Friday, March 31, 2006

Madrid; Day Two

Outstanding day today, simply outstanding. We began the morning with a 10a.m. breakfast in our hotel, prior to setting out for a day of sightseeing. First things first though. I've been here now for almost two weeks and I've neglected to mention one critical thing - the Spanish lifestyle and me were made for each other.

Specifically, I'm talking about the hours these folks keep. Man, every night here I'm eating dinner at 9:30 or even 10:00 at night. I'm not talking dessert here folks, I'm talking about ordering my meal and finishing around 11 or so! Our first week on the Costa del Sol was a bit earlier, apparently the English and German retirees there are bit more like their American peers who tend to eat early, but since we've been in the city the hours have been much more to my liking. I've never been an early riser and it is difficult at home to adapt to a in by 8 out by 5:30 sort of lifestyle, particularly when my family typically eats dinner at 8 or 8:30. So for me it has been like finding my long lost bretheren. Tonight we have reservations at an arrozeria (Paella and Sangria baby!) at 9:30.

Getting back to our day today, as I said we had a late breakfast in our hotel and then set out to the Prado directly afterward. I knew the Prado was well regarded, but I really didn't expect to see the sheer amount of art that we took in today. It was fabulous; Rafeal, Goya, El Greco, Carravagio, and many more. There was so much it was frankly a bit over whelming.

We've been doing these self guided audio tours at the museums and I have to say that if you have the chance to take these at some point, by all means do it. They're generally well presented, allow you to proceed at your own pace, and provide some balance and perspective to what can otherwise be an overwhelming experience.

Still, today, after about four hours in the Prado, my brain was in pain. Seriously, at some point viewing all the paintings and sculptures if you are not used to it, and I certainly am not, becomes a full sensory overload and you just have to give up.

So we packed it in, and went out for a sandwhich (bocadillo) and drink in an effort to regroup. Our next stop was at another art museum that I hadn't ever heard of - not that I generally would. It was the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. This was a smaller place, built off of a private collection and in some ways it was even better.

The collection is largely built in date order and begins with the "Italian Primatives" from the 14th century and moves sequentially up through the early 20th century. In a way it is an art history course on three very large floors. The cool part of the experience was when I began explaining my new found education to PD1 about how the art we were viewing began with the gothic and started taking on differenct aspects over time. PD1, very politely, tolerated my lecture for about 5 minutes and then made it clear that at 13 she already knew all this, and in fact was able to explain even more to me! I'm a proud dad.

We're back at the hotel now and will be leaving for dinner in a half an hour or so, so time to run. Tomorrow we link up with some Spanish friends who live in Madrid. They've warned us in advance not to have breakfast because they're taking us to "the best Tapas place in Madrid".


How cool is that?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

I Can Dig It

So, as I mentioned in yesterday's post we arrived in Madrid to an adequate but less then enthralling hotel situation. I'll admit upfront to my snobish tastes, but truthfully the hotel we were at was just not up to snuff. We spent the night there and I never could get the room temperature down below "freakin' blazing" and the garbage collectors under my window at 3 in the blessed a.m. was a taste of local culture beyond what I hoped for.

Happily, through the miracle of the internet, and the fluent in Spanish skills of the inestimable Mrs. P, we were able to negotiate two rooms at this hotel for only a couple Euros more than we would have been paying at our previous lodging. Whoa, is all that I can say. One of their complimenatary services is the "select your pillow service". Basically this is the opportunity to change out the standard pillow in your room, for five other types based on your particular taste. The beauty part is that this is available at no additonal charge. I'm thinking that I might change pillows tomorrow just because I can.

Oh, and the rooms. Whoa. I mean really, whoa. Mrs. P and I have a King bed with a dinner table for four and a couch and easy chair with a coffe table. The kids have a good sized room with two single beds. The whole area is set off from the hall by a locking door, and each room is secured by doors as well which provides ample time for Mrs. P and I to........well you get the idea.

Any way, this place is pretty cool. Today we were at Toledo, which is an old walled off town that the locals are proud of saying is a place where Jews, Christians and Moslems live together in peace. Let me tell you folks I was sooooo tempted to mention that there is another place in the world where this happens routinely; it's called the United Fricken States of America but Ireally didn't have the heart. They were so earnest and all, it really was kind of cute.

Tomorrow the Prada, lunch of crusty bread, cheese and wine in a big park nearby and who knows what else. We have some friends here through Mrs. P, so I'm hoping that we get the opportunity to party with some locals before we head back to the U.S. of A on Sunday.

Buenos Nochas Amigos!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Some Still Remember

21 years ago my wife and I embarked on our life together and began our marriage with a honeymoon trip to France and Germany. For those of you who can remember that long ago, it was 1985, The Gipper had just been re-elected, much to the consternation of Europe's smart set, and the cold war was beginning it's final days.

