An Open Letter to Morning People

You wake up early and get a lot done in the mornings. It’s your lunch hour and you’re excited to have some free time for yourself. You went to bed at 10:30 last night and woke up feeling fresh and rejuvenated.

Good. Great. Grand.

Lemme tell you something: I was awake until at least 5:00 AM. As such, I just woke up. And no, I do not want to go to the library with you. No, I do not want to take a walk along a gravelly trail through some pretty trees. I also don’t want to check out the new sculpture in the cute little park near your apartment. I don’t feel like hitting the gym, or the movies, or getting some ice cream, or even going to the bar.

Well, maybe I feel like going to the bar.

But I it’s noon and I just woke up. I eat cereal at noon. I didn’t buy all these blueberries to put them on my yoga lessons.

Thank you.

P.S.
This is all subject to change. (Usually in concert with the weather.)

Coffee? Tea? Bathroom cleanser?

The other day I was enjoying a cup of coffee. It was so good, I thought I’d have a second cup. I filled up my mug, and headed toward the computer to check some emails, but decided to hit the bathroom first. I went to set my coffee mug on the shelf that stands just inside the doorway of my bathroom. The top shelf is about five feet off the ground. As I set it down, my finger caught on the handle of the mug, shaking it violently enough to splatter half the contents of the mug over the side of the mug and down the shelves, onto the floor, and thus splashing up around the various bathroom amenities one comes used to having in American bathrooms. Specifically, the toilet, the toilet brush, a bathroom scale, a package of Scott Tissue toilet paper, and the lower shelves of the aforementioned unit.

Now I’m not sure if any of you have ever actually spilled coffee around the base and surrounding area of your toilet before, but lemme tell you this, were someone to walk into that commode before I’d cleaned up, the assumption they would make is one that I would prefer to avoid having made.

Remember the scene in the film Trainspotting where Obi Wan Kenobi, I’m sorry, Ewan McGregor, has to use the loo and he walks into the nastiest bathroom ever seen? Well my bathroom wasn’t that bad, but the way the coffee spilled and splattered lightly around the floor, the base of the walls, on the Scott Tissue toilet paper packages, on the toilet brush, up and around the base of the toilet, and on the toilet seat itself, one could easily come to the conclusion that I had a pretty unfortunate morning.

In retrospect, I should’ve taken a picture of it. Instead, I just cleaned it up. But a year from now, when you’re looking for a fresh April Fool’s prank, remember this one.

Little Boys Messin’ ‘Round With the Girls Playin’ Double Dutch

As the weather begins to turn nice, and then lousy, and then nice again, not only am I reminded of the Will Smith song Summertime (hence the title of this post), but I’m also reminded of something that my fourth grade gym teacher used to say to me, “Mike, you jump rope well. Perhaps too well.”

I’ve never really understood exactly what he meant by that. But thinking about it triggered the thought that I just don’t see kids jumping rope like I used to when I was a kid. I grew up in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood and every single day of the summer there were girls (and boys) who would be playing some form jump rope, either single rope or double dutch. I never did much of that, really. But my block was crammed with kids. Every summer night was spent playing Ghost In the Graveyard, some form of tag (freeze tag, TV tag, catch-one-catch-all, and so on), Mother May I, Simon Says, or some other game that involved at least a dozen kids ranging in age from seven to eleven.

While all of these games certainly exist in some form or another, there was a game known as Chinese Jumprope that was always played on my block. Do kids still play this? It consisted of a simple elastic rope held around the ankles of two stationary individuals standing about four feet apart. The object was to jump: in, out, side-by-side, on, in, out. In otherwords, you jumped with both feet landing on the rope, then both feet outside the rope, then one foot inside and one out, then the other foot inside and the other one out, then both feet back on the rope, then back in, than both feet out again.

Follow that?

The trick is that every time one of these circuits was completed you’d have to add an element. Snappies (snapping fingers while jumping), clappies, double-clappies, rolling of the fists, and whatever other crazy things we might think of. The holders would spread their stance making the width of the rope larger, then very small. The rope starts at the ankles, then the knees, then the thighs. Theoretically it was supposed to go all the way up to the neck, but clearly that never happened. It was a true test of endurance, coordination, and hops. I directly credit this for the leaping ability I had later in life that made me a pretty decent volleyball player. And in fact, one of the drills I did regularly during volleyball practice resembled this. Plus I had to wear ankle weights. When I was around 18, I could fly, thanks to these drills. (It helped that I was 6’2″ and only about 150 lbs.)

Anyway, I hope this game still exists. Of course, it’s probably around in video game form, which would defeat the whole purpose. But as video games become more interactive perhaps we’ll see it again.

What I wouldn’t give to be ten-years-old again for a day.

For the Love of Mike Day (Reprise -2007)

Today is offical For the Love of Mike Day. I’ve written about this before (click here or here to see), but I’m not anymore educated on the history or meaning of the day now than I was back then. However, that in no way should be regarded as an indication of my lack of respect for this deeply meaningful holiday.

That’s right. I called it a holiday.

My name is Mike. And for the love all things me, well, love me. Shower me with adoration. Tell me how great I am. Embarass me with false compliments propagating my bass playing skills. Regale me with stories about how I’ve positively influenced your life. Explain to me why you believe I might be the greatest, wittiest, and least-ugly non-good looking guy in the blogosphere.

Or you could just donate money to me. I’m fine either way.

And can someone please tell me why this day actually exists? And shouldn’t I get like a free taco or something today? Seems to me like this would be a good excuse for an Arby’s or a Tastee Freeze to have a For the Love Of Mike Day promotion. All Mike’s get a free sandwich at their local In-N-Out Burger.

