Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Everything I learned from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

Tired of the same movies my children had forced me to watch over and over (I’m looking at you, Frozen), but too cheap to spring the five bucks for a new on demand movie, I flipped through the free movies our basic service yet premium priced cable service provided.

Hmm, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.   
So I fired it up, and the kids loved it.  From Pee Wee’s Tour de France dream as the movie began to the entire cast reassembled to watch the movie premiere at the drive in, they were glued to the TV.  My son still screams “What’s the significance?  I don’t know” every once in a while and both of them jumped off the couch when Large Marge showed her face after the twisted wreck.
It reminded me of the things I learned from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure when I was a kid.  I’d first watched it when I was ten and even showed it at my birthday party that year.  (The next day I watched the Large Marge scene frame by frame using our VCR’s pause and single frame advance buttons.  Ah, mid-eighties technology.  It really took out the scariness.)
So here are some things I learned from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

1)      Riding a bike is cool.  Riding a tricked out bike is cooler.
I rode my bike all the time as a kid.  After dinner, I would hop on my knockoff Schwinn bought at the Sears Outlet Store and ride around our neighborhood until right before the streetlights came on.  I’d stop in the park, watch the old guys play sixteen inch softball, scream down the dirt trails on the hill at the end of our street and wind through the banked path through the park.  It was exhilarating.  Alas, though, I never had a horn like Pee Wee did.  Of course, it was no longer cool to ride a bike once high school started, since upper classmen were driving cars.  But for a few years I was cool. I think.

2)      Don’t Trust Fortune Tellers.
This movie forever ruined fortune tellers for me.  Cast as money hungry shysters hustling and lying for a buck, the image sticks with me to this day. A broken-hearted Pee Wee is searching for his cherished bike and some creepy looking faux psychic stares into a fake crystal ball, looks out her window and sends poor Pee Wee on a wild bike chase to Texas.  If all outcomes “seen” by palm readers are based on neon signs hanging across the street from their store fronts, I want nothing to do with it. 

3)      There is no basement at the Alamo
Historically accurate.  The Alamo is tiny.  It seems much smaller in person than in the movie.  My brother and I toured it in twenty minutes.  Oh, and even almost thirty years later, they don’t like the question.  But at least they don’t point and laugh at you when you ask about the basement like they did in the movie.

4)      Clowns are creepy
When Pee Wee locked his bike to the clown while running his errands, it felt ominous to me.  Just a few minutes later, the clown is cackling at Pee Wee after his bike is stolen.  That creepy fucking clown scared the shit out of me as much as Large Marge’s face.  It might be the reason why back in college when one of my floor mates dressed up as a clown I said “Fuck you, clown,” as I passed him while taking the garbage to the trash chute.

5)      Rich people have bathtubs as big as pools.
I would have taken a bath everyday if I had a pool, er, bathtub as big as Francis’s.  The bath tub toys were even gigantic.  The boat Francis played with looked like the G.I. Joe aircraft carrier except that it actually floated.  Now, some tree hugging eco friendly hippies would say bathing in a tub that big regularly is a monster waste of water, but I still want it.

6)      Morgan Fairchild is pretty hot.
Enough Said.  I never watched any of the soapy shows she was on, but I was a fan.

After watching the movie the first time, I checked all the mattresses in our house to see if I need to report my mother to the proper authorities or if we were going to go through life hiding our criminal activities.  Thank God for Google these days.

8)      Everyone in Texas wears cowboy hats, cowboy boots and sings that song.
Um, well, many people in Texas wear cowboy hats and boots.  But most of the people I’ve met in Texas aren’t from Texas and wear sandals because it is so friggin’ hot.  The stars at night, however, are big and bright.

9)      Deep down behind the fa├žade of toughness, biker gangs just want to be around good dances
This never made any sense to me, but how the hell else were they going to get Pee Wee to dance on a bar in those shoes?  Plus they needed to move the plot forward. 

