Feb. 21, 2007

I bumped into this guy on my ride this morning near Diversey Harbor, whose sheet of ice was still thawing and breaking up. His name is Ioseph. "I am from Russia," he said, "but I am a Jew." He also said he swims there every Saturday, but it's hard for him to find friends to join him.

It was a pleasant encounter, and it almost made up for the rear axle that broke on me. And the banana that exploded in my bag. And the treacherous black ice and ominous radio warnings of "freezing fog," which sounded like a spell out of "Harry Potter."

Photo taken: Feb. 21, 2007


Aug. 18, 2006

Three recent moments:



"I think I'll become a pro cyclist. Then I can retire at 33. Like Jesus."

"Careful. He had a better 401(k) plan. Jesus saved."



We pull up into an L.A. strip mall for some Iranian ice cream at Mashti Malone's. In the parking lot there's a large dog sitting on top of a car, and he's created a commotion.

Except it's not a dog: It's a bearcat, a furry beast with a tail as long as its body. It prowls and snarls atop the car, occassionally taking swipes at curious onlookers. The owner holds it by its tail and reassures: "He's only playing."

I'm standing next to a prototypical L.A. character: The aging surfer, shirtless with kinky blond hair down to his shoulder.

"That's a bearcat?" Ellen asks.


"What's it doing here?"

"What are any of us doing here, man?"



I'm in line at the bike valet after watching "American Graffiti" in Grant Park. Two hipster cyclists are passing out fliers to the weekend's bicycle film festival. The guy behind me accepts one from the lady hipster.

"So what do you think about Floyd?" he asks.


"Floyd Landis."

"Sorry. I don't know that much about the filmmakers."


June 15, 2006

Four recent moments:



A man at the Jewel tosses a box of condoms into his grocery cart. He notices me noticing him, so he discreetly slides the box under a bag of diapers. The expression "closing the barn door after the horses have bolted" comes to mind.

In fact, I think it's time for a new idiom that reflects these modern times. If ever I see someone doing the equivalent of closing the barn door afte the horses have bolted, I'm going to say, "Looks like someone's hiding the condoms under the diapers."



"This will be your first Fathers Day without your father."

"That's true."

"This was my first Mothers Day without my mother."

"But our family has a new dad to celebrate."

"And ours has a new mom."

"It's the law of conservation of parents."



I'm at a Texas Roadhouse. I'm in Elkhart, Ind., where it's either Texas Roadhouse or Olive Garden, and Olive Garden doesn't sponsor a cycling team.

To my left sits a doughy middle-aged couple in polo shirts. They are discussing the persecutions they must endure for their views on immigration, and they run through a list of truths they must suppress.

"If they wanted to learn the language, they could, but they're lazy. Of course, you can't say that, because you'll offend someone."

"They're criminals just by being here. Why would we want criminals in our country? Of course, you can't say that, because you'll offend someone."

"Have you ever been in a Mexican city at night? Did you feel safe? Is that what we want our cities to be like? Of course, you can't say that, because you'll offend someone."

And then the woman says the thing that has me halting my fork inches from my mouth.

"I'd like to bring Ronald Reagan back just so he could kick. Their. Butts."

The things you're exposed to when you leave the city.



"I need to shave."

"You could use my razor."

"And end up smelling like lavender?"

"You don't want to use the Venus?"

"No, I can only use Mars: Bringer of war and smooth skin."

The real punch line comes 10 minutes later when I am bemoaning all the hoary gender cliches -- that's H-O-A-R-Y -- employed by various newspaper columnists.


April 4, 2006

Six recent moments:



On April Fool's Day, a 73-year-old man suffering a range of maladies is hospitalized. One possible diagnosis is hinted at when he is handed a brochure titled, "Living with Heart Failure."

For three days I laugh at the oxymoron. "Living with Heart Failure." Its wit is in its brevity, as it's a topic you would prefer not to be such a quick read. More comforting than a flimsy brochure would be a bound, 10-volume manual, perhaps with an inscription on the title page: "Take your time, Mr. Seemann. No hurry here."



How strange. My brother is calling from my parents' phone.



It's midnight. I don't know what I have to say, but I need to be talking to someone.

For a few moments, the accented voice of a United ticket agent is strangely soothing. He is awkward and uncomfortable but polite and helpful, and his English is outstanding. Twice, however, he stumbles when his script would have him chirp, "Thank you, Mr. Seemann, and have a great evening." Across the world and across the cultures, he seems to realize how thin on gravitas this salutation is to someone who is calling for bereavement fares, and he sounds apologetic.

And then I start calling West Coast friends.



Now more than ever I thank God for having given me the prudence to have set my phone to vibrate and not "La Cucaracha."



It's 3:30 a.m. and I can't sleep. I don't know whether to drink wine to bring myself down or whether to make coffee to wake myself up. I decide on coffee and spend the hours before sunrise writing and flatulating and reading the news and playing poker. So begins the period of tribute.

At 4 I trade e-mail with my sister in Greece.

At 5 I start calling East Coast friends.

At 7 I go for a ride. I self-time myself on a practice time trial. I don't do well.

At 10 I start calling my Midwestern friends.

At 11 I go to work. They send me home.

"I wanted to work today."

"Go home."

"He was a journalist. He'd want me to put out the paper."

"Go home."

I go to Greektown and buy a bottle of retsina for a toast to come.



I pull a suit from the back of the closet. I own two: one blue, one gray. I can't remember which one actually fits, so I examine their breast pockets and grab the one containing the most recent wedding programs.


March 1, 2006

Like his predecessors who sojourned in the villages of Africa and the remote islands of the Pacific, a missionary drops into Uptown and uses watercolors to gain entree to the natives' souls. He is met with a combination of gaping and ambivalence, which surprisingly prove to not be mutually exclusive.

Upon seeing this photo Levi writes in to wonder about the status of the Red Rooster, a dive bar that, Levi says, shows signs of being closed. Granted, the best dive bars show nary a sign of being open in the first place, but if it is indeed closed, it would be a great loss for Uptown. Such 7 a.m. bars are like proctologists and lawyers: I hope to God that I never need one, but I sleep better knowing they exist.

