The Best Holiday of the Year: Thanksgiving

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Based on the Vikings trading the Apache Indians 726 potatoes for Mackinac Island and subsequently spreading small pox throughout North America, Thanksgiving has evolved from the onset of pestilence into a day of gluttony in your uncle’s suburban dining room.  The grandchildren say the holiday lacks entertainment other than watching the vagabond your aunt invited into her house (“’tis the season of helping those less fortunate,” she says) drink himself into a stupor and urinate on her antique couch.  The oldest generation regales in stories of the previous old generation that no one else remembers.  With the old and young otherwise occupied, the middle-agers step up to ingest all the benefits of this unparalleled holiday.

It doesn't get more American than this
It doesn’t get more American than this

Do Nothing

On Thanksgiving you get to perform at your highest level of sloth.  There is no pressure to dress up as an Easter bunny, pass out candy while pretending to be amused by a kid wearing a Darth Vader mask, or risk blowing your fingers off with illegal Chinese fireworks.  You will not find yourself in a position where you drink yourself to lusting after a fugly stranger at midnight, which has a strong chance of blossoming into another bout of chlamydia.  You don’t have to deal with the wrath of your relatives about you being a terrible gift giver when you fling packs of Marlboro’s across the room to infants and the asthmatics yelling, “and lung cancer to all and to all a good night.”

Eat

Thanksgiving in its basic form is a privatized version of Old Country Buffet sans cover charge.  The women take pride in the ‘homemade’ cranberry sauce even though you can see the rings from the tin can impressed in the red blob sitting on a piece of china that hasn’t been freed from the cabinet in at least a decade.  The meal is a standardized spread that gives you comfort in eating the same sides and main dish year after year.  If you were more ambitious, and wanted to win Shark Tank, you would find a way to liquefy the entire feast to sell it in IV bags so guys could mainline it to allow for uninterrupted football viewing, but you are you so that’s not going to happen.

When you pass out after dinner, you blame the triptopan in the turkey.  You deny that the fifteen cups of glug you pounded after getting winded walking to the annual alley football game had anything to do with your nap.  You rattle off an excuse that your inability to run in the game is due to an old knee injury.  The reality is that your lack of physical activity beyond crushing clown cans on the train rides home from job as a mid-level manager puts you at a daily risk for a torn ACL from bending over to pick up your shoes in the morning.  Your nephews dismiss you as a decrepit and loquacious.  They declare that they will never fall to your level of lethargy.  You envy their youth, but know that with the ‘D’ averages they are pushing at the local community college a job working the cash register at the Mobil on the overpass will be their future.

Judgement

By the end of the night, bad blood within the family has resurfaced as Cousin Joe rants about his thirty year grudge against Grandma because she bought his brother Steve a car, but Joe was stuck riding his Schwinn.  Your brother-in-law is using his diaper-wearing child’s demeanor as an excuse for an early exit as he is grateful that he only has to see most of these people once a year.

Your often-homeless niece is plotting her Black Friday shopping spree at Wal-Mart.  You see the greed pumping through a protruding vein in her forehead.  By her calculations, if she leaves right after desert, waits in line, and tramples as many people as needed when the doors open at five in the morning, she can save $50 on a TV.  You point out that she is valuing her time at five dollars an hour plus the intangible costs of throwing off her circadian rhythm and possibility facing arrest for fighting with some poor security guard working graveyard shift to feed his six kids.  Of course, she ignores your superior logic and moves on to tell your mother about how great the Black Friday deals are this year.

As you stumble to your Uber, you take great pride in yourself that you truly are the black sheep of your family.  You are better equipped for this world than they are.  You are grateful that their inferior genetic makeup was omitted out of your DNA at your conception.  Of course, they are thinking the same of you, but that thought never enters your head.

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Get Ready For the Olympic Hangover While the Election Fiesta Continues

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Every four years we experience a frenzy on par with Super Bowl Sunday, but it runs for almost the entire year.  I’m talking about the Presidential election.  Wait, I’m blabbering about the Olympics.  The people of the US and A react the same way to those running for office as they do for those kids heading down to Rio to bring home the Zika.

