilarious. And original.

Go Iggy!

Friday, July 04, 2008

May I Kindly Suggest You Kids Get Off My Fucking Lawn

Young man, I am okay with your ringtone being an obscenity-filled and derivative rap number. Where I part ways with my tolerance is when you don't answer the damn thing, instead holding it up to your ear and thumping your foot to the beat, and the tinny noise fills the small lobby of the ice cream shop where a bunch of kids are waiting around for their mint and chip cones and you, and that fine hip-hop artist, treat them to two "motherfuckers" and a "bitch." Because your defiant stance and distinct possibility of packed heat, I merely suggested you lower the volume on that "dope ass cut" rather than do what I longed so, which was to turn it to vibrate, shove it up your ass and call you repeatedly.

I laugh at you, teen about town, with your flat-brimmed ballcap askew, at an angle which I imagine you think is "rakish," but is actually moronic. I actually enjoy, get a kick out of, a chuckle, the waistband of your pants holding up the bottom of your droopy ass, despite the presence of a studded belt that matches the accoutrement on your wrist. I know it's a generational thing, though the only true fashion faux pas I can recall from my own high school days was the occasional flipped Izod collar. Oh wait, there was some velour, too. And a mullet or two. So, you see, you and I are not so different. I would like to think you'll look back someday--as I do--and laugh at your garment choices. Alas, when I politely ask you to step aside so my son and I can pass through the narrow mall hallway, I would be most appreciative if you didn't look at me with slow-eyed, slovenly contempt as if I had just asked you to wipe my ass free of a week's worth of medium-texture diarrhea, and move aside more than that slight half-step with your purposeful speed and dexterity of a tortoise on quaaludes. The next time you do that, I'm going to drop you right there in front of Eddie Bauer and pummel you flat as a v-neck sweater. I've been working out.

I was genuinely thankful when you two boys invited AJ into your game of catch in the pool and even when it turned into a more aggressive form of grab-ass-ery, with more participants, more surface-skidding balls, and blood high in the cheeks, I was cool with the escalation. Then you specifically made it a plan to try to hit others in the face with your throws, which is the moment I desired to ask your parents if they would like me to play the same game with them. I've never had the most accurate arm, but I've got a hose. You can believe that.