Photo taken: Feb. 25, 2006


Jan. 30, 2006

Two recent moments:



I've always promised myself I wouldn't get too anal about my training. Ride hard, ride long, rest up, repeat. Anything beyond that -- power meters, heart-rate monitors, anaerobic threshold measurements -- would take the mystique out of cycling, and it's mystique that makes cycling so glorious.

But for every moment of decisiveness, there is a moment of weakness, and sometimes they are one and the same. It's in such a moment that I buy a heart-rate monitor. Like most impulse purchases, I don't shop for a good price. I don't even mind when the only model the shop has comes with a women's watch unit. (I tell time like a girl!)

Nontheless, it immediately pays dividends. The literature says my heart should beat 135 and 150 times a minute, which I discover takes more effort than I usually exert. Even when I'm watching "Leaving Las Vegas" on the trainer and Elisabeth Shue is having violent sex with her Latvian pimp, I hover around 130. This tells me I need to work even harder, or watch even steamier movies. (Or maybe I need a new seat after all.)

On my first team ride using the monitor there is a junior with us, so the ride is more mellow than usual. My heart rate sits around 100 most of the morning, getting above 120 only when I'm pulling or climbing.

After the ride a half-dozen of us mill about in Wicker Park and discuss lunch plans. We decide to go to Sultan's Market. Five minutes after I've stopped riding I look down at my monitor: 177. That's as high as it's been, and a precious 13 beats from my supposed maximum.

Who knew I could be this excited for falafel?

Note to self: Don't think about chickpeas during a race, or surely my heart will exceed its maximum and cleave in two.



I bump into a neighbor on the back stairs. "I was wondering," she says, "if I could bring my chicken to your place later on."

I give a queer look. "Sure, OK," I say, "but I had no idea you had a pet chicken."

Oh, right. The party.

She's made teriyaki chicken for our building's progressive dinner party, for which I have agreed to host the entree stage. I reminded the organizer that I have bachelor accommodations with bachelor furniture and bachelor housekeeping, including a bachelor toilet that sometimes doesn't bachelor flush unless you give the handle the ol' bachelor jiggle and hold, but she was unswayed.


Jan. 1, 2006

Found in Vogle Park.

Photo taken: Jan. 1, 2006


Dec. 31, 2005

Three recent moments:



My back door makes a funny sound whenever it closes with my keys on one side and me on the other. It sounds like a guillotine. I should get that fixed.



An oncoming car doesn't have its lights on, so I give my usual warning: I point at the driver, give him the evil eye and scream "LIGHTS!" as he passes.

It doesn't work.

Across the street there's a police car parked outside the Landmark. Two cops sit idle inside. The driver rolls down his window when I approach.

"You gonna go tell that guy to turn his lights on?"

"We're on a job here."

They appear to be staking out Eatzi's Easygoing Gourmet.

"Yeah, well, you sure look busy."

"So do you, sir."

So do I, sir? Nice comeback, Starsky.

I race down Clark and catch the car at Diversey right before the light turns green. This time the driver hears me. He jumps from oblivious to startled to sheepish in the instant it takes me to yell, "How 'bout some lights there, huh?"

When I return northbound, I give the cops a salute, but with four more fingers than they deserve.



It's New Year's Eve and I've had too much to drink. Water, mostly. Some coffee, some Diet Coke. Ever since a long, hard ride in the morning I've been hydrating non-stop so that during the evening's festivities I'll be able to hold my own and maybe someone else's, too.

As a result, I'm walking to the night's first party and I really, really have to pee, so I stop to discreetly use the open-air facilities in a vacant Winnemac Park.

All the while I expect a searchlight to descend on me. Wouldn't that cap the year, to be arrested for public urination?

And then I think: Plausible deniability. What could they prove? You can't fingerprint pee. Not if I'm careful, at least. And not if I use gloves.


Dec. 25, 2005

At 4 a.m. the El cuts through the Christmas fog. Its windows are dotted with condensation. I'm in the last car, the one I know to be the most convenient for my stop. Normally such a car would be mostly clubgoers and restaurant workers, but not on a holiday. This morning it's 100 percent crazy -- 95 percent if you don't count me.

Across from me a man flicks a lighter behind cupped hands. He wears clean clothes and has a computer bag. I'm about to give the white man's eyeroll of disapproval when I see in the window's reflection that it is not a cigarette but a crack pipe he is trying to conceal.

(It so happens that after all my time in Chicago, this is the first drug paraphernalia I've ever seen firsthand. Either the city's indeed not as wicked or brutal as it used to be or I'm not getting out enough.)

A schizophrenic sits in the corner. She has prim glasses and an explosion of frizzy black hair. She's a regular, as far as Red Line irregulars go. The first time I ever saw her I figured her for a professor lecturing into a hands-free device -- until I realized there was no phone. As always, her misanthropic rant this morning is animated, enunciated and profane.

Near her a man shadow-boxes with the rear window. His dreadlocks bounce with every juke and with every jive.

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

This is the last such commute I'll make. In January I change floors and go to a day shift. After seven years working nights, suddenly I'll be able to say yes to midweek social invitations. I'll be able to make plans for a Sunday two months away. Come summer I'll enjoy the decadence of leaving work while it's still light out. The tradeoff is this: When on earth am I going to train? No longer will I be able to sleep in and still ride to Wisconsin and back before my shift. To get my rides in I'll have to start getting up at 6, maybe 5.

From one crazy train to another.

Photo taken: Dec. 23, 2004


Nov. 29, 2005

I have no idea.

Photo taken: Nov. 26, 2005


Nov. 21, 2005

Three recent moments:



I keep a spare CTA card and $20 in a Ziploc bag that I take when I'm cycling. When I can't find my wallet I use this baggie to go downtown to see if maybe, just maybe I have left it on my desk.

