Friday, July 31, 2009

My Bad...

Okay, for some apparent reason todays blog which I posted pictures to Thursday morning and published today is sandwiched between Wednesday and Thursday, so scroll down past "Go, Cubs, Go!" if you want to see it. It's mostly photos anyway.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Go, Cubs, Go!

You may not know this, and it's my secret shame… I am a …Cubs fan.

Yes, yes, I know. "Why, Slave Driver," you ask, "would you want to put yourself through that heartbreak and humiliation year after year? Why would you want to subject yourself to the anticipation and excitement of a baseball season only to, at the end, have your heart violently ripped out of your ribcage, thrown down, stomped and ground into the dirt, and then jammed back into the spot it came from, all mushed up and filthy?"

I don't know, but it's probably because 1) I've always rooted for the underdog and 2) Cubs fans are, without question, the best fans in the entire world, and 3) Wrigley Field is a beautiful place.

So while here in Chicago I decided to try and catch a game. At they didn't have any seats (I may be a fan but it's still me—uber-frugel SD) for less than $225.00 that were together and I was not shipping The Kid off to a section on her own (she is kind of cute and, when a person of the male gender asks her name we've begun to introduce her as "Hi, this is our daughter, Fifteen.") so my Bro, The Kid and I decided we would go head down to Wrigleyville and see what we could manifest.

When you go to a game the energy builds the closer you get to the ball park. We arrived and immediately were assaulted by scalpers. We decided to see what the official box office had to offer first and use the "ticket re-sellers" as option #2. We also know that as soon as a game starts the scalper's prices fall because if you can't unload your tickets you've wasted the money you invested in them to begin with.

So we walked around to the back side of Wrigley— now, if you've ever caught a Cubs home game on WGN you have noted the "rooftop fans," people who sit on the rooftops of the brownstones across from the park and watch the game. These "seats" can be very pricy, and include food/beverage for upwards of $80. But you must admit, it's ingenious and lucrative.

Anyway, we got in line and got Standing Room Only tickets

which means you get to stand along the back railing on the ramp between the mezzanine level and the upper deck.

The view was great

and the price fantastic— only $15 each, which was a bargain compared to the bleacher seats at $36, and yes we did have to stand the entire time but it was okay.

And I got to see a game and guess what…

So we got to sing the song :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Randomness In Chicago...

A short collection of some photos I took which really don't belong anywhere... but that didn't stop me from wanting to share them with you.

This afternoon I head out to Schaumburg, Illinois to a place called Champps American Bar and Grill to meet up with my friends. We'll be there at 7, come join us if you can. Then tomorrow I head to my reunion at the racetrack. I know I'll be there early so I can watch the horses run. Why do you think I came all the way out here?

Suddenly, I'm not hungry anymore.

WTF is the point? To keep those bricks safe?

I guess it's better than selling them on eBay...

The perfect combination for me...Wine with some nutritional value :)

A giant sloth. I know a number of people like this, only not as tall.

As soon as we pulled into the driveway I knew this was the handywork of my friend Fuzz...

It's Not Who You Are, It's Who You Know

Argh! There be Pirates in this here building...

The Kid and I went to The Field Museum of Natural History. Amongst all of the attractions in Chicago, The Shedd Aquarium, Museum of Science and Industry, Art Institute, it has always been my favorite. The last time we went to the Planetarium I fell asleep. It wasn't because of the show, but it was warm and dark in there and I was tired. I wasn't the only guilty party, Mr. Slave Driver dozed off and a guy two rows in front of us was snoring.

So anyway, my sister-in-law is a volunteer for the paleontology department at the Field Museum and she got us into the lab where they work scraping the matrix away from the fossilized bone.

She's working on the tip of the tail bone of a dinosaur they call "Jim" (after the fellow who found it.)

Jim, an Ichthyosaur, was discovered in Nevada, so Jim and I are neighbors.

This is what Jim might have looked like

After my SIL showed us where she worked she had to leave and The Kid and I wandered around the museum for a couple more hours then walked to the "L" stop and took the red line to the brown line and that’s how we got back to my brother's house. But first we stopped at the Jewel/Osco and got some Okey-Dokey Cheese Popcorn and some Jays Barbeque potato chips, which I jones for because you can't get them anywhere else.

