Tuesday, December 22, 2009

34 Years Of Thankfulness

I recently posted my status on Facebook as "(Me), despite all his bitching and moaning, is pretty darn lucky." This was sparked by my fiancee calling before she went to bed just to tell me she loved me. That's not the first time she's done that, but it just struck me as special because of how miserable I've been the last several months, living on a shoestring budget now that my credit cards are in a debt consolidation program and can't be used by me until they're paid off, wondering when my fiancee and I will be stable enough to decide on a wedding date, living alone in my house despite having a fiancee...the madness never seems to stop. The reason I'm home typing today is because I had to use a sick day because my ankle is swollen, but a day off from work is something I'm always glad to take. So for once, I want to acknowledge the fact that I have many things to be thankful for, like said fiancee, and my family, and my job, low paying as it may be, and the roof over my head, and the food in my fridge. You know, things that 98% of us take for granted every day, including me. And since I haven't posted in a while, I'll touch on a couple of popular subjects that make me even more thankful.

I'm thankful that I'm not Tiger Woods. But I have to be clear about this. Under no circumstances will I say that Eldrick--I feel nasty calling him Tiger, considering that probably every single slut he had called him that as he came--had a bad life screwing a Swedish underwear model, slipping out of the house to bang every white girl he came in contact with, sometimes slipping them into the house (which is either the ultimate pimp move or a sign of a serious sexual addiction problem, or both). No, that lifestyle, amoral as it was, would seem to be the dream of every heterosexual male, except for one small part--the "wife" part. In today's modern sports world, Derek Jeter is the example held up as the guy who can fuck anything he wants and get no public persona hits because of the simple fact that he ain't married. But there are thousands of guys out there like him. They're what I like to call "adults." Nobody, and I repeat, NOBODY, should ever get married living the lifestyle that Eldrick did. There is absolutely no reason to vow that you will be faithful to one woman under God and the world knowing damn well that you won't be. I'll allow the possibility that he didn't realize how much he needed to get his freak on until he said "I do," and maybe he was intending to be faithful to Elin Nordegren, but that still makes him a child because you have to understand yourself enough to know that you're not ready to be in a committed marriage. I would allow that Elin agreed to an open marriage that would let him screw everything that moves, except I'm not sure why she then would be so upset with him that she'd bash his mouth in with a 5-iron Thanksgiving night. And all reports now say that she's divorcing him, so she's clearly not happy with his actions. The part that makes me glad I'm not Tiger is his reaction to all of this. For two solid weeks, whore after whore after whore came out of the woodwork and made some huge claims about Tiger--oops, Eldrick--that shocked and titillated certain people, and he hasn't confirmed or denied one of them. Not one! What kind of man either does all the bold things he's accused of doing and hides behind his website when he's exposed, or doesn't do those things and hides behind his website while skanks make cash off false stories about him? Oh, and cost him cash, too, because sponsors are dropping Mr. Woods left and right while he cowers under his silk covers. I don't care if he came out and cried in front of everyone, or if he came out in sunglasses and told everyone to kiss his Cablanasian ass, but to say absolutely nothing in hopes that this would blow over is wrong on every level. Thank goodness that I'm not as afraid of the world knowing the real me as Eldrick Woods is.

And also, I'm thankful that I wasn't Chris Henry. Henry was an NFL wide receiver who was such a malcontent that the Cincinnati Bengals cut him a few years ago, not because of his production on the field, but because he was dealing with various arrests and legal issues and was driving his coaches and bosses crazy. The Bengals brought him back this season, however. Character doesn't matter in sports so long as you can make the play. What, you don't think O.J. wouldn't still be getting tryouts if he could prove that he can still run the ball? Anyway, Henry was not with the team because he was injured, and he decided last week that a good use of his free time would be to chase his fiancee out of the house during an argument over wedding expenses, watch her climb into a pickup truck and drive off, and pursue the argument by jumping into the pickup truck and banging on the window yelling at her. He didn't stay in the truck very long. He fell off in the street, split his head wide open, and died the next day. What an incredibly stupid way to go. The sports media coverage was predictably slanted toward portraying Henry as misunderstood and a guy who was turning his life around and behaving well, blindly ignoring the fact that he was chasing his fiancee and may have had a violent message or two for her once he caught up to her. So if he didn't fall out of the truck and crack his skull open, he was on his way to not turning his life around and getting arrested again for assault and battery, at the least. I shouldn't have been surprised at the cameras capturing members of the Bengals wailing like some tragic thing had happened, especially when one of those men crying was Chad Johnson, a man so caught up in fame and the media spotlight that he legally changed his last name to Ochocinco in some bizarre tribute to his number, 85. Chad's tears probably didn't start until he felt the heat of a camera light on his skin. But I was a little surprised that of the many various media that I listen to--four sports podcasts daily, as well as a lot of ESPN television in the evening when I come home--only one expressed the opinion that this was a bad guy who died a bad, violent death, and the world's better for it: The Boers and Bernstein show in Chicago on 670-AM. Everyone else either ignored it or said that it was a horrible thing to happen. No it wasn't! It was a funny and really ignorant thing to happen, and it couldn't have happened to a more ignorant guy.

So on this, my 34th birthday, I recognize my need to be more aware of the good things in my life instead of always whining about the bad things. I may not have fame or riches like Eldrick and Chris Henry did, but at the moment, I wouldn't want to be either of them. Well, maybe Eldrick, not because of the pussy, which is nice but ultimately unimportant, but because of the moolah.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


I'm stuck. I want to pursue a broadcasting career, which means higher education, but that takes time and money, neither of which I have. What little money I bring home from my crappy job is being sucked away by rent and credit card payments. Earlier this year, I had to enter a debt consolidation program because the monthly minimum payments had become too much for me to pay in cash, and I ran all my other cards up to their limits so I couldn't use them to pay off each other. So in exchange for having my payments lumped into one monthly debt and having that lump be considerably less than what I would owe if those debts were kept separate, I don't have access to those credit cards anymore. For the first time in more than ten years, I have to live on the wages I make and nothing else. The lifestyle adjustment has been at times overwhelming. No longer can I decide that I feel like going to Quizno's and getting a $7 sub because that's what I'm in the mood for. No longer can I notice that I'm short on cash and drop by an ATM to get more green. It's a very humbling experience to continually ask my aunt to let me pay $50 less than what I owe for rent because I simply don't have the money. It's very humbling to have my fiancee notice that I'm desperately short on food money and send me a big box of food, like I'm deployed in Afghanistan or something. She also recently sent me a $50 gift card to Jewel Food Store. I appreciate her efforts immensely, but she can't continue to support two people on one salary. I have been looking for a second job, but no luck thus far. And even when I find one, it's just a temporary Band-Aid, a way for me to pay my bills, not to save money and pursue an education. My fiancee and I can't really discuss wedding plans because nothing's stable in our lives. I can't afford a wedding right now, and if I could, she wants to wait at least a year because she may want to stay in Memphis and have me move down there instead of her coming up here. She found a job that she's happy with, and she sees potential career growth, so she's no longer a slam dunk to move to Chicago upon our nuptials. It's frustrating because we're both anxious to start our life together, not to mention the financial help I would have paying bills the moment I gain her as a roommate. I was determined not to be one of those couples who were engaged for seemingly years on end, but due to circumstances beyond our control, that's exactly where we're headed. And I'm not getting younger, on the marriage front or on the education front. I didn't want to be earning my bachelor's at 40 and trying to break into broadcasting then, but I may have no choice. And I don't want to wait any longer to get married now that I've found the one woman worthy of it, but unless we put together the world's cheapest ghetto wedding, it's not happening soon. I just feel like I'm in a hole that I can't get out of, and it's very, very frustrating.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Prediction Sure To Go Wrong

I hate using a line from ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning Show, which is as cliched and hackneyed a sports talk show as you will ever hear, but it's true: My predictions always go wrong. I picked the Patriots to win the Super Bowl before last season started, and Tom Brady goes out and breaks his leg first game. So it's time to ask the question, Whose Season Do I Ruin This Time?

Well, I'm going to go with the upset special of picking an NFC team to win the Super Bowl despite being the inferior conference. Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb's window is slamming shut. He was able to close out a run of four straight NFC title games with a victory and a Super Bowl appearance, only to barf all over the field figuratively and literally in their loss to the Patriots. That was several years ago, and the Eagles managed to find their way to the NFC title game again last year only to bow down to Kurt Warner and the miracle Cardinals. I believe that the Eagles picking up Michael Vick despite having one of the best quarterbacks in football was a bit of a desperation move. But the fact is, the Eagles have one of the best pure athletes ever on their roster. Vick was the greatest running QB by the numbers that the game has ever seen. I'm convinced that the Eagles will figure out a way to put him to great use by the end of the season, even if it means taking plays away from McNabb at QB. Hell, McNabb is a pretty good bet to hurt himself at some point this season, and now instead of some unproven mark as a replacement, they have a QB with plenty of NFL experience. I just think there's a hint of desperation in Philadelphia. The veterans aren't getting any younger (and one, safety Brian Dawkins, left town this past offseason), and the defense has some extra motivation after their guru, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, died two months ago. The running game got some help with rookie RB LeSean McCoy to spell oft-injured Brian Westbrook. The passing game may not have the high-quality weapon that Terrell Owens was, but the receiving corps has much depth. And I'm always a fan of motivation from a tough end to the previous season, and the Eagles led the Cardinals late in the NFC title game before choking down the stretch. I will take the Philadelphia Eagles to go to the Super Bowl and get that one elusive ring, outlasting the Baltimore Ravens in an ugly, hard-fought game. Let the season begin!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Catching Up

I'm chilling at home watching some Law & Order: CI, and I finally did the dishes last night, so I have an opportunity to write a blog post and catch up on some events in my life and outside of it that I haven't commented on. Not a whole hell of a lot is happening in my life. There's a shift of lifestyle that I've had to adjust to, now that my credit card balances spiraled so far out of control that I had to enter a debt consolidation program and cut out my credit cards entirely. My lunches are consisting of homemade sandwiches almost every day, and if I don't find a part-time job soon I'll be forced to really start cutting some luxuries out of my life. But I strangely don't see the whole situation as that big of a deal. Lots of people are trying to get by daily on a lot less money than me, due to car payments and trying to raise children and other expenses that I don't have to worry about. So I'll be fine. I've survived much worse shit than this.