The wallet's not there, so I return home on the train, resigned to having lost it. I'm feeling sorry for myself and calculating the expenses and hassles I'll have to bear. They are not many, relative to the grand scheme of things, but still I'm not in the mood for the deaf panhandler who walks up the aisle, and neither is the mentally retarded man in front of me who angrily points to the "No panhandling" sign.

Likewise, I'm not in the mood for the sick boy across the aisle who is throwing up into his grandmother's lap, but there's no "No vomiting on Grandma" sign for me to angrily point to.



A few hours later there's a message from Visa's fraud-prevention department. I call and talk to a woman who says it was suspicious that my debit card was used to buy gas on the South Side that morning.

That's right: Buying gas is so out of character for me that it sets off klaxons at Visa. As if there were ever doubt, I think this cements my all-important bike cred.

"How did you know I hate cars?" I ask.

I'm strangely relieved to know that my wallet is now stolen and not just hiding under laundry -- if ever I am blessed enough to have a say in the matter, I'd choose to be the shlemazel over the shlemiel -- but it is somewhat alarming how well Visa knows my patterns. Will I get similar calls if I start buying low-fat milk instead of skim or start buying clothes anywhere other than Sears? If I attempt to buy dinner for two, will it go through?



My roommate's wallet is on the dining room table. I look at it with the nostalgia of a pensioner. "I remember when I had a wallet ..."


Nov. 6, 2005

Two recent moments:



Enough people ask whether I'm growing a beard that I begin to think the answer is, "Apparently not."



I have a new wide-spectrum lamp. It's supposed to improve my disposition, especially during winter, and I could use that. I could use more light, more happy, a wider spectrum.

Mostly I use the lamp to read. This week I read "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Foer and find it extremey sad and incredibly heartbreaking. It fills me with longing -- insofar as one can be filled with emptiness -- which pretty much negates any benefit of the lamp and puts me right back where I started. It's like putting on a raincoat to stay dry and then jumping into a swimming pool.


Oct. 18, 2005

So this World Series. It's a big deal in my city this year. I'm to understand that its importance rivals the Tour de France, but it lasts two fewer weeks? With each individual contest lasting much less than five hours? With opportunities to sit and eat sunflower seeds? Without much chance of death or maiming? And participants, even the ones shaped like Larry Walker, are still considered athletes?

America! What a country!


Sept. 28, 2005

Three recent moments:



"I don't think we've met. I'm [important person]."

"I'm Luke."

"You new here?"

"Five years."

"Oh. Well, welcome."



I'm making salad for a small dinner party. It calls for candied pecans. I've made this before but always end up nibbling too many along the way. One for the salad, one for me. One for the salad, two for me.

This time I chew gum while I cook so I'm not tempted to nibble. This fails. In the end I just become adept at chewing gum in the left side of my mouth while eating candied pecans in the right.



Sometimes I wonder about the motorcyclists popping wheelies or gunning their engines. Do they realize that when I pantomime the act of masturbation I'm referring to them?


Sept. 13, 2005

Four recent moments:



"... but then working for Marvel would mean living in New York City."


"Did you just say 'Gotham'?"


"Gotham is DC."

"Oh. Of course."



A fat woman in flowing, fat-woman clothes gets off the Clark bus at Bryn Mawr. She's shaped like a pear -- an overripe pear that's been dropped once or twice. From behind thick, ugly glasses she squints at the noon sun. Teeth are missing. On her left arm is a constellation of sores, but also a large homemade tattoo: "LOVE."



I gather that one sign you have a gambling problem is when your poker playing makes you late for other, more important responsibilities. Is it a problem, then, when your poker playing makes you late for other, more important poker games?



"As soon as I could once again remember the lyrics to 'El Paso,' that's when I knew I was sober enough to get out of bed."


Sept. 9, 2005

Two recent moments:



"I found your blog the other day."


"You must have a lot of spare time."



Songs I hear on the radio on the first Saturday morning of September: Neil Young's "Like a Hurricane" and Tom Petty's "Refugee." I change the station before "When the Levee Breaks" has a chance to come on. When the levee breaks I’ll have no place to stay ... Cryin’ won’t help you, prayin’ won’t do you no good.


Aug. 18, 2005

Three recent moments:



I finish fifth in a practice race down in Matteson. Someone mentions that the guy who finished second has a titanium hip.

"Whattsamatta," I ask, "he couldn't afford carbon?"



I'm at the Men's Wearhouse to buy a weddings-and-funerals suit, something to wear, knock on wood, no more than once or twice a year.

Taking a cue from my strategy for picking a wine, I take about three minutes to pick one from the second-to-cheapest rack. Just as I cannot tell the difference between a $10 bottle and a $20 bottle of wine, I cannot tell the difference between a $200 suit and a $800 suit. I'd get the cheapest, but I don't want to look like some sort of tightwad.

While one salesman helps me, another finds an excuse to walk by and casually says, "Yeah, this is a nice suit." When the tailor measures me, he says the same thing, in the same way, twice. Each time it sounds very sincere but also practiced, like George Zimmer has them say it a hundred times a day because he knows how much the customer likes to be complimented for his taste. I feel like I should tell them to stand down: "Guys, it's OK. I know it's an ugly suit. I'm cool with that."



We're waiting for "Broken Flowers" in Old Town. An ad for the National Guard comes on screen. A handful of young, beautiful teenagers with young, beautiful bodies frolic in what is either a volleyball court or a desert wasteland. They pump their fists. "Freedom rocks!" a red and blue logo proclaims.

We are bewildered. I wonder whether there's been a mix-up at the ad distributor. Perhaps somebody in red-state America is waiting for "Stealth" to start, seeing ads for French wine and hummus and also saying, "What the fuck?"


July 24, 2005

Three recent moments:



It's 97 and not yet noon. I'm reading and drinking coffee on the patio. Neighbors file past and tell me how mad I am to be outside.

"A few more degrees," I tell them, "and I might have to install the air conditioner."