10)    Wiping out with style is cool.
Early in the movie Pee Wee wipes out in front of a group of kids while imitating their stunts.  As he dusts himself off he says, “I meant to do that,” thus qualifying his actions as trick, not a mistake.  So when you wipe out in life, just spring right bake up and shout “I meant to do that,” something my sister and I did often as kids.  Like when you slip while climbing the stairs, or accidentally dump out your backpack on the floor in front of your locker.  Or that time you accidentally shoot your dog.  Wait, maybe not that one.  You did that on purpose.

So, instead of wasting your hard earned money on some new release, go watch Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.  Save on your cable bill, you kids will love it (or you will, if you don’t have kids), and you’ll learn all of these things.  But you just read them here.  Well, go watch the movie anyway and then read this again after you watch the movie.  Or, as Pee Wee says, “I don’t have to see it, Dottie. I lived it.”

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Living in Riverside (or 9 Things You Should Know About Riverside)

Okay, so we moved.  I know, it was like a year ago and trust me I’ve tried to write about it but there’s so many things to write about when you move and I had a hard time focusing in on one thing and the next thing you know I’m rambling, I’m at three thousand words and I haven’t really said anything and who the hell is going to read a blog post that is three thousand words and doesn’t say anything, I mean my mother barely ever reads this so I don't want to scare anyone off, especially not an agent or editor at a large publisher looking for some dynamic writing talent...wait, I'm doing it again.  Okay, I'll stop.  So, narrower focus, and there will be a bunch of posts about moving.  But for now, let’s talk a bit about where we moved.  Here's a little joke to get us started.

You the Reader: So, where did you move to?
Me: Riverside.
You the Reader: Where’s that?
Me: It’s next to the River.
You the Reader:  HAHAHAHAHAHA, you are so funny.
9 Things You Should Know About Riverside
 (This is a terrible title but I see these types of terrible titles on every article on the interwebs so I should just shut up and conform).

The first thing you should know about Riverside is that no one seems to know where Riverside is located.  For a long time that list included me.  So, for those of you who don’t know where Riverside is, do you know where Brookfield Zoo is located?  Riverside is right by the zoo (more on that later).  But, let’s get to know Riverside.

1)      Riverside is a small town.   With a population of about 9,000 people and a area of less than 2 square miles, Riverside is situated 12 miles southwest of Downtown Chicago.  First started in 1868 by the Riverside Development Company, Riverside was one of the first planned towns.  It was laid out by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, who is most famous for his work on Central Park in New York City and his contributions to the Chicago World’s fair of 1893. 

2)      Riverside has curvy streets.  It is easy to get lost in Riverside because none of the streets are straight.  Olmstead laid out the entire town’s streets, which cannot be called a grid, before anything was build and he included curved streets that meet other streets at weird angles, leaving triangular shape green spots in the middle of streets (see map).  The street we live on starts at one end of town, curves 180 degrees and then ends halfway across town going in the complete opposite direction from which it started.  Pizza delivery people hate our town because it is so easy to get lost (more on Pizza delivery people later).

3)      If you move to Riverside, you must own a tandem bike.  Okay, this is not actually true, but it should be.  Prior to moving here, I had seen maybe a dozen tandem bikes, mostly in cartoons from the 40s (find example).  The day we moved in, I saw at least six.  And that trend has never stopped.  We have yet to acquire the required two seater bike, but I’m hoping that someone will take pity on us and leave their extra tandem bike as a gift on our driveway.

4)      Riverside is a small town.  I know I said that already.  The entire town is two square miles.  That’s it.   It is physically small.  And people never leave here.  Well, most don’t.  One of my kid’s teacher grew up here.  She went to school at the school where she now teaches.  She knew the people who owned our house before we bought it.  She described playing in one of the bedrooms.  She described the bedroom.  Half the people we have met here grew up here, then moved to the city in their twenties only to move back here after having children.  Everyone knows everyone.  At least the ones who have lived here forever.  We’re just getting into it.  (Full disclosure: my father-in-law grew up in Riverside.  I go past his childhood house every day on the way to the train station.

