How To Guide: “How Do You Become a Scooter Rider a Scooter in Chicago?”

seafoam-green-vespa-scooter-classic-italian-scottsdale-phoenix-arizona-valley
Do not call this your “whip.” Ever. It is not.

In this series I’ll take a look at the “how to’s” of things you always wondered but never verbalized.

Five steps to riding a scooter in Chicago

1. Become a d-bag.

*While it may be true that not all scooter riders in Chicago are d-bags, this is the best way to ensure that you will qualify to ride a scooter here.  There are non-d-bag riders; for sure.  But they’re few and far between. *

**It should also be noted that, if you don’t know what a “d-bag” is, rest assured it’s something you don’t want to be.  But you might be, so…**

2. Buy a scooter in a “retro” color (like Seafoam Green)

*It should be noted that most riders that choose traditional colors are not d-bags*

**It should also be noted that it is not always true that most riders that choose traditional colors are not d-bags**

3. Buy an obnoxiously large helmet…much too large for your head.

*This helps with shifting weight, allowing you to go around corners on your scooter that has as much umph as a rototiller*

4. Buy a satchel

*It will carry your dignity for you.  All the scooter riders have them.*

5. Sell your scooter for cash to pay for rent because no one will hire you when you drive to the job interview on a scooter.

*Full circle*

 

…it should be noted that I kind of want a scooter.

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For the Gourd Haters-An Open Letter to People Who Dislike it When I Celebrate Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Dear Pumpkin-Spice Hater,index 2

Oh, so you apparently dislike it when people put pumpkin in hot beverages?

You feel the need to put us down (“us” being those who love gourds in our drinks) just because we celebrate the fact that in this part of the world the earth is tilting away from the sun, which means that we can once again enjoy sweater weather instead of just “sweat” weather?

Well, you can bite me.

Because I love gourds in my drinks.  Yes; I said it.

And I also think cinnamon matches well in just about any other previously-frozen-now-de-thawed-bread-cake you could possibly imagine.

Stick cinnamon on a cake and I’ll eat it with my psl and, by God: it’s autumn.

And if you want to shove a popsicle stick in that bread-cake and ice it with some cream-cheese swirl action, more the better!

Because nothing spells A-U-T-U-M-N like a pumpkin-spiced latte and a cream-cheese pumpkin loaf.

(Except for maybe falling leaves, crisp mornings, frost, the Earth literally tilting away from the sun, squirrels hiding nuts, and harvests)

But other than those parenthetical things, nothing.

See, the difference between you and me is that I don’t hate.  And I like celebrating.  And I think seasons are important because they’re part of the larger metaphor for life, and if you don’t have a psl to mark the change of seasons (literally or metaphorically), you’re just pretending that nothing changes.

And you’re wrong.  Things do change.

And sure, I might be pretending that it’s autumn by drinking a psl and eating a pumpkin loaf when it’s still 85 degrees out, but at least I’m commemorating what SHOULD be!

What’s that you say?  I’m consuming about a steak-dinner’s worth of calories in that little coffee break?  So what?!  I’m storing up for winter!  Don’t you know what autumn is for, you judgmental jerk?

I get it; you don’t like gourds.  And you hate celebrations.  And you don’t like people who are excited about things.

No; I get it.

Keep your opinion.  Enjoy your regular coffee sans the fruit of vine (gourds grow on vines…surprised you didn’t know that).

But you don’t have to hate on me just because you can’t deal with change…

Sincerely,

PSL Lovers Everywhere

Introducing “Hockey: The Musical” or “I Can’t Play So I Write”

The Hawks won tonight.images And there was much rejoicing.

I’m a Blackhawks fan.  I have been since I moved to Chicago.

Hockey is a relative newcomer in my life, only taking residence in my heart the past 10 years.

Why?

Because hockey is largely unknown by most of the world that can’t claim to be part of the “Midwest”, just barely above jai alai in popularity. So, not only had I never watched a game, I could barely name a team (despite the fact that North Carolina, my home state, has a team…Lord knows why…)

And one of the reasons I really love hockey is because I cannot play it.

I’ve skated before.  At Christmas.  My specialty move is screaming “get out of the way” as I careen into the wall.

But hockey isn’t skating.  Hockey is flying.  The speed is truly amazing.

Respect.

