Friday, July 16, 2010

I'm Free

Released on this day in 1969...

Harry Chapin

Harry Chapin died in a car accident on this day in 1981. He was only 38. As a father of three, this song still makes me a little verklempt.

Mocking LeBron

This is very well done. It aired during the ESPYs the other night...

Dizzy Dean

He was known mostly as a Cardinal, and he was also a famous broadcaster after his playing days were over, but Dizzy Dean also pitched in the World Series for the Chicago Cubs.

The year was 1938.

Ol' Diz died this week in 1974.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


You know, one of the great things about being away from the country was being completely divorced from the daily news cycle in the United States.

I've been back a week now, and I'm re-sickened by the political dialogue in this country.

Non-stories reported with fever intensity. Fringe wackos like the Black Panthers and the Tea Partiers given air time just to besmirch an entire side of the political debate ("See? This is what the other side thinks"). Right-wing and Left-wing blogs blaming the other side for everything. Screaming talk radio predicting the end of the world (Race Riots! Bankruptcy! Socialism!).

This is our media? Really?

Wow, do we suck at reporting politics, media. Time to take a look in the mirror.

I'm turning you off so I can maintain my mental health.

Steve Goodman

This is a feel good story.

The Senate passed a bill yesterday naming the post office near Wrigley Field after Steve Goodman.

Great to see them temporarily unlocking the gridlock in the United States Senate. It passed unanimously after getting a 371-0 vote in the House. And then the entire House and Senate sang "Go Cubs Go,"* which I found to be a nice touch.

*I might have made that last part up.

The White What?

Weather Channel anchor accidentally uses correct name for Chicago's other baseball team...

Thanks to "DS" for sending this to me.


"Lean on Me" by Bill Withers was #1 on this day in 1972. It's the only song I can play on the piano...

Nolan Ryan

On this day in 1973, Nolan Ryan pitched his second no-hitter of the season. He also struck out 17 batters in that game; one of the best pitched games in baseball history.

Ernie Harwell called the game for Ryan's opponent, the Detroit Tigers.

I found the audio of the ninth inning. Listen to it here.

Ernie Banks day

On this day in 1964, the Cubs held "Ernie Banks Day" at Wrigley Field.

The opponent: the woeful New York Mets. Ernie batted fifth, and managed to scratch out an infield hit in four at bats. The Cubs won the game 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth when starting pitcher Lew Burdette slugged a home run. The loss pushed the Mets 26 games under .500, and the surging Cubs only a half game behind the 7th place Dodgers.

A whopping 10496 fans attended the game.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

South African Photo Gallery

OK, this is the last post about my South Africa trip. I just wanted to show you some of the photo highlights from the beautiful southern part of the country...

Just outside our hotel in Cape Town, right on the Atlantic Ocean.

The view out of our hotel window at sunset.

Downtown Capetown

And a few photos from our trip to the Cape of Good Hope...

The Atlantic Ocean is on the left. The Indian Ocean is on the right. This is the very tip of the African continent.

And finally, the last place we visited was the top of Table Mountain...

We were literally sitting on the edge of a 500-ft cliff. Can you see the panic in my eyes?

Maybe after seeing these pictures you can understand why I was so taken by this country.

If you ever get a chance to go, do it.

You won't be disappointed.

Toy Story 3

The Pixar people have done it again.

I finally saw Toy Story 3 with the boys yesterday, and it was another masterpiece.

I written this before, but I'll do it again: the genius of the Pixar movies is that they appeal not just to the kids--they also appeal to the parents. The writing is always crisp, the heart strings are tugged in an intelligent and not overly sappy way, and they are always exciting to watch. This film, like all the Pixar movies, has humor (Spanish Buzz, and Ken's fashion show are laugh out loud funny), poignancy, action, and a heartfelt message all rolled up into one.

And in this case, they really had a legacy to live up to. I was worried that they couldn't wrap up the story in an emotionally satisfying way. I still consider Toy Story 2 to be the best of all the Pixar films, but Toy Story 3 is not far behind.

Who will enjoy it? Any kid.  Anyone that has kids. Anyone that ever was a kid.

The boys and I were talking about some of their favorite toys on the way home from the movie. They asked me what I would do with those toys after they go away to college. I told them that their favorites are just as special to me as they are to them. When I see those toys, I see their happiness. I can actually picture their smiles as they played with them. And when my boys aren't living in the house any more, those toys will mean even more to me.

It's the same reason my mother's basement is filled with my toys, and my sister's toys, and my brother's toys.

Those are much more than toys. They are symbols of a simpler time--a time that we will always cherish and savor. Those toys are childhood itself.

I know the kids don't get that when they watch the movie, which brings me back to the genius of Pixar. My kids loved the action. They loved the humor. They even (sort of) got the message of the film. But when the movie ended, they weren't the ones wiping the tears out of their eyes.

