Saturday, August 26, 2006

Guest Blogger: Johnny Conlisk

Johnny Conlisk is as “Chicago” as they come. Both his father and grandfather were high ranking members of the Chicago Police Department. Many other family members have been Chicago Police officers as well. His father advised him not to go into “the family business” and Johnny took him at his word.

For many years, Johnny Conlisk was a character actor and model appearing in television commercials and newspaper and magazine ads.

In 2004, Johnny and his wife, Janet Treuhaft formed, an eBay Trading Assistant company not far from Wrigley Field. They sell Chicagoans’ no longer used valuables to buyers all over the world in exchange for a modest commission. Please click to learn how they can sell for you on eBay.

I asked him to blog about the riots between the Chicago Police and the hippies at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. He was there, and has a unique perspective...

The Whole World is Watching

By Johnny Conlisk

In August of 1968, when I was a 16 year-old kid just about to start my senior year in high school, I got to play a small part in the Democratic National Convention.

For months before the big event, city officials planned how to lay out the red carpet for the convention delegates. The first Mayor Daley formed the Chicago Host Committee. Thousands of volunteers were assigned to help the various state delegates find their way around town and stay out of trouble. You had to be connected to get one of these fun jobs and I was connected. My father was the chief of police.

Our first task was to greet delegates at O’Hare. We were issued candy striped vests and Styrofoam straw hats to identify us as Host Committee volunteers.

After that, I had hoped to be with the California or New York delegations where the action was. Instead, I was assigned to the tiny Guam delegation. They were very nice, but they weren’t movie stars or big time politicians.

We helped them find the shops on Michigan avenue and an off duty policeman would drive them out to the International Amphitheater. It was all pretty cool.

We heard about the anti-war protestors, they were on TV every night. But I guess our job was to keep the Guamanians away from all that during our 14-hour days of hosting, so it wasn’t at the top of my consciousness.

The big goal for all the kids volunteering was to get into the convention hall itself. There was little hope of that, however, because the town was full of important people who would get in before high school kids.

Then the word was passed down. Wednesday night, August 28, 1968 was my night to get into the convention hall. My friend, Bill Finucane and I went to the Amphitheater together. We were ushered into the second level gallery. We realized later that the Mayor’s people were packing the galleries. They knew there was going to be trouble that night and they wanted an audience that would be friendly to the Mayor. We listened to the speeches echo through the rafters of the craggy old hall.

Then we heard booing during the speech of Senator Abraham Ribocoff and we heard him say “Storm troopers in Blue”. Bill and I turned to each other. What was he talking about?

After that evening’s session was over, I got a ride back downtown to the Conrad Hilton. I didn’t know that a riot had taken place in front of the Hilton a couple hours earlier. I just knew that the Airport Bus that left from there made a stop near our house.

The bus left from the south side of the Hilton. When I found out I would have to wait a half hour for the next bus, I walked up to the Michigan Avenue side of the hotel. There were thousands of cops on the west side of the street and thousands of hippies on the east side of the street. In the middle were Illinois National Guard Jeeps strung with barbed wire.

The first person I recognized was Jim Rochford, Deputy Chief of Police, my father’s best friend, and the guy in charge of the thousands of cops. “Hi, Mr. Rochford!” I said cheerily to the casually dressed chief.

“What are you doing here?” He asked incredulously.

“I’m waiting for the airport bus.”

“Oh, well, stay out of trouble.”

I wandered over to the hippie’s side of the street.

As I stood on the curb on the edge of the crowd, my powder blue jacket flapped in the light breeze, revealing the candy-striped vest of the Chicago Host Committee. Suddenly, a baseball-sized rock flew just past my ear and landed on the trunk of a parked car with a loud bang.

I looked up and saw Rochford ordering two burly cops to come over and rescue me. The hippies mistook my rescuers for arresting officers. They booed loudly as I was gently dragged across the street.

“I told you to stay out of trouble!” Rochford barked as they put me in a squad car to drive me over to police headquarters, a couple blocks away.

Several hours later, the crisis eased, an officer gave me a lift home and the excitement was all over.

Sometimes you make history, sometimes history makes you and sometimes, history is just something that happens while you are waiting for a bus.

This is Johnny with Deputy Chief Rochford at a wedding in 1977.

Johnny Conlisk (2006) with his 'heart,' Janet Treuhaft

If you'd like to read any of my previous guest bloggers, click here:

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Half Empty: Video Games for Grown Ups

They say that when you hit your 40s, your life is half over. We prefer to think of it as HALF EMPTY. Our age has finally caught up with our outlook on life. Remember, it is possible to turn that frown upside down...but you might pull a muscle.

