Monday, June 22, 2009

Aaaaaannywhoooo ...

A year since I began this blog, summer finally arrived in Chicago, although the high temperatures are mere breaks in between thunderstorms.

I realized as I was typing that sentence that it's probably a sign a blog has run its course when the posts (already few and far between) start talking about the weather. It's not that I haven't done enough interesting things worth writing about ... I've just been too busy or too unmotivated to share them on the usual outlets.

I'll try to finish strong in a couple days.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Take Me Out

Last night was take 2 of a White Sox game. A group of improv friends went in on a block of tickets back in April but we were rained out. Yesterday's forecast called for storms all day and night but we got lucky.

It was a brisk, perfect evening for Chicago baseball and the White Sox won.

That's all I got.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sound Ad Vice

More fun in a recording studio.

For the second time in the last few months, I had the opportunity to record some radio commercials for Old Style beer. The gig came through a fellow improvisor who knew someone at the agency handling the campaign. Several pals auditioned and were selected to read for different two-person spots.

The ads are based on Old Style's "krausening" (pronounced CROI-zen-ning) process which, up until recently, I thought was just a clever marketing word. When I moved back to Chicago nearly ten years ago, our favorite hangout was a local dive bar whose outdoor signage said simply "Packaged Goods" beneath an Old Style logo. So when friends and I were making plans to meet there, we'd ask "Shall we go get fully Krausened?" in reference to the beer's slogan.

Well, it turns out krausening is a legitimate step in the beer brewing process. On the premesis that krausening beer improves it, the script for our radio ads apply the concept to other situations in life. So after a decade of goofing on the term, I found myself in a professional recording studio repeating take after take of lines like "So if I krausened this block party, I'd win the bag toss!" and "If I krausened this cooler, it would always be full of ice cold Old Style!".

I don't listen to the radio much, but I've been told by friends that my first two ads (titled "Pool Table" and "Local Porch") have been airing all over popular stations for several weeks. I included them in a YouTube video you can check out here. The new spots ("Softball" and "Block Party") should start popping up on the airwaves soon.

I hope this post krausened everyone's day.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Plus and Minus Linus

** It's been almost two months since I updated this
thing, so my thanks to all who hung in there. **

So it's been four paws and eight weeks since my last post.

The gentleman pictured above is Linus, a one year old shih tzu that Brooke and I selected to foster through Chicago Canine Rescue Foundation, a wonderful no-kill shelter that places homeless pets with temporary and permanent owners. Eight months after losing Dana Monster, we decided fostering was a great way of having a dog around without the permanent commitment. It's also nice that CCRF covers all vet expenses while you're a foster parent ... including the visit where, as we say, Linus lost his Liney Beans. As we learned, the poor dog had a rough first year. He was rescued from a puppy mill and bounced around a couple different shelters before Brooke and I met him, so we were happy to give him a good home.

Brooke grew up with a shih tzus and loves the breed, so it was an easy choice and she got attached right away. Rarely did I walk into a room he wasn't curled up in her lap or on his back comatose while his belly was scratched.

With me it was a different story.

Like Brooke, I liked Linus since we the moment we found him. His unkempt mane and trademark underbite gave him a scrappy appearance which, in my opinion, belied the fact that he was a froofy lapdog breed. Unfortunately, Linus could never really warm up to me. Despite the fact that I'd also indulge him with pettings and compliments, he'd go into hiding whenever I entered a room and our walks devolved into comical scene about a 6'3" guy practically dragging a reluctant 15-pound dog around the block.

I tried to be a good sport, but it sorta crushed me that "our" dog - who's supposed to always be jazzed to see you - seemed afraid of me no matter how hard I tried. Did I resemble some bearded version of Cruella DeVille from his previous life? Whatever the reason, I felt like I was helping to dogsit Brooke's best friend most of the time ... and if you know me, you know I'm not great with sharing a spotlight.

So when we got a call from CCRF saying someone wanted to adopt Linus, I was torn. I knew it would be difficult for Brooke to give him away, but also that the current arrangement wasn't working out quite how we hoped. Luckily, the adoption application was submitted by a family in the south suburbs who had a big backyard, two kids and an enormous English bulldog called Murphy. Giving up Linus was still rough, but the decision was made easier knowing he was going to a good home.

Today we got an email from Linus's new family letting us know he was doing well. Written in the first person, it says, things like "I am adjusting to my new life here ... three kids and two parents there is always something going on." and "Our backyard is a lot of fun. It is large and full of grass we run around all day – well I do most of the running and Murphy kinda just watching me run around him."