And they do it while holding something. Every time I’ve skated my limbs have flailed like sock puppets in hurricane winds.

Needless to say, anything I hold while skating I either a) immediately drop or b) immediately lodge into my body somewhere by falling on it.

Plus, hockey is mysterious. I don’t get the rules. I can’t pronounce the names.

My favorite call is “icing,” where the puck travels to the other end post haste and the refs decide it shouldn’t have done that.  They stop the game for that.

Oh, but fighting is OK.  They’ll let that go on for a little while.

In a football game I can tell when something is “offsides.”  In hockey, you might as well just call that infraction at random.  Who can keep track of these guys, anyway?! They’re like birds circling prey, floating here and there at random.  If I were playing, I wouldn’t give a crap who on my team was where.  I’d be honed in on the puck!

Well, that’s a lie.

I’d probably be crouching by the wall somewhere chanting, “don’t hit me…don’t hit me…stop…stop…”

I’m currently working on a little piece I’m calling, “Hockey: The Musical.” (Semi-seriously)

The majority of the action revolves around a young Swede in his first year playing in the big leagues, awaiting his first big game. He and his teammates are confused by the Indian guy recently recruited but learn to respect him, mostly because his last name is just as long as the Norwegian names.

Respect.

Some of the standards include, “Puck You, Puck Me (The Passing Song)” and “Who Needs Teeth When You Have a Tongue (The Kissing Song)”

It’s going to be good.

So, on this night when the Hawks have won the Stanley Cup (twice in four years), I want to publicly state that this hockey fan is darn proud.

And, as they say, “those who can’t do, teach.”  To tie it to this specific post, “those who can’t play hockey, write about it.”

Go Hawks!

 

 

Opening Night!

Earlier this morning Rhonda turned to me during breakfast and said, “Hey, want to go for a 9 mile run this weekend?”

I immediately began thinking of ways to turn my ankle.

I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but it bears repeating: I hate running.  I’ve heard from many encouraging people that, if I run enough, I will eventually like it.

They are liars.

But as I began to sketch out on my breakfast napkin various ways to turn my ankle, I realized that almost all of these sketches would require a trip to the hardware store.  And while I’m quite fond of the name of our local hardware store…The Crafty Beaver…I don’t actually want to go there.

(If you need an explanation as to why that name is funny, consult your 12 year old son)

I actually like hardware stores.  They smell good.  And I like high ceilings.  What I don’t like about them is how I wander around from aisle to aisle like I’m reenacting a scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  I don’t know what the heck I’m doing 90% of the time in a hardware store.

I like when they have power saw demonstrations, though…

So, because I’ve been writing a lot about running and working out, I thought I’d switch things up and write about something I am passionate about: seeing movies at a movie theaters.

I’m absolutely serious.

With the advent of direct-streaming movies, theaters have declined in popularity.  Oh yes, I’m sure you don’t like the high prices or the overabundant bucket full of salty packing peanuts they generously label as “popcorn,” but I want you to bear with me for a bit and hear me out.

I think direct-streaming movies are destroying our ability to interact on a communal level, not to mention depriving you of some very entertaining people-watching.

You see, just as a gym is GREAT for people-watching, a movie theater is a less strenuous alternative that offers just as much, if not more, enjoyment.

And I love watching franchise movies at their midnight showings.  My wife hates me for this, but like so many things in our marriage, it’s not going to change (much like my inability to successfully clean the bathroom).  I’ll do this till the day I die.

Best franchise opening night viewing experience? Star Trek.

Full disclosure time: I’m not a Star Trek fan.  Never have been.  But man did I figure that opening would bring out the fun characters.  And it did. In spades.

Aliens galore at that opening.  And almost everyone had one of those dumb pins they wear on their chest.  No lie, I saw some people hitting it during their conversation as if they were talking to one another over those intercoms.

And one woman came dressed as Uhura with the short dress and go-go boots.  Classic.  Absolutely classic.  Watching her negotiate those stadium theater stairs was hi-larious.  And don’t you know everyone whistled when she walked in (except for yours truly…I’m classy).

Now, before you think I’m going to these events simply to watch people, I have to say that I love movies and love watching them.  And I love watching them with lots of people because you get that “crowd reaction” during certain portions that, when I’m at home watching them with Rhonda, only I do…and then she begs me to turn it off because I’m being annoying.