Everyone is an Expert

Joe Six-Pack is ignorant of the games—until they start.  After that Olympic torch fires up, Joe is arguing Phillip Dutton’s chance of landing gold in dressage (horse dancing).  He will explain why motor boating, the kind with a boat and a motor you sex fiend, should be reinstated as an Olympic sport.  Joe knows Olympics.  After the games end, Joe and his coworkers, who were arguing how Tongo shouldn’t have been slaughtered by South Korea in the first round of women’s archery, are back to yelling about how that 7th inning drop-third strike call in the Mets/Yankees game will ruin the sport of baseball.

When Joe isn’t fired up about gold medals, he is frantic about the next successor to the throne of the United States.  He saw an interview with the author of the latest tell-all Kennedy book on Fox News, and he is ready to share all the knowledge he gained in that three-minute piece with you over the next six months.  Joe knows his rights.  There is no way “They” are going take away his great-great-grandfather’s punt gun, and he is prepared to talk your ear off even though you agree with him.  Catch Joe in an off-year and will tell you ‘Rowe versus Wade’ is a new video game for PS5 and his denial into the Electoral College is the reason he is working the closing shift at Maud’s Bar on the weekdays.

Joe is a transitory guy.

Punt gun vs Jet
When the British attack us again, your punt gun will save all of us

Get Fired Up

There is nothing like events outside the scope of our own daily lives to instill fear and passion within the human mind.  Just because the Ukraine missed medaling by .8523 points in women’s duet synchronized swimming, doesn’t mean that you need to alter your routine of a Swanson TV dinner followed by a three hour episode of the ‘The Bachelor’ by watching the post-post-interview with Anna Voloshyna complete with subtitles instead.  When Trump starts telling everyone that he is going to build a wall covered in ectoplasma so that illegals can’t enter our country, make sure you write comment 4,285 that Yahoo! article instead spending time with your daughter on her school art project.  Consider your first amendment rights exercised.

Don’t forget to tie in your personal life with those presidential candidates and Olympic stars.  They do their best to relate to the everyman, so you should do your best to mimic their lives.

  • “I own a house, so I’m a real estate mogul—just like Trump”
  • “Just think of the job offers this girl is going to get after she wins the silver in trampoline. Kind of like me after I get promoted the lead tire guy at Jiffy Lube.”
  • “Who hasn’t deleted multiple public email accounts containing top-secret, highly classified information?”
  • “I signed up for a gym membership last week, so I could have filled in for Phelps if he was injured. I’m just saying.”

 “It Just Doesn’t Matter”~ Bill Murray in Meatballs

Here is the greatest motivational speech in movie history, watch it now:

Everyone is looking for the “Miracle on Ice” moment but instead we have Dream Team 16 eviscerating five guys who were working in a smelt factory in China the week before getting assigned to the national basketball team.  Which team really has greater fear of losing?  The prize:  A lifetime of public humiliation or execution in the town square.

Eight years ago when Obama was elected, every citizen was going to get a free cell phone and never have to work again.  My cell phone was shut off because of “lack of payment”, so I guess that didn’t pan out as planned.  Maybe I’ll have better luck getting free stuff with one of the two clowns running for office now.

No matter the outcome of the Olympics or the election, we are doomed.  If socialism or a dictatorship doesn’t bring us down, Ryan Lochte’s crime syndicate will.

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Letters to Corporate: A Big Bank

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When I see injustice in the world, I point it out.  Today, I took on a financial institution.  Do I expect an underdog victory here?  Absolutely not.  

Change matters.
Hey Bank, change matters.

Here’s to change:

Ms. [CEO of a publicly traded bank]:

This weekend I visited the new branch at [address].  I was impressed with the sleek design, smiling staff and on-site parking.  Upon entering the building, a greeter acknowledged me and guided me to a teller.