That was me.

Happy birthday to a great mustache

The person attached to this Cubs mustache turns 63 years old today. You may have heard of him. He's currently a broadcaster for another Chicago team.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

South Africa by Train

We spent the first week of our South African adventure in Johannesburg, and the last week in Cape Town, so we needed to get from one side of the country to the other.

All the flights were booked.

All the local trains were booked. (And thank God, too. We saw them later. We dodged a bullet there.)

But the Premier Classe luxury train was not. For only about $400 we could ride in luxury in a sleeper car. Granted, it was a 25-hour ride, but with a dining car, and a bar car, and a comfortable sleeper berth, how bad could it be, right?

It turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. (Photo: My cousin Martina and I entering the train)

They scheduled this train perfectly. The interesting portions of the ride, the beginning just outside Johannesburg and the few hours heading into Cape Town had incredible views. The portion of the country we traveled through in the dark was mostly desert-like uninhabited landscape. They could really film any Western movie here. It looks like the land between LA and Las Vegas. Completely desolate.

But we spent that time sitting in the bar car playing cards until dinner time. And wow were we blown away by the dinner. It was a five-star five-course meal, absolutely delicious. Breakfast and lunch were just as impressive the next day. This was probably the best food we had on the entire trip--and we ate well.

The scenery zipping by our window the second day was also something to behold. We were cruising through the wine region of South Africa (which by the way, is becoming recognized as one of the world's best).

Here are a few photos I snapped out the window of my berth...

 We didn't indulge in the spa car (that's right, spa car) because all the massage slots filled up too quickly, but we were treated like kings on this train. As someone completely unaccustomed to traveling in luxury, it was a nice feeling.

Mel Brooks said it best in The History of the World, Part 1: "It's good to be the king."


 An article I wrote about the RV industry is in the latest issue of SHORE Magazine. You can read it here, if you're interested.  Thanks to everyone that provided quotes for the piece.

All Star Game

As we watch the All-Star Game tonight, keep in mind that exactly 45 years ago today, they were also playing an all-star game.

That one was played at Metropolitan Stadium. The starting first baseman was Ernie Banks. He batted sixth and went 2 for 4.

The lead off man for the National League was Willie Mays. Hank Aaron batted second. Willie Stargell was third. Dick Allen was the cleanup hitter--and third baseman. He was replaced later in the game by a young third baseman named Ron Santo.

All Santo did in the game was knock in the game winning run.


This day in 1995 was the hottest day in Chicago history. It reached 106 degrees at Midway.

And yes, the Cubs were playing a day game at Wrigley.

Exactly 18 years earlier they were playing a night game during a New York City heatwave when the lights went out during the game. It was the beginning of the NYC Blackout.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Signs of South Africa

Well, the World Cup ended yesterday with a pretty lousy game, but for me this was still one of the all-time great World Cups. I enjoyed every second of it...and not just because I saw so much of it in South Africa.

I have only three more things to share with you from my South Africa trip. Today, I'm posting some of the funny signs I saw there. Tomorrow I'll tell you the story about my cross-country train trip, and then on Wednesday I'll show you some of the spectacular scenery I photographed. After that, I promise I'll move on.

I stared at this poster for hours trying to figure out what the heck the artist has in mind here. What do Diego Maradona, Nelson Mandela and Bob Marley have to do with each other, and how are they uniting Africa?

Try it some time. This is a very deep concept. I tried to stay of grass, but I could never attain the total consciousness required.

This one certainly isn't funny. These signs were still being used in South Africa less than twenty years ago. The Apartheid Museum is a life changing experience.

There were various different "Beware of Baboons" signs all over the Cape of Good Hope.

Who hasn't done this at least once? "Honey did I just run over a penguin again?"  This sign was posted at a place called Boulder Beach. There were penguins everywhere.

The tip of Africa.

At the end of this path is the very tip of the African continent, where the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean meet. (Photos to come on Wednesday)

And just to prove that those baboon and penguin signs were necessary, here's a picture of some penguins at Boulder Beach, and a baboon that walked across the road on our way to the Cape of Good Hope.


"The Hustle" was #1 this week in 1975. Every single girl in my school knew how to do this dance...


This song was #1 this week in 1965. This is a odd mixture of generations...

Bobby Murcer

The former Yankee and Cubs outfielder passed away two years ago today. I found this video from his early days in baseball, when most of the critics predicted he was the second coming of Mickey Mantle...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Father Knows Nothing

I just posted this week's Father Knows Nothing column at NWI Parent Magazine. This one is called "Sibling Togetherness" and it's about the challenge of spending every waking hour with your siblings nearly thirty years since you did it last.

You can read it here.