Video Games for Grown-Ups
By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

If you’re a parent with kids over the age of seven, the odds of having some sort of a video game system in your home is roughly the same as owning a fork. (There’s also a ninety seven percent chance that at some point you’ve said the following words: “When we were kids all we had was Pong.”) Throughout it all, you’ve quietly watched your children joyfully slaying dragons, stealing cars, and machine-gunning entire urban neighborhoods, but you’ve never once asked…what’s in it for us?

We’re asking it now. What’s in for us?

We know the youngsters who work for the video game companies don’t think about this huge untapped middle-aged “gamer” market out there, so we’ve taken the liberty to offer suggestions for video games that might interest people our age. These nine completely free* ideas, are available to any and all video game companies.

Sonia the Soccer Mom
The game is set in Suburbania, the beautiful village by the interstate. In Level One, Sonia signs up her identically dressed identical twins Ashley and Amber for soccer at the park district. Things start to get ugly when Sonia is pegged as driver for the entire team. Negotiating through summer construction projects, Sonia must pilot the minivan through multiple sub-divisions that look exactly the same while picking up Emily, Madison, Emma, Tori, Maya and Mia. Players need to move quickly through the game or run the risk of draining all their allotted $3.56/gallon gas. Take too long and the Starbuck’s Grande Latte Sonia picked up in level one will get cold.

Mr. Fix It
In this game, the home improvement novice will be given exactly $1500 in his savings account and will face every conceivable problem a homeowner can encounter…each of which costs $1500 to fix. Mr. Fix-It must choose which one is the most important (or dangerous), and then he must attempt to fix the rest of these problems himself. The first level, The Yard, won’t be too difficult, and it includes three free emergency room visits. In the second level, Plumbing Problems, Mr. Fix It could potentially destroy his entire house. And no-one has yet survived the third level: Electrical Problems.

Audit Assault

The fun never ends when the IRS man shows up unannounced at your front door. In level one, you’ll have to look for your receipts from 1999 while simultaneously keeping the IRS man away from your “actual” books. In this ironic twist, points are deducted for things you shouldn’t have deducted, and for the most grievous illegal deductions (“Shouldn’t beer be deductible if I drink while I’m working?”), you can have your house taken away from you. In the two-player version of this game, you are allowed one call from jail in Level Three.

Company Christmas Party
Deck the halls with balls of fun for this holiday favorite. It’s December 17th and time for Acme Corp’s annual Christmas Party. Players will negotiate through countless meaningless conversations and fake laughs as they make their way through the pre-dinner cocktail hour in Level One. Uh-Oh you’ve been seated next to your manager’s wife who thinks that your knee is a perfect place to rest her hand. Points are deducted in Level Two when you start drinking and tell off color racist jokes within earshot of your Jewish comptroller. Be extra careful not to get sucked into the mistletoe black hole.

20 YEAR High School Reunion
It’s only four weeks before Nick goes back to St. Bestyearsgoneby for his 20th High School Reunion. The clock is ticking as the Level One player searches for miracle weight loss diets, really good jobs, and hair. Level Two finds our hero dodging the bullies at the function and trying to convince the head cheerleader that he really did sit next to her in English. Points will be deducted for all awkward silence and any damage to the sports car that Nick rented for the occasion.

Family Vacation
It’s finally here, the long awaited family winter vacation to Disney World. This game follows Mr. and Mrs. Broke and their four children from the time they leave their home with gleeful anticipation till the time their disheartened spirits come back. The perils immediately start in level one when they get delayed for 13 hours in Atlanta surviving on vending machine muffins and over priced bagels. Uh-oh Florida is known for rain and this storm is a biggie. Players must search for $30 plastic garbage rain smocks. Player skill is tested when all three children get the flu. Go over budget and only one kid can go to college.

In-Law Invasion
It’s the first day of summer and the recently retired in-laws have flown into town with one-way tickets to spend some quality time with their grandchildren. In Level One, you must adapt every thing you do to the way “we’ve always done it”. In Level Two you are no longer allowed to discuss anything other than religion and politics. In Level Three, points are deducted for putting “just a touch” of poison in the morning coffee.

Working For The Man
Set in a typical non-descript office; Benjamin Boring is sitting in his cubicle as usual. He’s only got 6 years until retirement and must find a way to keep his job. Players must avoid the evil twin villains, Downsizing and Foreign Outsourcing. Bonus points are awarded for looking busy and running office pools. Level Three provides gamers with the famous Frozen Pension Maze. Working for the Man 2 has the bonus Loss of Insurance Coverage conundrum.