The Kid and her Aunt. The Kid is getting weary of me taking her picture all the time.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Wherever You Go, There You Are...

I dragged my posse to Michigan Avenue last night. I wanted to catch a carriage ride and talk to some of the drivers in Chicago. My first carriage experience was here about 27 years ago. My best friend turned 21 and we took a ride to celebrate. Last night, The Kid and my baby bro (38, so no not so baby-ish anymore, but still...) sat in the carriage and chatted about me totally ignoring them while I talked with our driver, "C-Squared". I made sure she knew that I would be interviewing her for my blog and agreed not to use her name because that's how we carriage drivers roll.
This horse's name is Orsay which C-Squared said is French but to me sounds a little like Pig-Latin...

C-Squared has been a driver for Chicago Horse and Carriage for three years and works it full time. To be a carriage driver for the company C-Squared works at you have to train for two weeks, and take a test. The costs involved are $40 for fingerprints, (Fingerprints, seriously? So they have them in the database for all the crimes commited by horse drawn carriage banditos? WTF!) and $30 for the license after you take a test. You are allowed to take/fail the test three times, and if you Epic Fail the third time you have to wait a year to re-take it. The company she works for also is a lot stricter about hours, scheduling, and credit cards than the one I work for. So, yes, I know how lucky I am.
The horses have their own drinking fountains

So we had a pleasant ride around the city, chatting about the carriage trade, and she dropped us off at The Water Tower where there were a bunch of drivers staging.

Then we walked to Navy Pier and hacked around for a while before taking a cab back to the parking lot and heading back to my brother's place.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Good, The Bad, And The Fugly...

Fireworks on the Fox River to celebrate Founder's Day

There are so many things about the Midwest that I missed without even knowing that I missed them. While here I am spontaneously reminded of those small touches that accompany living here. While waiting in heavy traffic to make a left turn a driver will stop and wave you through. People hold the door open for you and smile when they talk to you.
This is a floating ice cream stand. Up on the Chain-o-Lakes there is a floating hot dog stand too. They have a bowl attached to a stick and that's how the product/money get passed from stand to customer.

At the marina yesterday during a downpour a man waiting in line for the bathroom, who happened to be holding an umbrella, stepped closer to me and held his umbrella so I was covered too. Then later, while standing in front of the bathroom yet again, waiting for The Kid, another man asked if I needed the door unlocked (there are "public" restrooms and restrooms for slip holders. I had the slip holder key but he didn't know that.) My brother, seeing another boat pull into the dock, ran over to the slip and helped the owner maneuver his pontoon in.

You get the feeling that since we are all stuck in the Mid-west together we might as well make the best of it. There is a joke that goes, "You know you're in Chicago when, if while shopping at Lowes, a guy helps you collect all the supplies you need for your project, and he doesn't even work there."

The things that I do not miss: Toll booths, Mosquitoes so big you can saddle up and ride them, humidity so nasty that it makes my hair go all frizzy and curl up, and this:

The Kennedy "Expressway", at a dead stop.

A 47 mile ride took two hours.

And I have to say that I have not seen so many Cubs shirts or "Old Style" signs in a long time.

It's good to visit. I'm downtown now for the next few days (my younger brother lives behind a "Brown Line" stop.)
And I think tomorrow it might be Field Museum Field trip.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Short And Sweet

Our "official" Chicago welcome.
There is something about the smell of a riding stable that's good for the soul. It's not a barn smell; it's not an exclusively animal smell, either. It's a combination of the horses, hay, leather, and the excitement oozing from the pores of young girls who are enamored with horseback riding.

Tuesday through Friday of this week, I visited the town of Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, to stay with my very good friend and equine mentor, Sally Thompson-Smith, BHS. Now, usually I don't tell you my friends' entire names, and sometimes the names I used are aliases, but not Sally Thompson-Smith, BHS, and I will tell you why in a minute.
First, a little background;

Sally and I met when I moved my horse from the stable where the girl who had been my trainer was flaking on me. She quit her job, left her husband, and moved in with a guy who was twice her age, had a 13 year old child, and, oh, yes, was married. I don't know what became of them because I got out of that cluster f*ck before I got any more late night "Have you seen my wife I miss her so much," calls than I'd already received. The last I heard the man, Ralph, who transported horses for a living, changed his name to Rafee (pronounced Raw-fay, with a little accent thingy over the "e" on the end) and was touting himself as a high end trainer of Arabians, Saddlebreds, and National Show Horses, which is a breed that combines the two. In other words, horses who do a lot of crack. Or at least act like they do.

