Thursday, October 27, 2016

Yet Another Sappy Cubs Post to the Interwebz

Yeah, we are irritating. All of us Cubs fans crying with happiness, writing sappy sentimental blogs, posting Cubs hype online, flying the W, talking about the first time they went to Wrigley, wishing their dead father was here to enjoy this, wearing their Cubs gear 24/7. Of course there are references and sometimes discussion about the relevance and/or meaninglessness of the billygoat, Bartman, the black cat in Ron Santo’s on-deck circle, Leon Durham’s Gatorade soaked glove, lack of lights costing home field advantage against the Padres and on and on and on. And on.

 This is what happens with extreme futility. Last World Series in 1945. Last World Series Championship in 1908. Us Cub fans can’t help ourselves. If we were Sox fans, we’d get wasted with our kids and beat up old guys that coach the Royals. Ah, father-son bonding at the old ballgame. If you aren’t shot by a sniper on the way to Comiskey Park, you can pick up some crack for you and your fifteen-year-old, get some neck tattoos and beat the snot out of Tom Gamboa right there on the field. And then three years later the Sox win the World Series which hurts more than the doubleplay ball going through Alex Gonzalez’s legs after the Bartman incident. Futility.

I guess this is another sappy sentimental blog about the Cubs. Or is it about something else? Yeah, my first baseball game was at Wrigley Field with my dad. I’ve been to so many, I can’t honestly remember which was my first. I know I was in elementary school. We’d exit the Eisenhower early and park way north down Clark Street by the cemetery. An obligatory joke about people dying to park there or a dead end road would come up for sure. We’d walk by Nuts on Clark and sometimes step inside. Bubba Gump’s variety of shrimp has nothing on all the nuts in that place. See what I did there?

Usually we’d have tickets. Sometimes we didn’t and my dad would buy them on the street. The Cubs were horrible in the mid-70s and I’m sure my dad paid less than face value. We both learned a lot about the mean streets of Chicago from those experiences. At least we weren’t getting robbed on the El on the way to a Sox game. But we did get scammed once by a heartless scalper one sunny weekend. Even though the Cubs sucked, weekend games would often sell out. We found a guy that was selling a pair for face value so my dad jumped on it. Fake tickets weren’t an issue back then so we happily headed to the turnstyles.

We entered Wrigley Field under the red marquee and marveled at how the floor could already be sticky. The smell of popcorn and hotdogs filled the air. We looked at our tickets to see if we went to the left or right. Oops. My ticket was down the left field line near the foul pole. My dad’s ticket was in the same spot, along the right field line. No wonder the tickets went for face value! They weren’t together!

We made the best of it. Like most other games, we’d move around and sit in empty seats, improving our location until we were in box seats just a few rows from the field. My dad taught me how to keep score in the Cubs program. I got countless autographs on those programs. One time I met Ernie Banks in the stands and he signed the bill of my Cubs hat. We’d watch the game, my dad would teach me about baseball and tell me not to make basket catches like Jerry Morales. My whole family attended a game one time and my sister got a foul ball hit by Ivan DeJesus. A fat kid landed on her but she came up with the ball. I was jealous but also proud of her. The Cubs would usually lose but we’d go home happy anyway.

I watched countless games on WGN. First Jack Brickhouse and then Harry Caray. Hey hey, holy cow! Nothing like a drunk Harry Caray singing “Jody, Jody Davis! Catcher without a fear!” And then constantly calling Sandberg “Ryne Sanderson.” I’d also listen to games on the radio, particularly on family road trips. Man, I loved Lou Boudreau’s voice.

One of my favorite radio games was actually on the Cincinnati Reds feed. We were visiting some hillbilly relatives of my mom’s in Ohio. I was probably seven or eight years old putting this right around the time of the Big Red Machine. I can still name the Reds starting lineup. Foster, Geronimo and Griffey in the outfield. Rose, Concepcion, Morgan, Perez from third to first and Johnny Bench behind the plate. Sparky Anderson could manage that team to victory in his sleep. Anyway, back to the hillbillies. This really old guy named Jim that I think was my mom’s Great Uncle was listening to the Reds-Cubs game in the kitchen. I was bored out of my skull.  The Reds were killing the Cubs. In my memory it was by like ten runs.  Maybe it was only a handful, I don’t know. But old man Jim told me he’d give me a dollar if the Cubs came back and won. Suddenly the Cubs bats woke up. Hit after hit after hit. I won that dollar handily by the time it was over. I was happier than a kid going to DisneyLand.