A third-floor neighbor, who says he's looking forward to January as much as I spent January looking forward to today, puts some vegetables on the grill. He asks me to monitor it while he makes a salad upstairs. It needs to be around 450.

"450! Now there's a temperature I can abide!"



On the Clark Street sidewalk, near the shuttered taquiera and the bank that was once a dollar store, there's an empty box of edible underwear. Beneath a hundred footprints the model on the box resembles a 1980s Chippendale. He looks up with a thumb tugging ever so slightly on his shorts.

I wonder how the box got there. Did it get thrown from an apartment window? Did someone buy it just for a snack? And did it belong to the same litterbug as the nearby Ding Dong wrapper?



A girl enters the train at Wilson. She's 13 if she's a day and 80 pounds if she's an ounce. She wears a flowered sundress and carries a Dominick's bag of belongings. A large plastic daisy adorns each flip-flop. She's with a much older, slighly thuggish man in a dew rag.

This is a terrible thing to think and a worse thing to admit, but it speaks to how segregated my city remains: There is something suspicious about a white girl, prepubescent but already world-weary, in the company of a black man.

After two stops she does the most unexpectedly polite thing I have ever seen on a CTA train: She steps onto the gangway between cars to smoke a cigarette. The man is indifferent, but I check back every few minutes to make sure a jolt hasn't cast her down into the abyss.


July 1, 2005

Four recent moments:



A black SUV is parked in the bike lane on Damen. Three men stand on the sidewalk outside new condo construction. As I pass I yell my usual epithet: "I don't park in your lane."

"OK, Sparky," yells the man holding the granite counter samples.

I turn back, only because his response was so smug. (Is there anything less threatening than yuppie smugness?) I ask how hard it would be to park somewhere else. I point out that parking there is illegal and forces me into the middle of traffic.

"C'mon," says a young woman I hadn't seen in the driver's seat. "Can't you just go around for a second?"

Things I could say in response.

  1. "A second is all it takes for me to get killed."

  2. "You're putting me in danger for your own convenience. But that's what SUVs are all about, isn't it?"

  3. "Hey, I didn't paint these lines, but they're there for a reason, and it's not to be a spot for your fat, lazy ass."

  4. "Greedy motherfuckers!"

But because I am slow and dim, I say this instead: "    ."

And go on my way.



A teammate and I are riding through the far-northwest suburbs. We turn onto a country road and are met by a surprising peloton: 20 Holstein cows. They're herded by a stout elderly woman with white, curly hair and a floral-print shirt. She carries a cane in her left hand and a turqouise rope in her right. "Come on," she croaks with each crack of the whip. "Get on up there!" We pace behind for a few blocks at 1 mph, careful to weave through the trail of manure.



It's 11 p.m. It's strange to see a handyman laying out his tools outside a Bryn Mawr apartment building this late. A few steps later I see why he's there: Inside a brightly lit garden unit an anxious woman cradles her cat while a police officer shines his flash light at a broken window and a pile of glass shards.



"Who are you seeing at Ravinia tonight?"

"Mahler's 'Resurrection.'"

"Never heard of them."


May 19, 2005

Sith happens.

After work I killed time at Cambridge House, one of River North's last diners. It's doomed for demolition within the year, so as I read and sipped my coffee I took note of all the usual late-night characters. The tourists, the young couples taking breaks from clubbing, the second-shift employees from neighboring hotels picking up their burgers and francheezies. And the truck driver who scolds the waitress for having missed "American Idol" because, Honey, now how is he going to know what happened to Vonzell?

Around 12:30 a.m. I took my place in line at the theater, surrounded by college students and middle-age fans quite amused by the sounds of their own Yoda voices. (The dorkiest of the young dorks had quite fetching girlfriends in tow. WTF? I screwed my fists into my eyes to make sure I was indeed seeing what I was seeing and it wasn't a sleepy-headed hallucination, but it was true: They were hotter than a summer day on Mustafar.)

A dozen screens were in use for the midnight show. It took awhile to flush them out. Then there was a problem with the digital projector. Then there were 20 minutes of trailers. My 3 a.m. show didn't start until 3:50. When I finally got home at 7, my alarm was going off, still set from when I'd woken 25 hours earlier for time-trial practice.

Photo taken: May 19, 2005


May 4, 2005

Pronunciation: &-'prE-shE-"At, -'pri- also -'prE-sE-
Function: verb
Etymology: Late Latin appretiatus, past participle of appretiare, from Latin ad- + pretium price
1 a: to grasp the nature, worth, quality, or significance of b: to value or admire highly c: to judge with heightened perception or understanding : be fully aware of d: to recognize with gratitude

Merriam-Webster, "Appreciate"

Two, four, six, eight -- Whom does President Bush appreciate?

I decided to find out, but after 150 instances my head started to hurt and I stopped looking. Nonetheless, it's a fascinating study in rhetoric.

Most of the time the president uses his appreciation as a form of roll call. He starts most speeches by naming others in the room and whether he "appreciates" or "appreciates so very much" their presence.

Sometimes he uses it as a synonym for thanks, but with a dose of ambiguity. Like when he says "I want to appreciate your wise counsel" -- it's not clear whether he appreciates it or not, nor how wise he truly considers your counsel. I want to think he's being a smart ass here.

Often he appreciates things that don't necessarily exist -- "strong bipartisan support," "the courage of most Americans," "your understanding" -- as if by "appreciating" them he can will them into being, like the sign in the diner restroom that says "We appreciate your cleanliness" whether you're smearing feces on the walls or not.

I think the foible I appreciate most is the way he appreciates things that he likely does not in fact appreciate. Questions, for example. Whenever a reporter asks a real stinker, President Bush likes to say how much he appreciates the question. But a president who averages less than one prime-time press conference a year does not strike me as a man who appreciates being questioned. Perhaps "I appreciate that question" is a code phrase to the IRS, meaning, "Commence the audit."

At any rate, I hope you appreciate the hour or so it took me to document all this.