The photo they attached says it all ... especially the sign in the background. Check it out here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

You Guest It

The hospitality of friends on our recent road trip inspired us. As of last night, the second bedroom went from a home office (the junk drawer of spare rooms) into a proper sleeping quarters for out-of-town visitors.

It took a couple days of organizing, Craigslisting, and donating lots of stuff. More importantly, we threw away about six hundred tons of random whatnot that could (should) have been trashed before moving here a year and a half ago. It's not so much that I'm a pack rat, just that I invest considerable sentiment in old cracked CD cases, loose action figures and and AC adapters from electronics long gone.

It was a sweet sorrow, but I'm coping. Rest assured that more important items like my first Chicago apartment lease, a 2007 Sugar Bowl souvenir soda cup and bracelet ID from a Saturday Night Live taping survived the cutbacks. So did the hotel key from last fall's Seattle trip and a $1.99 monkey drum purchased in Chinatown some years ago.

A short post ... just a heads-up to our friends in Cincinnati, Louisville, Milwaukee, Tonica and other places around the globe that there's a cozy converted futon available any time you find yourself in 60660.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


St. Patrick's Day. The birthday of my cousin Patrick as well as my late grandfather (and namesake) John Patrick. Usually on this day I eagerly participate in the traditional "Fulfillin' O' the Stereotypes" at a local pub, but I confess to sorta taking this year off. Sorta.

Last year at this time I jumped at the chance to make some extra cash by working the door at The Hidden Shamrock, where some pals and I are regulars. From 9am until around 6pm on a Saturday, my cousin and I split the responsibility of wrangling a half-block long line of sloppy amateurs until it was their turn to pay $5 for the privilege of coming in to drink. Honestly? The year-old memory of that embarrassing debacle scarred me enough to skip the main course of this year's communal festivities.

I wasn't completely unobservant. Sunday afternoon Brooke, Sully and I returned to the scene of last year's crime for The Hidden Shamrock's traditional Irish music session. Banjos and bodhrans
were played, cornbeef and cabbage was eaten, pints were emptied, but responsibly. While there, we were pleasantly reminded of the path not taken as we were treated to scores of green-hued enthusiasts stumbling out of school buses returning from the South Side Parade.

Today I stayed on the straight and narrow thanks to a work-related luncheon at an Italian restaurant ... which was across from Fado, a huge Irish pub that was bustling with St. Patrick's Day revelers.

O'Well. At least they served our iced tea in pint glasses.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Brooke and I enjoyed a delightful road trip to Cincinnati and Louisville this past weekend. It was a long overdue visit with some friends from Xavier, nearly all of whom had houses and children I'd only seen in photos.

Maybe this is the same with most people, but my levels of comfort and expectations are adjustable for hanging with different circles of friends. Not in any subjective measurement of whose company I enjoy more, just variable degrees of familiarity.

In Chicago nearly all of my close friends came through being involved with improv over the last 8 years. When we get together there's often a constant pressure to be "on," but not out of any competitive posturing. On the contrary, it's the selfish satisfaction of getting laughs from people whose intelligence and talent we all genuinely respect.

With the college pals, however, it's different ... there's almost no intelligence or talent involved. Just kidding. Really, it's just that I feel a permission to (for lack of a better phrase that doesn't sound like the title of a "Mister Rogers" song) be myself around those guys than with any other social circle.

Most of us met because we shared the same wing of a dorm during freshman year. It's strange to think that such strong friendships were conceived by some random room assignments of some Residence Life employee at some Jesuit school in the Midwest, but that's how it happened for us. Our different backgrounds and personalities turned out to be a great fit for the exciting, confusing, sometimes terrifying years meant to bridge adolescence and adulthood ... and for that I am very grateful.

It's no surprise that such constant interaction during that time gave our friendships such a strong foundation. Still, it's nice to be reminded during those increasingly rare occasions when we can all get together. Even if our most frequent form of contact is a ball-busting email thread or quick voice mail to recommend a movie, it's enough to ensure that the next time we convene will be a seamless extension of the previous outing. Despite the addition of girlfriends and wives and houses and kids, I expect we'll stay in touch for the long haul ... and even beyond that, we know our pal Chuck is reserving us a few barstools upstairs somewhere.

Difficult as it is to believe, my college mates have been friends almost longer than we haven't. A kid born on our first day of college is getting his driver's license this year. Watch out for that kid. It won't be long before he's running around like a maniac leaving autographed bottles of cheap wine all around campus. Trust me.