Here are some current event topics that I wanted to make blog posts about but never got around to it:

The Psycho-Pussy Phenomenon. Within a couple of weeks of each other, former NFL QB Steve McNair and boxer Arturo Gatti were murdered by their respective lovers. (McNair's wasn't his wife, and Gatti's death by purse strap strangulation was ruled a suicide by the cops in Brazil where he was murdered, just for the record.) But I pause one second to gather my thoughts on why men who can get any piece of ass they want instead go for young and mentally instable ass, and next thing I know Jason Whitlock has a column out saying the exact same thing (via Deadspin, although I'm not writing an article here, so I don't know why the fuck I'm bothering giving credit for where I saw the column). Whitlock says basically what I was thinking when I first heard about both cases, which is, why in hell would an athlete with money and some fame choose to shack up with young women who don't know what they want in life because they haven't lived long enough, not to mention might be psycho? Having sex with hot, young chicks, that's understandable (although it would have been nice for McNair to decide he wanted a divorce before having sex with hot, young chicks, but in a way that's none of our business). But McNair had an entirely separate life away from his home living with the nut that shot him, going on vacations with her and everything, as if she's mature enough to make your second wife at the age of 20, and Gatti made some 23-year-old stripper his wife. Both men were in their late 30s, and mark my words, both were going to throw the girls aside in ten or fifteen years once they got too old for their tastes. I don't have a problem with that. But you never make one of those young girls your life partner. You're asking for nothing for trouble when you take a hot flame and try to mold her into a housewife. And I can't even get into the press coverage of the McNair story because it was so ridiculous. He was painted as this warrior and great family man who had this tragic thing happen to him. You know who doesn't have tragic things happen to them? Guys who don't fuck little girls and then cheat on them while sleeping in the same house with them and guns are lying around. Try to avoid those loosely connected situations, and still be alive today. See how easy that works?

RIP, Freak. Speaking of sexually confused people, the world's most famous pedophile, Michael Jackson, passed on, and honestly, my second reaction (the first, like everyone else, was "OMFG!1!! MICHAEL JACKSON DIED!!!1!!") was, "I hope he's happy wherever he is." Talk about a guy who didn't like the skin he was in from a very early age. It's hard for me to imagine what being Michael Jackson must have felt like. I like to think I'm the foremost authority on not liking yourself very much, but I've never tried to go from a black man to a white woman, I've never tried to get my nose surgically reduced so much that it looks like a cheese wedge, and I've never desired to fuck little white boys as a way to reclaim my lost childhood. This guy was in so much pain, I can't even fathom it. Only those closest to him could possibly know what went through that guy's skull on a daily basis, and we'll have to wait a year or two for the tell-all books to start coming out. And for what it's worth, I don't think there's a valid reason for fucking little white boys, and it's despicable any way you slice it, but I'm just guessing he did it because it was a way for him to live out his lost childhood; perhaps little white boys were the purest, most innocent form of humanity to him, moreso than little girls or grown humans. But I really hope more than anything that his spirit finds a way to be happy now that it's freed from his body. Someone making as much money as he did, showing his talent as effortlessly as he did should have had so much more fun during his time on Earth, yet no one seemed more tortured in his own skin than Michael Jackson. It was time for him to get off this planet, when you think about it. He didn't die too soon. If anything he died too late, before his desires and psychological issues led him to suck off little boys and ruin their lives forever. Oh, and I've been told that Michael's daddy is a damn fool, but since I've never once paid attention to anything he's said, I can't confirm that.

Support Your Local Indy Fed. About six weeks ago, while walking home from the Metra train on the last Saturday night that I had to work before I started my new shift of M-F, I noticed a small white cardboard sign shoved into the ground that said "Pro Wrestling Tonight," with an arrow pointing across the street at a lonely-looking truck company office. I was thrilled and confused at the same time, thrilled because who knew there was a venue in my neighborhood large enough to hold wrestling matches, and confused because, well, where could this venue possibly be?? I'm telling you, that truck company office is a one-flat storefront, so I knew it couldn't be in there...could it? I went home and decided to search around the internet for any wrestling events on the West Side of Chicago, and thanks to the upcoming events tab at this website, I was able to locate the address and next event of an indy league called the UWC. The address was exactly where that truck company office is. The next show was the very next Saturday after I saw that sign. The cost was $5. I decided to attend. It wasn't worth the $5. First, finding the venue was a trip because as I said, that innocent little office didn't appear to be where the event could be taking place. Well, if you walk along the side wall of that little office, you have to go back about two city blocks to where most of the trucks are parked, but eventually you come upon a building with a row of offices lined up in a way so that it resembles a row of trailers in a trailer park. I frightened the shit out of this 40-year-old white woman who clutched her purse as I approached her and asked was there a wrestling match taking place around here somewhere. "OH, yes," she cheerfully answered, relieved that I wasn't there to rape her, "right through that door." This trailer-park looking place was also a one-flat, so I was still wondering how there was a wrestling match happening here. "Is this the way to the wrestling?" I asked a fat white girl in black jeans. "Yeah," she answered sarcastically, "did my t-shirt give it away?" She turned to show me the UWC t-shirt she was wearing, which was impossible for me to see since I was walking behind her, so yes, cumbucket, the t-shirt that I couldn't see gave it away. Through a corridor, I came upon a small room that had a front wall with framed wrestling magazine covers and pictures of guys that you've heard of and therefore wouldn't be in attendance this evening. Then, around the wall, the rest of the room was empty except for a concession area to the left with food that I wouldn't be ordering and t-shirts and lucha masks that I wouldn't be purchasing. A middle-aged Latina woman took my money at the door at the front of the room, and I stepped through into a larger room resembling a section of a warehouse with about 50 or 60 flimsy folding chairs set up in rows and a rickety ring against the far wall that looked like it would fall apart if someone breathed on it. One wall had a small opening at the bottom resembling a mouse hole. The smell was strong, like people had been sweating and grunting in there for many days before I ever showed up. Less than half the chairs were occupied. I was the only brotha in attendance, although there was a black guy doing very annoying play-by-play over the house mike, and there were a couple of black guys wrestling during the show, and the one and only referee they had was black. I had to sit on two of the chairs at once because I didn't trust just one of them to support my weight. One single small camera on a tripod stood to the right of the ring filming the night's activities. Of the first three matches, one of them featured a wrestler in wrestler's gear--you know, trunks and pads and wrestling boots. Everyone else seemed to be in their street clothes or workout pants with no shirt on. The 350-lb. brotha who came out in a camouflage hoodie almost lost his gym shorts during his match, but thankfully for all of us he had shiny red trunks underneath covering everything up. All five matches were as painfully amateurish as you'd expect, with lots of blown spots and moments that left you wondering why some of these guys were even being allowed in the ring. During intermission, I asked the referee, who was outside on his smoke break, how often they have shows. "Every three weeks," he replied, then looked me up and down like a piece of meat and added, "But we do have training every Saturday!" Hell to the naw, I replied, or something resembling that. For the main event, the champ, a large white dude in a mask, stood in the middle of the ring while his manager and white-trash skank valet issued an open challenge, meaning they charged $5 for a show in which the title match had no advertised challenger. Five minutes before this, two heavy Latina women showed up and sat right behind me, and when the champ came out for the open challenge, they both immediately started booing him and shouting him down, so based on nothing more than this, I assumed that the man answering the challenge would be Hispanic, and he probably just showed up to the "arena" and dropped those two women off in his 1984 Chevy Caprice. I was right. Some fat dude named Will E. Bling ran out and fought with the champ for about five minutes before the champ's manager and entourage jumped into the ring and attacked Will, laying him and some other Latino who charged into the ring out with chairshots. The women howled in anger and shouted words too salty even for this blog, as if this were an actual mugging in the street. They were as entertaining as any wrestlers on the show. The next show after that, according to that Chicago wrestling website, was going to have nine matches but was going to cost $7 for admission. I almost swallowed my tongue when I read that. I didn't go back. That's not to say that I wouldn't someday check it out again just for the cheesy atmosphere, and also because I feel good supporting an indy fed that clearly needs the support, and also because if I ever got the guts to ask if they need an extra announcer or something, I may wind up breaking into the wrestling business after spending my entire life fantasizing about it. But I can't ever see myself in the ring despite my size. Too many bad things can happen trusting an amateur to protect you while you try moves that you're just not coordinated enough to do.

