A Phillies Fan Takes One for the Team

Up today on Bardball:

The Ballad of Susan Finkelstein

The girl had “Phillie Fever,
A massive fall attack.
The only cure required her
To lay down on her back.

To nab a pair of tickets,
What must a clever girl do?
A “Dirty Utley”? “Around the Lidge”?
A “Hamels Camel” or two?

But the cops horned in, and now her pic’s
Been spread across the nation.
Next time, p’raps, she first should try
Some Manuel stimulation.

Daddy’s Job

Good joke sent by an old friend in an email yesterday:

Little David is in the 1st grade. Yesterday morning when the teacher asked the children what their fathers did for a living. All the typical answers came up; fireman, policeman, salesman, etc.

The teacher noticed that little David was being uncharacteristically quiet and so she asked him about his father.

‘My father’s an exotic dancer in a gay bar and takes off all his clothes in front of other men. Sometimes, if the offer’s really good, he’ll go out to the alley with some guy and do it with him for money.’

The teacher, obviously shaken by this statement, hurriedly set the other children to work on some coloring, and took little David aside to ask him,’Is that really true about your father?’

‘No,’ said David,’He plays for the Cubs, but I was too embarrassed to say that in front of the other kids.’

It’s funny cuz it’s true.

Nice to Know StubHub is Paying Attention

Received this evening:

Hi James,

Earlier today, an email promoting Chicago Cubs postseason tickets was sent to you. This, unfortunately, was a mistake. We regret the error and apologize for any inconvenience or confusion this may have caused.


The StubHub Team

Freelancers, Take Care of Yourselves

Just posted a little essay at true/slant, reminding all the freelancers and the self-employed to keep some perspective in this hard economic period. There are benefits to being your own boss, but a lot of pitfalls, and we should be good to ourselves so we don’t fall into them. Please check it out, and add any ideas that I might have left off my list:

Self-Employed? Take care of your best employee

There’s a reason you are working on your own, and that is because you’re good at it. Especially if you are in a creative field, take some consolation in the fact that your skills are unique and are a wondrous gift. It was true when you were young, idealistic and naïve, and it’s still true.

We Should All Get This, Every Morning

You know how the defense lawyer in “Miracle on 34th Street”, at the climax of the trial, brings in bag after bag of letters addressed to Santa to prove that he (Santa) exists? Now I know how it feels. It didn’t involve bags and bags, but the sentiment was there.

This morning in my email, from out of the blue, I received FIVE fan letters. That’s about ten months’ worth for me (except in January, when I get a few more, when the schoolkids down in Texas start figuring out what short story they want to read in their forensics competitions and they have to email me to verify that I’m an American citizen). Three were from the US, one from England, and one from South Korea, who especially said that “You really makes whomever sees you happy”. See? Walking down the STREET, people smile at me like I just tried a new shampoo! I’ve always suspected it, but now I know!

(The cynic in me tried to figure out why I got so many in one shot, like they were being hoarded on the web, or someone was pulling a practical joke. But they all look genuine to me, from five very different folks, and by gosh, I’ll take all the fans I can get.)

So, a big thank you to those fans! Your notes made a big impression on me, on this rainy morning in Chicago. I’ll respond right away.

And to anyone out there who feels like sending a fan letter to someone — a writer, an actor, a teacher, a scout leader, or a coach — send it off today. You never know, but it might make someone’s day.

On Demand Book Machine

A slick little gizmo, that’s certainly “bound” to become more common in the future!

Ha Ha! I should send my gags to “The Family Circus” , or maybe even the Jumble!

Twins! ARGGGH!!

No matter how many times they’re whacked,

Those pesky Twins keep coming back.

Like a dose of clap on your wedding day,

Those lousy Twins won’t stay away.

Like a yappy dog or a Ringling clown,

Those stinking Twins won’t lay down.

In another division, I’d admire their pluck,

But as a Tiger and Sox fan, it looks like I’m stuck

Watching them ruthlessly turning their tricks

Like a mad masked killer in a teen slasher flick.

Like a zombie army or Ted Williams’ head,

Those #$%@!! Twins just won’t stay dead.

Posted yesterday on Bardball.com. Shit.

New true/slant post up

Tired of those messages on license plates that carry messages other than “Live Free or Die” and “Famous Potatoes”? Check out my new post at True/slant.

And if you want to do a guy a favor, sign up for a free membership at true/slant, then mark me was one of the writers you’re “following.” The more followers I get, the more likely I’ll be asked to keep writing for them. You’ll also be supporting a web journalism model that actually pays the people who supply the content! Yes, let’s show them it can be done!!

Winter Olympics 2018 — IN CHICAGO!


–Extremely flat surfaces for speed skating, hockey, figure skating, curling and broomball (exhibition sport, suggested by the Wisconsin delegates).

–Travel time between events won’t be exacerbated by twisty mountain roads.

–Like all his predecessors, the mayor will make damn sure the roads are plowed.

–Would force the county to fix up their toboggan runs.

–Shots from Pentathlon participants won’t bother jaded city dwellers.

–Rio is out of the running now.


–Relative lack of mountainous terrain will force most skiing events to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

–City will be flooded by visiting Minnesotans.

–Hearing all the commentators bitching about how cold it is, as well as telling the world that Chicagoans call the wintry north wind “The Hawk”.

–Locals will be distracted from watching Spring Training.

Lost Chicago, Post-Olympics

Okay, the big announcement for whether Chicago will get the 2016 Olympics is due in about 90 minutes. Maybe we’ll get it, maybe Rio de Janiero will be the dark horse/sentimental underdog and pull it out in the end. But in case the Windy City does land the games, I wanted to make a list of the things that will inevitably change or disappear in the next 7 years.

