Mr. Pidgin

INT: CAR, TRAVELING 60 MPH ON ROUTE ONE, BETWEEN SHARK AND BIG COPPITT KEY

LUNA spies a good-sized white waterfowl.

LUNA:

LOOK! A tall leg-bird!

ME: (disbelievingly)

A what?

LUNA:

Right over there! See him?

ME:

No, no. What did you call it?

LUNA: (somewhat defensively)

A tall leg-bird.

ME:

A heron?

LUNA:(defensively)

I couldn’t remember that word.

ME:

And your Plan B term for it was ‘tall leg-bird’?

LUNA:

It’s tall, right?

ME:

Yes, but

LUNA:

It has legs, right?

ME:

Yes, it

LUNA: (smugly)

A tall leg-bird.

ME:

(silence)

LUNA:(brightly)

I don’t know why you always criticize me.

Summerland, Florida, Hello!

Ginger in Chicago — late of “Born Blonde” — has changed her request:
Since hooter brown will live on without me, that and I’ve been waiting ever so patiently, how about writing your interpretation of a blog entry by Ginger after her first trip to Vegas on the request line?

Oh, that’s easy:

“Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

wow.

i don’t think I should talk about it. what hapens in Vegas staying in vegas? God i hope so.

Remind me not to have goldshlager anymore ever.”

– Born Blonde, 5/9/06

I’ll throw you search terms anyway, Ging, since I was already halfway through ’em. Later….

San Diego, Hello!

Before I get to Ginger’s call, lemme squeeze in one more request.

Steve in River Grove:
What is the best place (or most deserving) in the Chicago area for vandalism and graffiti? Next: same question, but for ice sculpture?

Best, and Most Deserving, place for Vandalism and Graffiti: Tie: Fox & Obel and Midway Airport

Fox & Obel because it would be my favorite store on earth if it was slightly less nice, in a Haskelly kind of way. Spook the locals, put up a few gang tags, make it a tougher ‘hood to go into for the hard-to-find groceries — like the ones that hold Peoria Packing and Issacson & Stein or John’s Live Poultry — and it’d be perfect.

Midway Airport because what was nice about it has been destroyed in the O’Hareization of the place, and so the City Council might as well declare open-season on the place, just to give it some damn character.

Best, and Most Deserving, Place for Ice Sculptures:

EXT: SOLDIER FIELD

INT: NEW PRESIDENT OF FOOTBALL OPERATIONS MIKE
DITKA’S OFFICE

The office is filled with former Bears, graying
but clearly still formidable.

Light shafts partially illuminate the room as
BOB SWIRSKY crosses the room to the platform
upon which rests the desk of DITKA. BOB whispers
something in the great man’s ear. DITKA laughs
loudly at the nervous-looking, balding man
bowing before him.)

NORV TURNER
Good morning.

DITKA
So?

TURNER
I bring a message from Jimmy Johnson.

DITKA
So?

(TURNER removes a videotape from his pocket.
BOB puts the tape in one of the room’s many video
machines. The silver-haired JIMMY JOHNSON
appears on the screen.)

JOHNSON
Greetings, Exalted One. Allow me to introduce
myself. I am Jimmy Johnson, fellow Hall of Fame
coach and Fox broadcaster. I know that you are
powerful, Coach Ditka, and that your anger must
be equally powerful. I seek an audience with Your
Greatness to bargain for my defensive coordinator’s
life. (DITKA’s crowd laughs) With your wisdom,
I’m sure that we can work out an arrangement which
will be mutually beneficial and enable us to avoid
any unpleasant confrontation. As a token of my
goodwill, I present to you a gift: Norv Turner.

(TURNER is startled by this announcement.)

TURNER
What did he say?

JOHNSON (cont)
He is hard-working, and will serve you well.

TURNER
This can’t be! You’re playing the wrong message.

(DITKA laughs.)

DITKA
There will be no bargain. I will not give up
my favorite decoration.