Chicago Sports In The Spotlight. It's fun to see our major league pro sports teams step up and go for the jugular instead of always waiting back and hoping things turn around on their own. The Bulls, despite their horrible draft picks a couple of months ago (Taj Gibson? What, we don't have enough mentally challenged spazzes loitering underneath the basket?), still have a chance to clear salary off their books and jump into the free agent pool after next season. That's the only way they're ever going to get Derrick Rose a supporting cast that can contend for a title, and they know it. Drafting turds every year isn't going to cut it. It may not look like it, but they are putting themselves in the best position to succeed. The Bears are about to fire up their first season with Jay Cutler as their quarterback, and I still can't believe they had the balls to pull off that trade. Cutler is without question one of the seven best QBs in the damn game, and we went out and got him. I'm not perfect with predictions, but I'm not always wrong, either. Prediction: Cutler will throw for 3,500 yards and 25 TDs. Prediction: WR Earl Bennett, who couldn't do much of anything last year for the Bears with Kyle Orton at QB but set records playing with Cutler in college at Vanderbilt, will go for 1,000 yards receiving. Prediction: The Bears will win the NFC Central and will have a really good run through the playoffs, falling just short of the Super Bowl. Prediction: The Denver Broncos, who traded Cutler here for Orton and some draft picks, will suck. Hard. And how about the White Sox going after former Cy Young Award winning pitcher Jake Peavy? I never would have thought the Sox would move that far forward to get an ace for their rotation, but giving up four pitching prospects was not too stiff for GM Ken Williams. Good for him. They don't trade aces every day in baseball, so huzzah for going after one and getting him. It's a strange deal considering Peavy is on the disabled list, and I didn't know you could trade guys on the DL, but I guess when you want someone that bad, you don't care if he's temporarily sidelined. Around the same time the Bears will be gearing up to start the season a month from now, Peavy should be getting set to lead the Sox into the last month and go after a pennant. I'm really, really looking forward to September. Makes me wish I was a sports columnist, because there would be no shortage of topics right now.

And Speaking Of Writing...While looking for part-time jobs, I came across a website called Examiner.com that was looking for columnists, but they wouldn't say how much they would pay. I applied anyway because I hoped that I could write for them and make some extra money, but I never expected that it would pay a lot because if it did, they would say upfront what kind of money they were offering. Well, I got the gig, and I am now the Chicago Long Distance Relationships Examiner. Sure enough, the pay is virtually nothing. They appear to give me a whole penny every time my page is viewed. There's no actual salary for my labor, so page views is the only way I will make any cash. Plus, they won't send me any money until my account grows past $25. At this rate, that will happen around 2013. Oh well. At least I will have a catalogue of writing that I can send a future employer if I want to get into freelance writing, and that catalogue won't have profanity or diatribes about wanting to murder ex-lovers.

Finally, How's The Missus? My fiancee is still searching for work, although she's having success doing volunteer work for nonprofit organizations, which could easily lead into paid labor if she impresses the right people. She visited here twice this summer, and the second time she was able to attend my dinner at ESPNZone that I won at the Sports Spelling Bee. We did it on Saturday, July 4, because I wanted my whole family there with me, and they agreed to be there with me on that day. I was very proud to have everyone there, including my fiancee. I looked over the scene a couple times--all nine of us, including my aunt's family and my uncle's family, except for my uncle's oldest son--and I imagined that this is what it will look like if all of them come down to Memphis for the wedding. It was a little emotional. It sounds strange, but I miss being the center of my family's attention. This happened all the time when I was a child. I'd have a play at school, or a part in some sort of assembly, or they would take me to dinner for some sort of academic achievement. And it was an occasion for my folks to tell me how proud they were of me and how much joy they took in my accomplishments. And the fact is, I ain't accomplished much since I grew up. I still don't want a celebratory dinner for getting my Associates degree because that's something that I shouldn't have done when I was fucking 33 years old. That should have been taken care of twelve years ago, but I was so immature that I avoided college at all costs. I don't think I should be celebrated for something that I put off so damn long. Anyway, my fiancee also went with me to the Sox game that I won tickets for, and that was really fun. They weren't just regular old tickets, they were tickets to something called the Jim Beam Club, and that got us free food, free drinks, free dessert, and a seat one level up from the ground right behind home plate. At one point I got up from all the food and headed out the door to go down to field level because I assumed that I had to go into the actual stands to buy a scorecard. (I like to keep score of the game.) The lady at the door informed me that no, I don't have to leave the Jim Beam Club to get a scorecard, they have them right there at the door. I gladly whipped out a dollar to pay for the scorecard, delighted that I didn't have to go searching for one. She told me the scorecards were complimentary. I then started wondering how I could break the news to my fiancee that I wasn't EVER LEAVING THIS PLACE. To top it off, it was Fireworks Night, and the Sox won, so you couldn't have made it a better night. The only down part about my fiancee's second visit was that I used most of my vacation time on her first visit, so I was going to work, coming home, eating the supper she prepared, and promptly falling asleep. So yeah, we didn't mess around a whole lot. We're both still getting used to each other on some levels. We're shy people by nature, so it's a battle to make that first move. I believe she thinks it's incumbent on me to be more forward since I have more experience, but I'm just not that guy. And she's definitely not that gal. I have a feeling we'll get more comfortable once she moves up here permanently. But after three and a half years of long-distance dating, we still are getting to know each other.

But hey, no excuses. I'll just have to get it together and do better next time. After all, I am the Chicago Long Distance Relationships Examiner. I'm a fucking expert! Right?

Hello? Anybody home??

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Say Anything, No Matter How Moronic

Just a couple of tidbits I heard while listening to sports talking heads the past couple of days, which just reinforce how much I want to become a sports broadcaster if only to raise the intellect of the everyday banter:

First, during the NBA Draft coverage on ESPN Thursday evening, main booyah Stu Scott and the Seven Dwarfs doing running commentary next to him were yapping about the #3 pick about to be made by the Seattle, er, uh, Oklahoma City Thunder. Since the Clippers took Blake Griffin #1, and the Grizzlies took Hasheem Thabeet #2, Stu and the boyz assumed that Spanish PG flash-in-the-pan Ricky Rubio would certainly be the next pick due to all the hype around him. For a solid minute, which is a long time with gasbags like these, they did not mention the possibility of anything happening other than the Thunder drafting Rubio any second now. So NBA Commissioner David Stern sidles up to the mic and announces, "With the 3rd pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select...James Harden from Arizona State." To which Stu immediately responds: "The Thunder liked James Harden all along." WHAT?!? You imbeciles just spent the last minute or two telling everyone how good Ricky Rubio will fit with the young talent of Oklahoma City, and three seconds later, they liked Harden all along? Stu, STFU, you retarded Cyclops. You know NOTHING. None of you know ANYTHING.

Then, just this morning, I woke up to some golf show on WSCR-AM, which I guess is what I fell asleep listening to last night, and I had the pleasure of hearing this exchange between two twits talking about great sports owners, specifically Bill Veeck:

Twit 1: "Is Veeck in the Hall of Fame or no? He should be."

Twit 2: "Charlie Finley is not in the Hall of Fame. Veeck died in '86 but was inducted in '91. That's a shame. I'd have loved to hear that induction speech."

Twit 1: "You can YouTube it, right? Everything's posted on the internet nowadays."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Once Again It's Time...

...for the annual Sick-A-Cell Walk-A-Thon. It's (hopefully) a perfect day for it today, starting around 9A, along the lake starting at 31st St., up to about 67th. Come out for a good cause, and the good weather!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Local Boy Does Good

I have a strange combination of tunnel-vision desire to win anything I compete in and crippling fear of failure. So when I first heard about a sports spelling bee at ESPNZone this past Tuesday, I only had a couple of days to chicken out and decide not to go even though I officially registered for it by e-mail. The event was Thursday (last night), and I had to call my job several times to find someone with authority to give me the day off work, yet still I came close to not going. Wednesday night, I found myself contemplating how embarrassing it would be if I made the trek downtown and got all riled up only to get knocked out in the first round on some obscure hockey player's name. Then, in a flash, I got the inspiration to go to the Blackhawks web site and look at their roster, just to see if I could perhaps memorize the crazy surnames hockey players seem to possess. And with that, I decided that I was in. If I'm going through the trouble of doing even a little bit of studying for such a goofy event, then by God, I was going to take my shot.

I also have a tardiness problem, inherited from my dad. So I arrived at ESPNZone at 6:35P, five minutes later than I was requested. I rushed out of the train station and speed-walked two blocks to the place, and panting hard, I asked the young black girl at the front desk, "I'm embarrassed to say this, but I'm here for the Sports Spelling Bee?" "Why should you be embarrassed?" she said with a smile. "You might actually win the thing." How nice of her to not laugh in my face, as I'm sure she must have been tempted to do. She directed me to someone sitting at a desk upstairs, who gave me an entry sheet to fill not and told me to hurry into the pre-game briefing and bring her the sheet later. I stepped into a side room--coincidentally, a room where my friends and I sat and had dinner the last time I was at ESPNZone, about five years ago--and as I put on my participant's placard and sized up the competition, I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn't too late. The moderator for the event, a Bob Saget look-alike in a suit more expensive than my wardrobe, was giving the rundown of how a spelling bee works, and because I'm a veteran of spelling bees, I didn't think I missed anything pertinent, so that allowed me to catch my breath and relax. He said at one point that the names in the first few rounds would be rather easy and would be current Chicago sports names, so it would be a get-your-feet-wet situation. Some guy mistook that for getting a free pass in the first round, and we all had a chuckle at the idea. I figured the others competing would be nerdy white men, and I was right. There were fifteen of us, and one was a white woman, and two (including me) were brothas. Considering the prizes for the winner--a VIP party at ESPNZone, two White Sox tickets, and a trophy--I thought there may have been more, but there was no publicity for the event. I heard about it because I'm a member of a Facebook group for former National Spelling Bee participants, and the moderator of the group works for ESPN, so she posted a one-line blurb about it and put a link to the website.