It is hard to find many folks now who will admit to being against US foriegn policy back then, but I can assure you that when it came to anti-anti-communists, Europe had more than it's share. As a young adult who grew up with friends who were first generation imigrants - some of whom were smuggled out of Hungary and other Soviet client states as young babies - I was a strong Reagan supporter and couldn't understand how anyone could see the world differently than we did. Yet it was clear that some did.

I came to understand the opposition a bit during an overnight stay on the Rhein in Germany. We arrived at our hotel in the early afternoon and had a wonderful room at the top of a spire in an old castle that overlooked the river. To this day I remember standing on the balcony and marveling at the amount of military air traffic that was present in the sky. I had no way of knowing if it was a normal day, but I did gain a different perspective. As I watched the helicopters and jets pass over my balcony I thought, "my God, these people must just want for all of this to stop". There wasn't any shooting of course, but in some way that was worse. There was no obvious evil, those in the gulags were strangers far away, and the sheer relentlessness of it all had to be strong argument for trying to find a way of accomodating our enemy. After all, they really weren't hurting the peaceful people of Germany's Black Forest were they?

I also remember the strong anti-Americanism that I experienced in Paris on that trip. The French in many cases were just plain rude, and made it clear that it was our President and his policies that upset them so. Still, there was a very interesting thing about the French anti-Americanism that I experienced; it had a distinct age bias. The French who were my age were the worst, and had nothing good to say about Americans. The older French though - those old enough to remember the war, were very different. They were gracious, helpful and welcoming. It was clear that they still remembered what America did for them.

I mention all of this because today I had a similar experience. Today we awoke in Barcelona and drove the 600 kilometers to Madrid. Upon arriving at our hotel I drove the car into the parking lot and was greated by a cheerful gentleman who ran the garage. He said to us immediately, "you are not Spanish". A bit odd we thought, but acknowledged that yes, we were Americans. He said he could tell as soon as we pulled in. I wasn't sure what all of this meant, but he was a pleasant enough fellow and we chatted a bit more and then went up the stairs to reception.

We checked in, and frankly the hotel was bit of a disappointment. It was old, more than a bit tired and to be honest a little dirty. To say the least, I was becoming quite disenchanted with our accomodations. We had tried to save a couple bucks when we were booking, and frankly got what we paid for. Those who know me know that I can be a bit particular when it comes to cleanliness and this place was a bit lacking.

So it was in a bit of a hassled state that I returned to the garage to pick up my luggage. My friend was there again and he helped me take my bags to the elevator and said that it was good to practice his English. He said he wasn't from here, that he had emigrated from Romainia. "When Caucescu was in charge it was good to know several languages" he said - clearly an invitation to talk more about those awful days.

Well, I dropped the ball, folks. Here was a man from the front. A man who lived the hell that the accomodationists didn't want to see. A man who didn't have quite the same amount of luck as some of those kids I grew up with had and he wanted to engage an American in cold war talk. Incredibly, I was so distracted about my accomodations I really didn't give him enough time.

No, the irony of it all isn't lost on me.

Anyway, when I got to my room I started dialing for new accomodations and I secured improved lodging for Thursday through Saturday night. Happy with this accomplishment I was keenly aware that my work wasn't quite done. I then told my wife I had to go get my glasses out of the car and left our room to return to the parking garage. As I got there I saw my friend was just getting ready to leave. "Thank God I caught him" I thought.

"Going home?" I asked as I approached.

"Finishing my 12 hour day" he said.

"So how long have you been in Spain?" I asked.

"About 5 years. I came here to help my son get school. He graduated two months ago, so now I don't know" he said.

"Do you like Spain?"

"It's ok, better than Romania, economically. I have a German girlfriend so I have three choices; Spain, Germany, or Romania"

"Or maybe others" I said, "you have the world!"

"Yes, maybe even America. You know these countries are nice, very nice, but I always remember what my Grandfather said".

"What is that?" I asked.

"He said this: 'America, is always.....America', I remember that"

He turned and started leaving, and as he looked back at me, I nodded and said, "thanks".

Monday, March 27, 2006



Quick checkin from Spain. We drove 1000 Kilometers yesterday and are now in Barcelona. The speed limit was 120 KM/HR, but they didn't seem to mind that I was doing 160-170 most of the way, which really put a dent in the time it took to drive.

Today we linked up with some friends from our town and basically spent the time walking around burning off calories so we could go eat and drink again. One disturbing point; I'm becoming convinced that the cooking here in Spain for the most part sucks. Beyond some real basic dishes, meat and fish tend to be way, way, way over cooked and service at best can be described as indifferent. This, as you can imagine, is a genuine disappointment to me. However, I will not give up hope! Tomorrow is a new day, and my quest for a good meal we be re-pursued with a vigorous enthusiasm!