I probably spent that buck on baseball cards. I had a huge collection. I’d get old cards by hitting the garage sales with my parents. This was before the value of baseball cards really took off and I could have scored all kinds of valuable cards if only I wasn’t a Cubs fan. My strategy was always to buy the old Cubs cards. If I were a Yankees fan, I’d be rich! Instead, I loaded up on Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and uh, well, there is a reason the Cubs have been bad for so long. Not too many players!  

After college when I lived downtown Chicago, I’d go to as many games as I could. I lived in Wrigleyville one year, but was mostly by Lincoln Park. We’d walk all the way there, bar hopping as we went, often passing right by Wrigley to have lunch at Bernies back when it was still a dive that only the locals knew about. I’ve sat all over that stadium and also across the street on the rooftops before they became big business (walked up the back stairs of one of the buildings on a whim and got in with all you can eat and drink for thirty bucks).

I have numerous Cubs hats and always have the traditional one in prime rotation, needing replacement every few years. I have a dozen Murphy’s white plastic cups in the bottom drawer of my kitchen. My kids have been drinking out of them since they were toddlers. My work mates got me a brick from Wrigley Field and an ornament made out of the seats for Christmas last year. That’s one nice thing about the park renovations! My Australian Shepard was named Wrigley. Anytime I meet a kid named Addison, I’m shocked their parents didn’t do it on purpose. If I’m wearing my Cubs hat while traveling, strangers will say, “Go Cubs.” If I see a Sox fan, we give each other shit. If I see a Cardinals fan, I ignore them because they are too nice to give shit (but I still hate the dirty birds).

I’m going to Chicago this weekend to watch games 3-5 of the World Series with my friends. Some are my homeys and some are also coming in from around the country. As of right now, I don’t have any tickets so I plan on watching with the thousands of Cubs fans that will be my best friends at the bar by the time the game is over. We will sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame together. We will laugh. And we will cry. Hopefully only tears of happiness.

Which brings this back full circle. Is this about baseball and the Cubs? Well sure. But its also about love. Between me and my father. Between me and my friends. Between a team and its city. Between strangers with a common bond. And its about hope.

So many people have laughed and mocked us Cubs fans because we are all so nervous. Our team has been heavily favored all year to win the World Series. But when you are used to saying, “Wait til next year,” in May, you are fricking nervous!

Tomorrow I will join friends and family in the revelry of rooting for our home team. We have so much hope, we are bursting. I will bring extra underwear for all the peeing in my pants with excitement. I will bring my love for my family and friends and for my Cubs.

Dare I say it? What happens if they lose? Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? It won’t happen.

Big sigh. If they lose, I’ll just count the days to April. And you know what? If they win, I’ll be counting the days to April as well. Cuz I’ll always have my Cubs. They’ve already given me a lifetime of memories. They just keep giving me more and more.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Monkeys and Whales in Nicaragua and Burning Man

“Remember when the bus pulled over so we could pee on the back wall of the church next to the chained up monkey?”

Yes, that really happened.

“We were sitting inside the orca during the dust storm when a woman took out her violin and performed a solo for the next half hour.”

Yep, that really happened as well.

Different places a month apart in time, 3600 miles apart in distance, polar opposites in humidity (tons versus none) and yet they were the same experience. No, I have not been doing drugs. Unless you call grand adventuring a drug.

Let’s not get too literal. Peeing on a church wall next to a monkey isn’t at all like listening to a concerto in a whale. And before you call me a heathen, I didn’t realize it was a church until I looked in the front window of the cinder block rectangular building and saw the altar in the back. Look, to me, this earth is my church and sometimes mother nature is a man’s bathroom so I thank the lord, baby Buddha and your mother too that I got much necessary relief. On the church wall next to the chained up monkey. Ugh.