I didn't have time to get nervous after the briefing, because Bob Saget led us to the front where the big-screen TVs show various sporting events in perpetuity and started the show. The sound for all the TVs was turned down, and Bob Saget let everyone know that he was aiming for us to be finished by the time the Magic-Cavaliers NBA playoff game started at 7:30P, to which I thought to myself, Man, he must have some hard names on his list if he plans to have us all eliminated in the next half-hour. He introduced the first contestant as last year's winner, and I started to get a little scared at the thought that hey, maybe there are some guys in this field that are even bigger sports geeks than me and will spell until midnight if they have to. We all stood in order of arrival against the wall and walked to the back of the line when we got a word right, so I, being #15, had to wait until everyone spelled one name before I had my crack. And when the first person got eliminated--he froze on the name Urlacher, which is dumb if you live in Chicago because he's a legend here--I thought, yes, I'm not the first guy out! The woman was about three people ahead of me, and I heard her chatting with someone else in line, telling him, "I'm gonna win." And believe it or not, that actually got me fired up. Not because it was a girl saying that, but because how dare anyone say that out loud. I took offense for some reason. I guess I figured that we're all here trying to win, so for her to verbalize her plan to win regardless of everyone else was more than a little arrogant, and besides, I'm the former Spelling Bee champ here, so if anyone has a right to victory, it's me! When Bob Saget asked me if I had a job that helped me in knowing all these names, I responded, "No, but I must admit. I am the 1990 Chicagoland Spelling Bee champion." I heard some cheers from the people for that, then I saw a yellow flag fly towards me. The judge, a curly-haired guy who couldn't have been older than 23, had "penalized" me for being a ringer, to which I replied, "You never said that professionals weren't allowed!" I was much more relaxed after that exchange.

I have to say, they pulled some fucked-up names not only from the Blackhawks but from the Chicago Fire soccer team that would have eliminated me had I gotten those names. But I didn't. And as the competition went along and people dropped off--the otha brotha, some prick from Milwaukee, some guy in a St. Louis Cardinals cap, the girl, a guy right in front of me with those paraplegic support stilts that attach to your wrists because his legs were all rubbery, and even last year's champ, who didn't know there were two Rs in Correll Buckhalter's first name--I started to have a little more fun with each turn. At one point I wrote out the name on my placard with my finger, like the little nerds do in the actual spelling bee because they're visualizing the word, and at a couple of other points when Bob Saget read off NBA names that had been retired several years ago like Dan Majerle or Detlef Schrempf, I gave him a raised eyebrow and said, "Are you serious?" That got a laugh out of the crowd. But the reality was, either you knew the names or you didn't, and fortunately I knew all of the names I got. However, I'm old, so I don't remember the name that I got right to win. I do remember my celebration when I won--an exaggerated fist pump and four thumps of the chest with both fists like I saw Rafer Alston do for the Magic a few nights ago. I proudly held my trophy up for the patrons to see, and they politely applauded for the geek with way too much glee for winning a sports spelling bee. Then I was interviewed by a reporter for a newspaper in Indiana, congratulated by some of the competitors who stuck around for the end, and asked to fill out some release forms by Bob Saget, who also took a bunch of pictures of me and the trophy. Then I shook his hand and went right back to the train station that I just ran out of a couple of hours ago, shaking my head at how eerily similar the experience was to my win in 1990. All the same emotions--pride, joy, shame at being so happy about something so utterly meaningless, and a little bit of bashfulness at my moment in the spotlight. And the same lasting emotion when all the others have cycled through--the thought that no matter what, I accomplished something, and no one can ever take it away.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Champ Is HERE!!!

The Spelling Bee Champ is back! For one night only...Sports Spelling Bee, Thu. May 28, 6:30P, ESPNZone, downtown Chicago...I'm in it to win it!!

Tying The Knot, Part 4: Keeping The Flame Alive

Nothing is easy about a long-distance relationship, except perhaps for the fact that my fiancee and I don't have a chance to get on each other's nerves. But one of the worst factors is that there's no physical contact. It's not just about sexual intimacy, which isn't even a component in our relationship since we are waiting to have sex until after marriage, but even the slightest bit of staying in touch is key to not feeling like you're in a loveless relationship. I was pleasantly surprised by my fiancee's attempts this past weekend to spice things up.

A week and a half ago she sent me an online article she read about how there should not be any secrets or shame in the bedroom between two married people. Anything goes when it comes to being intimate with your spouse. Many people feel that they can't or shouldn't do certain "dirty" things in bed, the article said, even when it's with their own husband or wife, when in fact the Bible says that it's part of the act of marriage and love to explore the heights of intimacy. My fiancee took this to mean that maybe we should be less inhibited about sex when it comes to talking about it or expressing desire. To that end, she sent an e-mail detailing three things she decided to do: 1, she told me that anytime I was willing to try phone sex, although she may not be any good at it initially, she was game. She had always said that she believed phone sex was something we should do only after we got married and were separated from each other for a few nights. 2, she said that she was fine with any kind of dirty talk or passionate utterances I wanted to say the next time we fooled around. Before, she has had a problem with the chance that in the heat of the moment I may say something she takes offense to, like "Suck my dick bitch!" or something to that effect. I've been very careful not to go down that road, and I won't say that it has stifled my enjoyment of our fooling around, but it would be fun to see how nasty we can get. I'm not sure if I should take her up on it, though. I have a knack of fucking things up, and it would be my luck that I find the one thing to say that makes her burst into tears or something. But it's still makes me smile to see that this article has given her the idea of having no limits to our sexual experiences. She said that her 3rd point taken away from the article would be revealed at a later date. I had no idea what that meant, and it slipped my mind after a day or two.

Then a week ago, as I'm about to play a video game, I got a text from my fiancee saying that I had something special waiting for me in my e-mail. It wasn't there yet, so I had to wait a couple of minutes, but when it arrived, I was surprised to see that it was a picture she took of herself in her bra and panties after getting out of the shower. She had scrawled "I LOVE U!" on a piece of paper and attached it to her bathroom mirror, then took a pic of herself in the mirror. This was a bit of a shock because it was out of her element to take pictures that could be construed as naughty. I was happy more for her shedding her inhibitions a little than for receiving the pic. Then I got another e-mail titled "The Girls." Sure enough, it was my God-fearing fiancee with her bra off and a devilish smirk on her face. Very arousing. A third pic came in titled "Booty," and this was her in her thong showing off her fantastic ass. (She told me later that she had originally bent over for the ass shot, but decided that it made her butt look too big. Sigh. Typical woman.) A fourth e-mail came in titled "Something To Suck," and because she was literally and metaphorically letting her hair down, I assumed this would be a spread-eagle pic of her clit, but she wasn't quite ready to go there yet. It was a close-up of one of her large nipples. I was still very impressed at her ability to let herself go free. She even promised that I could take more intimate pictures when we got a chance, especially since "it's hard taking those kind of pictures of yourself." I can only imagine.

My fiancee and I had been having some issues lately concerning how I handle my money and how I would handle it when it became "our" money. We had avoided name-calling and hurtful dialogue, but it was still stressing us out, on top of my stress from the job and her stress from job-hunting and our stress from the distance between us and the inability to plan our wedding at this time. But by this one (or four) act (or acts), she let me know that continuing to want each other emotionally and physically is still a vital part of our relationship. It worked, too. She's visiting in a week and a half, and I want her as much as I ever have.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

He's Done It Again


Jim Cornette, a long-time manager in the wrestling business, has written another all-time great commentary piece (blog post, do I dare call it?), this time about the history of "hardcore" wrestling and the damage it has done to the industry. I actually expected to hate the piece due to my neverending love and respect for the old Extreme Championship Wrestling, or ECW, of the 1990s. But after reading the article, I see the harm done by having those kinds of matches night after night. I should just find a way to link to Cornette's web site so that every time he writes a new commentary, it automatically shows up on my blog.

BTW, I'll have another blog post about me and my fiancee in the next day or two. I'm sure you 3 people still reading my blog just cannot wait.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Normal Working Hours?

I almost forgot what it was like to work Monday through Friday, morning to evening, but through a chain of events, I will rediscover the feeling. Due to the U.S. Postal Service eliminating the time shift that allowed us mail extractors to receive mail on 2nd shift, we were informed in a meeting a few weeks ago that our 2nd shift would also be getting terminated. We were handed sheets with new potential schedules and told to put our names on the sheet and rank our most and least desired new shifts. There were only two choices for full-time workers, which is what I am, and they were 7A-3:30P and 9A-5:30P. I chose the 9A-5:30P slot because I couldn't imagine waking up at 5A to get to work by 7A every day. But either way, I was excited to be leaving 2nd shift and going back to 1st, freeing up my evenings again. I had become accustomed to my life as an evening worker, but it was stifling the slightest bit of social interaction I may have had a chance to experience, and it was also not making my fiancee happy that she couldn't have a decent conversation with me after work because she and I were tired at that time of night.