The great thing about these midnight showings is that everyone there knows its a safe place.  In that space you can cheer when Leonard Nimoy makes his guest appearance.  You can “Oooo” as the spaceship goes down in flames.

And you clap at the end, which I particularly enjoy.

Another great opening night that I went to was Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.  Terrible movie.  Horrible.  I would say it is arm wrestling at this moment with Temple of Doom for the distinction of worst movie in that franchise.

But when else will you hear people begin to cheer as the “Lucasfilm Ltd” marker shines forth at the beginning of the movie?  Nowhere else, that’s where…unless you’re at my house watching it.

And because these opening night fans are so ravenous in their devotion, occasionally you’ll be able to judge them and not feel bad about it.  Like when I went to see the opening night of Thor and the couple to the left of us brought a newborn in with them.

Yes. Newborn.  Couldn’t have been more than a month old.

The kid slept through the whole thing (we all did, actually…to label it as “craptastic” is to go easy on it), but still: parenting fail.  If you’re willing to pay $16 at midnight for that crappy movie, you should also be willing to shell out another $20 so the zit-laden high schooler can sleep over while you relive comic book glory.

Most recently I went to see The Avengers.  And while I wasn’t able to go on opening night, I would say that the crowd the following day was comparable to an opening night crowd.  The comic book shirts were in full swing, and while I didn’t see any Iron Man helmets or Cap shields, there was quite a bit of nerd-yelling and vocalizing.

Like from the dork three rows up and to the left.  The Hulk starts smashing things in a seminal fight scene and the kid begins cheering like he’s watching his favorite horse pull into the lead at the Kentucky Derby.  But while we are all silently judging, no one says anything.  Why?

Because we’re secretly wanting to do that, too.

And that, my friends, is yet another reason why I see movies in the theater: the dorks around me can enact my deepest childish outbursts, so that I don’t have to.

My local theater, The Davis, is family run.  It’s small.  It’s sticky.  The tickets are cheap, the concessions are reasonable, and the crowd is decidedly local.  I love it.

The one thing I wish it would upgrade is the men’s room.  The urinals are so close together you might as well just throw a large bucket on the floor for everyone to stand around.  And, really, after 64 oz of cherry flavored Coke, a dude’s gotta go.

But it’s a small price to pay to have the communal theater experience in a local setting.

So, as part of the Year of Health, I’m advising everyone to see a movie in a theater to expand your cultural health.  Don’t give me that whole, “I don’t like people” bull (I’m looking at you, Rhonda).  It’s important to have common experiences with fellow human beings over shared interests, whether they be important or banal.

And definitely go see a movie on opening night once in your life.  And if the mood strikes, dress up like a character.  It’ll give me something to talk about.

“Wisconsin is Lovely This Time of Year” or “How I Broke My Diet Without Even Starting” Tuesday, January 17th

My Monday workout happened on a mountain.

Ok, so it wasn’t a mountain…it was a hill.  Apparently there are no mountains in Wisconsin.  Now, before some smart-butt out there sends me a post or an email contending that there are, in fact, mountains in Wisconsin, I encourage you to save your terrain argumentation hate for something  that really matters.

Once one has flown over the Rockies, one can safely posit that there are no mountains in Wisconsin.

That being said, there are some very steep hills in Wisconsin.  Scary steep.  The kind of steep that makes you want to slap two slick pieces of plastic to your feet and say, “Hey, I bet I can go down this hill faster on these than if I were to just roll down it!”

And off you go.  But if you’re like me, you do end up rolling down it.  And you probably take out a couple of kids with you.

I helped chaperon our church youth on this outing.  21 youth, 4 chaperons, and a partridge in a pear tree.  We had a great time, to be sure.  Volunteering to work with kids is really fun for me; others do not share my enthusiasm for humans of a younger numerical stature.

Thankfully there were no grumpy adults on our particular trip, but I did see them in the bar at the ski lodge.  You can tell they agreed to come with their own groups thinking, “Hey, kids and skis?  This should be fun!”

And then after one hour into the adventure they just find themselves belly-up to the bar trying to drown the urge to push a kid off the ski lift with shot after shot of Jameson, usually followed by a New Glarus Moonwalker (it is Wisconsin, after all).

Everyone should volunteer with the youth of their church/house of worship/atheist rally once in their lives.  It’s a great way to expand your horizons and practice the spiritual art of not cursing at people.

