Friday, October 31, 2008

One does not turn down gummi skeletons

Been interesting up here. I had the pleasure of sitting through a real life police line up last night. A little less dramatic than on TV, but basically the same. No. 1, step forward...face the door...face me...step back...No. 2, step forward...

Me and the female officer running the line up didn't start off on the right foot. I came in to teach and she barked at me about I was going to need to relocate or I would have to train with inmates in the room, blah blah woof woof. Not being a good barkee, I told her basically, none of the above, but we could work something out. She high tailed it to the superintendant, who also told her that she could probably work something out with me. Then we did. I called lunch and the hands on training that take us elsewhere for 2 hours to coincide with when she needed to use the room and, to channel Rodney King for a moment, we all just got along.

Once she started talking to me she got a big ol dose of southern charm and, by evenings end, she was smiling and chit chatting, patting me on the back, and promising to bring me a haloween basket on Monday because I would be travelling on the 31st. Like I was going to miss out on going door to door myself, I suppose. Anyway, one does not turn down gummi skeletons. Or at least this one does not.

Frost is annoying. Just so you know. And aren't yankee rental cars supposed to come with those snow scraping things? Clearing your windows with the rental car agreement jacket cannot, I repeat CANNOT be Plan A. It gets your fingers cold, the stiff paper becomes much less so, and it allows the natives to give you that "poor, dumb bastard" smile as they walk by. Luckily, my car has Nebraska plates, so I just give 'em a big ol' goofy prarie smile back.

GPS has a problem with this area. Last week, my NeverLost from Hertz was more of an EverLost. It was always about 2 blocks off here in the land of narrow one way streets and 60 story buildings. If I turned where it said, it had to recalculate. And if I tried to keep going, knowing that the road it was referencing was just ahead, it recalculated before I could get there. Plus, it had a propensity to erroneously make me turn onto roads that had other roads built on top of them, causing it to lose satellites long before it could un-lost me. 2 words: sucked badly.

My personal GPS has been no better this week. Besides attempting to make 3 to 5 turns anywhere none are required, it tends to talk down to me. Yep. When done right, there are 3 turns involved in getting me to work, and no interstate highways. So Missy (a nickname, her full name being Misinformed) has me on I-55 headed for Indiana, in the wrong lane to turn from (quote: "keep left then exit right), and, as luck would have it, during rush hour. Can't blame Missy for rush hour, but I'd like to. Anyway, she finally gets me to an exit. Her conversation:Exit right on Van Buren, then turn left, followed by a left...Turn left, followed by a left...turn left and take ramp left (puts me on I-55, heading the other direction, which makes me think that the exit I really need is only accessible from this direction)...RECALCULATING. And she was almost surly when she said "recalculating". Like I was some kind of dumbass or something. Look, Missy, I'm just turning the wheel. You supposed to be doing the navigating.

I always get there. But I do, and this is true, allow myself an hour to make a 5.3 mile drive.Anyway, starting yesterday I made a drastic change to the way I do business. I started by actually learning the route, all 3 turns of it, then politely turned Missy off (no need to piss her off, just in case), cranked what passes for a country station here way up loud, and cruised, all cool points and stylish, to work without drama or hijinks. Word.

An Iraqi song called Consanguinity carries a message of unity and is a call for brotherhood among Iraqis. The band itself is made up of 2 Sunni, 2 Shiite, and a Christian. That's right, this message of hope and coexistence comes to you from the band Dog Faced Corpse.

There's more, there always is. There's the tunnels under the jail complex, there's the old jail and it's forboding sterness,and there's the camaderie. But all of that involves typing and storytelling, and I am running out of time. I will leave you with this real conversation I had with an officer from Division 1 on Tuesday. I had told him the reason I tended to walk behind who I was with was because my wife is so short that if I don't see her turn in somewhere while we're out I lose her because she's not taller than clothes racks and displays.
Z: I know the feeling.
Me: Really?
Z: Yeah. I had a girlfriend from Guatemala and she was only four foot something.
Me: You mean when fully inflated, right?

Yes, jail officers are a lot like the guys on the ship, only the jail guys are more allowed to hit you. Hard.

Peace, Love, and Hey! Ya got paper on that phone?, out
Ramblin' Ed

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ya got paper on that phone?

I go through 2 checkpoints and some sort of "gate keeper" to get to where I am working in the Cook County Jail. Although, by now both gatekeepers know who I am and greet me with a smile and buzz me through with no delay. The checkpoints aren't really much of a hassle either. Especally not after all the anal-retentive nonsense I endure with the TSA. One thing, though. If I pull out my blackberry to get an e-mail, call the boss, or check one on my many stored notes, someone comes flying up out of nowhere, right up on me and wants to know, "Ya got paper on that phone??" And of course, I do. Apparently phones are a big deal.

I had a great walk today. I am somewhere known as the "Magnificent Mile", the area between Wacker Drive and Chicago Ave. Last week I was in "The Loop" which ends at Wacker. Next week I think I'm back down in the Loop. It is pretty cold, at least to me it is. But still I walked Michigan Ave., Wabash Ave., and State St. I found a bunch of neat restaurants and martini lounges. I went up to the House of Blues, but pulled up short, thinking about the prices and it probably being too early on a Monday night for the music to start. I almost went into Dao's Thai, because Thai food sounded good and my sister in law is named Dao.