5)      Riverside is dark.  The modern electric streetlight came in to favor in the late 1800s, replacing the expensive and dangerously fire prone gas lights.  Except in Riverside.  Yes, we still have gas lights.  Yes, technology from the 1830s is what we use to light our streets.  Except it doesn’t really work.  If you look at a picture of the Chicago Metropolitan area at night, you’ll see a very dark spot (no not the one on the right side of the picture, that’s Lake Michigan).  Look straight west of Downtown, then a little bit south.  See that black area?  That’s Riverside.  Now, if you find a good picture, let me know so I can add it.  Every time I search for Chicagoland at night, I get pictures of a race track.  At our old house, the street lights were so bright I could read a book on my front stoop at midnight.  In Riverside, it takes my eyes five minutes to adjust to the darkness before I can pull the car into the driveway.  Oh, and gaslights burn all the time, even when it is not dark out.  So, we’ve got that going for us.  And remember those Pizza delivery drivers I was talking about earlier? Combine curving streets that turn back on each other and almost total darkness and what do you get?  Late pizza!  It’s not just them.  I’ve lost count of how many times I have driven past my house while driving home at night.  You just can’t see it.  Everyone loves December in Riverside because with everyone’s Christmas lights on, you can actually see.


Looking at the river as I type this
6)      The Des Plaines River is the river that Riverside is alongside of.  (oh what a terrible sentence!)  I grew up in the Northwest suburbs where the Des Plaines rivers is more like a creek that you can step across.   The river is a bigger down here and people actually fish in it  Downtown riverside abuts the river.  As I write this, I am starting at the river out of the Riverside library’s reading room.  People spent a lot of time watching the River.  Especially when it rains and the River levels rise.  Since we have moved here, the river has flooded its banks in downtown riverside 3 times.  Don’t be alarmed, part of that is by plan (link to cool pictures).  One of the times was in January when ice dammed the river and then it rained, which scatter huge boulders of ice into the park next to the river.  When the river is high, everyone in town comes to the river’s edge to watch the water.  I’m not sure I totally understand this, but after a few minutes, watching the water can be mesmerizing, especially when it is moving fast, or its full of driftwood.

7)      Our new house in Riverside has 14 stairs from the first floor to the second floor.  Every other house I have ever lived in has thirteen.  I found that out one night in total darkness and took a little spill when I thought I was at the bottom.  I just figured I’d spare you that experience if you ever come over.

8)      Lots of famous people have lived in Riverside.  Um, well, not really. Former Chicago Bulls announcer Johnny ‘Redd’ Kerr lived here, a couple of Al Capone cronies and two current Illinois politicians do, but that’s about it.   But we’ve had our share of movies and TV shows that have used our lovely town.  The Lake House with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. In the Company of Darkness, a made for TV movie starring Helen Hunt. And Betrayal, which was already cancelled.  Um, so not much going on here either.

9)      Riverside is home.  It didn’t feel like it a first.  I drove home the wrong way from work a few times, almost got on the wrong train.  But after a year, we are settling in.  So, if you can navigate your way through the weaving streets and don’t get lost in the dark, come visit us.
Coming up.  More about moving.

Thanks For Reading

Friday, May 02, 2014

Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round Predictions 2014


That was a wild first round with three game 7s played on the same night.  If you are a San Jose Sharks fan, I feel for you.  Being up 3-0 then losing four straight has to hurt.  Let’s quickly recap, see how our experts did in round one, then move on to round 2.

Experts Standings                                                                        
Clarence “Screaming Buffalo” Swampton                               7
Tim “Dr. Hoo” McCraken                                                            6
Me                                                                                                   6
Throb Longpenis                                                                           5

The good news is we all beat the monkey score (for those of you who did not have Mr. Ploplys for high school physics, the money score is the score a monkey would get by randomly choosing an answer).  Swampton also picked the correct number of games in 6 of the 7 series he correctly called, McCraken got 3, Longpenis 2 and I correctly got 3.