Actually, and much more importantly, why are there no In-N-Out Burgers here in the midwest? I mean, for the love of Mike, they make a very good hamburger and we need at least one franchise here in Chicago.

Anyway, my name is Mike, and today is my day.

Bowling to Vegas – The Trailer

My good friends Todd, Mike, Derek, and Matt all went to Las Vegas several years ago on a mission. They rented a car and drove there, stopping along the way to bowl as they went. (Click here to see their website.) They sent out press releases, they got on the radio, and the plan was to make a movie about their journey. So far, all that’s been made of the movie is the trailer.

Enjoy.

There were also going to be follow up Bowling to Vegas trips as well. I participated in what is called Bowling to Vegas 1.5 — so called because we all flew there. So there was no on-the-road bowling. But we did bowl while we were there. Actually, you can read all about that trip here.

R.I.P. Knuckles the Fish

Today is a sad day for all of us. Today is one of those days where we’re forced to acknowledge our own mortality. Because is that not what we do when we lose a friend? Is that not what we do when we’re faced with death? Is that not what we do when life’s mysteries sneak up on us and give us a lesson in reality? Because death is real. Death is a fact of life.

But we’re not gathered here today to share our fears concerning death. Instead we’re here to celebrate the lives that we’ve had the pleasure to be a part of. For all the friends and family that have left us, it’s important to keep them locked tightly into our memories. For death doesn’t truly happen until we’re totally forgotten.

Which is why I’d like to take this opportunity to say a few words about my old friend Knuckles. In case you haven’t figured it out, Knuckles left us this weekend. Knuckles was my fish. Knuckles was my friend. Knuckles was my confidant, my advisor, my mentor, my fieldtrip buddy, my pen pal, my designated driver, my three-legged race partner, my swim teacher, my flying instructor, my movie stand-in, my copy editor, my bodyguard, my food taster, my phonecall screener, and my dentist.

I’ll never forget the first time Knuckles and I met. We were both in line to see the Spice Girls perform at the Rosemont Horizon here in Chicago when fate brought us together. As we waited in line to gain admission to the show, an unstable Spice Girl fan (also known as a Spice Rack), had been running through the crowd with a kerosene lantern yelling the words to “Who Do You Think You Are.” This fan was clearly high on some lethal combination of Dunkin’ Donuts’ espressos and Willy Wonka’s Fun Dip.

fundip.jpg

As she ran in circles holding her lantern high in the sky, she belted out the song’s lyrics as though she were the tone-deaf younger sister of Scary Space.

“Whoooooo-ooooooo-oooooo do you think you are?
Some kind of superstar.
You have got to swing it, shake it, move it, make it,
who do you think you are?
Trust it, use it, prove it, groove it,
show me how good you are,
Swing it, shake it, move it, make it,
who do you think you are?
Trust it, use it, prove it, groove it,
show me how good you are.

You have got to reach on up, never lose your soul,
You have got to reach on up, never lose control.”

Now this particular fan had gotten hung up on the last two lines and she just kept yelling them over and over and over as she swung this lantern over her head. Onlookers gathered as the Spice Rack spun faster and faster. It was clear that this scenario could only end badly. Anticipating something catastrophic happening, I stepped from the line and moved in the direction of the hopped up, spiraling, Girl Power fanatic. At that exact moment, Knuckles stepped forward as well, clearly thinking the same thing I was. We glanced at each other, acknowledging our respective awareness for the situation that was developing.

No sooner could we even look back to the Spice Rack, than the lantern flew from her hand, sailing through the air and coming to rest right on top of a covered wagon. Little did we know that the covered wagon belonged to former senate minority leader Trent Lott. It was at that moment that several questions flooded my mind. Why would a Republican choose to show up at a Spice Girls concert in a covered wagon? Since I don’t see any horses, how did Trent Lott get his covered wagon into the parking lot? Is Trent Lott alone in that covered wagon? Is it wrong only to refer to Trent Lott as a former senate minority leader when he was also a former senate majority leader? Did Trent Lott travel all the way from his home state of Mississippi in that covered wagon? And my final question was to wonder if he was part of a wagon train. And by “he” I’m  referring, of course, to Trent Lott.

Thankfully, the answer to my final query was provided in the form of a thunderous rumbling from the North parking lot. I turned to see a half-dozen covered wagons come screaming toward the fireball that was Trent Lott’s covered wagon. Quickly, they circled up. But by this time, however, Trent Lott’s covered wagon was covered in flames. The kerosene lantern had ignited one heck of a blaze.

Not taking time to think, Knuckles and I jumped into action. We quickly organized a water bucket line. In no time, the covered wagon fire was put out and order was restored to the parking lot. Trent Lott was alive and well, albeit a bit more tan. The Spice Rack disappeared into the night, however, not to be heard from again. Although there was an incident down at the maple syrup factory where they found a powdery, flavored sugar covered footprint. Police still have no leads to this day.

But it was from that moment forward that Knuckles and I realized we were kindred souls. We were two halves of the same person, just put into the form of two different species. The thought of moving forward without him leaves me heavy in the heart. Each day will be a test of my will to survive. To move on. To create new bonds and water bucket lines. I only pray for the strength to pull myself from bed each day.

As for the cause of Knuckles’s untimely death, the facts remain unclear, but an investigation is underway. What we do know at this time is that Knuckles was discovered by his live-in house keeper sometime in today’s early morning hours. He was alone at the time of being discovered, but it is unknown if he was alone at the time of his death. Police did find a large spatula and a bottle of tarter sauce on the scene. Foul play has not been ruled out.

Good bye, Knuckles, my old friend. You will be sorely missed!

Knuckles
August 2, 2006 – January 22, 2007