Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Hillside Strangler

Would the 34th President of the United States be happy if he knew that after he died, his last name was hijacked and used as a label for the worst stretch of expressway known to mankind?

I-290, The Eisenhower, the IKE, the worst highway of all time, whatever you want to call it, this stretch of concrete with white lines painted on it continues to ruin my life and lives of others in the greater Chicagoland area on a daily basis.

When I think Eisenhower, I don't think about the decorated war veteran and past leader of our country, I think pain, I think anguish, but most of all I think about 30 miles of parking lot.

Have you ever driven on an expressway that takes 20 minutes to drive to work one day and an hour and change the next? I hadn't until I met Mr. Eisenhower.

While sitting in the midst of gridlock at 4:45 in the afternoon, I've often wondered why they didn't name this particular stretch of paved chaos after someone horrible like Hitler or Steve Gutenberg. Not that I would ever compare Hitler to Steve Gutenberg, but you've got to admit those Police Academy movies are pretty fucking horrible. And I know you're going to say "but what about that cop who used to make all those funny noises? he was awesome." And my reply is, "Yeah he made funny noises, but what's so original about that? So did the 1987 Pinto without a muffler that I was driving behind this morning.

The Hillside Strangler
Now that's not to say that the Eisenhower doesn't have nicknames to describe the pain and anguish that rush hour commuters deal with on a daily basis. One of the most infamous sections of the Eisenhower is affectionately called by some the "Hillside Strangler," or the "Strangler" for short.

"The Strangler" has been named one of the top 20 worst bottlenecks in the country, and I get to experience it 5 days a week. The term, originally coined in 1977 by the Los Angeles media to name a particularly brutal serial killer was later adopted by hoards of commuters from the Western Suburbs of Chicago to fully describe the pain they go through on a daily basis. The "Hillside Strangler" is a part of the Eisenhower that passes through a town called Hillside, IL where 3 major Chicago expressways all merge into three narrow lanes of bonfided Eisenhower Expressway creating a "strangling" effect.

Apparently they spent 97.5 million dollars in the summer of 2001 on a construction project to "unstrangle" the strangler, but you could have fooled me because not only is it still "strangled," but if you look around during rush hour you can actually see the drivers in their cars trying to strangle themselves as well.

Newsradio 780
So as of late I've become an avid listener of newsradio because it's the only way to save yourself from the grips of the Strangler. In particular Chicago's infamous Newsradio 780, with traffic and weather together on the 8's, which is 7:08, 7:18, 7:28, 7:38 and so on... in case you don't understand things like numbers. I listen to these hideous traffic reports every morning and afternoon where in two minutes the traffic reporter Joe Collins spews out as many roads and expressways and their travel times as fast as he can possibly get em' out of his mouth, and manages to effectively give that dipshit with the mustache from the old micro machines commercials a run for his money.

Every major roadway in Chicago is nicknamed after a somewhat historically significant dead guy. (I.E. The Stevenson, the Edens, The Kennedy, The Dan Ryan, The Bishop Ford, The Reagan and the Motherfucking Eisenhower), and if you aren't paying attention for even a tenth of a second you miss your travel times, which always conveniently seems to happen when a truck of pineapples has jackknifed or there's a fiery auto wreck with an el camino and a family mini van just as you've passed the exit to the side street that would have saved you from the ever dreaded 60 minute delay. And if you are really lucky and there's a particularly horrible traffic jam, then for the last 20 seconds of the report you're greeted by the guy in the "traffic copter" who starts chuckling and says, "the Eisenhower looks like a complete and utter disaster from up here folks. I'm sure glad I'm flying up here in this helicopter and not sitting down there in that parking lot called an expressway with you motherfuckers."

Then sandwiched in between these informative hyper speed whirlwind of travel times that are guaranteed to make you confused, angry, frustrated, fatigued and downright insane, there are informative commercials for 401 K plans and mortgage brokers when all I'd really like to hear is a commercial with some chick with a seductive voice talking about beer or maybe a really stiff drink.

Somebody shoot me.

Hillside Strangler Relief is Here
Urban Dictionary: Hillside Strangler
Crime Library: The Hillside Stranglers
Biography of Dwight D. Eisenhower