(He turns his head to gaze upon a black rectangle
in an alcove near his desk. Clearly outlined in
the ebon block is a mustachioed face screaming
in terror and ringless fingers clawing for the
freedom they are forever denied.)

DITKA
I like Coach Wannstedt where he is.

Palo Alto, Hello!

WBNT Request line, who’s this?

Emily in Key West, FL
5 Things About Me That Don’t Piss You Off

1) When we play golf — at which you are a ten-percent improvement away from being able to regularly beat me — you occasionally wear a pink Kangol golf cap turned around backwards. That you don’t concede your sense of fashion even to golf clothes makes me happy.

2) That you make Tummy Mint tea with water so hot it could reduce the T-1000 to a permanent liquid state, and then, for the next forty-five minutes, are suprised at the temperature with each attempt to consume it.

3) The real, not the posed, high-beam dimpled smile.

4) The way you have had a slightly roughened version of the Vonage “People do stupid things” commercial soundtrack in your head for about five months. Complete lyrics:
Woo hoo, woo hoo hoo!
Woo hoo, woo hoo hoo!
(repeat)

5) The way you protect your nails like you would an original Monet, especially when you, in the interest of acrylic overlay preservation, open pop cans with knives. Someday the emergency room will admire your perfect manicure.

6) How you will eventually dance at dancing occasons, and adorably, but the critical champagne level for you to do so isn’t generally reached until the early hours of the morning.

* * * * *

WBNT Request line, who’s this?

Laura in Berkley, Michigan
what do you have to do that’s better than keeping me entertained,anyway? Writer’s block? Whatever. Explain how your new digs can be so uninspiring.

They’re not uninspiring. They’re overwhelmingly f—— busy. For the first time in years, I have enough to do. (Yes, it’s odd.) I’m still adapting my schedule to reaccomodate writing. For the moment, Bugs, I am shooting for thrice weekly. It is gracious and flattering of you to be annoyed at my current poor output level. Rest assured, there are things in the works to improve that considerably.

* * * * *

WBNT Request line, who’s this?

Jessica in Palatine, IL
Top ten things to do when you’re stranded on an island with Nathan Fillion from Firefly

10) Ask him who he is.

9) Say “Really? How’s that whole star thing working out for you now, Hollywood?”

8) Apologize.

7) Tell him that it’s a real shame my friend Jessica’s not here, as he’d really have something to do, then.

6) Spend a fun few hours speculating with him as to what.

5) Collect firewood and inventory food supply.

4) Abruptly recall how I know his name.

3) Compliment his work on “Justice League Unlimited”.

2) Say “No, seriously! I thought you were underused as Vigilante.”

1) Kill and eat him.

* * * * *

WBNT Request line, who’s this?

Vacation Wife in Schaumburg, IL
Super Bowl Chili – shipped from the Keys,brought in cooler on 10+ hour return to Chicago, or requiring a certain chef to return a week beforehand to prepare?

Plan A: Hold the Super Bowl Party in the parking lot of Ford Field. (Early line: Colts giving 7 to Chicago.) Root. Celebrate.

Plan B: Make chili at Christmastime, and find four or five friends, each of whom can spare a square foot of freezer space for a month. Refer to chili as “Award-winning, Cold-aged Super Bowl Chili”.

* * * * *

WBNT Request line, who’s this?

j.ko in La Grange, IL
Hurricanes vs. Blizzards,a comparative study

The Tale of the Tape:

Lead time:
Hurricanes: Moderate but unpredictable
Blizzards: Slight and unpredictable
Advantage: Hurricanes

Damage wrought on physical possessions:
Hurricanes: Lots
Blizzards: Little
Advantage: Blizzards

Evacuate to:
Hurricanes: Tampa, Fort Lauderdale
Blizzards: Nowhere
Advantage: Hurricanes