I worried about not getting the 9A shift and having to work at 7A, but I would adjust if need be. Hell, I knew I'd be okay with the earlier shift the first night I would be able to be home at 6P for the start of the night's baseball games, which I'm never home to see except on my off days, Tuesday and Wednesday. Well, a couple of things happened a week ago that altered my plans. First, we were informed in another meeting that J.P. Morgan Chase had worked out some kind of agreement with the USPS to have a skeleton crew work that shift, making it possible for us to retain several people for our 2nd shift. Chase still wanted some people to move to mornings, but it was no longer necessary for everyone to have to find a new shift. They handed out new sheets for us to ponder what schedule we preferred, and now I had to make the decision: Did I really want to go back to mornings, or was I comfortable enough working evenings to stay? I chose to ask for the 9A shift again. It was just too tempting to not have to worry about getting home at night because certain bus lines had stopped running, and finding places to go on my 7P lunch break since some restaurants around my job closed by 5 or 6P, and like I said, it would make my fiancee very happy to have me available in the evenings. At the same time, I had been placed in a program where I was processing all of the courier packs of mail that were dropped on the floor, which is a lot of work because sometimes those FedEx and DHL and UPS envelopes are just stuffed with checks. But hey, processing checks is processing checks, and I have to be at work 8 hours every day regardless. I was never given a straight answer why I was chosen for this project, but I've been doing it for almost a month now, and I'm getting used to it. Little did I know how important doing this project would turn out to be.

Last Friday, I was informed by my current supervisor that I received the shift that I asked for, which is 9A-5:30P. I was excited. More chances to hang out with friends, more baseball and football games that I could actually watch, more conversation with my fiancee. Now, I assumed that I would keep the same weird days that I work, Thursdays through Mondays with Tuesdays and Wednesdays off, because I've been constantly told in the three years that I've worked there that we get most of our mail on weekends and Mondays, and that's when they need the most people. And it's true; I've worked a couple of Tuesdays in the past month in order to free up a weekend day to have off instead of burning a vacation day, and the work has been so light, I've seen people arriving for work on 3rd shift at 10P be turned around and immediately sent home. However, when my supervisor told me that I would be placed in the same courier-pack program when I move to mornings, I wondered how it would work out. We get almost no courier packs on the weekends. Would I be sent back to my regular workgroup on Saturdays and Sundays, as I am now? Wouldn't it make sense for morning courier-pack people to work Monday through Friday, since we don't hardly have any courier packs on weekends? I wondered this to my fiancee, but I never spoke to anyone at work about it. Then, this past Monday, my supervisor gave me my new schedule in writing, and there it was: Courier Pack Group, 9A-5:30P, Monday through Friday! OMG!! She explained that on 1st shift, everyone in the courier-pack group works weekdays only. For the first time in 3 stinking years, my weekends are free again!

I have to wait until June 1 to start this new stage of my Chase career, but I cannot wait. All I've been thinking about the last several days is, Saturdays and Sundays off to do as I please...talking on the phone with my fiancee...stepping out and going to weekend activities with her when she's in town...watching baseball...watching FOOTBALL, which I haven't done much of the last 3 years...attending family functions and events without using up vacation days...perhaps once again joining a bowling league with my uncle, who only bowls on Sundays...spending a weekend at friends' houses, or maybe even hosting a poker weekend at my crib...getting home every day when the sun's still out...I'm not going to know what to do with myself. I suffered through 3 years of that shitty schedule, and now it's paid off, because I have to believe that I wouldn't have been chosen for the courier-pack group unless I had the experience at this job to not panic at the large volume of work and the daily deadlines that come with courier packs. Of course, seemingly everyone else at my job is unhappy with their new shifts, but we've been told that preferences for certain shifts were assigned based on productivity and quality of work, and since I don't make errors and do a decent amount of work every month, well, I guess that made me the pick of the litter. I'm a little sad for some friends who didn't get the shifts that they wanted, but I'm certainly thrilled about how things worked out for me. Sometimes, patience does pay off.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On Looking Like A Good Singer

Everyone has had a first reaction to the Susan Boyle appearance on the variety show "Britain's Got Talent." Whether it's disgust at Boyle herself, or laughing at her look, or being moved by her singing voice, or a combination of all kinds of emotions, no doubt you've got some kind of reaction. And obviously, to get almost 50,000,000 hits on YouTube, a reaction of some kind is being generated. Here's my reaction: This is all Madonna's fault.

Yes, Boyle can sing, and that's not up for debate. My problem is with everyone being so surprised that she can sing. The gasps and giggles from the audience when Boyle walked out on stage came from a place inside those folks in which they've been trained to think over the years that anyone not hot or attractive obviously can't sing. Even the damn judges on the panel, whose jobs, I thought, were to judge talent, not PREjudge talent, were stunned by her ability. And I couldn't have been angrier. See, all the pop tarts out there like Britney and Pink have contaminated the pool by becoming singing stars not because of their singing, but because of their ability to writhe around on a beach or on stage and look like porn stars while lip-synching to their mechanically-enhanced vocals. And it all started with Madonna. I say that because, before she and MTV came along in the early 1980s, I don't recall your looks having anything to do with how well you can sing. Of course, I wasn't around in the '70s, but I'm guessing that you still had to sound good to sell records back then, and I'm definitely going to assume that for before the '70s. But fast forward to today, where a judge of a talent show can actually have the temerity to say to a contestant, "I didn't think you could sing so well based on how you looked when you walked out here." What the fuck does that mean??? Someone please tell me how your looks are in any way connected to how well you can sing. Once Madonna showed how you can make it to the top of the music charts without the ability to hold a note, the floodgates opened, and Janet Jackson, Britney, and tons of others whose names I've since forgotten managed to hit our radios and make our ears bleed while horny teenage guys and insecure girls who wanted to be like those pop tarts pushed their popularity sky high. And hey, I was one of the horny guys; I wasn't a teenager when "Like A Virgin" came out, but I bought the extended version on vinyl, I still own it, and I never liked it for Madonna's vocal range, I liked it because hearing a hot chick cooing "Touched for the very 1st time" when I was nine years old make me feel tingly and warm, and I like the feeling, although I didn't understand it.

So I get that it's a marketing coup when you can make a singing star out of someone who cannot sing for shit. That's great, and congrats to everyone involved. But what's been created as a result is a situation where a woman can come out onstage looking not so hot, and people all around the world express shock and amazement when she sings well. No, my friends, that's not amazing. What's amazing is that we've allowed ourselves to judge vocal talent on how sexually charged the vocalist is. The only worse reflection on our society is the fact that I guarantee you, Susan Boyle, sometime soon, maybe this year or perhaps next summer, will get a full makeover by some marketing genius in an attempt to sell recordings of her voice, which, of course, have nothing at all to do with her appearance.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

When Bad Comedy Writers Attack Good Wrestling Shows

http://www.jimcornette.com/Commentary.html (link taken from f4wonline.com)

The above link is for anyone who has ever wondered what the difference is between good, sensible, intelligent booking in pro wrestling and nonsensical, garbage, bullshit "writing" that seems to have permeated the industry nowadays. In his article "The 'Write' Stuff," Jim Cornette, who has been in the wrestling industry for almost 30 years, breaks down why the comedy writers who populate the "WWE Universe" are ultimately much more harmful than good for the business. For hardcore fans, and even for casual observers who have watched something on a WWE telecast that isn't entertaining and has nothing to do with wrestling and wondered why the hell they put such crap on TV, this is a must-read.

A quick update on me: Not much going on. I'm looking forward to a bowling event for Sick-A-Cell this Saturday at Lakewood Bowl in Richton Park, IL. I'll be in lots of pain afterwards because I'm old, but that's ok. If anyone's interested, it's $20, which gets you two games, shoes, pizza, and a raffle ticket for prizes that usually are pretty cool. Last year, they gave away an iPod. It starts at 6P, so drop on by. In other news, my job is eliminating 2nd shift, so by June 1st I will be back waking up early in the morning and going to work 9 to 5 like normal people. I got used to 2nd shift, so I will miss certain aspects of it, mostly waking up whenever the fuck I felt like it. But I will be happy to watch prime-time television once again, especially baseball and football games, and my fiancee will be thrilled to speak to me earlier than 11:15P most nights. Finally, speaking of wrestling, I caved in and ordered WrestleMania 25 a few weeks ago after waffling back and forth. I won't say it was a horrible show, but I will say that I got the feeling even before I ordered that this may be the last big show I pay for because wrestling is on the decline without a bright light on the horizon, and this card didn't do anything to change my mind about that. The best match was between two guys over 40 (Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker), and of the two men that won the double main event, one can't wrestle but is on top because he's sexy and sells a ton of merchandise (John Cena), and the other is fucking WWE owner Vince McMahon's daughter (Triple H). Yeah, I don't think I'll be back for any more PPVs anytime soon.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Blast From The Past II

In this blog entry about my experiences in the Chicagoland and National Spelling Bee, I typed the following sentence: "...while actually telling a girl that sat next to me during the contest how calm and cool I was, the gum I was chewing fell out of my mouth and onto the floor. Real smooth, Ex-Lax."