  1. "Fidel, I appreciate your tone, I appreciate your constructive work on this issue." (May 4, 2005)
  2. "I appreciate you letting us use you as an example, looking forward to meeting the kids." (May 4, 2005)
  3. "I appreciate you bringing the payroll taxes in." (May 4, 2005)
  4. "I appreciate you bringing that up again, Elizabeth." (May 4, 2005)
  5. " I appreciate you saying I brought up an issue that I didn't need to bring up." (May 4, 2005)
  6. "Thanks, Sam. Good job. I appreciate it." (May 3, 2005)
  7. "I appreciate you understanding that you're going to get your check." (May 3, 2005)
  8. "And I appreciate that gesture ... And I appreciate that gesture." (April 28, 2005)
  9. "I appreciate that question." (April 28, 2005)
  10. "I appreciate the strong bipartisan support for supporting our troops in harm's way." (April 28, 2005)
  11. "I appreciate his courage and the courage of those who are willing to serve the Iraqi people in government." (April 28, 2005)
  12. "I appreciate such a generous welcome." (April 27, 2005)
  13. "I appreciate the courage that Marianne has shown and her determination to succeed." (April 27, 2005)
  14. "I appreciate the fine job he's done ... I appreciate the ambassadors who are here ... And I appreciate you all giving me a chance to come by and visit with you." (April 27, 2005)
  15. "I appreciate the fact that our small business owners are taking risks and pursuing dreams ... I appreciate the fact that the small business entrepreneurs are some of the great innovators in our nation." (April 27, 2005)
  16. "I appreciate the fact that the Senate has passed a version of the budget." (April 27, 2005)
  17. "I appreciate the leadership in the House." (April 27, 2005)
  18. "I appreciate Mike McIntyre from North Carolina joining us ... I appreciate Michael Steele, the Lieutenant Governor from Maryland. I appreciate Gordon England, who's the Secretary of the Navy ... And I appreciate Vice Admiral Rod Rempt for your hospitality at the games." (April 20, 2005)
  19. "I appreciate Secretary Don Rumsfeld joining us today ... I appreciate Secretary Francis Harvey ... I appreciate the family members who have joined us today ... I appreciate Chaplain David Hicks, for his invocation." (April 7, 2005)
  20. "I appreciate citizens from Iraq who have joined us. I appreciate my fellow citizens who have joined us." (March 29, 2005)
  21. "I appreciate the determination of the Iraqi electoral workers." (March 29, 2005)
  22. "We appreciate the fact that Canada's tar sands are now becoming economical." (March 23, 2005)
  23. "I appreciate the meetings we've just had." (March 23, 2005)
  24. "I appreciate the commitment of the prime minister and the president toward a spirit of partnership to outlast whatever politics may occur." (March 23, 2005)
  25. "Thank you, Paul, I appreciate that very much. " (March 23, 2005)
  26. "I appreciate the fact that the unemployment rate here in Colorado is 4.9 percent." (March 21, 2005)
  27. "I appreciate the idea." (March 21, 2005)
  28. "Yes, I appreciate you saying that." (March 21, 2005)
  29. "I appreciate so much, Senator, your willingness to join in this issue." (March 21, 2005)
  30. "I appreciate the world leaders taking my phone calls." (March 16, 2005)
  31. "I do appreciate the public concern about the use of steroids in sports ... So I appreciate the fact that baseball is addressing this, and I appreciate the fact that the Congress is paying attention to the issue." (March 16, 2005)
  32. "I appreciate the fine example that you have set for aspiring young scientists." (March 14, 2005)
  33. "I really appreciate what Boston does off the field, too ... I appreciate what individual players do ... I appreciate what the Red Sox are doing in the Dominican Republic with Seor Octubre." (March 2, 2005)
  34. "I appreciate the willingness of these men to take on these tough new assignments in an extraordinary moment in our nation's history." (Feb. 17, 2005
  35. "Thank you all very much for your attention and questions. Appreciate it." (Feb. 17, 2005)
  36. "I appreciate people bringing forth ideas." (Jan. 26, 2005)
  37. "I appreciate that question." (Jan. 26, 2005)
  38. "I appreciate His Majesty's understanding of the need for democracy to advance in the greater Middle East." (Jan. 26, 2005)
  39. "I appreciate your hard work. ... We really appreciate you having us. I appreciate the Justices of the Supreme Court being here... I appreciate General Myers ... I appreciate Barbara and Jenna." (Jan. 20, 2005)
  40. "Fuel -- I appreciate Fuel being here." (Jan 18, 2005)
  41. "Yes, I appreciate that question." (Dec. 20, 2004)
  42. "Well, I appreciate that, Ed, but we did take on Medicare." (Dec. 20, 2004)
  43. "Yes, I appreciate that." (Dec. 20, 2004)
  44. "I appreciate the nations of Great Britain and Germany and France who are working to try to convince Iran to honor their international treaty obligations." (Nov. 26, 2004)
  45. "I appreciate his work to fight Internet pornography ... I appreciate his service and wish him and Janet all the best." (Nov. 9, 2004)
  46. "I appreciate that. Listen, I've made some very hard decisions." (Nov. 4, 2004)
  47. "I appreciate all people who voted." (Nov. 4, 2004)
  48. "I appreciate you being here to watch it. And I really do appreciate working with Mr. Chairman ... I appreciate other members of the congressional delegation who are with us today ... I appreciate my friend, Jim Leach being here ... I appreciate his hard work on this bill and I appreciate him working with Chuck Grassley to get the bill done ... I appreciate members of the ex-governors club who've joined us today. ... I appreciate their friendship ... appreciate you coming." (Oct. 4, 2004)
  49. "I appreciate the members of Congress who are here today." (Oct. 4, 2004)
  50. "I appreciate the strong leadership of the -- of those who represent the armies of compassion." (Sept. 30, 2004)
  51. "I appreciate you serving your respective countries and working together to make the world a better place." (Sept. 22, 2004)
  52. "I appreciate your courage. I appreciate your leadership ... And I appreciate your will, and I appreciate your strength." (Sept. 21, 2004)
  53. "I appreciate his courage."(Sept. 21, 2004)
  54. "I appreciate you giving me the chance to come on and have, what we say in Texas, 'Just a visit.'" (Sept. 28, 2004)