Sally was the in-house trainer at the barn we moved Dreamer to. We were hoping that the change of venue would give him a more grounded environment since the last place had run amok. Plus it was much closer to home.
Sal and I hit it off right away. She took me under her wing and taught me more about horses in three years than I learned in the previous thirty. When I had my kid, we joked about me sending her to live with Sally when she was 13. And when she was 13, that's exactly what I did, for two weeks. Now, this is where the BHS comes in. Like other people who decide what they want to do for a living and go to school to get a degree, Sally wanted to be a trainer so she spent a year in England being schooled in hippology at the British Horse Society. She is knowledgeable in all aspects of riding, from Polo to Dressage, from Western to Eventing.

Anyway, we spent the first three days of our vacation at Whispering Oaks Farm under Sally's tutelage, and in between we ate, and went out and ate, and of course ate some more. Sometimes we went out to eat. But mostly we ate. ( It's a Chicagoan/food thing. You wouldn’t understand unless you'd lived there and then moved away, like we did.)

This horse is named "Baby" and I have known him for 17 years.

It had been so long since I was at a riding stable that I had forgotten so much of the protocol; to shout "Door" before you enter so as not to spook someone riding by. To announce your intention of passing another rider, always on the inside (never on the rail). In other words, common equine courtesy. And breeches. The Kid and I wore breeches there every day, which in the non horse world makes you look freakish. The riding stable world has a culture all it's own.
the Kid got to ride a lot, and we got to ride together which never happens because at home we only have one horse.

So you will be hearing more about Sally Thompson-Smith, because she is going to start blogging once a week or so on the subject of horses, and mostly it will be short and a lot of tips and tricks. But if you are a horse person, you need to pay attention, because Sally really knows her stuff.

'Cuz she's got the whole BHS thing going on. And she's a freakin' genius when it comes to horses.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Leavin' On A Jet Plane

I'm leaving for vacation tomorrow. I'm pretty stoked except for a few minor details. For one thing, I don't like to fly. Quote me all the safety statistics you want, I'm just not comfortable with it. Remember, in my line of work I go four miles an hour and am a max of five feet off the ground, so bailing out doesn't require a parachute, just a "Jump, tuck and roll." Plus, I've watched A&E's "Airline" enough to know that they aren’t too keen about you boarding a plane drunk, which is how I like to fly. I depart at 7:00 am, and I seriously doubt they will have a "Breakfast Happy Hour Beverage Service," although being that I am flying into Chicago, anything is possible…

It's not the actual flying I mind, it's the relinquishing of control. I don't know these people who are the pilots, and the FAA & NTSB frown upon you knocking on the cockpit door and grilling the flight crew about their qualifications and experience. Ask anyone who's driven me around in their car, I use that imaginary break on the passenger side a lot. Mr. Slave Driver believes I will soon wear a hole in the carpet in his truck. As it stands right now it's looking suspiciously thin on that side.

So that's one thing, another is my dogs. I avoid kenneling them if I can, and for several days they will be alone. The neighbor kid is taking care of them for me, but Cowboy, the Border Collie, is old; deaf, grumpy, cataract old. To get his attention one has to either stomp on the floor until the vibration alerts him, touch him and if he's sleeping he JUMPS! or gesture wildly with the appearance of a seizure. Then you have to use a form of sign language to get him to comprehend what you want, which is mostly for him to go outside because his gas passing has reached critical mass.

Upon my arrival in the Chicagoland area, I will be renting a car. My friends and family are spread far and wide, and I haven't actually lived there since 1995, so getting around will be a challenge for a person like me who navigates via landmarks. I'm sure a couple of things have changed in the interval, so I've spent the last two days downloading addresses into Mr. SD's TomTom so I can find my way.