Lots to do tomorrow, as we essentially wasted a day today. Picasso musema, the church of the familia Guardia, and much more. It's off to Madrid on Wednesday but I'll try to check in tomorrow with a more complete report, and with luck, news of a good meal.

Adios Amigos!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Spain Been Very Very Good To Me

It's been a busy past few days. On Wednesday we took a drive to Sherry country and visited the Domecq and Tio Pepe Bodegas. Of the two, the Tio Pepe was far more well done, and we ended up buying far more Sherry than we had intended.

Both Bodegas are in Jerez (pronounced "Herez") de la Frontera, which until that fateful day in 1492 was occupied by the Moors. I mention this because of a little fact about the name of the town and the drink that we call sherry. It seems that Jerez is not a Spanish name, but instead a name that is very similar to the name the Moors used for sherry which I can't exactly remember now. None-the-less, sherry has been produced for centuries in this area, and the Moors were no exception. I must confess to a little delight when our tour guide mentioned this fact and included the words, "despite the Muslim prohibition against alcohol" which elicited more than a few snickers from our international group.

At any rate, after the tour we stopped and had some tapas in the Tio Pepe tasting room and enjoyed a couple glasses of sherry. A couple things that I learned.

1. Sherry comes in four main types; Fino, Amantillado, Olo Rosso, and Pedro Jimenez
2. The first three are made from the Palomino grape, while the last is made from the Pedro Jimenez grape.
3. They get sweeter as you move from Fino to Pedro
4. This is the shocker - Harvey's Bristol Cream is actually pretty decent despite the '70's throw your room keys in a hat party image.

On a completely different change of pace, yesterday we went to the Alambra in Granada. This is an old Muslim Fort, town really, built during the Moorish occupation. The place is amazing - the sultan's palace in particular - and is all the more impressive given it's distinct architectural differences with the more typical European palaces that we've all become much more familiar with. As I was walking through the place I was struck with how the Muslim culture has stagnated over the recent centuries; incredibly sad really. One wonders what went wrong, and if they'll ever get back on track.

Today is a slower day. I think we'll hang nearby and then tomorrow head to Seville. On Sunday we have an 11 hour drive to Barcelona.

Buenos Dias Amigos!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Yo Soy Un Idiot

They've got a lot of diesel cars here in Spain, were you aware of this fact? The truth is they have so many diesel cars that they often rent diesel cars. In fact, even fine American car rental companies such as Avis rent these vehicles and it is wise, very wise indeed, to be aware of this. More in a moment.

Today, the P family took an excursion to the Rock of Gibraltar. Impressive in a way, but also a bit like going to Mackinaw (or do you say Mackinac?) Island in Michigan. Both have a false isolation built in, Mackinaw does not allow bikes, Gibraltar is run by the Brits. Both exist mainly for the purpose of tourism, and both it seems have been relatively successful in convincing otherwise intelligent folks to pay huge sums for the inconvenience of living there.

Still, we had a delightful time touring the island and enjoying a fine British pub meal for lunch. I treated myself to Bangers and Mash, which for those of you not in the know, is a couple sausages of dubious quality and a load of mashed potatoes. Mine came with some fabulously fresh peas and I washed it down with a pint of ale. My companions had their own take on British fare as Mrs. P ordered Quiche (Irish Cheddar Cheese), PD1 ordered a BLT wrap (Canadian Bacon) and PD2 ordered spaghetti (no excuse).

We then went for a good hike to burn off the calories, until the rains came and we had to retreat to the car. That is when the trouble started.

Driving back to our town I noticed the fuel gauge was getting precariously low and pulled over to the roadside for a quick (so I thought) fill-up. As I was marveling at the cost of gas which was about a buck a liter, I selected my grade and plunged the spout into my tank. After filling with nearly 37 liters of fuel, I withdrew the spout and closed the fuel door and headed in to pay.

"Wait", I thought. What was that I saw in the inside of the fuel door? Was the word "Diesel" printed there? No, couldn't be. Still, I thought, I'd better check. I opened the door, looked in and there to my horror was the word Diesel. For a moment I thought, "maybe it will run anyway?" Of course, I knew I was doomed to have to admit my failure not only to my family, but to the gas station folks and, of course, to the fine people at Avis.

And speaking of Avis, wow! I called Madrid, they transferred me immediately to the local folks who were at my location within one hour with a new car ready to go. They changed out car, handed me the keys and wished me well. The only problem is that the whole thing was too easy. Frankly, I think I deserved to be brow beaten for being so bloody stupid! But no, those Avis folks were just plain nice and now I sit here ridden with guilt. Nothing a little Spanish vino can't help though.

So that was our day. A wonderful trip, slightly marred by what frankly could have been a much worse wrong type of gas in the gas tank experience. Thank God I didn't start that baby up and head out onto the road. Tomorrow it's off to Jerez to see some fine local sherry producers, I'm really looking forward to that trip.