This particular trip involved six hours of car time: 3 there and 3 back.  I appreciate the parents that teach their children to sleep in the car.  Those riding in the Brownmobile were all asleep before we hit Rockford.  And it was not because we were bored; we had a great time!  It was because the rhythmic hum of the Dodge Caliber mixed with the melodic bass of Lady Gaga provided an atmosphere absolutely in synch with the rhythms of the heart; it would lull anyone off to sleep.

And it is at that moment that it’s all worth it.  When you hear three snoring kids in the backseat you know that the radio dial is now yours.  And so, when Amy Grant’s “Every Heartbeat” comes on the radio as you cross the Illinois/Wisconsin border, you are unafraid of hearing the tiny voice pipe up from the back saying, “Uhm, can you change the channel to something that doesn’t suck?”

And once you get to the destination, you’re free to pretend that you ski much better than you actually do because you know that you’ll never get any more advanced than the green circles with a group of city kids.  Most have never set foot on a ski hill, let alone strapped skis to themselves to try it.

This is an advantage if you are me.  You get to focus all your energy on trying to help the kids ski better instead of trying to ski better yourself.  It’s all about appearances, folks.

That being said, skiing works muscles you don’t know you have.  Like those long muscles on the inside of your thighs that apparently connect your shoulders with your knees.  That muscle hurts on me today.  I had no idea it existed.   Skiing is tricky like that.

It’s also tricky in the fact that you think you’re working extra hard all the time, so you can eat anything you want.  “Fried cheese curds?  Sure.”  “Bratwurst?  Why not?  I’m skiing, after all…”

But you’re not technically skiing…you’re just standing on skis.

That, plus the fact that every stop we made between home and the destination involved the prefix “Mc” meant that my diet was a non-starter.

That being said, I was able to practice a couple of “eating on a youth trip in Wisconsin” tips that I’ll share with you now:

-order fries.  The kids will eat them all for you.

-sit next to someone skinny.  They will no doubt order fried cheese curds, and then you will be able to eat the leftovers for them, thus denying yourself the shame of eating a full plate yourself.

-if a youth offers you the rest of their beef jerky, the only acceptable response is “no.”  You must remember that kids touch everything without ever washing their hands, so, in essence that beef jerky is really a bacteria jerky…you must say “no”

-finally, if you despair over your lack of self-control in eating everything fried in sight, just remember that this will make it easier for you to fall without hurting yourself on the ski slope…padding is free in Wisconsin!

In short, volunteer to work with kids.  It’s a great way to work on your socio-interpersonal health.  And vary your workout every once in a while.  I did ski a lot, and my legs do feel it.  You have to try adventures to work on your cultural health.

And if your socio-interpersonal health improves along with your cultural health, then you don’t have to worry if your dietary health suffers a bit.  As Meatloaf once said, “Two outta three aint bad…”

Ditched like a Pennsylvania Highway-Tuesday, January 10th

Critter ditched me this morning.

When my alarm went off at the insane hour of 5:30am, I got up and checked my phone.  There was a missed text.

“Not gonna work today Timmy, sorry.  I know this upsets you and I don’t even feel bad about it.  Oh, and Thursday won’t work either so you can shove it!”

Ok.  It didn’t exactly say that.  But that’s the way my heart translated it.

I texted back, “You at least owe me a reason!  My soul is crushed.  I’m going back to bed and I don’t know if I’ll get up again…”

That’s not true either.  But it is true that I wasn’t sure if I would get up again once I laid back down.  I barely know how to set my alarm when I’m coherent.  In a daze of sleep it’s virtually impossible.  I no doubt would have set it for 6:30pm and then slept through dinner.

But sometimes schedules don’t work out.  We’ll lift tomorrow.  But as I crawled back into bed Rhonda got up, chipper as a tweety bird.

“It’s warm out!  I’m going for a run.”

“Ok.  Wake me when you return.”  And I rolled over to dream about anything but working out.

But I did eventually make it to the gym today to run on the treadmill, and while this post may be short, I must address something that I saw again today: the ball cap wearing exerciser.

And if it’s not bad enough he wears the cap inside the gym, the guy CHANGES THE CAP before leaving.  You read that correctly: he has a workout cap.

In case it rains inside, apparently.