The NHL’s new playoff format was intended to foster rivalries in the playoffs, and did just that for three of the four series.  Let’s start in the East
Eastern Conference

Montreal Canadians vs. Boston Bruins

Montreal eased their way to a four game sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning, although 3 of 4 were decided by a single goal.  They will have a much tougher matchup in round 2 against Boston, who spanked the Detroit (sucks) Red Wings.  The Wings gave their fans hope by winning game one, but that’s all they could muster.   It’s great to see two Original Six teams match up against each other. Tukka Raask was magnificent in the first round and Boston is still the best of the East.  Boston in 6.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers
Wait, Crosby hasn’t scored a goal yet and the Penguins advanced past the first round?  Oh yeah, they’ve got plenty of scorers.  The Rangers survived against Philly even though they were maddeningly inconsistent.  The team who plays better defense will most likely win the series.  Fortunately for Pittsburgh, they have a larger margin of error.  A lot rides on the stick of Rick Nash for New York but Sid and the rest of the Penguins should win out.  Pittsburgh in 6

Western Conference

Minnesota Wild vs.  Chicago Blackhawks
Well, so much for seeding.  I’m still trying to figure out how Minnesota improbably rallied down 3-2 to beat Colorado in overtime last night.  So much for being cannon fodder.  Wait, I take that back.  They will be second round cannon fodder this year against the Blackhawks, instead of first round cannon fodder.  The Hawks rallied back from a 2-0 hole and beat the Blues four straight to move on and in this round they have home ice.  Anyone know who has been the best goaltender in the playoffs so far?  Well, its Rask, but Corey Crawford is a close second.  He stole game 3 for the Hawks and it looks like the Hawks forwards remembered how to put the puck in the net in game six.  Hawks in 5.

Anaheim Mighty Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings
The series will the least amount of travel.  I never wavered in my belief that the Kings were going to beat San Jose, not even while down in a 3-0 hole.  The Ducks were trailing by two goals with less than three minutes left when they stunned the Dallas Starts by scoring twice to send the game to OT then winning early in the OT.  It’s going to be a long off season if you are a Sharks fan or a Stars fan.  This is the first post-season meeting between these two teams.  Two deep teams who are good on both offense and defense.  This will be a great series, but it will come down to goaltending and Jonathan Quick is the man.  Kings in 7.
Here are the expert's predictions.

Clarence "Screaming Buffalo" Swamptown
Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken
Throb Longpenis
Mike Smolarek
Round 2        
Eastern Conf        
NYR vs Pittsburgh Rangers in 7 Pittsburgh in 7 Pittsburgh in 6 Pittsburgh in 6
Boston vs. Montreal Boston in 6 Boston in 6 Boston in 6 Boston in 7
West Conf        
Anaheim vs. Los Angeles Anaheim in 7 Anaheim in 7 Anaheim in 6 Los Angeles in 7
Chicago vs. Minnesota Chicago in 5 Chicago in 5 Chicago in 5 Chicago in 6



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Predictions 2014

It’s hockey playoffs again.  It’s time for the annual Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions post.  This year I’ve assembled my own panel of experts (actually, one of them assembled the panel for me).  Each round I’ll give you the panel’s picks and my commentary on why the others on the panel are wrong.  To protect them from shame, I have changed their names.  I also made the mistake of letting them pick their own fake names.  They are pretty juvenile.

Let’s start in the weaker Eastern Conference

Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers

The Rangers were on TV every night again this year,  between NBC, NBC Sports and the NHL Channel.  The Flyers made the playoffs again.  The Rangers struggled early but got better as the season wore on.  Plus they have Henrik Lundqvist.  He’s good, they tell me. This year, the Flyers spun their ever changing wheel of goaltenders and are starting….Steve Mason?  Luckily for the Flyers, the Steven Mason who was rookie of the year has re-emerged (not the Steve Mason who was a total train wreck in his last season in Columbus.  Unfortunately, now a goaltender for the Flyers and if you've ever watched the Flyers in the playoffs, you know what happens to their goalies.  The Rangers will score just enough goals to win this series in 6.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs.  Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets are back in the playoffs after their best season ever, which really isn't saying much.  The Penguins, despite a ridiculous amount of injuries, still locked up their division and the second seed.  Will Malkin be healthy enough to play or will Pittsburgh be completely shut down like they were against Boston last year?  Maybe the sting from that series will drive the Penguins to succeed.  Maybe Columbus plays out of this world and wins this series riding Bobrovsky all the way.  Probably not.  Penguins in 6.