It's a small world after all...

Last Friday at about 6:45P, I was walking back into the building where I work with my dinner in tow. I had my headphones on and blasting as usual, so I kinda noticed a woman signing in at the front desk making a quick hand gesture, but I ignored it because I assumed she was talking to someone else. I then blew past three security guards trying to get my attention until I caught the last one out of the corner of my eye frantically waving his hands at me. He then pointed me back towards the woman at the front desk. I walked back and looked at the girl, and as she began to talk, my brain recognized her as someone from my childhood, but I couldn't immediately place her. She was tall, thin, black with light features, and had short wavy hair. "This is gonna sound strange," she started, "but did you participate in the Chicago Spelling Bee many years ago?" I cracked a large smile and looked in the air, shocked that a fellow contestant picked me out of thin air on the street twenty years later. But I actually didn't realize exactly who she was until we talked for a minute. There were only a couple of black girls in the Chicagoland Spelling Bee with me that year, and I didn't talk to any of them...except the one sitting next to me who confided in me that she was nervous. The one who I tried to calm down by telling her how cool and calm I was. The one who watched my Big Red gum go flying out of my mouth as I attempted to tell her how cool and calm I was. Yes, she was that girl. How crazy is that??

We shot the bull for a couple of minutes, as she recalled that she didn't know how to spell some word that I did, and she remembered the word that I got right to win it all. She asked what I was doing in that building at that moment, and I told her that I worked there for Chase. I asked what she was doing in the building, and she told me that she was an attorney for some firm there, and at that moment I started to go upstairs to my breakroom, because there's no sense continuing to talk to a girl who grew up to be an attorney while I'm counting checks for $10 an hour. "You can tell your friends about the weird girl with the long memory," she laughed as I walked away. I believe her name was Dana. I spent the rest of the evening not believing the coincidence that found me in 2009 walking past the girl who was so cute that I spit gum trying to have a conversation with her in 1990. In retrospect, perhaps I should be proud that this time, I didn't accidentally spray her in the face.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The End Of The Beginning

I know I finished the last class that I needed to earn my associates degree in December, but I had been waiting to write a blog post about how I felt upon completion of that phase of my life until I actually had the degree in my hand. And now I do.

After calling the school in January and being told that I would receive a letter in February informing me what the next step would be, I finally received said letter Wednesday. It said to pick up my degree in the registrar's office by some date in June or else it would be mailed to me. I picked it up the next day. I even bought a frame and put it in already, even though I have to buy some nails in order to place it on my wall. It doesn't read any different than any other degree I'm sure, but it's my fucking degree, so I will type exactly what it says:

"City Colleges of Chicago Harold Washington College

The Board of Trustees of the City Colleges of Chicago, Community College District No. 508, County of Cook and State of Illinois, by virtue of the authority vested in the Board, and upon recommendation of the Faculty, confers on ANDRE JAVELL ROSS the degree of ASSOCIATE IN ARTS WITH HIGH HONORS

This award is issued in evidence thereof. GIVEN AT CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, ON DECEMBER 13, 2008"

Yes, I'm a little proud of my achievement. Although I would love to know why the date has to be printed as if I received the thing on that day, which is certainly not the case.

I didn't know exactly how I would feel when I put my hands on that degree, whether I would be proud, emotional, overwhelmed, nonchalant. As it happened, I was texting my fiancee while waiting for the worker at the registrar's office to bring it out. She was a little upset because, while sitting in a class to learn how to improve her skill set in order to find work (she was recently laid off), some guy was sitting in front of her clearly not interested in the proceedings. The moment they brought my degree out to me, I was texting her, "That guy, like all of us, will get out of life what he puts into it." How perfect was that? I was receiving the fruits of my labor right at that very moment. And it wasn't so much emotional as it was very, very gratifying. The emotional part came this morning when I put my degree in its frame and kind of looked at it for a second as if it wasn't real, like I was just having a dream. I said to myself, "Is this really mine?" I guess it had not hit me until that moment.

And so ends this part of my life when I decided that I shall either start doing things for me to try to improve my quality of life or I might as well just lay down in six feet of dirt and end it right there. It started, as you can read in my blog archives, in the spring and summer of 2004, when my personal life exploded like a Molotov cocktail, and I was left with glass shards all over my psyche. "Karen" wasn't giving me any answers concerning why she lied to me the entire six months we dated, "Sarah" cared for me, loved me, then dumped me, and there I was, all alone, coming off a week in a psych ward, and feeling like there was nothing left for me. In a split second, I decided to take my swollen toe, gout having set in due to the stress in my life and my bad diet, and go downtown to Harold Washington College. Two days of frenzied registration followed, and just like that, I was a college student, living for me, working for me, taking my life into my own hands instead of leaving it for cold-blooded whores to step all over. I actually had a long-term plan for myself. I actually had some goals that didn't involve which fat white chick I planned to move in with. And, five long years later, I achieved the goal of college graduate.

Now that I'm no longer living in the apartment or working in the same job or surfing the singles sites or chasing the tail that I was during the period leading up to the 2004 explosion, Harold Washington College was the last link that I had to those days, and that was only because those women indirectly pushed me into school as a last resort for me to stop ruminating about the things they had done to me. That's why it's the end of the beginning. Community college was the beginning of me seizing control of my destiny and making something of myself, and completing community college is the end of that beginning. But it's certainly not the end of my journey. By hook or by crook, by FAFSA or by scholarship or by student loan, I plan on being at Columbia College this fall, continuing my education, striving towards a bachelor's degree in broadcasting, and having fun along the way. But that's in the future. I just want to take a moment and thank Karen, Sarah, "Adrienne," "Torrie," "Laurie," The Co-Worker Who Shall Remain Nameless, "Jane," and a few others, all whom displayed some level of disrespect and betrayal to me in the months prior to and beginning months of my education. My family and friends and other co-workers had pressed me constantly to go back to school, but it's funny how certain motivational factors work better than others. You all combined to slam home the point to me that I had better start taking care of myself because no one else surely will give a rat's ass about me, no matter how much they may say otherwise in the heat of passion. You may not have meant to have that effect on me, but you did. I will forever be grateful.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Blast From The Past

Everyone has a "ran into someone I used to fuck" story. Mine wasn't very exciting, but it just happened last week, so here it is.

"Grace," the one-night stand from three years ago, works for Playboy Magazine. She was so proud of it that she gave me her business card the one night we spent together. Last Tuesday I made my way to a theater downtown to see The Wrestler (very good film). It was the same theater that "Shelley" and I visited several times during that tumultuous relationship, so if I were going to run into someone I used to go out with, I thought it may be Shelley. I feared that it may be Shelley, I should say. I even had a flashback sitting in the theater because the seat I sat in was in the same position as the ones Shelley and I sat in to watch Rent. That was an emotional movie and an emotional night. So I had to concentrate hard on The Wrestler in order to avoid thinking about that. But anyway, the movie ended around 4P, and I made my way to a bus stop to go straight home. A minute after I got to the bus stop, I felt a woman walk near me, stop maybe six or seven feet away on my right side, and stare at me for like 10 seconds. I had my earbuds in as I listened to my iPod, so I wasn't paying very close attention, but when I felt that stare, I turned and looked in the general direction of the woman but not directly at her. It took a few seconds for her visage to come clear in my mind as someone I knew, but I wasn't totally sure it was Grace until I saw her back and noticed the Playboy logo on her jacket. At that point, I took out my earbuds and started thinking in my brain about what to say to her, or if I should say anything at all. She stood there smoking and not acknowledging me at all, and I walked all around her but never closer than a few feet. I really didn't know what to do. I had some things I wanted to tell her, but I didn't know if they were things I necessarily needed to say, or if she even wanted to hear them. Finally, I chickened out. My bus came and I decided to get on it and not say a word to her. I made sure I didn't look out the window at her as the bus pulled off, because that would have been the ultimate punk move--don't say a word, but then stare her down as I'm riding away and she can't say anything.

