Saturday, November 04, 2006

Guest Blogger: Kim Strickland

Kim Strickland is a pilot for a major airline, a novelist, and a mother of twin boys. Her novel "Wish Club" is about a women's book group that reads a novel about witchcraft and tries one of the spells for fun, only to have the spell actually work. Nuttiness and mayhem ensue. ("Wish Club" is coming in 2007 from Three Rivers Press, a division of Crown Publishing Group.)

Kim is the yin (City Mom) to my yang (Suburban Man). In our dueling columns we've discovered that the only real difference between us is our area codes. Oh, and I think she's a chick, too. And a mom. Check out some of her other great columns if you get a chance: (City Mom)


By Kim Strickland

I pull into the lot at the Midtown Tennis Club and almost swoon. Parking. Lots of it.

“Kyle, I predict you’re going to like learning tennis here.” This is, of course, unfair of me to say. You see, I already love it here—and we hadn’t even been inside. I eye the expanse of asphalt with a dreamy look in my eyes, row after beautiful row of brightly painted, yellow-gold stripes. The wide-open, empty spaces. I inhale a deep breath through my nose. Aaah.

Parking, or lack thereof, is part of life for city moms. It’s a subject I presume most suburban parents never have to consider, but it’s something I find myself considering every day, for just about every single child-based activity.

“A picnic at Sunshine Park? Sure! Sounds like fun!” Where will I park?

“A birthday party at the Goodman Theater? We’ll be there!” How will I retrieve my children without getting towed?

“A play date at 900 North Michigan? Huh? Me too? Ummm… Oh, there’s an extra space in your garage?” Whew.

Parking is the reason I wanted to buy our house. It has a driveway. After the showing my husband looked up from where we stood on the sidewalk and envisioned 110-years of Victorian charm crumbling around him. I looked down the long expanse of driveway that led to the alley and said, We have to take it!

You just want it for the driveway, he said.

And the problem there is, exactly what?

My husband takes the El to work. He doesn’t understand.

But my kids do. They even help me with the chant to the Parking Goddess.

You’ve never heard of the Parking Goddess? Sacrilege! I’ll bet you never get Hollywood parking, either. I know it sounds crazy, but prayers, chants and personal sacrifices to the Parking Goddess are all part of a city moms life. If you’ve never circled Lincoln Park thirty times while your Trotters To Go Chicken Salad warmed to salmonella temperature in the trunk and your kids started panicking as they watched the sun set on their picnic at Sunshine Park, then maybe you can’t understand.

I know I’m not alone in believing in the Parking Goddess; I’ve seen other moms in action—sure, different chants, different juju, but it’s all essentially same. We even debate the efficacy of our different rituals, but we all believe in her. Oh yes, we believe.

And you can’t forget, when you get that great space, to give thanks. The Parking Goddess is munificent, certainly—but merciless when thanks is forgotten. I had a stretch where I had to park blocks away from my destination and it lasted for several weeks, all because I forgot to give thanks for the space right outside the veterinarian’s that time I had to lug my nineteen-pound cat inside for shots. The next time the Parking Goddess finally saw fit to grant me a good space, I sacrificed a Volvo.

Every after-school activity and play date is given a lead-time based on time to destination—and time to park. The academy where the boys take Karate lessons is about a five-minute drive from where we live, but we leave 20-minutes prior.

Then there was the summer morning my son Ethan smirked when I said, “Hurry up! We’ll be late for the beach!” He figured it was just more of my dry humor. It was. I was kidding—just, sadly, not really kidding enough. You see, the parking lot at the Lake tends to fill up by 11:00 am.

And I thought my quarter hoarding days were over when we moved out of our apartment and into our first house, with a washer and dryer in the basement. Nope. Now I need quarters for the parking meters. At least in my neighborhood, a quarter buys you an hour. As you head south and east from here, that same quarter buys you less and less. A few times I’ve run out and found myself holding out two dimes and a nickel to complete strangers, Can you spare a quarter? Citiphiles get it. They reach into pockets and purses to help me out. Those of you from out of town, or who just moved in from Elmhurst, give me a wide berth—apparently having been warned about aggressive street people begging for change, even those with Prada bags.