The monkey happened two weeks ago in Nicaragua. The orca happened a month and a half ago at Burning Man in the middle of a desert. Nicaragua, Nevada; not the same thing at all. Or is it?

My Burning Man campmate and bestest friend forevermore Tory has been investigating an opportunity to support a charity that builds entire communities for poor people in Nicaragua. They buy land, help them build houses and the infrastructure and clear fields for agriculture. They help set up distribution and create a better life for these people that had next to nothing. Once the community is set up and running fairly independently (7+ years), the people own their land and houses and are self-sufficient. Tory and I went to Nicaragua for a Vision Trip – an investigatory outing to learn about the charity organization, see a community that is advanced and see the community that we might support.

The charity organization is Agros. Everyone we met associated with Agros was great and it looks like something we want to support. This is a faith-based organization which is a bit out of my comfort zone when it comes to religion and its place in the communities. To each their own and I’m cool with the Nicaraguans’ faith. There were other people on this Vision Trip representing their church in the U.S. and quite often incorporated their faith into this outing which again, to each their own, but it wasn’t the angle Tory and I have for being involved with Agros and the Nicaraguans needing our support. We just want to help them live a great life and be happy regardless of their religious beliefs.

When the participants of the Vision Trip all first met up, introductions were made and everyone tried to get to know the basics about each other. Imagine twelve super religious people asking Tory and I how we know each other.

“We are travel buddies.”

“Oh, you aren’t married?”

“No, we aren’t even dating. Just friends. We both have someone at home.”

“So how did you meet?”

“At Burning Man.”


“Burning Man.”

“Is that in Arizona?”


“What is Burning Man?”

I have trouble explaining Burning Man to super liberal crazy people that have an idea what it is about. It’s really hard to explain to these people when most of them are over 65 and they just finished devotion over breakfast together.

“It’s a week-long temporary city constructed by participants in the desert. It has tons of art, creativity…”

The glassy-eyed looks came fast.

“It’s kind of like trying to explain the color green to a blind person.”

Full on look of bewilderment. So I went for the impossible explanation.

“It’s actually quite a bit like what we are doing here. Burning Man is about love and giving. Participation without judgement. Radical self-reliance and yet a community working together to take care of each other. Tribes within a tribe. Isn’t that what we are trying to do in these communities in Nicaragua?”

I think we were being full on judged and their lack of understanding combined with our lack of religion made for an interesting group. Thankfully, they were very nice to us and we all got what we wanted and needed out of the trip so it was all good.

Tory and I are getting a kick out of the fact that we are the only two people not pictured at all (other than one obligatory group photo) in the multitude of photos published in a series of blogs put out by the church group regarding the Vision Trip. Hard to believe a couple loud mouths like us apparently didn’t officially exist with the church people. Halleluiah!

Here is what I saw in Nicaragua. A whole bunch of beautiful people working their respective asses off as a community with a great appreciation for music, giving, relationships and love.

Here is what I saw at Burning Man. A whole bunch of beautiful people working their respective asses off as a community with a great appreciation for music, giving, relationships and love.

Okay, I saw some other stuff too. And the Nicaraguans are a year-round community that sustains their entire life and well-being whereas Burning Man is a week-long event (ignoring the year-long planning and other events) that isn’t all about survival (although it sure can be).

Everything is relative. Who am I to say what is a good life in Nicaragua? Who am I to say how one should spend their week at Burning Man? But I do know the Nicaraguans need and want our help. Whether its money support, a hug, building a relationship or working in the fields, I’d like to be there for them. Just like at Burning Man. Whether its support, a hug, building a relationship or working on the playa, I am there for my Burning Man family.

Now it’s time to build my Nicaraguan family.

Friday, September 30, 2016

This is Why I'm Going to Nicaragua Tomorrow

Somebody asked what I do. There was a time when I’d say I’m in advertising. Or I’d even admit I own a small ad agency. It’s fine, I’ve asked the same question eleventyseven hundred times myself. Certainly there are conversations, people and situations where what I do for a living is relevant and can be part of a meaningful discussion. But usually “what do you do” is small talk. The asker probably doesn’t really care and the answer is going to be pretty standard.