Cleanup:
Hurricanes: Rotten seagrass, huge piles of ruined possessions, irreparable cars
Blizzards: Shoveling, waiting for slush to evaporate
Advantage: Push

Associated fun:
Hurricanes: Hurricane parties
Blizzards: Sledding, skiing, snowball fights, football
Advantage: Blizzards

Surrounding weather:
Hurricanes: Tropical
Blizzards: Seven months of gray and cold
Advantage: Hurricanes

Financial assistance in the form of personal tax money recovered:
Hurricanes: Yes.
Blizzards: No.
Advantage: Hurricanes

Namesakes
Hurricanes: 1 ounce fresh lemon juice, 4 ounces dark rum, 4 ounces passion fruit syrup, & crushed ice, mixed, garnished with and orange slice and a cherry.
Blizzards: Dairy Queen signature dairylike product slurry. No alcohol.
Advantage: Hurricanes.

There you have it: 5-2-1, Hurricanes over Blizzards.

* * * * *

I’ve got some Hooter Brown loaded up for Ginger, which’ll go out after the top of the hour break. Stay tuned, kids, you’re listening to WBNT, and we’ll be right back…

Up To Speed

Before I get to the request line — which is still open, by the way — I owe Fluttering Things a Five Questions from way back:

1. What is your favorite thing about me?
Moxie.

2. Describe our wedding. Yours and mine, I mean, if you and I were to marry.

Much as I adore you, after much consideration, here’s what kept coming to mind:

Bob Swerski: “All right, contestants, here we go. The Final Quiz Masters question is: “Bears vs. Bulls.” Write in your answers now, gentlemen. (thoughtfully)“Da Bears vs. Da Bulls.” Okay, that was a tough one. Let’s see what our contestants said. First, Pat. (Pat holds up his card, with “Bulls” and “Bears” scratched out and rewritten, repeatedly) Looks like Pat ran out of time.. sorry, buddy. (To Carl.) Okay, Carl whaddaya have here? (Carl displays illegible Bears-Bulls combined lettering) Eh.. what do you say, Carl?”

Carl Wollarski: Well, what do you think it says?

Bob Swerski: (chuckles) “That’s a nice try, Carl! That’s okay, that’s good… (moves to Todd) All right, Todd says: “The senseless waste of pitting these two mighty forces of nature against each other, like matter vs. anti-matter, will be a tragedy, not only for the teams involved…” (flips card over) “…but for our planet. All nations must band together, to ensure that such a conflagration never takes place.” That is absolutely CORRECT!!”

3. What was your favorite book when you were a kid?
Lemme think. The first was my “Woop”. That’s what I called it, anyway. “My Big Book Of Words” or something, correctly. I believe it featured Richard Scarry characters. The next I recall reading to death were a handful of “Everything About Everything” and “The Whole Big World” and “Know Power” did-you-know?-type books. I had a book — still do — called “Rabbits Rafferty”, which I liked a lot. Then my Dad read me The Old Man and the Sea.

4. Would you please tell, in your blog, the story that lead to you using the phrase “impacted giggety?”
I don’t remember if it was the first part of the incident, wherein Pook and Doctor D and I were standing on the midway at the Ribfest discussing, I think, Chomsky, when a comely blonde lass walked in front of the doc double-fisting Magnum chocolate-covered bananas; or the second part, when you arrived closely thereafter with a funnel cake — upon your plans for which we all instantly launched a series of rather graphic speculations — that caused the giggities in question to get all jammed up in the poor man’s chest.

He was lucky we all knew CGR.

5. You can have $15,000, on four conditions:
1: You have to go on vacation for a week.
2: You have to spend all the money in that week.
3: You can only bring Pookie with you.
4: The vacation cannot be in FL or IL.
Where do you go and what do you do?

To make it interesting, let’s exclude Vegas, shall we?

So, hm. I believe we would go to Memphis. Each day, we would arrange for a full-day master class with the city’s Pitmasters, with one day devoted to a class in pie with the folks at Buntyn. Nights would be spent variously at Diamond Dolls, and in Tunica, which is loaded with resort hotels featuring real casino-style gambling.