–The wide open, quiet, 19th-century feel of Washington Park

–The media neglect of the whole South Side.

–The quiet mornings on the Lincoln Park rowing course, which will be upgraded and lead to a new wave of Sculling-Mania!!

–The days when $1.5 billion seems like a large amount of money.

–the four-star Chicago flag, which will certainly get a fifth for the Games. (How interesting that the six-pointed star is now being graphically used all over the place, from T-shirts to company logos. Why did that take so long to think of?)

–Our feeling of being the Second City (though the condescension from New York will never stop–“It used to be the Hog Butcher to the world, now it’s the locker room.”)

–An affordable cab ride.

–the make-up of a good Chicago hot dog. There are bigger things to worry about, but I’m pretty certain that the recipes for basic local foods — hot dogs, Italian beef, Frango mints from The Store That Must Not Be Named — will all be watered down and homogenized to accommodate the new visitors. The opposite problem might be that every new restaurant in town is going to be a deep-dish pizzeria, “authentic Chicago style”.

–Richie Daley is just going to get scarier and scarier.

UPDATE: Wait, we DIDN’T get it??? Who the hell do they think they are????

Jaun Antonio Sumthinorother? He’s a DEAD man!!! Didn’t he watch The Untouchables??

Read my take at true/slant here.

“Foie Gras Wars” Wins GLBA Award

A few weeks ago, my friend Mark Caro’s marvelous book, The Foie Gras Wars, won the award for Non-Fiction Book of the Year from the GLBA. That’s the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association, mind you, and not a queer lifestyle group. Unless it’s a typo. If it is, Mark will be in for a little surprise when he accepts the award today in Cleveland.

Congrats to Mark. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. The Foie Gras Wars is a very interesting account of the fight about food, the locavore and artisanal food movements, PETA and the animal rights movement, and how people and politicians are reacting to and exploiting the ideas. A reporter with a cunning eye, Mark found a lot of fascinating people to interview and places to visit. He even goes to a small farm in France for a foie gras weekend, where he gets to pick and slaughter his own duck and prepare the whole thing. There’s also coverage of the ridiculous ban that was placed on foie gras by the Chicago City Council — ridiculous only in that it was passed with no thought or debate, then rescinded with no thought or debate. It’s a really great read. Buy it for the foodie you love.

Little Dinks Get Under My Skin

Is it just me, or are the 30-and-under people who’ve moved into the city in recent years some of the most unresponsive, unfriendly little dinks you’ve ever seen? Maybe it’s just in my neighborhood, or maybe it’s just my neighbors, or maybe it’s my “I Choked Linda Lovelace” t-shirt, but I swear, holding a conversation or just nodding to a stranger on the street brings an expression to their faces that makes me think they just watched a “Stranger Danger” video before venturing out onto the mean streets of Lincoln Square.

Now, maybe I’m old fashioned, but if you live in a city, you’re going to brush up against people you don’t know, people of very different backgrounds, people with very different views of the world. And that’s the reason WHY you live there, not because Chicago has more late night sushi than Bloomington or Carbondale. The Windy City is also a friendly place, so you should nod once in a while when you pass a stranger on the street, just to indicate, “Hey, what a life, huh?”

But do that to some of these whelps and you’d get a look like you’re trying to steal their parking space.

An example: Next door to me, the landlords have an exquisite talent for renting to 20-somethings with no discernible personality. The man is usually skinny and bookish, and the woman overweight and in charge of the relationship. (This was not the rule when our friends Wendy and Lawrence lived there, I’ll point out. They was and are good people.) One couple lived there three years, and resisted any attempt to chat over the back fence, which is a pretty difficult trick when there’s only five feet separating the buildings. Then, about three days before they were to move, the man came up to me all friendly and said something like, “I learned from someone that you wrote this funny book, will you sign it?” And he had a copy of Politically Correct Bedtime Stories in his hands.

Gosharooties, how sincere! One of my most ardent fans! What could I inscribe to reflect my deep connection with this dink? (Go ahead and imagine what I wanted to write, but I was dutiful and polite in my inscription)

These days there’s another couple living next door. I call the man Chunky Butts because he has to stand in the back yard to smoke and talk on his cell while wearing football pajama pants. I see him almost every morning walking my dog. We’ll be the only two people on the sidewalk in a three-block radius, and four times out of five, he won’t even raise his eyes to say good morning. Literally the longest conversation we ever had was last summer, when I told him we’d been broken into while on vacation. That got his attention, however briefly! Then when the immediate danger to HIMSELF was passed, he went back to his usual communication pattern. I think he was worried for his football pajama pants more than anything else.

With their hangdog looks and their stupid thrift fashions, these young mopers are making the whole hood seem like Wicker Park, or worse, Hyde Park. Lighten up, people! You look at me like I’m some kind of middle-aged oppressor, using up all your beer and oxygen while keeping you enslaved in some phone-bank job. Or I’m the cautionary tale of what you’ll look like in 20 years (dude, with your lack of joie de vivre and your addiction to energy drinks, you’ll be lucky you’re not dead in 20 years).

We’re neighbors, get it? We ain’t the best of friends, but we’re all in the same boat. We’re Chicagoans, bound by a hatred of the weather and a secret envy of New York and Wisconsin. We can meet recent immigrants from every nation on earth and eat a banquet of their food specialties for $6. We’re getting screwed over by politicians and developers and Olympic boosters–doesn’t that give us something to talk about? I kinda hope for a huge power outage in a heat wave so you’ll have to get your asses outside and actually communicate with someone other than your BFFs on Twitter.