Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Chicago vs. The World: Why we're the Second City

While our city leaders can't decide whether or not they want to vote on a smoking ban in public spaces, whether or not they even want to compromise on the matter, our neighbors to the north in Evanston are not afraid to take a stand when it comes to public health concerns. They are not afraid to stand up to an industry that's destroying the lives of so many people. They are not afraid that residents might move south of Howard Avenue to enjoy their sick little hobby. They have banned the use of leaf blowers.

From today's Trib:

Saying they got an earful from residents about leaf blowers, Evanston lawmakers soundly rejected a proposal to allow year-round use of the machines.

"I've heard from the 7th Ward loud and clear," Ald. Elizabeth Tisdahl said Monday. "When leaf-blower technology gets as quiet as rakes, we'll consider it."

The City Council voted 8-1 against the proposal after hearing from about a dozen people who opposed it.

Have you seen this man?

We miss our mayor! He's been absent from local news coverage for more than a week now. Is he on vacation? In the hospital? Riding his bicycle? Bar-hopping in towns with smoking bans? Getting ideas for civic improvement in foreign countries? If you've seen him, let us know. The local media outlets haven't been doing a very good job of informing us of our dear leader's movements. (Do a "news" search for "Daley" on the Chicago Sun-Times website and the most recent mention of the mayor is from August 25.)

Car Wreck Top 5. Number 5: Car vs. Salt Truck

UPDATE: I meant to do a top ten list of car accidents, but have changed it because ... I don't have that many good car wreck stories.

While waiting for our mayor (or other hapless politicians) to entertain us, I will spend some time counting down the five greatest, most awesome, most memorable car accidents of my life. These are wrecks in which I've been either the driver, passenger, or witness. Each has impacted my life in some way. Each has taught me a lesson about myself and my life. I hope that in these early days of winter, when the roads are getting slick and the tires are getting bald (like the heads of so many of my friends), these stories will serve as a reminder to pay those insurance premiums ...

Number 5: Car vs. Salt Truck

If you ever want to see a car accident, drive up and down Western Avenue, especially between Division and Diversey after 10 p.m. on the weekends. (Actually, if you drive, you'll probably BE the one in an accident, so maybe you should take the bus.) Western is a big, wide road that serves as a wonderful drag strip for all the sweet and tender hooligans of this city of big shoulders and small curbs. Western's also the longest street in Chicago (fun trivia fact!). Last Friday night I saw two accidents on that street, one as I was heading south to the Empty Bottle for the Rogue Wave show and then another when I was heading back home. The second one was quite spectacular.

It had snowed earlier in the day, less than an inch, which meant city crews were out making sure every single street was white from salt. Western was clear of snow and almost clear of traffic. A block ahead of me was a car. Ahead of him was nobody. Well, not exactly. A block ahead of him was a salt truck pulling out from a side street and crossing Western. I saw the scene clearly ... the car in front of me ... the salt truck with its flashing lights ... and ... then I heard the crunch of metal on metal as the car drove right into the side of the truck. The car, probably a Dodge Neon or something, was destroyed, its front end completely crumpled. The salt truck had maybe a scratch.

Everyone was fine, and there really was no lesson there, unless if you have just learned not to drive your car into the side of a salt truck. But still, it did make me think.

For the past 10 years or so, I've fantasized about buying and driving a giant dump truck. I've fantasized about accidentally plowing into all sorts of cars that were somehow breaking one of the rules of the road. You know that one stop sign in the neighborhood that everyone somehow blows through? I imagine I'd be driving my dump truck through that intersection right when someone blew through the stop sign, and CRASH! his car would be completely fucked up. Sorry, that's one of my fantasies, destroying cars. Do I suffer from slight road rage? Perhaps. But maybe I just hate drivers that ignore stop signs.

Anyway, my fantasy has led me to create a superhero-like character that drives a dump truck and destroys bad drivers' cars. Her name (yes, it would be a she) would be Downy Dumptruck. Well, to end a long story (I swear tomorrow's will be shorter), the accident I saw on Western the other night made me think long and hard about my superhero ... maybe she should drive a salt truck.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Governor Dad says no to junk food

News Item (from Monday's Trib): Blagojevich trying to resurrect junk food ban in schools

Trying again to rid public schools of junk food, Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Monday called on the Illinois State Board of Education to ban sales of unhealthy snacks and soft drinks at elementary and middle schools.

The proposal excludes high schools that benefit most from vending machine proceeds, and it is less dramatic than a ban proposed in 2003 that state lawmakers rebuffed. This time around, Blagojevich is turning to a board controlled by his appointees to change state rules to battle childhood obesity.

"We know that selling candy and soda to elementary and middle school students is not good for their health, so let's do what we can to stop it," the governor wrote in a letter to the state board.

Comment: Imagine you were a young father. You would want what's best for your family, yourself, the people around you, right? But what could you do, young father? You'd have ideas, but how would you get anyone, especially those darned kids of yours, to listen? Well, if you were Rod Blagojevich, you'd become governor and force your ideas on the people of the entire state.

Blagojevich is not an evil guy. He seems to be like any other normal 49-year-old city dweller that gets a police escort while jogging on Wilson Avenue. Like some guy with a blog, Blago has opinions on what's right and wrong, but unlike that pathetic blogger, Blago has the power to make some changes. You can almost hear him thinking as he introduces legislation and makes proclamations.

A few years back, he declared that he wanted state cops to crack down on slow drivers in the left lane of interstates. Slow drivers are not only a nuisance, he said, but they're dangerous, so we need to do a better job and start ticketing them, it should be our number one priority! Here's the thing: The governor lives in Chicago and must drive down to Springfield, what, at least once or twice a year. So you can almost see the rage building up as he's stuck behind some slow Camry in the left lane. "That sonofabitch ought to get a ticket," he thinks. Then, a smile: "Wait! I can do something about this! I'm the governor!"

At the dinner table, young Amy doesn't want to eat her vegetables. "Why do I have to?" she whimpers.

"Because I said so!" her father says. "Wait, no, because the governor says so!"

Over the course of their lives, Amy, 8, and Annie, 2, have had to deal with the Governor Dad. I wonder if they even know it's their father that is trying to ruin their lives.

"We don't want to read, we want to watch TV," they might say.

"Sorry, my babies, the State of Illinois has provided our family with these books for you to read."

"Can we please get that one fun game for Christmas this year?" they ask.

"Sorry, my babies, the State of Illinois has taken steps to make sure that violent video games do not reach young, unsuspecting hands such as yours."

"I don't wanna eat that yucky asparagus! Can I have some Flamin' Hots?"

"No, honey, the Illinois governor is fighting obesity in children and has declared war on junk food."

"Please, Daddy!"

"I'm sorry, but it's not MY fault. The GOVERNOR doesn't want you to eat chips and drink pop. Notice he doesn't mind if high school kids eat that junk--after all, do you know how much revenue his state gets from the Coca Cola company?--but the governor sure doesn't want kids your age to eat junk food."

"So, when I'm in high school, I'll be able to eat anything I want?"

"Oh, no no no, honey, by then I'm sure we, I mean, the state will find alternate funding."

So, life isn't so bad at the Blagojevich mansion on the sunnyside of the street ... as long as his kids don't ask for details on this governor guy. By the way, the only joke in this post, as far as I can tell, is the assumption that Blago will still be governor when his kids grow up. Yeah, I know, good one. But just think of the legislation he'd pass in the next 10 years as his baby girls grow up--the anti-dating measures, the no-driving-until-age-21 law, the war on acne. It COULD be fun, here in conservative, family-values friendly Illinois ...

Monday, November 28, 2005

Post Office raises rate: Getting their two-cents worth

No, it's not a lot of unsold SUVs. It's evidence that mailmen are stylin' these days. Gone are the dorky white post office vehicles. Instead, local mailmen drive these brand spankin' new "Trail Rated" Jeep Liberty Renegades. The base model goes for about $25,850, which might help explain why the price of a first class stamp is going up 2 cents to 39 cents. At this post office alone I counted at least 35 new trucks.

I guess they could have done worse. They could have bought the bummer of all vehicles, the Hummer. The Jeep supposedly gets 18 mpg in the city, while the new, smaller H3 gets up to 16 (yeah right!). Or they could have bought a foreign vehicle. Not that this Toyota-driving city dweller has anything against foreign cars. I just think a federal agency should buy American. Especially when American car makers are offering incentives like "miles of freedom," which would pay for two-years worth of gas and scheduled maintenance. Hmm ... wonder if the post office got that sweet deal.

But now that I got started on SUVs, some questions come to mind:

1. Most SUV commercials show the truck rumbling through a jungle or up and down some rocky terrain in Utah. But the fine print at the bottom of the screen says, "Professional driver on a closed course. Do not attempt." Why not? Shouldn't I buy the damn thing because it can go through three-foot-deep puddles and over tree stumps?

2. This leads to a more important question: Why is it that, on the streets of Chicago, the vehicles that go the slowest over speed humps and pot holes are SUVs? Are the drivers really that scared that their trucks will flip over if they go more than 10 mph over railroad tracks?

3. How soon until a mailman flips his new Liberty?

daley photos

Which photo should I use at left?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thome in Chicago: Pronunciation problems

He may be new in town, but Jim Thome, the newest member of the "WORLD CHAMPION" Chicago White Sox, already presents some challenges to the city. Will he appreciate the pizza ... or will he at some point say that he prefers New York-style? Which suburb will he move to? And the biggest one for the fans: How the heck are you supposed to pronounce his name? When he was in Cleveland and Philadelphia, it seems his name was pronounced with two syllables: TOW-ME. That just doesn't work in these parts. I've lived near the street with his name for five years, and I've never heard anyone pronounce it with that way. Instead, I've heard these varieties:

THHHOME: It sounds like someone with a lisp, which is usually pretty funny, but that TH-sound can be threatening. "THis be THome, you THon of a be-yotch," the local gangbangers say.

TOME: Drop the H, but keep it to a single syllable.

DOME: Ah, the Southside accent, as in Da Bears and Da Bulls. Well, to be honest, I've never heard it said that way--this is up north after all--but my ears always perk up when I see some mustached guy with a vintage 1985 Bears jacket walk up the street.

Speaking of domes, now that it's officially cold, I wonder yet again why Chicago sports teams don't build stadiums with rooftops. This is not to say I want domed stadiums here, but I'm just wondering. The Detroit Lions play in a dome. They're going to host the Super Bowl. The Milwaukee Brewers have a retractable roof, and, I have to say, I kind of don't mind being able to see a baseball game even if it's 39 and raining. For the so-called purists, who say that open air is to our advantage when we play Minnesota or Tampa, I have this fun FACT: 40 of the guys on the Bears roster went to university south of St. Louis. How is cold weather to our advantage?

Anyway, back to the street name. This particular intersection poses quite a pronunciation problem for out-of-towners. "Thome" is hard enough, but then there's "Paulina." In any other city in the world, it would be pronounced PAUL-E-NA. Not here. Here, it's PAUL-I-NA. Whenever I apply for a new credit card over the phone, the India-based operator has problems with my pronunciation, especially when I'm giving my address. "It's Paul-i-na," I say, "spelled like Paul-e-na."

Nobody really knows why we pronounce it like this, but it's important to us that nobody mispronounce it. (Which leads to my 34th biggest pet peeve, the way the voice recording on the el says "Cly-BURN" instead of "Cly-BORN" ... but that's the least of the CTA's problems.) The DA-sound in TH-words like "the" makes sense--it has something to do with a lazy tongue from all the Wisconsin cheese we eat. But why the I-sound in Paulina?

As I said, nobody really knows the answer, but it does lead to the only Chicago joke you need to know:

Question: What are three Chicago street names that rhyme with a woman's private parts?

Answer: Paulina, Regina ... and ... (wait for it!) ... Lunt!

Mayor Daley's Quote of the Week 1

"A modern, efficient O'Hare Airport will be welcomed not just by residents of the Chicago area, but also by a man in Toledo who needs to get to L.A., a woman in Des Moines with business interests in London. The whole nation benefits. People get to spend more time doing what they want to do."
--Dick Daley, after the Bush administration approved a $337 million down payment Monday to build new runways at O'Hare International Airport. Thanks, mayor, for paying attention to the little people of Toledo and Des Moines. In the meantime, you ignore the little people of Chicago, allowing the CTA to raise fares yet again without making the service any more modern or efficient.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Taking Mayor Daley to Saturday School

It's Saturday, which means it's time to go to school. That is, the mayor wishes the children of Chicago would go to school on Saturdays. He also wishes the school year were longer, the school day were longer, and teacher contracts were shorter. He'll probably think of contracting out teacher jobs to the Catholics or something.

Mayor Daley is proud to be the Education Mayor, similar to President Bush proud of being the War President. It's good for approval ratings. Since taking over the failing Chicago Public Schools last decade, he's opened at least one modern, academically challenging high school for the white kids of the city. Now he wants to get the other kids off the streets and into classrooms year-round if possible.

This idea is the result of a trip the mayor recently took to Asia. There, he saw test scores that were too good and school calendars that were too long. He put too and too together, and came home with a bright idea. In fact, the mayor often comes back from foreign trips with bright ideas for improving his city. The greatest so far has been all the wrought iron fences he insisted on planting in front of every two-flat following a trip to some European city with lots of wrought iron. He returned from another trip and decided to paint extra parking lanes ... that is, bicycle lanes on random city streets. The ideas are out there, and Mayor Daley knows that he can take a vacation whenever some scandal is brewing and return with a tan and a plan.

To save Mayor Daley some trouble, I've put together some ideas he can borrow from foreign countries, things maybe he'd like to get going here. Let's begin, and let's make this city more comfortable for former frat boys from Michigan.

The recent riots there should have made the mayor think: There are poor people in Europe too. There are minority groups there. They are angry. But ... they live in the suburbs, so whenever there's an uprising, the city center stays calm and tourist-friendly. The mayor's idea: Tear down the high-rise projects, replace with expensive townhouses, and send the poor to Palatine! Oh wait, he's already working on that one.

Let's take the mayor back to his roots, the home of Guinness, potatoes, and religious warfare. The Irish love to drink. And they love to smoke. But somehow they manage to do the two separately as they've managed to pass a comprehensive, country-wide smoking ban. No one smokes in the pubs anymore, an idea that seemed ridiculous just two years ago. They've managed. In fact, the mayor doesn't need to travel outside the country to see smoking bans that work. New York City is smoke-free. Same with all of California. And yet, we can't seem to get a full City Council vote on the matter here. Some committee recently proposed a ban that would exempt taverns and some restaurants. But whatever. The mayor tacks on a new tax on cigarette packs every time his books don't balance, so he needs to keep people smoking.

Actually ... now that he thinks of it, the mayor can use this as a way to lure travelers to our shores of Lake Michigan. The Irish economy is booming these days. The Celtic Tiger, they call it. The euro is strong, and the Irish have lots of euros in their pockets. So many, in fact, that people now take shopping trips to New York. It's cheaper than staying put and shopping in Dublin. Mayor Daley, here's our chance: Advertise the city. Get the Irish to visit us, to spend money here. They can shop 'til they drop at all of our unique shops like Marshall Field's ... er, Macy's. And they can smoke and drink at the same time at all of our Irish-themed, smoker-friendly bars. If we plan carefully, we can easily become the largest city in the world that allows smoking in public houses. And that ... is today's idea on making Chicago known.

Friday, November 25, 2005


The Mayor knows what he wants, and he knows how to get it.

Whether it's a plate piled high with corned beef or a posting dripping with sarcasm, the mayor--and you!--can get it right here at The Daley Show. What can I get for you?