One more thing. As I headed down the entrance ramp and out onto the highway, the car was pretty silent as we all were just grateful to be back on our way. Suddenly, Mrs. P said, "I checked".

I said, "what?"

She said, "I checked".

"You checked what?"

"The runs on gas".

Monday, March 20, 2006


"Where's the Water?"

With these simple three words, Mrs. P informed us we were in trouble, but more on that in a moment.

Here we are, Day 2 in Spain, and the P family is hanging in a little town in the province of Andalucia called Torrox. It's a great little village, what little that we saw of it yesterday, and it promises to be a very relaxing week before we move on to Barcelona and Madrid for more standard touristy sort of activity - the sort of things that my recent nitwit commenter called a "white man's vacation".

We left our house Saturday at about noon. Cody, our Akita is staying there with the dog walker/house sitter, and together they will continue to manage our ongoing remodel. It's always hard to leave or buddy Cody, but we used to board him and somehow keeping him in the house and having Scott stay over seems much better. Thanks Scott!

Our flight over was quite enjoyable, save for a little moderate turbulence that woke me up momentarily somewhere over the Atlantic. We flew Continental, which turns out to be a fantastic airline and landed around 10a.m. in Madrid. Wisely or not, we decided to make the jaunt to Torrox by car instead of train and secured our ride at the local Avis counter. Since we rented a manual transmission, I was named driver for the trip, and Mrs. P took over navigation duties. This might have been a mistake.

First, a word about our accommodations. For this week we are staying in the home of some friends who are visiting the US on their vacation. It is a lovely little apartment located in a small town on the "Gold Coast" (or was it the "Sun Coast", I can never remember) of Spain. We'll use this as our base and visit Seville, Granada, the Alhambra and hopefully a Sherry producer this week.

When our friends sent us directions for driving from the airport to the apartment, we just assumed they had things in them like take I95 to exit 43 and go west....etc. So we didn't bother to really read them before we go in the car and started driving. Sadly, they were more like, "Take the autovia to Cordoba and when you get close to Cordoba take the road to Malaga.....and so on. In other words, they were long on the generalities, but utterly lacking in specifics!

Happily we did have a map so I thought we would be ok. What I forgot though is that Mrs. P, a high powered business executive who completed college in three years and an MBA in one, a delightful mother and wife, is most likely the world's worst map reader. When I mean wost, I mean like it's not really even a contest. It's not so much that she can't read a map, it's more like she doesn't want to bother with all those road names and numbers....kind of like our friends I guess! So we were pretty much doomed to getting lost.

As I was driving and following signs that said "Cordoba" and "Malaga" and "Almeria" Mrs. P was saying things like, "yes, turn here". Foolishly I thought she was confirming these turns on the map, but as it turns out she was basing her assent on our friends' less than specific directions! Soon Mrs. P fell asleep.

I pressed on and thought to myself that the drive was taking a bit too long when my dear wife woke up and uttered those now famous words.

"Where's the water"?

Where is the water, indeed. There was nothing but Friggen mountains! We had gone the wrong way! Not totally the wrong way like north instead of south mind you; more like southwest instead of southeast. So we ended up journeying about 2 extra hours as a result, not exactly what you want to do on four hours of sleep, but we did have a wicked good laugh over the whole thing.

And so here we are. I think we'll hang in town today and just seems that none of us are really up for a drive! I can't really sit still very long, so I'm about to go out for a run with PD1 and then perhaps some lunch. I have some pictures from the drive which I'll try to post a little later.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Beinvenudo Espania!

Just got back from dinner...Jamon, sausage, manchego to start, oxtail iberian style, profiteroles. Ribera del Duero. Midnight, four hours sleep on the way over, wiped but happy.

More later.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Islam? Meet Scientology. Scientology? Meet Islam

What do Scientology and Islam have in common? How about this and this?

Pursuit of Happiness tip of the week: If you find yourself fighting crudely drawn characters, stop. Stop and walk away.

Goes double if you're losing.


So, How Big Is Yours?

Whoa. I mean really, whoa. Check this baby out. All you really need to know is the following:

Marines with Regimental Combat Team 5, based in Camp Fallujah, test-fired the latest in the Corps’ arsenal of weapons’ improvement, the M-32 Multiple shot Grenade Launcher. It’s a six-barreled, 40 mm beast of weapon that has just about enough attitude for Marines......... “You can put six rounds on target in under three seconds,” Flanery said. “I thought this thing was sick.”
Hmmmm...... I wonder if I can get one of these in time for goose hunting?

via Annika

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I'm Just A Happy Guy

And so are my pals it seems.