I placed my jar of change on the counter for deposit.  I was informed that this branch didn’t have a coin counting machine.  Although, I consider manual change counting tedious and error prone, I saw no other alternative to complete my deposit.  I learned that this state-of-the-art location does not accept deposits in the form of change.  After gasping at the thought of our currency being rejected by a bank with its profits directly correlated to monetary transactions, I regained my composure.  Fortunately, your manager had a solution.  He instructed me to take my change to the local, privately owned rinky-dink grocery store, which purportedly had a change-counting machine.  I considered my options:

  • Withdraw all of my money from your bank to see if the grocery store would accommodate me in opening a banking account.
  • Organize a community rally in the name of coins. Given that most of the country carries change in their pocket along with consideration of the demographics of my neighborhood, I would anticipate a large, sign-carrying turnout in front of the branch demanding equal treatment for coins and paper money.
  • Accumulate a pile of pennies large enough to pay my monthly mortgage payment. According to the US Department of Treasury, Title 31, Subtitle IV, Chapter 51, Subchapter I, Section 5103 “United States coins and currency are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues”.  In my estimation, it would take six five-gallon buckets, each weighing approximately 260 pounds, to make my next mortgage payment in pennies.  For this lone transaction, it might make sense for your obtuse institution to acquire a change machine instead of depending on a hand count.

I am no Luddite.  I do the Facebook, text the chats, and even dial-in to check the latest news and sports stories on the internet.  I also appreciate [Bank]’s avant-garde approach to encourage paper and electronic forms of currency over the traditional methods of coins.  However, to remove coin counting machines, and essentially issue an edict to reduce the significance of coins in our monetary system, seems like a despotic move for [Bank].  Coins are not an anachronism in 2016 and a $XX billion market capitalized mega bank should know this to be true.

I wish to continue my twenty-year relationship with your bank, but if you continue to abandon rudimentary services such as change counting, I will look elsewhere for my banking needs.

Sincerely,

[Skiing In Jeans]

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Another Saturday Night

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The alarm clock down the hall wailed for his two a.m. feeding.  My wife smacked me with a limp arm, “Your turn.”  I rose from my slumber and careened down the hallway.  As I passed the baby’s room, I wondered what my single friends were doing two blocks east at Burton’s Bar.

Tommy’s signature pickup move, “Horseshoe meet tennis ball, tennis ball meet horseshoe” while alternating the flexing of his biceps and triceps had forced another girl to reconsider that date with her mother’s co-worker’s son.  Digger was sending out a mass text to all three of the girls he had hooked up with in the last decade for a chance at redemption of his whiskey-enhanced performance.  Danzig’s ‘Mother’ reverberated throughout the bar.

I entered the kitchen where I prepared myself a delicious snack of hand-carved Gouda, a tangerine, and a scoop of peanut butter.  The baby’s milk warmed on the stove.  The crisp night air rushed through the open windows bringing in the city’s sounds; a primal yell from the downhearted drunk, the rustling of wild dogs patrolling the streets, and the muffled clip-clapping of the ‘L’.  I took in the food and sounds ignoring the screams from the adjacent room.  A voice broke my moment of calm.

“We’re all doing shots!” Digger yelled out while waving a lone finger in the air, “none of the premium stuff; rot-your-gut tequila!”  Unfazed by another over-served yuppie waving his Visa card, the bar-backs readied themselves near the kitchen tightening the grip on their mops waiting to slop up the vomit and urine at closing time.  With the single girls fleeing from Tommy’s advances, he transformed into his alternate ego, “Thomas Toughguy.”  Mr. Toughguy grabbed Digger’s shot off the counter, took it down without the typical salutations, and smashed the glass on the floor.  His nose flared as he tried to draw eye contact from anyone shorter than him.  Having overestimating the number of people who would want a bottom-shelf booze, Digger choked down the four unclaimed shots and extended Sunday’s hangover through lunch.   Meanwhile, Thomas’ eyes locked in on a target.

“We’re all doing shots”

I guess this is fitting.
I guess this is fitting.

“What do you think you’re doing?” my wife unloaded into my serenity.   “You’re eating and drinking while my baby is starving,” she scolded.  Didn’t she see what I was trying to do?  I was shaping new life by teaching delayed gratification, the joy of simple things, and demonstrating that abundance is not the source of happiness.