It’s like the old, “Hey, how are you doing?” The response might accidentally be, “Not much.” Or the question is, “What’s going on?” And the answer is, “Great!” Sometimes neither person realizes the mistake. We are all robots with ADD.

Lisa’s mom was in town and I had the pleasure of meeting her. I was warned ahead of time that her mom is quiet and conservative. I was asked to be myself with slight modifications. Of course I wanted clarification so I asked if I could mention butt sex. I also asked if I could swear and drop pet names for her hoo-ha (Lisa’s, not her mom’s). Those were the tame things. Since those were shot down immediately, I didn’t bother asking about everything else.

I met Lisa’s lovely mom over lunch. She was indeed quiet. Not a problem since I’m a blabber mouth and Lisa is no slouch in that area as well. Her mom finally asked a question. “What do you do?” I looked her square in the eye and said, “I’m in importing and exporting. Of an international slave trade of children.” I was more worried about Lisa’s reaction than her mom’s. Luckily her mom smiled and Lisa piped in with, “Yeah, its why he’s going to Nicaragua next week.”

So, what DO I do? Well, I’m a father of two awesome kids that I’m trying not to screw up. I travel, write, play, read, socialize, masturbate, live in the moment, own a small ad agency; I don’t know! I have experiences.

I was hiking with Lisa one day and we were talking about books. At the time I was reading something stupid like a John Grisham or Christopher Moore and she was reading Plato. We came upon a creek and I was referencing a lame story line full of clich├ęs and she was quoting Heraclitus. Um. So yeah, let’s focus on her book.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Before I rave about how awesome that quote is, can I just say I wish I could rename my kids to Heraclitus? They are so lucky I was too busy reading Louis L’Amour and didn’t know about Heraclitus so I ended up with a Will and Drew instead. Heraclitus is so awesome; I’d give them both that name. Tapping into my inner George Foreman.

Anyway, back to the quote. Two obvious interpretations jump out. We are always evolving so whenever we step into that same river, the experience will be different because we are in a different place, per se. Also, the water is flowing. It’s not the same fricking water in that same fricking river! I love that quote as much as I love the name Heraclitus. Thank you new Vegas name!

Every visit to the river is a new experience. I don’t want to take that for granted. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was a supreme court judge that said, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” Yeah, I dig. Like I dig Oliver’s mustache. Rollie Fingers has nothing on Oliver.

What do I do? I have experiences.

Which made me think about what experiences I’m lacking. I landed hard on something that doesn’t seem lacking on the surface. Giving.

Don’t judge! I give. I’d do anything for my friends and family. I go to Burning Man which is all about giving. I write checks to numerous charities. I support my friends’ philanthropic efforts. I buy way too many Girl Scout Cookies. We do pro-bono work for great causes at my company. I give my heart to those I love. I give. But man, I’m not getting my hands dirty.

This whole election season is an embarrassment. I’m not going to go too far into it but between that and the problems we have with cops killing Blacks and race inequalities/abuse in general, this country has some serious issues to resolve. In spite of these things and many more issues, we are lucky to live in the greatest country in the world. I am privileged to be an American even if I’m completely embarrassed by our politics and disgusted with our race relations. I mean, is it wrong to pretend I’m from Canada when I go to Nicaragua tomorrow?

Anyway, America is great. I am lucky. Other people here and around the world are not so lucky. So I’m going to give mo’ bettah’. My super awesome friend Tory that I consider family has introduced me to an organization that builds entire communities in Central America for families in deep poverty. Tory and I are going to Nicaragua tomorrow with a group of people to check out this organization’s work, meet some of these communities and investigate getting deeply involved in helping a community of our own. I’m excited. I have more to give and this seems right.

We may or may not also try to have some fun one night in Grenada because we want to give to the economy as well. But mostly this is the first step in a new experience of giving at an entirely higher and more intimate level. We are ignoring the U.S. travel advisory warnings for Nicaragua and the fact that a woman from this organization was murdered a few years ago and are going to live in the moment with open minds and hearts. Hoping we can give.

Now I just need to find out if the name Heraclitus has a Spanish version or if I just say it in my awesome Cisco Kid accent. Cuz I’m totally making Heraclitus my Nicaragua name.

Buenos noches amigos.