Lastly, while many of my friends live in the 21st century, some of them still engage in a quasi Amish lifestyle, meaning they don't have wifi. What that translates to you is I may or may not be able to blog from the road. I will, however, be taking lots of photos and accumulating many stories in the mean time. Blogging them will all depend on what my various hosts have for internet connections, which can run the gambit from DSL/Cable to 2 tin cans and a tight string. So if you don't hear from me for a while, that's probably the reason. Or, something's gone terribly awry.

So, in the words of Homer Simpson, "If I don't come back, avenge my death."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jim, You Really Should Be Flossing...

Last weekend Nat showed me that Jim was a little foamy. I didn't think much of it; I don't ever drive Jim. I give a lot of historic tours where my attention ratio is divided in a 70/30 split between customer/horse. What that boils down to is this; I like my horses like I like my men; laid back, self sufficient, and willing to turn their paycheck over to me every week.

Jim? Not so much. He's a feisty little guy, and he takes a lot of work to drive. I think I've told you, I'm way to lazy for that shit.

Cletus= fabuloso, could do the job all by his onesies if he had 1) thumbs and 2) spoke English.

Tony too, except for his need for constant affirmation;

"Good boy, Tony! I knew you could do it! It's not every day a kitten hisses at a horse and the horse survives… and I know those leaves that rustled when you walked by were hiding a grizzly bear."

Charlie is pretty level also, except for the occasional and totally random "explosion."

Anyway, back to Jim. Jim's slobber was foamy. Then Monday night MBA went to give him kisses and she said his breath was stinky. So of course, what do horse people do?

Immediately Ro & I went over to Jim and smelled his breath. And yeah, it was nasty.

So Thursday I met Ro over at the clinic and Jim went to see the horse dentist.

Now, for you non horse people, and for you newbie horse people who have never had the pleasure of the horse dental experience, I've taken some pictures for you.

First, we had to convince Jim to get into the stocks.

Jim is not too sure about the whole "stocks" thing.

He JUST fit. Jim is half Percheron, half Morgan. It's a good thing we didn't have to bring Wesson out for a dental appointment.

"Hey, ladies, does this make my butt look big?"

Then the Vet gave him a shot of lala juice and soon the meds kicked in and Jim was Mr. Mellow.

Then they put him in the device. It's like…well, never mind. It's like a, well, no, that's not it either… it's like… well, here is what it is, you decide what it's like:

And found that Jim had a tooth that started out growing south and took a U-Turn.

So they had to use this thing which is usually not used for this purpose (and no, you do not want to know what it's actual purpose is…) to get in there and saw his wrong-way tooth into submission.

Because they don't make orthodontic braces for horses.

Although Jim would probably like a very blingity bling Grill.

So here is Jim's tooth, or part of it.

He was kind of a baby about the whole thing.

But he'll get some time off and be good as new real soon.

We put the piece of tooth under some shavings in his pen. We told him the Tooth Fairy would give him an Apple for it.

Now I gotta bring a damn apple into work tomorrow. I thought I was done with this crap when my kid turned 12...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sweet Home, Chicago

I know you know this; I am not *from* here. Utah, here. I was born in Northern California but I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. I have Midwestern values, speak with an unidentifiable accent, except when I say "Da' boda yas", and am generally unconcerned with fashion trends, tipping points, and politics, except to smirk and remark blandly, "He was on the take? What a surprise..." If that makes no sense to you then I won't even attempt to explain the "Daley Machine."

So, I am not *from* here. This mindset got me deep in the kitty litter when I lived in Missouri, where I also was not *from*. See, I say I'm from Chicago. That's just for da boda yas that are not from Illinois (the 's', by the way, is silent). If I was in Illinois, I'd say I was from Des Plaines, Lake Villa, or Wheeling; places I lived. So I found out the hard way that when you ask someone from Kansas City, Missouri if they are *from* there, meaning the greater KC area, they believe you are asking if they are *from* the exact spot they are standing on when you ask them the question. So, take my advice, be specific when you ask because the words you speak immediately following their reply might get you in deep doo-doo.

But I am *from* Chicago, and I am going back to Chicago (and Algonquin, and Arlington Heights, and Twin Lakes, Wisconsin) in a couple of weeks for a couple of weeks to see my family, friends and attend my 30th High School Reunion.

Feel free to puke now.

I missed my 10 year— at that point 10 years was not nearly enough time between school and me. Now, the 20 year, I did that one, but I don't think I did it well. Although I got to see some people that I keep in touch with but just don’t see very often, I saw a lot of people who I don't remember, but that's not unusual for me; it was the 70's. I also saw a lot of people who really really liked me, or at least that was the impression I got. But they could have been realtors or Amway members. I don't know. It's kind of a blur now, but I know I went because I have a picture.

For my 30 year I figured, "F*ck it." I will not wear a nice dress/suit. I will not wear heels. I will wear what I wore all through high school—

Levi's, tennis shoes, and a t-shirt. I might throw a blazer over the top just to show I'm a grown up. Slave Driver snorts…

My close friends all know what I do for a living. Most of them, upon finding out would remark, "That job is perfect for you." The ones I knew in school but have not seen for ten to thirty years, (wow that so sounds like a prison sentence…) have no idea and I'm sure will either think it's great or gasp and wonder how I ever could have sunk so low. Others will marvel that I have managed to stay out of jail for all these years.

But I don't care. No, I never became a captain of industry or a mogul of some kind. Hell, I never even finished college. But I have a great life, enjoy doing what I do, and have no major complaints, other than my continuing fight with gravity.

And the thing about gravity is this: It's not just a good idea, it's the law.

And a word of advice: If you are ever in Missouri and ask someone if they are *from* there and they say "no" meaning (unbeknownst to you) that they are not from the exact spot that they are standing on but instead are from the surrounding area, do not follow up your question with the comment that "The people you have met *from* here are some of the stupidest people you have ever known."

Not a good impression. Or the fast track to making friends.

Monday, July 6, 2009


The people who work with me know I am infamous for two sayings:

"Everybody has a "once-upon-a-time","
"This is not my first Rodeo."

The first meaning, "We all had to start somewhere" and the other "Been there, done that."

Which really have nothing what so ever to do with this post except that I went to the Rodeo last week and it was not my first.

We go to this rodeo every year because 1) it's relatively cheap 2) it's very close, and 3) we usually don't have anything better to do anyway.

I like the rodeo because, unlike most of the other people there, I cheer for the animals. So, when a bull bucks the rider off in under 8 seconds, or a calf refuses to be thrown to the ground and hogtied, I'm over in my seat saying, "Yay! Go steer, go steer!" and doing the "Cabbage Patch" while those seated around me look on with distain. I don't care, it's my rodeo too, and if I want to cheer for the animals, try to stop me. And besides, I use to own sheep, which I had to shear, which is like trying to hold down a fuzzy, kicking, 120 pound sack filled with Jell-O, and shave it. So yes, I have been there and done that.

Anyway, here are my rodeo pictures, and a little video I took towards the end when it was Bull Riding time.

I love the little guys. Here they are wearing their party hats to protect their noggins and horns.

The catch riders go out and pickup the cowboys after they've ridden the Broncs or the Bulls. They get to ride alongside a still bucking horse and pull the strap off that makes it buck. Yeah, that looks like fun...

This was a bucking Bronc (as opposed to a "Saddle Bronc" )

It's always the same announcer every year, but this time he had to borrow a horse because his wasn't feeling well. He favors Paints.

This is one of the Drill Team horses. Drill team is tricky. My horse Dreamer did Drill Team for about a month. He wasn't a big fan.

Drill Team

The "Mutton Busting" is by far our favorite because we used to do it on the farm, for reals. These ladies stopped by for a visit.

Here we have a bronc rider doing a faceplant

And here we have a bull getting away unscathed

So the "Break Entertainment" was J.D. Platt and his Amazing Dogs. For those of you who don't watch reality television, J.D. Platt and his dog Galaxy were on a show called "America's Top Dog" which was a competition for dog trainers. *We* got sucked into watching it because there was a Pomeranian and a Border Collie; both breeds co-habitate with us so we considered it "friendly competition". I'll say this about J.D. Platt; He can throw a Frisbee hella far. Otherwise, his show was kinda meh.

And now, "Revenge of the Bull"