“Airplane rules,” I declared.  Her quizzical look let me know I needed to explain.

“Airplane Rules”

“The stewardess always says ‘when you are travelling with a child, secure your mask first, and then assist the child.’”  I had her; thank you FAA.  I shoved the final piece of cheese in my mouth, grabbed the warmed bottle, and glided past my wife to tend to my child.

The savage yell erupted from his mouth.  Thomas owned the night.  No one dared confront the Red Bull fueled fighter.  Digger and Thomas closed down Burton’s.  The bouncer stood guard at the door while the bar-backs flipped the chairs on top of the tables and canvased the floor with bleach water.  Two of Digger’s text messages bounced back as undelivered; the third, unanswered.  Digger resorted to hitting on strays stumbling down Addition Street.  None of the girls acknowledged his pick-up line of, “I’ll jump into your back seat if you’re driving.”

The fighter and reveler walked down the quiet sidewalk to Clark Diner to recount the night and reminisce about stories of yesteryear.

As the bottle emptied his half-closed eyes signaled he was ready for his crib.

Special thanks to C.A. for this article suggestion.

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Confession: I like Justin Bieber’s song “Sorry”

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As I crash into middle age with my hair transforming from a lavish mane into a power alley, I face an internal crisis.  My radio listening should focus on “the hits of the ’90’s and early ‘00’s.”  I should live in a musical purgatory consisting of Blink 182, talking about how Smashing Pumpkins should have stayed broken up, and wondering why bars don’t end the night with Semisonic’s “Closing Time” anymore.  Whenever I hear the song, “Tubthumping” I think of my college roommate, Anthony Baldwin throwing himself to the ground of filthy bar only to get back up again.

The idea of holding a lighter in the air while your band plays its signature power ballad is gone, and the last great guitar solo happened in the pre-Internet age.  Our generation had upbeat songs like Third Eye Blind’s “Jumper”, REM’s “Everybody hurts”, and Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy”.  This new generation has its pulse fixed on 128 beats per minute in some over-sampled deep house baseline while vaping teenagers wave their lit cell phones to nearest speaker in a erratic flood of misguided solidarity.

Indulging in today’s pop music by listening to Justin’s latest hit, I have crossed the generational bridge into an era where teenagers pay hundreds of dollars to watch a “musician” walk on stage and press the play button on his iPod while kids do designer drugs, cover themselves in spray paint, and throw beach balls throughout the venue.  It sounds like a nightmare for the cleaning crew, but I guess this is the concert experience today.

Should I dislike a pop star who was learning how to use his My Little Potty when I was failing my Spanish final freshman year?  Au contraire, a boy who was crashing Lamborghinis and destroying rental houses at the same age when I was struggling to get a girl to go to a pledge dance is the admired one.  Would I want to hang out with the spoiled brat?  No way.  However, I’ll give the kid credit for writing a catchy tune.  For that, he earns my respect.

As my contemporaries get ‘jiggy wit it’ picking up their kids from school in the hip, yet cost effective, Subaru Forrester, I can pull up next to a car full of college kids and relive my youth knowing that we both enjoy the same song.  For the duration of Justin’s song cranking out of my car’s stereo, I represent youth again.  I embrace a total disregard for my own physical well being, personal finances, and employment outlook.  I am the youth of today with the experience of a guy approaching the back nine.  Looking through the eyes of a Gen Z’er, the world isn’t that bad.   I’ll even say I’ll become a democrat; “Sorry” that’s not going to happen; I got caught up in the moment.

If you know any disillusioned youths or old dudes in the middle of a mid-life crisis, please forward this to them.

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How to Buy a Diamond Engagement Ring

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You think you have dated enough girls that you’re finally ready to settle down?  Keep telling yourself that player.  In reality, you discovered the one girl in the world who will put up with your poor oral hygiene, your asinine eye cream usage, and your lack of eye contact when in a deep conversation.  You better lock her down before she learns that you were dumpster-diving for dinner only months prior to meeting her.