I suppose public transportation would be the way to go, better for the environment too, but I try to imagine getting my kids to Karate on the #11 Lincoln. We’d have to leave the night before.

So instead of being environmentally conscious, I’m parking conscious instead: completely incapable of driving down any side street without thinking, “Ooh, there’s a good space.”

Today I tell Kyle, “Hurry up, we’ll be late for the parking lot—I mean your tennis lesson.”

I want to arrive early, so I can sit there and swoon.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Half Empty: Political Advertising Overload

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.


By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

It may be different in your state, but here in Illinois the negative political ads are on the air every second of every day, and it’s really starting to affect the citizens.

Overheard in traffic

Woman: You can get in the next lane. It’s moving.

Man: I’m staying the course.

Woman: But this lane is at a standstill.

Man: I will not cut and run.

Woman: But see that orange flashing light up there…this lane closes in five hundred feet. We need to change course.

Man: What kind of a message would that send to the troops repaving this highway?

Woman: How about we will not run you over?

Man: You’ll never understand.

Overheard in a couple’s master bathroom

Man: Honey, can you hand me the toothpaste?

Woman: Ray Miller is always looking for a handout.

Man: What? I just want to brush my teeth.

Woman: Ray Miller. Wrong for America. Wrong for my toothpaste.

Overheard in a child’s bedroom

Son: Mom, can I play on my Gameboy?

Mom: Have you finished your math homework?

Son: My opponent, Mrs. Nosenfunk, thinks that the only way to solve a problem, is to study it forever. The American people want action, not constant study.

Mom: Try this action…do your homework.

Overheard in the family room

Daughter: Dad, can you flip it to MTV?

Dad: The baseball game is on.

Daughter: Aren’t you tired of the same old empty promises? They don’t have a plan for victory.

Dad: Um…

Daughter: This year when you hold the remote, hold it accountable. It’s time for a change.

Dad: I’m not giving you the remote.

Overheard in an office

Worker: Boss, are you surfing the internet? I thought the Employee Manual said that…

Boss: I issued a signing statement.

Worker: A what?

Boss: A signing statement. That means I don’t have to follow the rules, only you do.

Worker: But that’s not fair.

Boss: War isn’t fair. I’m the Commander-in-Chief, and as long as we’re at war with ACME Corp., I have to have all the tools I need to win.

Worker: But you’re reading The Onion.

Boss: Until further notice you will be detained in your cubicle.

It’s like this everywhere now. Please, please, let this election cycle end. We can’t stand it for another moment.

We’re Half Empty and we approved this message.

If you'd like to read any previous Half Empty columns, click here:

Also, thanks to the Beachwood Reporter for printing this article too: Political Ad Creep

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Suburban Man: The Grouch who hated Halloween

By Rick Kaempfer

Every Boo down in Boo-ville, liked Halloween a lot…
Except the undecorated Grouch, He most certainly did not!
The Grouch hated Halloween! Hated the whole season,
And if you asked him why, he had two dozen reasons,

All the Boo-girls & Boo-boys, that he knew all too well,
Would dress in their costumes, and ring his doorbell,
And demand some free candy, and say trick or treat,
Their hearts still racing, from the house up the street,

The house with the gravestones and ghouls everywhere,
With hanging corpses, and witches, and goblins that scare,
With orange lights in the bushes, orange lights on the wall,
A severed head on the doorstep, with a dangling eyeball,
With mechanical bats and mechanical ghosts,
Controlled by remote, by the maniacal host,
Who hands out so much candy, he rots every tooth,
Giving gumballs, and gummys, and full-size Baby Ruths,

Then the Boo-boys and Boo-girls come visit the Grouch,
Naked house so boring, bowl of skittles on the couch,
“And it’s fun-size,” mutters Joe Boo, “Talk about cheap,”
So the Grouch says “You’re Welcome,” and feels like a creep,

"When did this happen?" says the Grouch when they leave,
"There must be a memo, that I didn't receive,
Was an edict issued, to Boo-friends and to Boo-foes,
Every house must perform, a Halloween Broadway show?"