Yet again it has been proven that Republicans are happier than Democrats, and while I am not a Republican, I am even less of a Democrat. It really is a wonder to me why this is news anymore....I mean everyone knows that Republicans are happier than Democrats. The question is why?

I could go with the obvious answers; Better parties, prettier women, better looking men, and most of Republicans bathe regularly, which you know, is a big plus. Still I think the answer has more to do with the nature of people that are attracted to the parties. Republicans in general are more inclined to be optimistic about the future. We still believe in the greatness of America, and the power of dreams. Democrats are quite the opposite. They've built a party based on grievance. Every constituancy is formed from some beleagured special interest group and the Democrats maintain control by ensuring that all are beholden to the party for governmental handouts. Who could be happy in such a situation?

It wasn't always this way. There was a time when the Democrats celebrated self sufficiency. The party once had faith in America's promise. Unfortunately for Democrats they lost this faith, and most importantly they lost faith in their own ideas. The resultant strategy of using the politics of victimization kept them competitive on some level, but as the linked survey proves, it ain't exactly a big plus on the mental health front.

Of course I could be wrong. There is one other possiblity, but it so awful I hesistate to mention it.

Ok, you've been warned.

Ask yourself, could you possibly find happiness if you were stuck at a party where Ted Kennedy and Chris Dodd had consumed all the liquor, Jimmy Carter was cornering you over that "October Surprise Trick", Algore was hectoring you about the environment and Hillary was the best looking prospect for the night? Geez, it almost makes me feel sorry for these people.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Banana Republic

Now that the idiocy over the UAE’s “control of our ports” controversy is over I wanted to post a little something about how countries go from great to good, and perhaps even worse. I promise, this won’t be painful, and I swear if I begin to sound like Sully and exaggerate my point so that we’re experiencing the equivalent to the fall of Rome by paragraph three – actually I should give Andy credit, he’d have it by sentence three – then you have full permission to mock me relentlessly.

As you all know I thought this port controversy was one of the most ridiculous, manufactured issues to come down the pike since the great Koran abuse scandal of 2005. Making matters worse, the initial alarm was sounded by Chuck Schumer who deftly handed off to idiot Republican Peter King so that this was a bi-partisan outrage. Completing the tri-fecta, Sleepy George couldn’t get the troops sufficiently rallied in time to fight off an insurrection in Congress that frankly should have been both anticipated and beaten back with little to no effort.

So incompetence was the order of the day, and there was plenty to go around. What concerns me about this controversy though is that unlike other scandals that erupt from time to time in the Washington D.C. culture, this scandal went beyond simple politics. The ports deal was primarily a business deal between a U.K. based company that decided several years ago to make an investment in the U.S. and a UAE based company that decided recently that it wanted to invest in the U.S.

Clearly, it is important that we protect our borders in this country, and the government does have a role to play in ensuring that those who perform vital services for us are who they say they are and will be able to ensure that national security is not damaged by their activities. There was nothing to suggest that this wasn’t the case with the UAE deal. Sadly, a few politicians saw an opportunity to take advantage of an unprepared administration and score political points at the expense of two firms that simply thought the United States was a good location to invest billions of dollars in capital. Their mistake, huh?

Much has been written over the years about why the United States has been such an outstanding success compared to virtually any other culture in the history of the world. No doubt that a lot of this has to do with our constitution, the rights that it guarantees, and the optimistic outlook of Americans who built this country and continue to live in it. From a purely economic point of view however, our success is equally the result of the safety, security and stability of our country’s guarantee of private property and the right of people from all over the world to invest their capital here with the implied promise that it is safe from the sorts of disruptions one is exposed to elsewhere in the world.

While the ports deal will fade into the fog of history make no mistake that those with free capital to invest collected an important data point last week. While no other country looks any more promising for investment as a result of Congress’ action and the President’s inaction, there can be little doubt that the U.S. appears a bit worse. The guarantee of private property must be near absolute in an economy such as ours, and the rule of law must be consistent in its support of this right. Private property not only concerns right to title, but also includes the free use of property within reasonable bounds.

Congress acted unreasonably last week, and all of us are just a little worse off as a result.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Build A Wall

Now they've gone and ticked me off.

As the attached story explains today we had an enormous rally for immigrant rights, whatever that is, in Chicago. The rally which seemed to begin around 1pm was utterly enormous and must have had at least 10 million people involved. At least.

Even worse, today I had to leave the office to go to a meeting near my home, and since I don't get out much during the week, I had a special little treat planned for myself. Those of you who've been here for awhile might even be able to guess just what that treat was.

The Mecca of Meat.

Yup, I had the full intention of checking out a little early to go see my pal Gino and get me one of them fine Manny's corned beef samiches....with two potato pancakes and a large coke. As I drove in this morning all I could think about was that wunnerful meat, piled high between two slices of rye bread, with swiss cheese, sauerkraut and a little thousand island dressing. Oh this samich is a true delight. The corned beef is cooked beautifully and sliced to thin perfection. I like to add a little horseradish - not the sauce mind you, but the real thing - at the table to round out this lunch.