The key to any marriage is a good foundation—and that foundation is the ring.  She is only going to flash it around the week of her engagement and maybe a couple of times on her wedding day.  After that, no one cares.  Like all big bang moments in life, this one is fleeting too.  Read this guide and save some money on the most superfluous thing you will buy in your life.

Learning Jeweler Speak

Jewelers throw an alliterative assembly of terms at you to exhibit their purported expertise in diamonds.  “Clarity”, “Cut”, “Color”, “Carat weight”, and “Certification”.  As you walk out of the store, your bank account is thirty grand lighter and the rock falls through the hole in the pocket of your Venture clearance jeans.  Nice move Farley.

Throw all that jeweler advice aside and just listen to my friend, Clyde (short for Clydesdale), “buy the biggest thing you can afford—she’ll love it.”

Bigger than your knuckle and heavily discounted.
Bigger than your knuckle and always ‘On Sale’
  • There are inclusions that only a loupe can see? Who cares.
  • The diamond is so yellow that people think it is a sapphire? Let them think that.
  • The stone was cut by a guy at his first day of jewelry school? It is unique.

 

All those things are inconsequential.

All that matters is size.  Clyde is right.  Listen to Clyde.

Hit Up Your Friends

Half of all marriages end in divorce.  That means there are an inordinate number of engagement rings thrown across the bedroom when the wife finds out that her husband blew the emergency fund at the OTB.  Your cash will be welcomed to cover the divorce expense.  By offering 15% of the wholesale cost, you will be paying more than what any jeweler would pay them.  Your bride might make a comment her ring looks just like her recently separated friend, but your pocket book will thank you.

Diamonds truly are ‘Forever’.

Who Says You Need A Real Blood Diamond?

“I have one word for you:  Moissanite.”  A 2-carat real diamond will cost you $20,000; that is the price of a nice mobile home.  The same size Moissanite stone will cost $600; that is the monthly car payment on your Porsche SUV parked outside of your nice mobile home.  Since Moissanite is manmade, it doesn’t have inclusions, discolorations or other imperfections.  Once again, man one-upped nature at a fraction of the cost.

http://www.moissanitevsdiamondrings.com/benefits-of-moissanite/

Choose Your Fiancé’s Occupation Carefully

I always wanted to marry a machinist.  They can’t wear rings at work, so the only way the can show their true devotion to you is with a tattoo.  For $50, you can put your mark on your spouse in a way that no metal ring can.  They can’t lose it.  They don’t have to clean it.  Insurance is not required.  Who says “Love costs a thing”?

The Unhappy Ending

The advice in this column is all for naught.  Sometime in between your 5th and 15th year of marriage, she will ask for an upgrade.  It doesn’t matter how big the original ring is or how much it cost; it will need to be bigger.  Please re-read this guide at that time.

Skiing in Jeans just hit its 2-year anniversary.  Show your thanks by forwarding this to a friend and asking them to subscribe.

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So You Want To Be A Hipster?

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Of all the issues facing our education system, hipsterdom is one of the most damaging. High school kids, from extremely affluent suburbs, have stopped showering and started listening to Phish to get in touch with their free spirit before jumping into daddy’s BMW 6 Series convertible.  Unfortunately, for some kids being a hipster is phase many of them never out grow.  If you’re one of those oversized, parasitic children, here is your maturation guide into an adult hipster.

Despite what clothes you wear, your laissez-faire approach to life, or your unshaven neckline, you are conforming to every beatnik, hippie or new wave kid that took the faux journey before you.  Keep reading to learn how to become an authentic twenty-first century beatnik.  It ain’t cheap to join a sub-average way of life, so if this is a little pricey for you maybe you should reconsider your dedication to becoming a hipster.