Detroit (Sucks) Red Wings vs. Boston Bruins

The fact that the Red Wings made the playoffs for the hundredth straight season despite a mountain of injuries that had them starting an AHL team for the second half of the season is pretty spectacular.  The Bruins were the best and most consistent team for the entire season and there are a lot of people who would love to see Jerome Iginla hoist the Cup over his head in June.  Boston is too much for the Red Wings to overcome.  Bruins in 5.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadians

I’m not really sure why I’m picking the Lightning.  I think it was because when I looked at the standings, I was surprised to see that Montreal made the playoffs.  I don’t know why.  In two weeks I’ll probably be kicking myself for picking them, but Steve Stamkos rocks.  Tampa Bay in 6.

On to the dominant Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues

Both teams struggled down the stretch: the Hawks a little, the Blues a lot, enough to lose the division title to Colorado and to get the defending Stanley Cup Champs as a first round opponent instead of the powder puff Minnesota Wild.  Both teams had significant injuries at the end of the season, Toews and Kane for Chicago and Backes, Oshie and Tarasenko for the Blues.  This will be the best first round series and probably comes down to which goalie raises his game.  Crawford has a little more margin for error than Miller as the Hawks score at a better clip.  It’s no surprise that our panelist in St. Louis picked the Blues while the rest of us pick the Hawks.  Hawks in 7.

Dallas Stars vs. Anaheim Ducks

I got to see the Stars play in Dallas last week as they eliminated Nashville from the playoffs.  They are a pretty good team, but will only go as far as Kari Lehtonen takes them.  He has had little playoff experience and even less success.  The Ducks are talented on both offense and defense, and held off a late charge by the Sharks to win the division.  This is the only series in the West we all agree on.  Ducks in 6.

Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche

 I’m guessing Patrick Roy is going to win the Jack Adams award for coach of the year, which will give him something else to plug his ears so he can hear Jeremy Roenick’s whining Colorado started fast and finish strong, catching the Blues for the division title.  The Wild will be first round cannon fodder for the second straight season as they trot out whatever goaltender is healthy enough to play.  Colorado in 5

Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks

What?  All three California teams are in the playoffs again?  And they all had great season?  And one of them has to go home in the first round.   The Kings and the Sharks met in the playoffs last season in an exciting series that went seven games before the Kings prevailed.  The Sharks retooled last off season and battle the Ducks all season long for the division title.  The Kings can go far if they get enough scoring and if Jonathan Quick stands on his head.  But don’t forget the Sharks have their own Stanley Cup winning goaltender in Antti Niemi (although he won it with another team).  This will be a fun one but the results will be the same as last year.  Kings in 7.
Here are our experts picks.

Clarence "Screaming Buffalo" Swamptown
Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken
Throb Longpenis
Mike Smolarek
Eastern Conference
Philadelphia vs NY Rangers
NYR in 7
Philadelphia in 6
Philadelphia in 6
NYR in 6
Columbus vs Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh in 6
Pittsburgh in 6
Pittsburgh in 4
Pittsburgh in 7
Detroit vs Boston
Boston in 5
Boston in 7
Boston in 5
Boston in 5
Tampa Bay vs Montreal
Montreal in 5
Montreal in 6
Montreal in 6
Tampa Bay in 6
Western Conference
Chicago vs St. Louis
Chicago in 6
Chicago in 6
St. Louis in 6
Chicago in 7
Dallas vs Anaheim
Anaheim in 6
Anaheim in 6
Anaheim in 5
Anaheim in 6
Minnesota vs Colorado
Minnesota in 7
Minnesota in 6
Colorado in 7
Colorado in 5
Los Angeles vs San Jose
San Jose in 6
San Jose in 6
Los Angeles in 7
Los Angeles in 7