(If we coulda gone to Florida, I believe we’d go to Bern’s. My plan — back me up here, Pook — would be to order, in the span of a week, the entire menu. Because it’s there.)

In Fabolous' Fly Ride!

Coolest blog tagback game ever.

Check out our Frappr!

Click this bad boy and plot yourself.

(Gracias, Pete.)

Throw me a bone, kids: Click the button, click “add yourself”, and wave at me.

In the interest of motivating myself to get back in the habit of writing, each person that shouts-out is entitled to one (1) topic on the request line.

Home: A Phobia

I went around with a realtor today, to begin what I expected to be a tedious and unrewarding quest to find permanent housing. I was both right and wrong. We looked at five houses, all of them in our price range, barely. (For which read: “In what until about three weeks ago I thought was the absolute pie-in-the-sky upper limit of our price range.”) A report:

House One: This house had the look of a house that would be seen on the news being cleaned out by the Board of Health upon discovery of the elderly occupant’s 87 cats, or perhaps the sort of place the family Griswold would find themselves visiting Cousin Eddie. It is currently tenanted by an urchin whom I think of as “Beavis” and his completely undeserved extraordinarily cute squeeze, whose name I did not catch, for fear I would immediately follow an exchange of names with a proposal for another sort of exchange. Decorum is important when you’re trying to make a good impression on your realtor. The house is in need of paint, a new kitchen, a great deal of cosmetic woodwork, and some general TLC. The yard is in need of a rented dumpster and a flamethrower.

House Two: House Two resembled the set for the Little Shop of Horrors number “Somewhere That’s Green”. The lot is huge. The house is passable, but I will be hoping hard for a well-aimed hurricane and an insurance check. It’s a great lot for a house on stilts, which the present one is not. If it wasn’t 31 miles from the office, it would be a stronger contender, but it made the first cut.

House Three: House Three is a condo conversion being sold “unfinished”. I assumed this meant it would require some paint, a little landscaping, and some basic optional installations like if I want a bidet. Oh no. It needs walls. And a toilet. And, well, everything, really. It has a roof, exterior walls, and a floor in the popular plywood-laid-on-beams style. That’s it. That’s the list. Oh, and it’s two rooms totaling less square footage than an average rest stop men’s room. It’s in a fabulous location, and the return-on-investment if I devote eight months to learning how to avoid paying people to come and undo the things I did in the name of renovation is incalculable. Imagine being offered the opportunity to buy a thirty-year-old toolshed at the corner of Chicago and State, wherein you could do whatever you wanted to it to make it nice and livable as long as the outside stayed more or less a shed. The downside, of course, is that right now it would be inferior to living in a tent, and would remain so for some time. Still…it made the cut.

House Four: I loooooved House Four. Loved it! Loved it loved it loved it. I don’t know if it has a toilet or a kitchen, or interior walls, or power, or dead bodies in the garage. All I know is that from the outside it looks EXACTLY like Legion of Doom headquarters. I can’t think of anything that would make me happier than to bid people farewell by saying “I must return immediately to the Hall of Doom,” unless it would be having a twee hand-painted sign at the end of my driveway reading “Welcome to the Hall of Doom, Headquarters of the world-famous Legion of Doom.” I’m not kidding about this house. You think I’m kidding. No no no. Wait until you see it. I will greet visitors in green pants and a purple leather jacket.

So despite being ninety-nine thousand dollars out of our believed price range, the Hall made the cut.