Fixed Gear Bike- $32,000

This transportation vehicle is must for any skinny-jean guy.  To be a bona fide hipster bike, it must have a single gear with no brakes, no freewheel at the rear tire, and absolutely no reflectors.

http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671042/a-32000-carbon-fiber-fixed-gear-bike-designed-by-a-formula-1-firm

Condo- $400,000 (possibly free-keep reading)

You can’t live your parent’s basement and expect to make it to the morning drum session in the subway by the time rush hour starts.  You’ll have your job as a barista coffee fetcher for the benefits, but your true calling is one of the following:  kitschy artist, independent record store clerk dealing in pre-1978 45’s from East Germany, or fifth year graduate student about to embark on your third, and eventual uncompleted, master’s thesis.  If you go the education route, make sure you enroll in a private, enigmatic, and exorbitant school majoring in history, English, or psychology.  If your parents are rich, it is cool if everyone knows that mommy and daddy and paying for your digs, leaving you a stress-free seventy-five years until you can focus on what you really want to do in life.

Attire- Varies, but it is expensive to look homeless.

The staples are a given:  the black framed glasses (corrective lens optional), unshaven armpits, androgynous shirts, and purple Converse shoes.  Where it gets tricky is the facial hair:  If you have it, flaunt it like Wes Bentley in Wal-mart.  If you don’t have it, transplant it. http://nypost.com/2014/02/25/hipster-wannabes-forking-over-thousands-for-facial-hair-transplants/

Jeans are a tough one; if you can fit into your girlfriend’s pants, don’t ask to borrow them or you may cross the line from pseudo eunuch to perpetual single guy who gives all his girlfriends eating disorders.

Music— Usually free, because, like this blog, there is no real demand for things done in poor taste.

The general attitude of “if no one else has heard of it, it must be great” applies here.  If it plays on radio, or god forbid the band plays on SNL, dissociate from it immediately.  Going to Idaho to watch a one-chord band play a cover of “Whip It” is worth bragging points in this category.

Books- Get a library card, so you can tell everyone “I use the library”.

Your demigod
Your demigod

Carry a copy of “On the Road” by Kerouac with you all the time.  It doesn’t have the same mystic as “Catcher in the Rye”, but your image is different than that of the Salinger crowd.  Even if you never read Jack’s credendum, toting the bible that started the movement will establish as you as a true hipster.  Of course, we are talking about the paperback version—don’t even think about bringing the Kindle out of your bedroom at the risk of looking like a responsible citizen.

Every generation has its group of vagabonds.  Unfortunately, you are now one of them.

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The Cubs Didn’t Win the World Series

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Almost five generations have come and gone without a Cubs’ World Series win.  More impressive than the drought is the legions of loyal Cubs fans across the country.  Every year the fans place bets for their boys to bring home a championship, and the “North Siders” fall short of winning the last game of the year consistently.

A status quo of mediocrity leaves little room to be disappointed.  Cubs spectators are not of the bandwagon variety, because there is neither band playing nor wagon to ride when your team is usually in the cellar.  The Cubs suit up at spring training with the hope of victory.  By May, the fans are saying, “Better luck next year,” but they remain loyal to the team throughout the season.  The Bleacher Bums throw back home runs.  Harry Caray lives on in fans’ hearts and minds every seventh inning stretch.  Contrary to what Lee Elia might have ranted about when he was the manager of the Cubs, the fans want the team to win, but they are fine with the Cubs just playing the game.

Why is a losing team a good thing?  Look at the Boston Red Sox.

Cub fans should thank Billy
Cub fans should thank Billy

The ‘Curse of the Bambino’ engulfed the Red Sox for almost a century before a World Series win in 2004.  Even the movie Fever Pitch was re-written to accommodate the victory, because no one expected the Red Sox to bring home the trophy.  Over ten years since that victory, the kids of Boston assume that their home team wins the October games about every five years (2004, ‘07, ‘13).  During the Curse, the hopeful, “What if they won?” punctuated the fans’ fall nights.  After winning the World Series those same nights are left with discussing the seemingly improbable with lines like, “Why didn’t they win?” or the audacious, “Of course they won, they are the Red Sox.”

With that childlike feeling of “Is this the year?” abruptly ending so went the distinguishing mark on a team that once banished Babe Ruth to the Yankees.  In place of the sentiment of hope, the dread of failure stands in its stead.  There is a special comfort in knowing the outcome; even if it means losing.