  55. "I appreciate the hard work of the commission over the past 20 months." (Aug. 24, 2004)
  56. "I appreciate the Senate's work." (Aug. 9, 2004)
  57. "I appreciate the solid and bipartisan support of this bill. I appreciate both people -- people of both parties coming together to support our troops." (Aug. 5, 2004)
  58. "I appreciate so very much those in my Cabinet who have worked hard to make this agreement come true." (Aug. 3, 2004)
  59. "I appreciate Prime Minister Howard, he's a strong partner in peace." (Aug. 3, 2004)
  60. "I want to know the facts. I appreciate the fact-finders working hard." (Aug. 9, 2004)
  61. "I appreciate -- listen, one of the reasons I enjoy working with LULAC so much is I appreciate your commitments to freedom and to entrepreneurship ... Once again, I appreciate the good work of LULAC." (July 8, 2004)
  62. "I appreciate your understanding for the need for us, whoever is traveling with me, to get moving." (June 10, 2004)
  63. "I appreciate your willingness to work on promoting freedom around the world ... I appreciate your government's good work. I appreciate very much the Chancellor's help in Afghanistan ... I appreciate our mutual work on the U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq." (June 8, 2004)
  64. "Thanks, Gerhard, I appreciate you." (June 8, 2004)
  65. "I appreciate the fact that we've got scholarship and award recipients who are with us. And I appreciate the distinguished guests who are here, as well." (May 19, 2004)
  66. "I appreciate his good, strong advice." (May 19, 2004)
  67. "What I appreciate is the fact that in the contracts you sign with the players that you include a commitment to participate in at least 10 public service events each year. I appreciate the commitment. I also appreciate the players' commitment, as well." (May 10, 2004)
  68. "I appreciate Sununu, the Senator from New Hampshire." (May 10, 2004)
  69. "I appreciate the dramatic comebacks that you were capable of making. I like it when a kicker ends up winning the game." (May 10, 2004)
  70. "I appreciated your strong words, and I really appreciate your faith." (May 5, 2004)
  71. "Thank you for what you do. I appreciate you." (May 5, 2004)
  72. "I appreciate your vision and your understanding of that, Your Majesty." (May 6, 2004)
  73. "I appreciate your friendship, and I appreciate the opportunity to hear your thoughts on a range of issues that face your country." (May 6, 2004)
  74. "I appreciated your advice, Your Majesty." (May 6, 2004)
  75. "I want to appreciate your wise counsel, Your Majesty." (May 6, 2004)
  76. "I appreciate you coming." (May 6, 2004)
  77. "I appreciate the Prime Minister understanding that vision." (April 16, 2004)
  78. "No matter where they may stand on this war, the thing I appreciate most about our country is the strong support given to the men and women in uniform." (April 13, 2004")
  79. "I appreciate the candid discussion we've had." (Feb. 25, 2004)
  80. "I appreciate you bringing up the Russian bases problem." (Feb. 25, 2004)
  81. "I appreciate his willingness to go to Iraq and I appreciate his willingness to gather facts." (Jan. 27, 2004)
  82. "I appreciate your friendship, I appreciate your strength." (Jan. 27, 2004)
  83. "I appreciate David Kay's contribution." (Jan. 27, 2004)
  84. "I appreciate Ozzie Guillen being here." (Jan. 23, 2004)
  85. "I appreciate the fact that Josh Beckett -- a big, old Texan I might add -- (laughter) -- is involved with youth baseball." (Jan. 23, 2004)
  86. "I appreciate the joint efforts of the Russians with our country to explore ... I appreciate the astronauts of yesterday who are with us as well, who inspired the astronauts of today to serve our country. I appreciate so very much the members of Congress being here. ... I appreciate your interest in this subject." (Jan. 14, 2004)
  87. "I appreciate Commander Mike Foale's introduction. I'm sorry I couldn't shake his hand." (Jan. 14, 2004)
  88. "To John Travolta. (We shall call him 'Moon Man' from now on.) I appreciate your friendship. I appreciate your love of flight. Thank you for being such a fine entertainer." (Dec. 17, 2003)
  89. "I appreciate so very much American heroes who are here, well-known and not so well-known heroes." (Dec. 17, 2003)
  90. "I appreciate that question." (Dec. 15 , 2003)
  91. "I appreciate the fact that durable orders for durable goods are up." (Dec. 15 , 2003)
  92. "I appreciate the Hot Shot team members from the great state of California." (Dec. 3, 2003)
  93. "I appreciate the representatives of the conservation groups who have worked in a constructive way to help change the attitude inside the halls of the United States Congress." (Dec. 3, 2003)
  94. "I appreciate the fact that the Indonesian government was able to accommodate my desires to come here." (Oct. 22, 2003)
  95. "I appreciate Vin for the short introduction. I'm a man who likes short introductions. And he didn't let me down. But more importantly, I appreciate the invitation. I appreciate the members of Congress who are here, senators from both political parties, members of the House of Representatives from both political parties. I appreciate the ambassadors who are here. I appreciate the guests who have come. I appreciate the bipartisan spirit, the nonpartisan spirit of the National Endowment for Democracy." (Oct. 16, 2003)
  96. "I appreciate very much your commitment to trade and markets ... I appreciate your honesty and openness and forthrightness when it comes to battling the pandemic of AIDS ... I appreciate your leadership, and I appreciate your friendship." (Aug. 12, 2003)
  97. "I appreciate her strength; I appreciate her courage. And I appreciate you being here today, Madam President ... I appreciate President Arroyo's leadership." (May 19, 2003)
  98. "I appreciate his advice, I appreciate his counsel." (April 29, 2003)
  99. "I appreciate those who are members of the faith-based world who have answered the call, the universal call, to help a brother and sister in need." (April 29, 2003)
  100. "You asked about sharing of intelligence, and I appreciate that." (March 6, 2003)
  101. "I appreciate societies in which people can express their opinion." (March 6, 2003)
  102. "I appreciate that question a lot." (March 6, 2003)