House Five: Two houses on a huge lot. Utterly illegal, which is invariably tempting to me prima facie. One of them is a square cement box with an unnecessary bedroom partition that doesn’t give any privacy anyway, and one is a lavish trailer, which was nicer than a lot of apartments I’ve been in. (My favorite bureaucratic loophole I learned today: It is unlawful presently to have multiple dwellings on one lot. “Dwellings” are counted by kitchens. So if I yank the kitchen out of the house, and keep the one in the trailer, it’s a totally legal setup. This kind of rule is why Carl Hiaasen is famous.) But what the fuck would I do with two houses on one lot? The only way this one makes the cut is with a written guarantee that one of the current tenants — the good one — of House One would be the renter in the unused part of my other house.

(By the way, if we wind up going with the Buy The Nicest Land You Can Afford With A Trailer On It And Leverage Your Equity Into A Custom Built House Later plan, it will be totally acceptable to poke fun at me for living in a trailer so long as the word “trailer” is either immediately preceded or immediately followed by explicit statement of the purchase price. Compromise is important.)

Discussion Question: I don’t know how to build a house. Why am I so tempted by House Three?

Real Gangsta-Ass Niggas Can't Run Fast

Today marks two months since I quit my job. I felt this was an occasion that warranted observation. There is something that friends had been urging me to do for years, but I had put it off and put it off, feeling it might be too painful. I have been away long enough, now, that I was willing to make the effort to heed their recommendation, and I thought it wouldn’t be quite as difficult to get through as it would have been previously.

So I rented Office Space.

In waiting, I must admit, I made exactly the right decision. I would not have enjoyed this movie between about mid-2001 and now. But I was able to enjoy it, now. While the montage of bosses explaining the importance of TPS reports triggered flashbacks, my greatest shock came in the scene when the protagonist — who, thanks to Honey, I think of as “Berger” — had his interview with the consultants.

You see, in late 2004, we got a new Big Boss — the Company Man of a few posts back — and, in mid-2005, I got a new Direct Boss. With each of them, I had the standard introductory interview. And both times, I went in and had the interview from the movie. My hand to God. “I have maybe fifteen minutes of actual work to do every week.” “You don’t need to have anyone in the position I’m in. I’d be perfectly content with a buyout, and it’d be a good decision for you.”

And, after those interviews, in which I openly admitted I didn’t have enough to do and advised them to fold the position — and this is perhaps the best indictment of the management of the old place I can possibly produce — they never fired me.

Why, I cannot explain. I would have fired me. They had cause! They had opportunity! They had motive! What were they waiting for?!?!

Non sequitur ending: I just looked at Rob Feder, to see if anything of note had happened there I could use as an amusing illustration of incompetence, and I read that one of the managers I used to work for, one I rather liked, was arrested for the poisoning-murder of his wife. I believe I’ll go have a drink.

Essences

While I was in Oak Park, I was proud and humbled to witness a moment that, I feel, truly captures everything one needs to know about the town: A Beetle and a Prius in an indignant-honking standoff over a parking space at the Farmer’s Market. I wish I’d had a camera. And a “Design the New Village Seal” contest entry blank.

When I returned to the Wilma-wreckage of the Florida Keys, I was, on US1 between Marathon and Big Pine Key, deeply moved, when I had the unplanned opportunity to be a part of something that, I feel, truly captures everything one needs to know about the locals here. The devastation was, in the classic sense, awesome. Enormous signs are gone. Not blown down. Gone. Homes are tipped over, or roofless. The grocery stores were empty. (We toyed with looting the Publix, but we decided not to on the righteous moral grounds that all the good stuff was already taken.) The amazing piles of ruined possessions outside every ground-floor house are heartbreaking. The storm surge of Wilma exceeded seven feet, in some places — we’re talking total loss, including some sixteen thousand cars. (Salt water gets along with engine parts about like it does with sandcastles.) So it was truly an amazing moment to me, driving in, when I realized that some poor, homeless, possessionless, soggy soul had looked about the devastation, rolled up his sleeves, and worked like a dog to get his car running, all that he might take himself out to US1 and get in some serious tailgating. Bless his heart, you could have rolled a quarter from one car to another. I would have stopped and given him a hug if I hadn’t been so terrified to touch the brake.