“If you build it, they will come”

As Ricketts family systemically ‘improves’ Wrigley by installing jumbo-trons, dismantling bleachers and eliminating privately owned rooftops, the fans still show up to soak in history.  Nostalgia draws the fans into the park from every street corner of America.  Inside, old men tell their grandchildren how the Chicago Bears returned kickoffs from left field.  They speak of Babe Ruth calling his shot in the same spot where Ernie Banks blasted his 500th home run.  Ryno jerseys stick out in the stands two decades after he retired.

The history is not forgotten.  It is transferred from one generation to the next.  Fathers relive their youth while at the same time creating the seeds of passion that their sons will pass to their children.  The park was built and the fans continue to come.

In time, the sanctum of the perpetual worst team in baseball will be rebuilt in Schaumburg with ergonomic plastic seats made in China, vegan tofu hot dogs, and a wheat microbrew-of-the-week.  One year, the Cubs might make it through a season without blowing the championship, but until they do, I’m sticking with the team that has the most impressive stat in sports.  I’ll take an sanguine spring over an orgasmic October every year.

Here’s to another century of hoping.

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Catholic School Kids Fight with Swords? Part II

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This is the outstanding conclusion–hang tight, it is shorter than part I.

After school on Friday, I went home and asked my mom if I could go to Tony’s.  “Sure, but be home by dinner time,” she said.

“I might be home a little later than normal.  Tony’s big gang fight is today,” I added.

As soon as I spoke of Tony’s gang fight, my mother had me on lock down.  There would be no brawl for me.

After I had a nice conversation with Tony’s grandmother, she put Tony on the phone.  Tony completely understood that parents don’t like to see their children in harm’s way.  If he lived through the night, he assured me we would still be friends on Monday.  He ended the phone call abruptly.  His mercenaries had arrived.

Tony walked outside to two dozen classmates lining the street.  It felt like The Battle of Bull Run but without the historic significance.

Deep in suburbia, Mike Lenten led his troops down Morse Avenue towards Tony’s waiting army.

“Hey John Paul!  Where’s your 12 foot sword?” Steve barbed.

“Tony hiding behind the girls?” Mike retorted.

As the groups converged, Tony and Mike met in the middle of the street to discuss the rules of the fight.  No weapons.  Hair pulling is fine, but only from a defensive position.  Only ripping T-shirts; not flannels or designer shirts.  No double teaming a guy if he has glasses.

As the ground rules were getting laid out, Harry Konstanov snaked through the crowd.

Punches to the head can only be open handed.  No nut shots.  Pushing is ok, but biting is not allowed.  Eye gouging and scratching are forbidden.

Crack!  Harry connected a right hook to Mike’s temple.  Mike hit the ground with thud.  He never saw the punch.  The fight was over.

“Let’s go.”  Harry said with a casual wave to Derek.  The Junior Varsity Latin King member had lived up to his image.  Harry was a badass-like Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke type of badass.  With one punch, the public school kids controlled the neighborhood.

The rest of Mike’s gang was frozen.  Their leader was down.  They scraped him off the street and rushed home to their mansions.

Within minutes, you could hear sirens.  Kids jumped on their bikes and fled.  They were trying to make it home for dinner, but at the same time avoiding getting arrested for violating the R.I.C.O. Act.

On Monday at school, over a hundred kids claimed to be at the fight.  By noon, over two hundred kids saw the battle that caused over $50,000 in damage .  By the last bell, seventeen kids had been detained by the national guard and the marital law had been declared in the town of Tessville over the weekend.

Fast forward 20+ years.  Here is what these guys are doing now:

  • Tony is now in the Gang Leader Hall of Fame along with Al Capone, El Chapo, Freeway Rick Ross and ‘Pookie’ from the movie New Jack City.
  • Harry Konstanov was busted ten years ago for using stolen credit cards to fund his pedicure habit.
  • Derek Mendez finally graduated from high school at age 26.  He is currently at M.I.T. teaching algebraic topology at the graduate level.
Recent Photo of Mike Lenten
Recent Photo of Mike Lentin
  • Mike Lenten still lives in his parent’s basement.
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Catholic School Kids Fight with Swords?