The next morning, I woke up thinking about Grace still, and I decided that running into her must have been some sign for me to tell her how I felt after 3 years. So I wrote her an e-mail. And I detailed the fact that I didn't communicate with her after our night together not because I was disappointed in the evening, but only because I started talking with the woman who is now my fiancee right after that night, and I didn't want to ruin what was happening by tempting myself chatting with a woman I fooled around with. It was important for me to tell Grace that she was great that night and that I was immature not explaining to her why I fell off the face of the earth. I knew that she didn't necessarily need the explanation, but I had wanted to get that off my chest all this time, and I was able to do it in that e-mail. A couple of hours later, Grace responded, saying that she was stunned by the letter and didn't know what to say. I told her that was fine, and thanks for at least acknowledging it, because I was afraid she might just laugh at the stupid little boy writing after 3 years and ignore it. We then chatted via IM for a while, as she let me know that she actually didn't recognize me at the bus stop, but was staring because she was "checking me out." Hey, she screwed me, so I guess she's attracted to my type. I told her that because my fiancee is devout to her religion, we had not had sex, so she's still the last person I have slept with. "You poor baby," Grace said. "3 years! I'm getting lightheaded just thinking about it." It turns out that Grace is in a relationship herself, a new profile pic of her and some black guy in glasses side by side as evidence. Instead of reacting with jealousy as I probably would have a few years ago, I actually said, "Aw." Being settled in my own personal life made me more mature as far as seeing exes with other men goes. Grace ended our chat by saying she was very happy now. I couldn't be happier for her. And, unlike my other exes, she was able to grant me some closure.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII

Arizona vs. Pittsburgh (-6.5)

I've heard some media folks picking the Cardinals to win this game, and there's two reasons besides the obvious--Pittsburgh is much the better team--why this is ludicrous. One, these are the same guys who didn't give the Giants a snowball's chance last year against the undefeated Patriots. I really think that these people are so shortsighted that they can't look past last year, when a much bigger underdog pulled off the upset of a lifetime, and therefore they feel that they have to go with the Cards today because, well, they have a better chance than New York last year, right? One has nothing to do with the other, you idiots. Just because you (and me and everyone else) whiffed on last year, that doesn't mean you have to spin around this year and ignore why the Steelers are favorites and just blindly go with the Cards. Analyze the game, not the moment. And two, these are also the same people that didn't give the Cardinals a chance at every level of this year's playoffs. Not a one of them was picking the Cards to go to the Super Bowl, but now that they're in, all of a sudden now they look like the team to beat to a handful of people. Where were these guys when the Cards were outclassing the Falcons, outhustling the Panthers, and outlasting the Eagles? They were coming up with every reason under the sun why the Arizona Cardinals had no chance to go any further. My excuse for not picking the Cards to beat the Eagles is, simply, I can't pick Eagles games for my life. (I've heard that Donovan McNabb will be a Hall of Famer someday, and I think that's not only wrong but patronizing because I think he'd be voted in due to pity in regards to the sometimes unfair criticism he received from Philly fans and Rush Limbaugh and assorted other voices over the years. Just because he got called out in spots just because he was the black quarterback doesn't mean he wasn't woefully inconsistent throughout his career.) In any event, the analysis for Super Bowl Cuatro Tres, as Chad Johnson may call it, reads like this to me: It's the #4 offense for the regular season in Arizona vs. the #1 defense in Pittsburgh, and defense wins championships. I said that the winner of the Ravens-Steelers game would be champs, and I'm not wavering. I just cannot see the Cards, a team that got bent over and plowed like a faggot in jail several times in the regular season, all of a sudden getting it together and beating the Steelers in the Super Bowl. Going through the NFC playoffs? Sure. Beating the 12-4 Steelers, who went through statistically the hardest regular-season schedule ever? Not happening. The defenses got harder every step in the playoffs for Arizona, with the Eagles almost stealing the NFC title game, and now it culminates in the top defense, and I can't pick them to overcome that. As far as the spread goes, I'll use this bit of logic to go with the Steelers to cover: I've heard a lot of chatter about Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger's horrific performance in the Super Bowl three years ago at the end of his rookie year, a game the Steelers still managed to win over a similarly overmatched Seattle Seahawks squad. I believe his QB rating was in the twenties, and for comparison's sake, 80 is considered good and 100 is considered great. I think he's heard just about enough of that shit. I'm calling four TD passes in a Steelers rout.

My Pick: Pittsburgh 34-17

Sunday, January 18, 2009

NFL Conference Finals '09

My enjoyment of the games today will be greatly dampened by the fact that the weather here in Chicago has been so bad that I haven't received a satellite signal in a week. Yes, it's back to the old school today--I will be watching the games through the snowy over-the-air reception that will no longer even be available next month. The thing is, yes, it was snowy and 20 degrees below zero last week, but last winter was pretty damn brutal as well, and I didn't lose my signal for a significant amount of time. I'm looking at my dish, and while it's got some snow inside and some icicles hanging off, it's not covered in snow and ice. But it's on the roof, so I can't go clean it off, and DirecTV will not send anyone out here to service it because my problem is weather-related. I don't understand why I'm getting screwed like this. But so long as DirecTV doesn't charge me for the days I'm missing, I guess I'll deal with it. And if it's still like this for the Super Bowl, I can go to a relative's house and tape the game. Anyway, on to the picks:

Philadelphia (-3.5) @ Arizona

Let me take this opportunity to claim that I, and only I, can have any opinion on the worthiness of the Arizona Cardinals to advance to the Super Bowl because I was the only person to pick them to go through the first two playoff games. Not many people had them beating the Falcons, and absolutely no one had them beating the Panthers, and not only did they beat Carolina, they did it the way I said they would, scoring at will on an overrated defense and using their athletes on defense to shut down the Panthers offense. There was no luck involved in that win. That's the way the Cards could play all the time if they were focused and playing as a team, which they have the last two games. And right off the bat, I'll say that I'll stick with them to cover the spread. A home underdog by more than a field goal after the way they've been playing? That's ludicrous, and it's nothing more than the same losers who had Arizona dead way before the NFC Finals today saying, "Oh, well, now they're gonna get it." Yeah, like they were gonna get it against Atlanta and Carolina. STFU. All that said, I always declared that I would take the Cards' opponent the first time they played a real defense. Atlanta, not a real defense. Carolina, not a real defense. Philly, yep, that's a real defense. 4th against the run, 3rd against the pass, allowing a measly 6.14 yards per pass attempt. And maybe most important, 48 team sacks, 3rd best in the league, and 22 forced fumbles, tied for 4th. QB Kurt Warner is due to get dumped on his head a few times and cough up the football, which he got ran out of New York for doing that an average of about 54 times per game. And regardless of how many times he says it didn't matter, Eagles QB Donovan McNabb has been playing his ass off ever since he got benched against Baltimore. It did matter. He obviously asked himself if he still had any good football left, and could he summon it to prove that he's still the man in Philly. And summon it, he has. The spotlight may be a bit bright for the Cardinals, who are not used to being the focus of the football world. The Eagles, after dealing with Terrell Owens and benchings and four conference finals in the past decade, this is nothing new for them. The question will be, is McNabb going to prepare for an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl, or to get revenge on the Ravens for getting him benched?

My Pick: Philadelphia 26-23

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (-6)

I've heard this game referred to on multiple platforms as a "manhood game," the penultimate clash of two defensive titans who just plain don't like each other, the test of wills, the impenetrable force vs. the immovable object. So, um, just how is this game a six-point spread?? I've been back and forth all week on my pick, but not on the spread. I don't see how the Steelers can possibly beat the Ravens by almost a touchdown. After the way the Ravens have played? Not likely. I may get the prediction wrong, because I truly think this game can go either way, but I will enjoy watching it greatly. (BTW, I think this is the Super Bowl. As if the hype isn't big enough, I think that the winner of the AFC title game will defeat the NFC winner in the Super Bowl, whomever the two teams may be, making this game the de facto Super Bowl. No pressure, boys.) It's the rookie QB for the Ravens, Joe Flacco, against the veteran QB for the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger. It's a couple of top-notch running games taking pressure off the QBs. And, of course, it's the top two defenses in football, with the Ravens coming in 2nd overall for the regular season. The X-factor is Steelers RB Willie Parker. If he's healthy, and he looked healthy last week against the Chargers, then his speed and cutback ability will make him very effective against a large but somewhat immobile Ravens defensive line. The Steelers won a couple of close ones against the Ravens in the regular season, which may give the Ravens a shot of extra adrenaline, not wanting to lose to their hated rivals three times. But the Steelers are experienced and intelligent enough to figure out a way to win a 3rd time. Give me the Steel Curtain on their home field, but certainly not by a touchdown.

My Pick: Pittsburgh 19-16

(UPDATE @ 1:21P--I got my DirecTV back! Wahoo!! And just in time for football.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

NFL Conference Semis '09

Looking back at last year's 2nd round of playoffs, my eyes popped out at those huge lines. It's hard to believe that the favorites were that heavily favored. There's only one game with a spread as big as the smallest from last year, and I love the underdog in that game. On to my picks in much less detail:

Baltimore @ Tennessee (-3)

This was the hardest game for me to pick because these two teams are so similar. They have to feel like they're playing against each other. Both rely on the short passing game, hope their QBs don't throw the ball to the other team, run the ball hard with an attitude, and man up on defense. The Ravens were #4 rushing the ball this season. The Titans, #3. The Ravens, #3 stopping the run, the Titans #6. They were #28 and 27 respectively throwing the rock. This will be hard to watch if you're looking for pretty plays and lots of points. Tennessee beat the Ravens by a field goal earlier this season, and it smells like another 3-point game. I'll take the Ravens to cover because they are as hot as any team right now, but the Titans can pull out the win, perhaps by forcing Ravens rookie QB Joe Flacco into the one critical mistake that costs them the game.

My Pick: Tennessee 15-13

Arizona @ Carolina (-10)

Now this game I'm looking forward to. Arizona really impressed me last week, even they though they beat a clearly not-ready-for-prime-time Atlanta squad. The Cardinals featured an attempt at running the football with Edgerrin James, which they had not done all year. They hit the home runs through the air when they needed to. And the athletes on defense finally played up to their abilities. When DLs Darnell Dockett and Bertrand Berry, LBs Gerald Hayes and Karlos Dansby and DBs Adrian Wilson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie show up and play as a unit, the Cards are quite formidable. The Panthers know all about them. Make fun of the Cards getting roasted when they traveled to the East Coast to play this season, but they led in Carolina in Week 8 before falling 27-23, a far cry from the poundings they took in New York and New England. Edge is running pissed, like he wants to show the world he's not done yet. And Carolina has a thoroughly pedestrian defense, just like the Falcons last week. Cards WR Anquan Boldin will take the field but may not play very long with an injured hamstring. No problem. The 3rd WR is a man named Steve Breaston, and he's the only 3rd WR this season to go over 1,000 yards. I think the Cards have too much firepower for the Panthers to overcome.