Stress Test
Feeling a little too tired to make it to the doctor for this year’s Stress Test? Do it from the comfort of your La-Z-Boy, with “Stress Test, The Video Game.” In Level One your player will run on a treadmill with wires attached all over his body. In Level Two, you will pick out which hospital room you want him to have for his angioplasty recovery. In Level Three, you get your choice of Jell-o flavors.

Let the kids have their fun with Sonic the Hedge Hog and Madden Football. We’ll show them what real terror looks like. On second thought, Pong doesn’t look so bad.

*By “Free” we mean that we would retain the customary 51% ownership. That might as well be free, you ungrateful little snots.

If you missed any previous "Half Empty" columns, click here:

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Suburban Man: Profession Projection

By Rick Kaempfer

Every parent knows that the most satisfying and wonderful part of parenting is watching your child grow up. It’s really quite amazing. You see him develop from a little blob, to a walking/talking little person, to someone with a personality, to someone who may actually make a contribution to society.

As this happens, you can’t help but wonder where he will fit in someday. Every parent does this. You get an idea in your head about your child’s potential profession and you make little bets with yourself—trying to predict.

I know my kids are young (11, 8, 4), but now that I’m around them 24 hours a day (will this summer ever end?); I’m prepared to make official predictions.

Sean (4 years old)

Here’s a question that Bridget and I have never asked: “Is Sean awake?”

Sean is loud. When he wakes up in the morning, he is already talking. He continues talking for the rest of the day, pausing only to breathe occasionally. The most common question we hear from people who spend a whole day with him is: “Does he ever stop talking?”

No. He doesn’t. He provides a running commentary on every single thing he sees throughout a day. He’s talking right now. He talks when eats. He talks when you’re talking. He even talks in his sleep. When I ask him to be quiet, he's not quiet enough to hear me ask.

If you can get past the noise, however, Sean has some great qualities. He’s very intelligent and inquisitive, and his enthusiasm is absolutely contagious. Every single thing is a big deal to him, and that’s fun to watch.

Last night when I asked him what he wants to be when he grows up, he was so excited by the question he couldn’t stop giving me possibilities. After talking it out, he narrowed it down to two choices. He is either going to be a doctor so he can give out band-aids to everyone (he believes that band-aids cure everything), or a fireman because he likes the hats.

My prediction? Politician.

Johnny (8 years old)

Johnny has got a big heart. He absolutely loves everyone. In fact, considering that he’s half German, his fondness for hugging is almost disconcerting.

On the other hand, Johnny is also a big enforcer of the rules…for other people. When Sean or Tommy break the rules, Johnny can be counted on to let me know. No rule is insignificant enough to be disregarded. The other night he nearly turned the table over at dinner time when Sean was chewing with his mouth open (because Sean’s mouth never actually closes).

While he could be classified as a tattle-tale, Johnny is also willing to take matters in his own hands. If I’m not around to be informed of his brother’s indiscretions, Johnny has no qualms with instituting vigilante justice. He’s got Irish blood in him from his mother’s side, and his Irish temper is always just below the surface. As far as Johnny’s concerned, the perps need to pay, and if nobody else is willing or able to make them pay…a man’s gotta do, what a man’s gotta do.

I asked Johnny what he wants to be when grows up. He told me he wanted to be a wrestler in space.

My prediction? Chicago cop.

Tommy (11 years old)

Tommy is unusually bright. So much so, he frightens me at times. On the other hand, when you have an overabundance of one thing, you have a tendency to have some glaring weaknesses too. For Tommy, that would be anything in the physical realm. This is a boy who broke his arm tripping over his own shoelaces.

Every day is a series of endless possibilities and challenges. He can instantly convert any word problem into an equation, but he forgets that his chair isn’t there anymore before he sits down. He can study a scientific phenomenon for weeks, but he can’t remember to put on his shoes before he leaves the house. He can search the audio files on his computer, transfer them into editing software, and create an audio montage, but he doesn’t notice that his glasses have an inch of dirt covering the lenses.

I asked him what he wants to be when he grows up, and he said: “Cartoonist.” (See previous Suburban Man: “Cartoon father”).

My prediction? I.T. Guy

I reserve the right to change my mind, but as of August 22, 2006, that is my prediction.

Someday I fully expect to have a sticker on my car bumper from Sean’s latest campaign, a police sticker in my back windshield from Johnny (protecting me in case I get pulled over), and the most bitchin’ computer at the old folks home thanks to Tommy.

Feel free to check back in twenty years to see how I did.

If you'd like to read any previous Suburban Man columns, click here: