Sears Tower

We spent the weekend in Chicago. Of all the times I’ve visited, I never had a chance to see the city from the top of the Sears Tower – before they tore it down and built the Willis Tower in its place. I was drawn to the new-ish observation ledges where you can see the city straight down over 1000 feet below.

Even with limited visibility the tower was crowded that Saturday. The lines were long and people were getting restless. The family in front of us begrudgingly towed along their chatterbox mother. She wanted to be our best friend.  She let her daughter cut her in line so she could cut her.  (not knife cuts, but jumping in line cuts) “Cuts for cuts” she said looking back at us.  “You remember that?  Cuts for cuts from school?  We used to do cuts for cuts all the time!  It was so funny!”  I nodded my head.  However, at my school we called letting someone jump ahead of the line so you could cut them “being an asshole”.

We stood in back of a seemingly endless queue of roped-off, switchback lines.  When the line looked hopelessly long I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I spun on my heels to find nobody.  Then I looked down and saw a dwarf of a woman holding a walkie talkie, looking up waiting for an answer.  I stooped down to hear what she was telling us.

“The faster way up is over here!  Come this way!” she beckoned with her cute little hands.

She didn’t have a badge on or an Sears Tower markings or tattoos, but you can always trust a person with a walkie talkie.  It’s just a reassuring feeling seeing someone with a walkie talkie because you know they can call for help or order food with the press of a button.  Seeing this as an opportunity to escape the line but more importantly, the Chatterbox’s prattling on about her long distant grade school memories, we followed the walkie talkie lady to the “faster way”.

She led us down a concrete hallway to a giant stainless steel door, which turned out to be the freight elevator.  We were herded into the elevator with a large group.  I was disappointed to see the Chatterbox woman and family shuffle in beside us.  Chatterbox proceeded to narrate the elevator trip as she most likely does her entire life.

Sears Tower Freight Elevator

At least one person met the criteria

“Oh look girls, we are in the freight elevator.  We’re going up like luggage.  Look at all of the buttons.  Let me get your picture with the buttons.  Could everyone in the elevator scoot to the sides so I can get a picture of Jordan and McKenna with the buttons?  We are on vacation from Wisconsin.  This is an expensive camera but I got it on sale at Target.  Sometimes I say TarJAY to make the sound more exotic.  Ha ha ha!  My husband works but I just stay at home with the kids- OH MY GOSH WE ARE STOPPING?! I think we are at the TOP!”

The elevator attendant had said that we would make a few stops before reaching the top.  If everyone was listening and not talking, they would have known that already.  We stopped on the 67th floor and there was a couple of dudes waiting for the elevator, holding a couch on its side.  They looked kind of surprised to see the freight elevator full of people.  The freight doors were tall enough to scoot the couch into our already cramped elevator.  The couch guys gave us a ‘sup’ nod, so I knew they were cool.

The Chatterbox started asking questions, “Where is this sofa going?  Do you live here?  How much does it cost to live here?  Do you have to work on Saturday? Do you get paid more for that? How much do you get paid? Has this couch been in your family for centuries?” One of the dudes covered his ears and refused to remove them when we stopped again on the 87th floor.  His buddy was ready to move the couch out of the elevator but the other wouldn’t uncover his ears.  Seeing an opportunity to get away from Chatterbox, we volunteered to help.

We walked the couch down a hallway to an apartment.  The dudes told us where to put the couch 3 or 4 times until it was in the perfect spot.  I love to help people, but now I was getting kind of mad because we paid $17 each to help a guy move a couch?  I still had to see the The Ledge!  Plus those guys were only faking being cool before because as soon as we got to the apartment they sat down on the couch and started playing Angry Birds.  “Hey I want to see the ledge now!  Where is the freight elevator troll?”  I asked, kind of mad.  The guys did not answer so I went over to large apartment the window.

From the 87th floor you can see just as much of the city as anyone on the 100 floors.  I folded out the top window so it was parallel with the ground.  With the help of my wife and an end table, I was able to crawl out on to the window.  It was a lot like what I thought The Ledge would be like so I was getting more happy!  I crawled out on the flat window far enough so I could stand up and look straight down and see the city.  It was an exciting thrill, but with such a little ledge, it got boring quickly because I couldn’t do a handstand or get a good picture taken.

The Ledge

The Window Ledge

I crawled back inside and yelled at the dudes on the couch.  Still playing Angry Birds, they paid us no mind. So they didn’t mind that I taped a bunch of their mail to heavy odds and ends (like a clock and some glass decorations) and threw them out of the window. Think of it like the pool game where you throw colored rings or sticks into the deep end of the pool and then you dive down and try to find them all (for points).  We left the apartment and ran down the stairs (exhausting!) and went out to find the trinkets we threw out of the window. But, there were a lot of police outside when we got to the bottom.  Also some broken cars.  The Police were hogging the find-the-trinkets game pieces and putting little yellow tags on them to count up how many points they got.  Cops ruin all the fun.  At least they will find the dudes’ apartment so he can get his stuff back.

I learned a lot from this trip to Chicago, but the most important lesson was to never help people move.


What They’re Not Telling You About Health Care

Last weekend in Chicago we were out on a corner trying to find Giordano’s. My friend was being verbally pigeonholed by a homeless guy.  When my phone GPS picked up, I shouted to my friend that I had found the way and hoped to save him from the harassment!  The homeless guy knew what i was doing and targeted me for his attack.

“Hey man!” He charged towards me.  “Maybe you can help me! I need a couple buck to get a cab to find my sister’s body.” He shouted at me in a distinctive raspy voice.

“Sorry I can’t help you.” His sister’s body?!

We started walking.

“Hey, don’t treat me like a dog here!  I’m talking to you and you treating me like a dog! I know you got a couple bucks to spare.  Stop doggin’ me man!” He was walking sideways now and getting in my face.

I stopped, stared him down and said very directly, “If I was treating you like a dog, I’d be stooped down and petting you on the head, while my other hand checked your collar to find a phone number to return you to your owner.  Somehow I don’t think that would go over very well…”

With that, he gave up and moved on.. in search of his sister’s body.

Some days I wish I were homeless. True freedom would be life without a house payment, utility bills, excise tax, income tax, social security tax, doing tax returns, buying gasoline, paying for tolls, going to work, etc… When you’re homeless it’s just you against the world and when you wake up in the street the potential to do anything is only limited by how far your feet will take you, and locked doors. The only tax you really have to pay is the sales tax on the liquor that you buy to celebrate finding your sister’s body!

Which apparently was what was happening.

The next morning – St Patrick’s Saturday – we were buying some alcohol at the liquor store.  While we were checking out the same homeless guy walked in, forwarded by his distinctive raspy voice. He was greeted by warm welcomes from the employees. They knew him by name! I didn’t want him to recognize me as the dog man so I ducked my head under my festive green fedora.

Then he said, “Hey!”

I didn’t look up.

He said, “Hey man!”

Of course he recognizes me.  I looked up. (He was tall)

“I like your hat.” He said with a smile.

I told him thanks and offered to buy his 6-pack of Bud.  (I didn’t want to give him money last night because I was afraid he would waste it on food.)

The alarming thing to the “Health Care” law is that every US citizen human being is now going to be required to carry health insurance, even if you don’t want it.  To some people that might not seem like such a big deal, but how many other things are required for citizenship?  You don’t actually have to have a social security number unless you want a bank account or a job – both are a pain!  As a man, you do have to register for Selective Service at 18, but you can easily slip through the cracks if you choose to live on the streets.  Some people compare it to the car insurance requirement, but if you don’t have a car, you don’t buy insurance ahead of time in hopes that one day you do own a car!

Health care is being pushed on everyone with a physical body like car insurance is required for a car.  Everyone has a body; even homeless people.  It appears that the only way to avoid health care is to somehow shed human form.  But how can you do that?

Can you leave your body by practicing transcendental meditation?  When the IRS comes swarming your temple for not paying your health premiums you will be blissfully free in the ethereal plane.  The problem with meditation is that you have to eventually eat.  When you stop chanting, the IRS agents will see you materialize on the pink meditation pillow and arrest you for not paying your bills.

Animals aren’t going to be required to buy health insurance!  I learned from Tim Allen in The Shaggy Dog that if you’re bitten by the sacred Khyi-yag-po dog that you will be able to turn yourself into a dog!  If this is your draft dodge of choice, you’ll want to be sure to train yourself like Pavlov to begin your salivation when you hear a knock on the door.  Practice by having someone knock on the door and squint real hard to try to turn into a dog each time you hear a knock.

You’ll be glad you did, because when the IRS come, their knocking will trigger your inner dog transformation.  When they break down the door and start shouting and aiming their shotguns, you will run up and start licking the agents in the face! (MAKE SURE THE TRANSFORMATION IS COMPLETE) Everyone loves man’s best friend.  The IRS will leave satisfied that a dog owns your home and you can go on living your health-insurance-free life as a half-man, half-dog, crazy person.

As a bonus you will be given rights that humans don’t have like not having to wear clothes and getting to go to the bathroom on the sidewalk! People will pet you on the head and hand you treats.  Your only real fear will be from the evil dog catchers!

Maybe, raspy homeless man, I was paying you a compliment by treating you like a dog.  You are truly free.

Happy St. Patrick’s Weekend

When did Wrigleyville turn into Boy’s Town?  Barleycorn on St Patrick’s Day weekend had about an 80/20 sausage ratio. Whenever a guy didn’t find two hands on his drinks, he found one hand for the closest man he could grab.  For once, I actually payed a bathroom attendant for his advice which was,”Watch out for your Barleyhole!”

I felt bad for the guy who was dancing near us.  He was actually lucky enough to find a girl to dance with, but she was a sloppy drunk.  She screamed because she was so excited to hear Tik Tok crank up and she spun about and flung her hair into the guy’s face.  She finished her lutz with an elbow to the guy’s drink hand which sent the green mixed drink gushing all over the floor and all over the sloppy drunk girl.  My shoe was slightly wetted too.  The girl went stomping to the restroom to dry off.

The poor guy stood stunned for a moment and the dancing paused in the ring around him.  His drink was gone.  It was a pretty special drink that he had apparently been saving up to purchase since January.

He piled up all of the ones and pennies he received at Christmas.  “Thanks Grandma,” he would say, “I’m going to use this to buy a drink one day!”

These past 3 months all he could talk about was the drink he was about to purchase.  His few friends, though slightly annoyed with his one-trick-plans, shared the excitement for that special day that he would be able to buy a drink.  His co-workers knew of his plan too.  Even complete strangers would stop and listen all about his future drink!

When his piggy bank had grown to 7 or 8 dollars he was ready to go out.  “St. Patrick’s Saturday will be the day!” he screamed from his apartment window in the rainy afternoon! So he donned his green suspenders and his fake orange beard and made his way to the corner bar!

Back the present: Our hero was still standing stunned in the middle of the dance floor.  After yelling for the bar to stop the music to no avail, he picked up his glass and held it up to his tearing eyes.  He pouted with his lip jutted out as his friend was consoling him.  Having heard about this drink for months, his friend knew how devastating this was to him.  Tik Tok was still blaring so I could only see them mouthing words to each other, but the following is an accurate, true interpretation of what they were actually talking about:

“It spilled all over the floor!”

“I know man. I’m so sorry!”

“My drink is gone! How could this happen to me!?” he was in hysterics.

So his friend made everything better by promising to get the sloppy drunk’s phone number. “Look, I’m going to get her number.  Don’t worry about it, I’m going to get her number. We can go on a double date.  I’m going to get her number and you can talk to her. Everything is going to be just fine!”

After about 5 minutes of this conversing he seemed satisfied with the double date / phone number plan.  Perhaps he had been convinced that maybe there is more to life than that single drink.

As we were leaving, I saw him downstairs talking to the sloppy drunk girl.  He seemed very happy to see her again and they were having a lively conversation.  I could see it in his eyes that he knew he had a good chance of taking her home, taking off her dress, and wringing it out into a glass so he could finish what was left of that special special drink.