I beavered away at my desk all morning with dreams of Manny's in my mind and it seemed that it would be forever until the magic moment arrived. Then, at about 1:15 I bounded out of my office, announced my absence for the remainder of the day, and quickly exited the parking lot across the street. I proceeded west up Madison street weaving in and out of traffic, spectacularly as Jackie Stewart used to say. The crisp spring air coming through the driver side window, I shot across Wacker, literally flew over the bridge at the Chicago River and turned through the yellow light at Clinton. I was on my way, moments from my salvation!

And then it all stopped. Stopped dead!

I was behind a truck so it was hard to see what was going on, but I knew it was bad. Clinton is never backed up. In all my years of Manny's patronage Clinton was where you could hit the gas, shoot by Union Station, rocket past Harold's Chicken Shack (#43). As you cruised down the street you could tip your hat to the recruits at the Chicago Fire Academy, site of Mrs. O'Leary's barn and then turn on Roosevelt, just up from Al Capone's vault.

But not today, because nothing was moving. I maneuvered my Volvo 240 deftly to the right, made a turn west onto Adams and at that moment it became clear some kind of protest was underway. "Hah!" I thought. "Silly fools, carrying banners, waving signs when they could be headed to Mecca, like me!" I felt pity for such an unevolved breed. No doubt a quick couple of blocks west, I'd turn south and once again be off.

I drove west on Adams, and drove and drove. The throng was endless and my pity turned into contempt. Block after block it went and if anything the crowd was getting bigger! My God! Where were they all coming from and why did they feel it necessary to keep my from my corned beef samich?!

It was at that moment that a bunch of school kids in a bus next to me started shouting to the protesters. "Viva Mexico"! they screamed. Viva Mexico? Viva Mexico?! Viva Freakin' Mexico?!

My contempt turned into active loathing.

"I'm a friend of Mexico!" I thought. I've vacationed there, learned a bit of the language......I've been good to Mexico! And this is my thanks?

"Screw Mexico and all who keep me from Manny's!" I said to no one in particular and yanked the steering wheel hard to the right. The school bus driver had to slam on the brakes as I cut in front of him letting out a manical laugh and heading north up Peoria! "That'll teach you!" I yelled as my 240 accelerated (as much as 240's accelerate) north. Nobody, not even cute little Mexican immigrant kids suffering from confused loyalties was going to keep me from my appointment with Gino and his cholesterol laden goodness.

I revved the 240 (again, as much as a 240 rev's) back east into the loop and then south on Michigan avenue. At Roosevelt street and Michigan (site of the Roosevelt Hotel where Al's aforementioned vault was - now it's a condo development) I headed west. Once again weaving like A.J. Foyt closing in on Unser I drove into Manny's parking lot, slammed on the brakes, straightened my tie, and headed inside.

As I said, nobody was gonna stop me. But that doesn't make what these people did right. I'm sure they're a well intended folk, but when their protest interferes with a hard working American's right to the lunch of his choice, well that brother just ain't right. It ain't right at all.

I now find out that our Mexican friends, no doubt all of them legally in this country, were protesting against tighter immigration controls, a subject on which I've been somewhat ambivalent. Not......Any......Fricken.......More.......People.

Today I announce the Pursuit of Happiness' official support of a wall on our southern border. A really big, really high wall. Protection against terrorism is one thing. Controlling our country's borders is another. But people, keeping out those who do not appreciate the right of their fellow hard working citizens to a good and decent lunch?

Well that trumps all.

Build it. Build it now!

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Why The Gay Olympics?

A little controversy has erupted in one of Chicago's suburbs recently. To get right to the point, the Village of Lake Zurich just approved the use of their town's eponymously named (I've always wanted to use that phrase) lake for the rowing regatta in the Gay Olympics. This approval came over the heated objections of some of the town folk, who turned out with pitchforks and torches, and didn't want the shores of their lake and the streets of their town congested with the sight of garishly dressed (or undressed) men and women haphazardly wielding paddles.

Me? I'm just wondering if these guys can row in a straight line! Thank you, I'm here all week.

I kid of course, everyone knows that homosexuals can be just as fine at rowing as the rest of us, which really leads me to the key question that I want to ask; Why do we need a Gay Olympics?

I get the real Olympics, although to be honest I'm not so sure about Ice Dancing but who am I to quibble, and I definitely get the Special Olympics. Two years ago I umpired a Special Olympics softball game and it was a real experience. In the game I umped, the kids were of different ages, some in fact were young adults, and all were at the fairly extreme end of being mentally challenged. Yet, once they put on the batting helmet and gloves they were out there trying as hard as anyone else. The only difference was that winning wasn't so much the point as just getting a hit, or catching a ball. Yes, some moments were funny; and we all laughed together. Other moments were inspiring, and the whole experience was utterly delightful for everyone involved.