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Disclaimer:  The names in this story have been changed.  Parts of it have been been embellished for your pleasure.

“The Queen’s kids jumped me!” Tony yelled as he ran towards Steve and me.  You would expect a limp, maybe a bloody nose, or a broken arm from a guy who just got pummeled like Robin Ventura after bull rushing Nolan Ryan; not a guy charging down the street in a full sprint to tell you how he just got attacked.

“You know John Paul Foster has a 12 foot sword,” Steve commented as Tony caught his breath.  Steve was our quiet friend, who enjoyed death metal and blowing things up.  He later went on to become a member of an elite US Special Op’s team, but as a teenager he liked stealing sand from the park to build bunkers in his backyard.

As Steve and I went back to riding our bikes around the neighborhood, Tony plotted his revenge against the catholic school kids.  For Steve and me, it was just another made up story by our Italian friend, whose grandfather owned a successful company that made the plastic covers for couches in front rooms (pronounced “fröunch”).  Tony had a streak of stories that pushed the limits of believability.  Once he tried to convince me that his uncle’s college roomate’s girlfriend’s son worked out with a guy who owned a dog that was once boarded at the same kennel as Harry Carray’s purebred.  Or the time he tried to tell me that our smokeshow teacher, Ms. Baken, asked to be his date at one of those awkward junior high dances, but he turned her down because she wouldn’t put out.

We walked to Mike Lenten’s house and rang the doorbell.  His mom answered.

“Hi Mrs. Lenten, is Mike home?” Tony politely asked.

“Oh sure Tony, let me get him,” Mike’s mom said. “Mike, your friends are here,” she yelled up the stairs as she went to the kitchen.

When Mike walked to the door, Tony got serious, “Morse and Albion, four o’clock this Friday.  Bring any of your friends who wanted to get beat up.”

“No, you bring any of your friends that want to get beat up,” Mike shot back.  We weren’t really good at taunting, but we tried.

Tony was about to unleash war in the town of Tessville unlike anything seen since the years of prohibition.  Tony needed experienced guys; guys who knew how to fight and were not afraid to take heat from their parents when things went bad.  Steve and I were not those guys, but Tony let us in his gang anyway.  Then he recruited the toughest kids in our school.

Tony--All Grown Up
Tony–All Grown Up

Harry Konstanov, a gypsy, was rumored to be in the ‘Junior’ Latin Kings.  His parents supposedly had a counterfeit machine in their basement.  No one ever saw it, but everyone knew about it.  This kid was so tough that he never fought anyone in school, he just looked at you, causing you to ‘fight club’ yourself like Edward Norton, and then he watched you head to the the nurse’s office.  At lunch one day, he showed me a cut on his hand that looked like a deep gash from landing too hard on the woodchips on the playground.  He claimed he got it from punching a rival gang member in the mouth on a Tuesday night.  I wasn’t about to call the toughest guy in school a liar, but I couldn’t believe his parents let him stay out after dark.

In the movie Heat, we learned you need a getaway driver.  If you needed a ride to junior high, you called Derek Mendez.  He had his driver’s license in 7th grade and a mustache two years prior.  An import from the Philippines, the school system held him back a couple of years so he could catch up.  It is pretty cool when you can bum a smoke off a teacher in the parking lot while all your friends are buying Clearasil by the case.

For the next three days at school, talk of the fight was running through the halls like a case of gonorrhea at a chain of truck stops in Kentucky.  Tony strutted through the hallways with his chest out and his shirtsleeves rolled up.  Kids approached him, kissed his pinky ring, and paid homage to the new king of the school.  The popular girls looked at him as if he were Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse.  Even the older kids acknowledged him with a high-five instead of booking him.

After school on Friday, I went home and asked my mom if I could go to Tony’s.  “Sure, but be home by dinner time,” she said.

“I might be home a little later than normal.  Tony’s big gang fight is today,” I added.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion…

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