My Pick: Arizona 34-21

Philadelphia @ New York Giants (-4)

And now on to my blind spot, the Eagles. Not that I'm a great handicapper, but I never seem to get it right on Donovan McNabb and the Eagles. When I believe in them, they choke, and when I doubt them, they pull through. I'm going to doubt them this week even though they seem to be getting a lot of love in the national media. The Giants defense is almost as mean and nasty as the Ravens, and they had a week of rest. Yes, the Eagles went to Giants Stadium and won this season. But I can't go against that athletic defensive line of Justin Tuck and his group of maulers. They haven't been able to touch McNabb in the most recent battles against Philly, but I think they know that if they want to win this game, they're going to have to get to him. Giants QB Eli Manning will have to prove his worth, going through the playoffs this year without WR Plaxico "I Think I Just Shot Myself" Burress jumping up and catching big passes. But Eli's got a bruising running game to rely on, with Brandon Jacobs, perhaps the hardest man in football to tackle, leading the way. I'll hate on the Eagles one more time, but I certainly don't feel great about the pick.

My Pick: Giants 23-17

San Diego @ Pittsburgh (-6)

Ah, the gamblers' special. In Week 11, the Steelers picked up a loose ball on a lateral pass and ran it in for a TD on the last play of the game, which would have given them an 18-10 victory, covering the 4.5-point spread that week. For some unknown reason, the replay officials decided not only to challenge the ball being an illegal forward pass, which didn't make sense because the game was over either way so it's not like if the call is overturned the Chargers can win, but they did in fact overturn the call even though clearly the ball was not a forward pass. The call meant that the ball was dead at the spot of the "illegal" pass, keeping the final score at 11-10. All I can say is, I'm glad I no longer gamble because that might have sent me into oncoming traffic. It's only fitting that the Steelers cover this time to make up for the previous game. No analysis, no reasoning, just the universe setting itself right. Oh, and because the Steelers are destined to go to Tennessee for the AFC title game and avenge the Titans disrespecting the Terrible Towel after beating Pitt in Week 16.

My Pick: Pittsburgh 18-10

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Wild Card Weekend '09

Very quickly because I'm on my way to work, my picks for this weekend:

Atlanta (-1) @ Arizona

"Jacob" and I correctly predicted that all four road Wild Card teams would be favored four weeks ago. That's how weak these division champions are, and no one played weaker after clinching their division than Arizona. But they have the right opponent in Atlanta. The Falcons will attempt to send their rookie QB, first-year head coach, and subpar defense out to the desert and away from their dome home stadium to get a playoff win in a season in which they weren't expected to be any good. I can't buy it. Give me the high-flying Cardinals passing game in a shootout.

My Pick: Arizona 38-30

Indianapolis (-1) @ San Diego

We saw this movie before. The Colts, 6-4 and on the verge of missing the playoffs, went into San Diego in Week 12 and won, part of an 8-game winning streak that hasn't been broken yet. I can't take the 8-8 division champ Chargers to snap that streak.

My Pick: Indianapolis 27-23

Baltimore (-3) @ Miami

The Dolphins shocked everyone by turning a 1-15 season last year into an 11-5 division title this year, using some razzle dazzle offense to confuse opponents. The Ravens are the wrong defense to try to get cute with. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and co. should have died out already from the fact that they had to spend their bye week on Week 2 due to the hurricane in Houston postponing the Ravens-Texans game. But they're still going, and playing strong football. I have to give the edge to the Birds.

My Pick: Baltimore 24-12

Philadelphia (-3) @ Minnesota

The Eagles seem to be playing great heading into this matchup with the Vikings, but the funny thing about Philly is, you never know when they're going to choke. This is the same team that could only manage a tie with the woeful Cincinnati Bengals. Everyone knows that Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson will dial up extravagant blitzes and confusing defensive schemes against Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson. I say that the Vikings do the smart thing and take the ball out of Jackson's hands, relying on the ground attack of Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. Eagles QB Donovan McNabb has a knack of making mistakes at the worst times, so I'll take the Vikings to capitalize on that and win the game despite throwing the ball less than 15 times.

My Pick: Minnesota 20-7

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Tying The Knot, Part 3: The Proposal

MEMPHIS--In my last installment, I talked about losing the card upon which my girlfriend wrote the serial number and description of the ring that she liked when we went window-shopping for rings in November. That was true, but I had to fudge when and where I lost it so as to keep it a secret that I was actually buying the ring much sooner than anticipated. I went back three days after we went to J.B. Robinson Jewelers to get the ring that she liked, with the intention of proposing to her when I visited on New Year's. I actually lost the card on my way to the jewelry store. But since it had been only three days, I figured that I could go on memory and get it right.

I was wrong.

The same salesman that we saw the previous Saturday was there on this Tuesday, and when I asked him about the rings we looked at before, he went under the counter to the same section of rings we were looking at. I won't get too technical about the specifics of what goes into rating a diamond, but I definitely remember that the ring my girlfriend liked had a clarity rating of VVS, which is like one or two steps below the clearest a diamond can be graded. And when I asked the salesman if that ring was the same VVS that we looked at before, he said yes, and with that, I signed the papers and took my purchase home. Only after I got home did I decide to look over the paperwork and look at the actual ring, and I don't remember what clarity the paperwork said my new ring was, but it was far below VVS. But I already took it home, and it was expensive, and it was a solitaire diamond like she wanted, and hell, she's not gonna care if it's the exact same clarity, and how could she tell anyway? But before I could lock it up in my mind that I was keeping this ring, I showed it to two people, my aunt's husband and my play cousin, and both separately reacted very, very unimpressed, like "Oh, that's nice." I decided to return the ring. If they didn't think much of the ring that I was going to propose marriage with, then the girlfriend was liable to spit in my face.

So there I was a week later sheepishly telling the salesman, "I think you sold me the wrong ring." He reacted as if he suddenly couldn't tell the difference between the rings he enthusiastically showed us before. But after I met his confusion with a look of Don't Fuck With Me, he initiated the paperwork for me to exchange rings. After searching that section of solitaire diamonds again, he informed me that the VVS was no longer there, but he could have one ordered for me and delivered within a couple of weeks. That was fine by me because I wasn't going to need it until the end of December. Fast forward another week to Tuesday, December 9, when I rushed out of my mass media class after giving my final speech and went to the jewelers. They called me a few days before and left a message saying my special order had arrived. I get to the jewelers, and there it is: a solitaire ring with VS clarity, which is a notch below VVS. I asked what happened to my request for a VVS ring, and the woman at the counter explained that they were only obligated to provide a VS quality ring at minimum for my exchange. I didn't even want to know how they came to that conclusion. She explained that they could call other stores and continue to search for a VVS, but it would take time, like a couple of weeks or so. I said fine. I made another trip a week later without a call from J.B. Robinson to check on the status of my order. Mr. Confused Jeweler from my first couple of visits was there this time, and he explained like the lady did that they are searching stores nationwide for a VVS solitaire, and it may not come in until after Christmas. And I explained again that since I wouldn't need it until New Year's, that was fine. But something got lost in the translation, and a few days later, a different man, a "diamondologist" that tried to hard-sell my girlfriend and me into making the purchase on our first visit, left me a somewhat patronizing phone message essentially saying that he didn't know if I understood clearly, but they were not obligated to provide me with a VVS ring for exchange. I returned the call and let him know that, yeah pal, I fucking understand clearly. Well, I didn't use salty language, but he got the message.

I then waited until after Christmas to get a call letting me know one way or the other that my VVS ring was or wasn't going to be delivered. No dice. So I waited until this past Monday to go to the store myself, and only because I was flying to Memphis Tuesday morning. After a half-hour wait because the lady at the counter was cleaning all 857 pieces of jewelry that some old bat brought in to be cleaned (or at least it seemed like that many), she finally got to me and recognized me by face. She said that the diamondologist guy called and left a message saying that they weren't obligated, blahblahblah, and I said I understood that. I asked were they able to find a VVS yet. She said no. I told her to give me the VS they had at the store already, and after tacking on the extra price for that ring, she wrote up the new papers, and I was finally ready to take the rock down south.

The actual proposal went off pretty much the way I planned it. Last night after spending time at a church function playing bingo and eating dry BBQ, my girlfriend and I came home to spend a quiet New Year's Eve counting down and toasting with some Sprite Zero. My plan all along was to propose right after the ball dropped, after telling her that I could only think of one better way to "ring" in 2009. The only couple of hitches were that it was a chore keeping her awake for midnight because she was so tired, and then when I was going under her couch to retrieve the ring, I had slid the box too deep underneath while hiding it, so it took literally a minute for me to dig it out, and I almost knocked over her lamp in doing so. "What in the world are you doing?" she muttered at one point. But I finally got it, she cooed and said "Awww," and I dropped to one knee and said, "I've said this before and I meant it--every day without you is a day lost, and I don't want to lose any more days. Will you marry me?" She immediately said yes.