Monday, July 19, 2004

West Side Story

I finally made it out of my parents basement!! Praise be the Lord, God Bless, Halleluyah and all that other religious bullshit.
Now just a couple years until I crash and burn spending all my paychecks on top shelf booze, and one too many selections off the McDonald's dollar menu and end up back down in the basement leeching money off my folks and watching old re-runs of the "real world".  But hey, I honestly wouldn't mind having my mom do my laundry again, cause this pumping quarters into these semi functional apartment complex washer and dryers business is clearly is less than to be desired.
The Fall of the Perma-Tie
Before I left the house for the last time my Dad said, "hey!! wait a minute, before you leave I need to teach you how to tie a tie, because I just wouldn't be able to live with myself, If I knew I let my son go off into the sunset without even the most basic lesson in business fashion." And I said "but Dad I'm fine, what about "perma-tie?" And he said, "yeah I know, the tie that I tied for you 2 years ago that you've left tied and keep wearing over and over again. You've really gotta cut that nonsense out, because it looks absolutely ridiculous and may possibly be more offensive than wearing a clip on." So I sat in front of the mirror for the next 25 minutes while the old drill sargeant made me run through the Half Windsor Knot and the Four-in-Hand knot over and over again before he'd let me leave to move into my new place. And with that lesson I was from then on ready to take on the world, tucked in shirt, dress slacks and all.
So Much for the Bachelor Pad
This apartment was supposed to be a bachelor pad. Maybe it was difficult to impress girls in the past but things were supposed to change. I'd be able to tell girls that I have a job, have my own apartment, and even own a couple pairs of stain defender khakis. Then after hearing that they'd be all impressed and want to go out on dates to see movies and eat food and go to dive bars for "name your cheap deal here" night, and go to shows and see independant rock bands and comedians, and play cheesy party games like catch phrase, and have random conversations on ridiculous topics that trail off into the distance, yet somehow end up being somewhat entertaining.  But that is not going to happen because of two people.
My Landlord
My roomate and I liked this apartment alot. We were going to get things done. It had alot of potential. Until the first day we moved in.  My slightly goofy indian landlord, decided it would be a nice gesture if he had someone come in and paint the entire apartment for us so it would be all nice and new looking when we moved in.  So yeah that sounded really nice of him, until he brought me in for my first walk around the place.  He shows me the living room and the bedrooms, and I'm thinking wow this all looks great, until we get to the kitchen. I take one look in the kitchen and to my horror, I see that he has chosen the one color, that you never paint a guy's apartment. Bright Pink. What!!!?? Why??!!? How!?! So I start breaking out into laughter, and he says, "so what do you think?" and I think to myself, is this a fucking Molly Ringwald movie? is this really happening, is this a joke, ha ha??
But no it's not a joke, my kitchen is pink. And I say, ummm... of all the colors you could have painted this kitchen, why pink? And he gets all fakely apologetic and tells me that he'll give me a can of white paint if I want to re-paint the kitchen. And I think to myself, repainting the kitchen is going to be a lot of work, maybe I'll just start listening to Wham! and sing showtunes while making peculiar hand gestures. Because it's not just my landlord and the pink kitchen that's bringing me down it's also..
My Mom 
For a woman who for the most part has nothing but good intentions she sure is doing a great job of unintentionally making me the most un-hip, out of style and un-appealing twenty something bachelor out there, at least to girls that is. Because ever since she heard I was moving out she has been dilligently collecting all of the most homosexual furnishings she can possibly find. 
I mean where on earth did this woman who gave birth to me get the idea that I wanted a hardwood dining table with white ceramic tiles on the top that have little bright pink flowers painted on them??? I mean I can honestly say that this table ties the room together and it disturbs me greatly.
But you see, she's got me between a rock and a hard place, and yes thats a cheesy expression, but she really does because, I have an entry level job. I can't afford to buy hip contemporary furniture. I'm lucky if I can pay my rent, buy a case of cheap beer and a couple boxes of hamburger helper a month. And while that might be a tad bit of an exageration, it takes nothing away from the fact that I have a pink kitchen with a matching decorative flower dining table.
But it doesn't even end there, this woman has bought me so many things for this apartment that just defy all logic. I won't get into them though because deep down I am grateful, and maybe I should just go all out and have an artist come in and paint cute little bunnies on the walls too.
So here's to my new apartment in Forest Park with the homosexual kitchen. 

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The High School Reunion

So on Saturday I went to my 5 year high school reunion and as expected it was an awkward/uncomfortable experience. I walked into a bar called John Barleycorn in Chicago and was welcomed by a hundred faces I hadn't seen in years. In seconds the reunion organizer slapped a name tag on me and before I knew it I was unleashed into the madness.

There's nothing worse than showing up sober to a high school reunion and after going through the first hour relatively sober I can honestly say I wouldn't recommend that route for anyone. It's kind like being thrown into a meat grinder. The second you walk to the bar you are approached by 20 different people, some whos names you don't remember ,all wanting to ask you " How are you, What are you up to?," then you exchange pleasantries for the next 4 minutes until there is that awkward silence until you can think of a way to leave without being rude to which you usually aren't successful at. The good thing is that after 4 or 5 drinks that awkward silence kind of just disapears until everything is well.... blurry I guess.

There were all kinds of different people there.

Mr. I used to be fat and people made fun of me but now I'm skinny and hip.

Ms. quiet, not so attractive girl, who is now a knockout.

Mr. I used to have a full head of hair but now shaved my head completely bald.

Mrs. I just got married and I feel the need to bring my husband to show off like a trophy.

Ms. girl who used to be really hot, but is no longer due to eating one too many bowls of ice cream with "jimmies" in college.

Mr. short, skinny guy who spent the last 5 years lifting weights and cramming creatine down his throat, in hopes of greatly increasing his chances of winning the good old fashioned bar fight.
Ms. I plan going to college till I get every degree possible and am 50 years old or until I get knocked up.

Mr. I was total idiot in high school but now have a hot shot job and am making more money than you, and I want to make sure you know it.

Mr. I used to be total prick in high school but want to convince everyone tonight that I have turned into a halfway decent person although I really haven't.

Mr. I used to be complete nerd in high school but now am a bonfide badass.

Ms. I used to date your buddy in high school, but now I make out with chicks.

And then theres me.

As far as I'm concerned I'm pretty much just as much of a jackass as I was in high school. The only difference being that I don't live in my parent's basement anymore. God I love the sound of that.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

The Wedding

this is an audio post - click to play