The Gay Olympics, it seems to me, are really rather pointless. For one thing, it isn't clear to me that any great moments in sport are being achieved here. Oh I'm sure there are some fine rowers, runners, and jumpers (insert joke here) but what does being gay have to do with it? Are we celebrating the diversity, or are we emphasizing the distinction? From my view it's much more the latter than the former.

Clearly our society hasn't not reached the point of complete acceptance of homosexuality in our culture, and I'm not sure that we ever will. This story is Exhibit One. Events such as the Gay Games, or worse, the gaudy display of the Gay Pride Parade only serve to underscore our differences by creating carve outs for a special class of citizen. These carve outs, as much as the bigotry of others, get in the way of achieving true equality.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

I've Been A Bad Blogger

Sorry for the lack of posts these past few days. A lot goin' on at work, serious tile selection discussions on the remodel (including the ordering of the Toto Urinal), and the nanny broke her leg snow mobiling over jumps which, I guess, seemed like a good idea at the time.

At any rate I'm having a total inability to sit and write, but will definately get something up tomorrow night.

Oh, I suppose I could tell you about a great movie I did manage to see this weekend. I've been reading Pride and Predjudice to PD2 and we finally went to see the movie Saturday night. It was fabulous. Well filmed, well acted, a wonderful love story that is so spot on about human nature...well given the current cultural zeitgueist you have to wonder why they didn't have any men kissin' in it!

At any rate, PD2 and I saw it Saturday night, and then were a little disappointed Sunday when it didn't win one major award; doubly disappointed since I would have loved to see more of Kiera Knightly in that dress! So, I highly recommend the flick, I think it's out in DVD soon, give it a spin and see what you think.

Over and out for now, more tomorrow.

Friday, March 3, 2006

Friday Night Wine Blogging

Sadly last night's wine blog was cancelled due to the impact of a very busy week. Cool stuff. Very cool in some cases, but no real time for blogging last night. So, I planned to do it tonight, but I settle in, turn on my tv and there before my very eyes is Ginger Baker.

And he's alive!

And he's playing with Jack Bruce!!

And they're both playing with Clapton!!!

Yes, it's the Cream reunion filmed, I think, earlier this year.

Whoa I think I just had a flashback.

How cool is that? Ok, it turns out it is a WTTW pledge week special so I am now watching to hopelessly square suburbanites try to be cool, and in a way, that 's entertaining too.

Now, in my first post on "How to drink wine", I did say that for true appreciation you've got to concentrate so, technically any wine blogging tonight would violate my rule number 1.

So we have "Pursuit's Rule Number 2": Go with the flow baby!

Tonight's spotlight wine is a very special surprise. You may recall that a couple weeks ago I blogged about a 2001 Tinto Pasquera Ribera del Duero. Well about a week after that I walked into my office at work and there before my very eyes was a bottle of 1999 Tinto Pasquera Ribera del Duero! How cool is that? I had been talking Spanish wine with the guy who dropped it off so what we had was a little coinky dink as we say in the wine world. Does anybody else get free wine at work?

Anyway, I thought that it would be interesting to see what the differences between the two vintages was, and get a feel for how the additional three years of aging would impact the wine. So lets give this cork a pull and see what we've got shall we?

Cream is back on by the way. Excellent it's the opening riff to Sunshine of Your Love.

Ok corks' out and the room is filling with floral accents. Could be the flashbacks again, but no...I'm pretty sure it's the wine. Right off the bat I'm seeing the fruit as less pro-nounced on the nose, and I pick up much more depth to this wine. Not the smokiness that I've had in the Rioja's but still very earthy and rich. That cedar scent is what is providing the earthiness.

First taste and I'd say its a little lighter than I expected, definately less fruit and different fruit.

Oh crap, show's over! Well, I had to sit through Badge, and got to hear Sunshine of Your Love, so all in all not bad.

Back to the wine. I'm getting a strong vanilla finish to this wine with a good lasting mouth. Second taste is showing a very nice wine, some good structure with a cherryish fruit, some earth, no smoke yet, and a vanilla finish.

Here is my post on the 2002 vintage....very interesting there is a real similarity between these wines. I made a point not to look at my description, although I had a pretty good memory of the original, and there is a stong similarity between the two.

Wow, now Springsteen circa 1977 is on playing Thunder Road. So this is pretty cool. You know, if PBS had this stuff all the time I might actually contribute!