In my mind I’m thinking, “Ok, the dude is bald and doesn’t want sweat to drip into his eyes.  I get it.”  And I do get it because I, too, would wear some sort of headgear in the gym if it didn’t look totally idiotic.  Jay-Z can wear a sweatband and look cool.  When I wear it I look like an Olivia Newton-John groupie.  It’s just how life is.

But I saw him switch caps, and the dude has a full head of hair.  Full. Head. Hair.

Ridiculous…

A slap to bald(ing) men everywhere.  If I had hair like his I’d never wear anything on my head, ever: rain, shine, construction site, tsunami, in space.  Let it float, baby, let it float.

But he has the audacity to cover his curly locks (with a White Sox hat no less) and then change into a “dress” cap.

Btw, no such animal.

So, to the dude who wears, and then switches, ball caps at the gym: knock it off!

Ditch the hat like Critter ditched me this morning.  You can thank me later.

Days Where I Wish I Had My Mandarin-English Dictionary, Monday, January 9th

Let’s take a moment to chat about tattoos.

How do tattoos play into The Year of Health you might ask?

Well, other than the potential infection risk that tattoos pose (especially if you get one from around the corner from where I live…I don’t think the artist is supposed to lick the ink needle as one might do with a sticky ballpoint pen), tattoos can be a “hit or miss” in the classy department. And while they may make wonderful conversation pieces, most people really shouldn’t be seeing your upper thigh anyway…

But we’ll save that for a different editorial on dress code.

The major reason I want to talk about tattoos today is because, well, I saw one.  One all too familiar.  In fact, I’ve seen many a variation of this type of tattoo since moving to Chicago.

You guessed it: the “inside-of-the-upper-arm-Chinese-character” tattoo.

And, of course, you find them mostly on white men just out of college who don’t take their ball caps off when they work out (again, another post just waiting to be penned).

I want to wonder out loud what exactly that Mandarin phrase might be that they felt the need to precariously perch it on the blank canvass between their elbow and their armpit.  What might one need to be reminded of when looking there?

The pragmatic choices of “Apply deodorant here!” or “Smell to check freshness!” come first to my mind.

But I don’t think that’s it.

I imagine they’re probably the characters for “Hope,” “Love,” “Peace,” or the Mandarin equivalent to the phrase “Know Thyself”…which, I should note, is only appropriate to have on your body tattooed in Latin.

To be honest, I’ve looked to my armpit for a lot of things: to see where “that smell” was coming from, to find out how I somehow got a paper cut in the armpit crease, to apply ointment after a particularly hard and chaffing run. But I’ve never looked to my armpit for inspiration.  Not once.

And it should also be noted that I have a tattoo.  But it’s more of a decoration for me, kind of like you might hang wall art or switch out a hood ornament.  And it’s not writing, in any language.  Although it is a cross, which technically is a lower-case “t” in English.  If you take it as such, just imagine it’s a “t” for “tim” or “t” for “this is my arm, not yours.”  Pick whatever phrase you like.

Back to the Mandarin characters.

On Friday I ran on the treadmill so hard that the treadmill extension chord came undone.  Right at the peak of my run with the setting on 8.0, where my body heat was at it’s zenith and I was certain that the people to my left and my right had both abandoned their own runs because my elbows were flinging sweat onto them, the treadmill just simply shut off.

Bam.

I took that as a sign.  After 22 minutes of running, I had tired the treadmill out with my heavily thumping body steps.  So I called it quits and headed toward the locker room.

There I was accosted by one of these armpit hugging tattoos brandished in the mirror by a guy, with a ball cap, making kissy faces at his reflection as he flexed.

Btw, “kissy faces” in the mirror make you look like you’re trying to seduce yourself, which is really creepy.

But here’s how I imagined a conversation might go with him if I had had the guts to confront this cultural phenomenon run amuck.

I wanted to say to him, as I walked by, “Oh yes, I agree.”

To which he would undoubtedly reply, “With what?”

“Oh,” I would say nonchalantly, “with the statement on your underarm.”

“You mean ‘Peace, Hope, Love’?” he would ask blankly.

To which I would respond, “Is that what they told you it said?!  Hahaha, your tattoo artist has a lovely sense of humor.”

“What does it say, then?!” he’d scream.

“Object is smaller than it appears,” I’d say over my shoulder, as I headed for my locker.

Kissy face that you body art bozo.