Well, unlike the neighbors with displays oh-so-grand,
The Grouch didn’t have hours of time on his hands,
So he lets the kids grumble, lets them think he is mean,
And starts dreading the hours til the next Halloween.

By the way, I'm not a total Halloween grouch. This is taken from the brochure for the City of Chicago's Halloween event. It's hard to see their faces, but the kids in this picture (three boys) are near and dear to my heart.

If you missed any previous Suburban Man columns, click here:

Sunday, October 29, 2006


As the NBA season begins, the Bulls are projected to return to prominence. That hasn't happened since the days of Michael Jordan. I wrote the following piece for a magazine called "Upbeat Chicago" in 1993. The (first) retirement of Michael Jordan shocked the city of Chicago, but my reaction was probably a little different than most.

Et tu, Michael?

By Rick Kaempfer

Michael Jordan's shocking retirement announcement really nailed me. I now want to be a food critic. See if you can follow my train of thought on this.

Every boy on every playground in America wanted to be Michael Jordan. It was everybody's standard dream.

"What are you going to be when you grow up?"
I'm going to be a professional athlete.

Pick your sport: baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer. We just want to be the best in the world. We want to suck in the praise as we hit that last second shot to win the game. We spend the bulk of our childhood pretending to be that person. If the truth be told, we also spend our adulthood wishing we were that person. Why do you think we get so emotionally involved in sporting events? We are living our lives vicariously through them.

Which, of course, brings us to our current dilemma. If Michael Jordan doesn't even like being Michael Jordan, maybe we've been wasting our time idolizing the wrong profession. This realization sent me on a quest.

Let's face it, nobody is one hundred percent happy with their job. The bottom line is they don't call it work for nothing. The cold hard truth is that even Michael Jordan didn't love his work, and all he did was play basketball for a living. Apparently the price of fame is the drawback.

So, our new dream job cannot be one that makes us famous. OK, eliminate rock star, movie star, and politician from our list of candidates.

What's left? After a long night of soul searching I decided that what I really want to do is find a job that allows me to sit on my couch, drink beer, eat snacks, and watch sporting events. Ooooh, what about sportswriter? Now that has some appeal. I tried to think of the downside, then it hit me....sportswriters have to talk to athletes. That would really bring me down. Those poor pro athletes are miserable.

OK, so we have to stay away from sports. What about just watching TV? Yeah, that's it! I want to be a TV critic. What could possibly be the downside? Then it hit me....a TV critic has to watch all of the shows on TV. He or she even has to watch those bad Sunday night made-for-television tearjerkers. Scratch that job. If I had to watch one more movie about wife beating I'd be as unhappy as poor Michael Jordan.

OK, so we have to stay away from TV. Sitting on the couch without watching TV wouldn't be nearly as much scratch that as a possible career. What about just drinking beer? As appealing as it sounds, it probably isn't very healthy. So what does that leave? Eating.

There actually is a way to do that for a living...become a food critic. That scary looking guy on Channel 7 does it, doesn't he? That's his job. He goes to restaurants, gets all of his food for free, gets to try whatever kind of food he wants, gets his butt kissed by the owner of the restaurant, and gets to try just about everything on the menu.

What about the downside? There is no downside. What if the restaurant is bad? So what? You're still eating for free. What do you spend most of your disposable income on? That's That would no longer be a problem. Wow, my heart is racing just thinking about the possibilities. Think about it. Have you ever heard a food critic complain about his job? Isn't that guy on Channel 7 always smiling like he has the best job in the world? That's because he does.

"So, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
I want to be a food critic.

Don't be surprised if kids across America are now sitting in front of their bowl of Spaghetti-O's saying: "Mom, I think the noodles are simply divine, the sauce is out of this world, but the atmosphere is lacking a little 'je ne sais que.'"