  103. "I had a chance to tell both soldier and loved one alike that their service to our country was noble and strong and good. And I appreciated that very much." (Jan. 17, 2003)
  104. "I appreciate you all. giving me a chance to talk about a significant problem which faces America." (Jan. 16, 2003)
  105. "Thanks for your good work, and I certainly appreciate it all." (Nov. 19, 2002)
  106. "I appreciate those kind remarks, Rosario. You're a gran amiga. Buenos dias." (Oct. 17, 2002)
  107. "I appreciate so very much the chair of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. I appreciate so very much the President and CEO." (Oct. 17, 2002)
  108. "I appreciate their spirit. I appreciate their love for country ... I appreciate the spirit in which members of Congress are considering this vital issue." (Sept. 26, 2002)
  109. "I appreciate the government of Portugal for its strong support in the war against terror." (Sept. 10, 2002)
  110. "I appreciate the way the House voted the bill." (Sept. 5, 2002)
  111. "I appreciate so very much Vice President Cheney's hard work on this issue. I appreciate Colin Powell and Ann Veneman, who ably serve in my Cabinet .... And I appreciate Elaine Chao as well. ... I appreciate so very much Cal Dooley, and a guy I call "Jeff", William Jefferson, Congressmen from California and Louisiana ... I appreciate your leadership and I appreciate your work and I appreciate your help." (Aug. 6, 2002)
  112. "I appreciate so very much Senator Rick Santorum and Congressman Steve Chabot from Ohio for sponsoring this important piece of legislation. I also appreciate Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Congresswoman Melissa Hart for coming, as well ... I appreciate Hadley Arkes." (Aug. 5, 2002)
  113. "I want to appreciate Chip's support of the tax relief plan." (Aug. 7, 2002)
  114. "I appreciate the long hours that they're putting in. I appreciate their love for America and their patriotism during this trying time for our country." (July 16, 2002)
  115. "I appreciate so very much his leadership and his continued willingness to find a new common ground in this most important relationship." (June 27, 2002)
  116. "I appreciate you saying that, Martha. I appreciate you hear me say that I appreciate the fact that our country prays for me and Laura." (June 27, 2002)
  117. "I appreciate her leadership. I appreciate her concern." (June 25, 2002)
  118. "I appreciate the good -- I appreciate, I want to thank Chad Ettmueller, who's the -- I guess the man in charge of the Red Cross here." (June 25, 2002)
  119. "I really appreciate the theme of this conference and the importance of the conference." (June 19, 2002)
  120. "I appreciate you answering my mail, Mr. Congressman." (June 19, 2002)
  121. "The thing I appreciate is that you understand education should prepare children for jobs, and it also should prepare our children for life." (June 19, 2002)
  122. "I appreciate you qualifying it that way." (June 13, 2002)
  123. "I appreciate all the Mexicans who are here today." (May 3, 2002)
  124. "I appreciate President Fox's leadership in our hemisphere ... I appreciate his vision." (May 3, 2002)
  125. "I told the Crown Prince how much I appreciate his vision for a peaceful and integrated Middle East, and how I appreciated his leadership in helping rally the Arab world toward that vision. I also appreciated the Crown Prince's assurance that Saudi Arabia condemns terror." (April 25, 2002)
  126. "I appreciate that, respect that, and expect that to be the case." (April 25, 2002)
  127. "I reminded him how much I appreciated his statement toward Israel ... Then he went and sold that in Beirut, and I appreciated that, as well." (April 25, 2002)
  128. "The government has been acting, and I appreciate that very much." (April 25, 2002)
  129. "I deeply appreciate President Fox's early support and his continuing advice." (March 22, 2002)
  130. "I really appreciate the fact that my National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, is here to offer prayer. appreciate the members of my Cabinet who are here." (Feb. 7, 2002)
  131. "I appreciate her example of faith made stronger in trial." (Feb. 7, 2002)
  132. "I appreciate the work the airlines have done with the Federal Aviation Administration." (Nov. 19, 2001)
  133. "I appreciate Norm Mineta, who is here." (Nov. 2, 2001)
  134. "I appreciate the patience of the American people." (Nov. 2, 2001)
  135. "I appreciate the courage of most Americans." (Nov. 2, 2001)
  136. "I appreciate diplomatic talk, but I'm more interested in action and results." (Oct. 11, 2001)
  137. "I personally think that a -- and I appreciate Tony Blair's -- and I've discussed this with him -- his vision about Afghan after we're successful -- Afghanistan after we're successful." (Oct. 11, 2001)
  138. "I appreciate the actions of that government." (Oct. 11, 2001)
  139. "I appreciate my friend Tom Ridge." (Aug. 26, 2001)
  140. "I appreciate a straightforward fellow, a fellow who you know where he stands." (Aug. 26, 2001)
  141. "I want to appreciate and thank the U.S. Steel and its workers for a good conservation policy." (Aug. 26, 2001)
  142. "I appreciate your strong stance on holding the line on cutting the car tax in Virginia." (Aug. 26, 2001)
  143. "I appreciate so very much the supplemental that got passed." (Aug. 26, 2001)
  144. "Mr. Prime Minister, I appreciate your leadership." (Aug. 23, 2001
  145. "I appreciate so very much the Italian leadership in the Balkans." (Aug. 23, 2001)
  146. "I appreciate so very much President Putin's willingness to think differently about how to make the world more peaceful." (Aug. 22, 2001)
  147. "I appreciate this attitude so very much with President Putin." (Aug. 22, 2001)
  148. "I appreciate you bringing such nice weather." (April 30, 2001)
  149. "I appreciate what's going on here." (April 25, 2001)
  150. "I appreciate your service to the country." (April 23, 2001)
  151. "I appreciate that so very much." (April 23, 2001)
  152. "I appreciate the members of the press." (March 30, 2001)
  153. " I actually said this in New Hampshire: 'I appreciate preservation. It's what you do when you run for President, you've got to preserve.' I don't have the slightest idea what I was saying there." (March 30, 2001)
  154. "I appreciated the vote." (March 29, 2001)
  155. "I appreciate the hard work that's being done on the legislation." (March 29, 2001)