Ok back to the wine and hold on folks we have some news: It has been about 10 minutes (10th Avenue Freeze Out, Spirits in the Night) and we now have smoke. Not a lot, but a decent amount. Just a wisp on the nose as I sniffed the glass, and a whole lot more on the mouth. In fact it seems that the vanilla that I was tasting before is almost converting in flavor to the smoke. This didn't happen with the '02; could it be the extra three years allowed it to develop a little? Perhaps.

Well It's been about 45 minutes to an hour now and I've got what I'd describe as a spicy glass of smoke. What a wine! I'm not saying this is the best wine I've ever had, but at a 20 dollar price point it is tough to beat these Spanish wines. They're deep, they evolve in the glass and if Pasquera is indicative of all producers there is definately some aging potential here.

Backstreets now, and I must say this concert is very good. I've never been a huge Springsteen fan, but 30 years later these tunes definately hold up. Time to enjoy the rest of the show.

Over and out.

Patriot Act Intrusion?

This is an interesting story about how just because somebody paid $6,522 on their credit card balance (it was an unusually high payment) they ended up being reported to Homeland Security. The posting indicates that this is the result of changes in the Bank Privacy Act, whatever that is.

I'm sitting here thinking in a country of 300 million people, there must be at least thousands of "unusual" credit card payments every day. In fact, I've made a few myself lately with no problems. Are they all held up? Is every single one reported to Homeland Security. It's possible, I suppose, but I'm not sure this actually passes the smell test.

Found via....argh this hurts, Sully

When Two Worlds Collide

Madonna. I come home and my 6 foot 5 inch drywaller, and his burly Slovakian assistant are blasting Madonna. Not one song mind you, but the whole new album. "Oh yeah, Madonna...she's great" was their response when I questioned them on this more than curious behavior. I guess I better check the seams to make sure they are....e'hem....straight.

(Photo of drywallers above presented only for illustrative purposes. These people have no relation to my guys or the job at my house. In fact, I'm quite sure they'd have the decency to crank AD/DC like all good tradesmen.)

URGENT UPDATE: Dear God, they've started whistling!

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Just Because I Had To

I feel sorry for Ms. Ginsburg, but really, a court drawing of her sleeping? This is just the funniest thing I've seen in a while.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

This Just In: Katrina All Bush's Fault

Well we now have the tape and it's there in full living color, as they used to say, Bush had a conference call with the FEMA boys on the Sunday before the Katrina hit and was warned that it was going to be a bad one. Well duh, we all knew that, and in fact there was talk about what would happen if the levee's failed prior to the storm's land fall both in this meeting and on the news casts that the public was viewing in the days leading up to the storm. Somehow this news, which is not new, is being treated as........well as news. It's kind of like the media is saying, "same old news - now with pictures!" These folks must think we're really dumb.

Either that or it is a whole new opportunity to bash a Republican President, which gives us the opportunity to talk a little about media bias. My buddy over at the Functional Ambivalent (scroll down, I can't perma link for some reason) is admirably, if not wisely, trying to make the case that there is no liberal bias to media reporting. In a way, you've got to admire the guy. Just in the last week we have had unending reports (including on FOX) of a near civil war in Iraq that not only didn't materialize, but reinforced the view that we're failing in Iraq. We also had the publishing of the CBS "approval" rating poll that was weighted 27% Republicans and 38% Democrats. Today the Zogby "troops" poll that seems to have some problems. The one consistent thread in these stories was their one sided slant against the Bush administration. Further, two of the three were manufactured news where the outcome seemed a bit pre-ordained.

And now we have this article. I am not about to rehash my thoughts on the Katrina response, my original post is here and I think, somewhat surprisingly, that it not only stands the test of time, but is somewhat confirmed by a listening of this tape. The bottom line is that no matter who failed the most, it is quite clear that there was failure across the board including, if one is to be completely candid on behalf of the storm's victims. Yet is there any balanced mention of this in the reporting of this story? Any mention that Bush had to beg Blanco to order a mandatory evac? Any mention that the police force evaporated or that Nagin went a bit nutty? Not a whit.

Unfortunately for me, I happened upon CNN this evening while I was working out. I haven't watched CNN since Lou Dobbs was sane, and I must say the level of anti Bush bias was stunning. This AP story, which contains no new news, only new pictures, took up at least the first 10 minutes of CNN's "Situation Room" (ooh it's soo exciting!) broadcast. There was no discernible difference from the AP print story. All this confirms is that Bush held several meetings and ignored all the warnings. No mention of any actions that he took, no mention of any problems with the local governments and no mention of the complications of dealing with the worst natural disaster in the history of the U.S. Oh, and the whole thing finished with some old geezer guy named Cafferty who played the role of the wise old scold and said that not one person should have died. Not a single person sir? What an ass.

This is particularly stunning when you think back to the media's reporting directly after the storm. At that time they said he wasn't engaged, didn't care and was on vacation. At the very least I wish they'd keep their slander consistent.