March 30, 2005

Four recent moments:



I take a long nap on a Friday afternoon. I wake a little before 6, which coincidentally is when I woke up in the morning. This might explain why I was tired enough for a long afternoon nap -- that and having spent the morning helping two friends pack for an interstate move.

Also by coincidence, a little before 6 in the a.m. on this day is as close to sunrise as a little before 6 in the p.m. is to sunset, so the light coming into my room is nearly identical as when I woke up the first time. I am gobsmacked with confusion. "It's still 6 a.m.? Did I dream this entire day? The move? The improbable cardboard cut on my neck? The post-move enchiladas? Do I now have to help them move again?" It is as if "Groundhog's Day" were rewritten as "Good Friday."



We're leaving "Melinda and Melinda" at the Landmark and Sandy spots Wilco's Jeff Tweedy leaving at the same time.

It's funny how careful with your words you get when you descend four flights of stairs near someone famous, the thought being that if you are sophisticated and witty enough the famous person will interupt and invite you out for a drink, or maybe up to their apartment for a private show.

We are neither sophisticated nor witty enough, and Jeff Tweedy ignores us accordingly.



I'm leaving the video store. Cars that have tried to sneak through on a yellow are blocking an intersection. I figure I'll leap onto my bike and zoom through the gridlock, thus proving once again the the nimbleness of the bicycle and the folly of the automobile.

What I do not figure on is catching my pants on my seat, sending both me and my bicycle crashing to the pavement.



"How the hell do you ride a paceline through the Loop?"

"Very, very carefully."


Feb. 20, 2005

Three recent moments:



I'm in a coffeeshop. Tables in the center of the room are reserved for a speed-dating event. Around 6 p.m. women start to gather. They chat nervously about the process, just as the Christians of Rome might chat nervously about why they've been herded into the Coliseum and whether that was a lion they just heard roar.

As if dating isn't humiliating enough. As if speed-dating doesn't multiply the humilation enough, compressing a year's worth of rejection and disappointment into a single hour. This coffeeshop has broken new ground in the field of humiliation: speed-dating with spectators.

I watch and listen, pretending to read just like all the other non-participants along the room's perimeter. I know the decent thing to do would be to leave but I can't. It's like gaping at the proverbial car wreck, except it's a dozen car wrecks. It's a demolition derby of human relations.

It's a strange thing to watch relationships be born and die in just five minutes with all the boring parts edited out. It's reality TV reality.



I'm using a trial membership at a neighborhood gym. It's located in a historic hotel, a relic from the days when Edgewater was a resort community for Chicago's wealthy, before the El was extended north and brought in all the riff-raff. The weight machines and treadmills are in an elegant ballroom, complete with chandeliers, high ceilings and marble floors. It feels like "The Shining." I expect blood to start dripping from the walls, or maybe tropical-flavored Gatorade.



I'm riding down Lawrence on my way to poker. It's night, so I'm wearing my reflective vest and balaclava and have turned on the blinky atop my helmet. A guy sitting in a parked car across the street thinks it looks pretty silly and yells, "Where ya goin' there, spaceman?"

I don't mind being regarded as looking silly, but I take exception to being heckled for it, so I do something the guy isn't expecting at all: I do a quick U-turn, roll up to his open window and threaten to break his fucking nose.


No, of course I don't. I may be capable of willing a broken nose, but as you might guess I am not capable of threatening one, let alone do the actual breaking. I wouldn't even know how to. Ask him to wait while I unlock my U-lock and then club him with it?

But I do make the U-turn, roll up to his open window and with a well-practiced glare ask, "What's that, friend?"

I'm pretty sure he was slack-jawed to begin with, but now he is slack-jawed and mousy. "Nothing," he says. "Sorry."

And that's the great trade-off of the balaclava. Although it makes it harder to hawk loogies on Hummers (but not impossible), it lets me adopt a personality contrary to the nice, timid guy that I am. It keeps my head warm but turns my heart cold and vengeful.


Jan. 17, 2005

Three recent moments:



A young office assistant reads the Bible during his down time. Propped open on the desk is a paperback novelization of the "Doom" video game. I speculate he is writing a book report. "The Bible. 'Doom.' Compare and contrast. Attach Venn diagram(s)."



Sandy tells us the handles his mother uses to keep track of his friends. One is "the handsome one," another is "the reader," a third is "the one who smiles."

I am "the quiet farmer."

Which is fine -- I've been called worse -- but couldn't I be known as "all of the above"? Don't I smile enough?



The coffeeshop is playing Creedence Clearwater Revival. It's not popular behind the counter. "At least it's not Kansas," one employee says.

"Right," says a colleague. "You want to avoid those bands named after states. Y'know, Boston, Chicago ..."


Jan. 11, 2005

Three recent moments:



A conductor makes an announcement at the Belmont stop: "To the young lady who just boarded the train. I think you dropped your glove. It's tan." Passengers burst into applause. This conductor has saved the day as surely as if he'd leaned over to scoop a child from the tracks.



A man discreetly palms a paper towel when he leaves the men's room. I exit behind him, and he uses this towel to open and hold each door for me. (Maybe he just saw "The Aviator.")



In her haste to get to a red light, a woman honks behind me and nearly runs me into a snowbank. I catch up to her at the intersection. She has rolled down her window. We have a spirited discussion about cyclist rights and publicly owned streets.

There is yelling. There is swearing.

There is a toddler sleeping in the back seat.

"What an example you are for your child!"

"It's not my child!"

"And thank God for that!"