But I ended up in Heaven on Seven, a cajun joint. How could I not? With a hand painted sign over the food bar proclaiming "Just say, Jmmy feed me" and the staff wearing t-shirts that read "People who come back from heaven all say the same thing. Try the gumbo." I had a Dead Man Ale and the baby back ribs. But the sides are what got me. The worst thing they fed me was the tater tots...and there's no such thing as a bad tater tot! The gumbo was perfect. A tad spicy, as it should be, but with flavorful sausage that was smooth on the tongue. The cheese grits were made with some high falutin' foreign cheeses, but they were still grits, and they were bodacious. The bread was bread, probably fresh baked, but not spectacular. Until I buttered it, that is. Some kind of creamery butter whipped with what I suspect might have been honey. Man, it was so sweet and creamy. I could have eaten it, brushed my teeth with it, and dabbed some behind my ear like cologne. Mmmmmm. I just paid my bill and waddled on home. I expect to hit the Thai place tomorrow, but would not be real surprised to instead find myself saying, "Jimmy, feed me."

Not to sound like my life revolves around just food and beer, but I'm old and rotund and long past my "chicks dig me" days. That makes a meal so tasty that I waddle away from it a memorable event. I do have pictures, but will probably be out a few more times, so I will wait.

Make No Small Plans, out
Ramblin' Ed

Monday, October 13, 2008

Рамблин Эд тратит впустую ваше время

Advance apology: Blogger is giving every indication it is going into "freakout formatting mode" on me. Maybe not, but probably.

Pipedragger sent me this. He's either in Ireland, or Scotland, or California. As you can see, I have some uncertianty there.
Thought for the Day:
'I think Congressmen should wear uniforms like NASCAR drivers so we could identify their corporate sponsors.'

Made it back from Central America. It was fun. I never even bothered to hook into the internet. Instead I enjoyed some work, some great food, and local cerveza fria.

I surely do enjoy being in countries that don't feel like they have "something to prove". They're just mellower. I liked Guatemala, even more than Colombia, although it was easier to find a good cigar in Cartagena. I think I like Central America because I can pretty easily figure out what a sign or menu says by picking out the words I recognize and mentalizing on the context. I didn't have many problems. (I accidentally missed the 'y' in many and that made it read "I didn't have man problems", which is a significantly different message altogether.) I get around better in written Spanish than in spoken, although I did perfect saying "That's OK", "That's fair", and "How much does it cost".

I took a side trip to Antigua and could have just tossed my Blackberry off into some shadowy corner, slipped my sunglasses down over my eyes, and stayed a couple of years. It was comfortable there, amongst the artists and musicians, like you were in the 3rd and best verse of a Jimmy Buffett song. When he realizes that this sleepy seaside village is where he has always belonged. I have a picture I took in Frida's that will show in the post below this one. So when you finish this, go look at the pictures.

Cafe No Se was Ed heaven, because of things like this, and this, and this, and this , and this too. I am so drawn to things unhustley and unbustley. I like things dark, quiet, smokey and, if possible, mysterious. Like maybe a backstreet dive in Casablanca. Or a gopher hole. Or. in a pinch, a blanket fort strung between livingroom chairs.

Anyway, I am heading into a brutal schedule of flying to Chicago on Sunday afternoons, working all week in the Cook County Dept. of Corrections, and flying home on Friday nights. Come home, mow yard, repeat as necessary until finished. It will be at least 3 weeks of that, maybe 4.

Came home to find that my neighbor began to think of herself as Spain and claimed about 2" of my yard for her flag and Queen. 2"!!! All because I told her a few months back to stay out of my yard. So she snuck in some surveyors of unknown origin and "poof", she has new real estate. Think about it. What a great loophole. "Thhhbbbbtttt!! I ain't in your yard. I just discovered, after 30+ years that this 2" is actually mine and I can walk on it if I want to." She always does that crap when I am out of town, and this was no exception. But the wife did manage to get the whole neighborhood involved in letting her know what a tool they think she is. Silly wench actually pranced, yes pranced, up and down her newly discovered territory for an hour yesterday, studiously not making eye contact and no doubt hoping to provoke a reaction from me. Let her, I ain't thaking the bait. As I write this, I have one eye on the window for my own surveyors to pull up and verify her claim.

This blog is just not doing it. I have had so many things I was going to put in it, but I seldom find time to sit down. And when I do, I forget what I was going to write about.

One item, and this is the short version, was my flight on TACA Airlines. I believe, with no proof, that it stands for The Airlines of Central America. I base that on the flights they offer. They do fly to Miami, but that's pretty much the capitol of Central America, so it makes sense. So as I am flying from Miami to Guatemala, a mere 2 1/2 hour flight, I am in the absolute last seat on the plane, or Ghetto Economy seating, as I like to call it. The steward comes by and asks if I would like something to drink? (Note: US AIR now charges $2 for a coke) I said, "Sure. A scotch please." And..he..poured me..a..scotch. And gave it to me. Then walked off. No charge, no surl (the singular of surly, right?), no nothing. Then he came back 20 minutes later and gave me a meal. And 20 min after that, another scotch. TACA is my new favorite airlines!

The title is a Russian translation (I know, DUH!) of the phrase, traveling Ed is wasting your time. Nothig I do is exactly random. In other words, it might not make sense, but you probably won't understand it anyway.

Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious, out
Ramblin Ed

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Photos from Trip

Sitting in Frida's with a Cuban cigar and a Cuban Mojito. I wish the girl taking the photo had gotten more of the painting of Frida on the wall, but all in all, I'd say she captured the essence of the day fairly well.

A view of Guatemala City from the airplane.

Another view of Guatemala City from the airplane.

My two headed shower nozzle. Boy Howdy, did I feel decadent. Never done a double nozzle shower before. Speaking of "Boy Howdy", anybody remember Creem Magazine?

I wouldn't buy a blanket but we talked for the duration of a small cigar. Finally, so it wouldn't have been for nothing, I gave her 5 Quentzals (Q7.48=$1) to snap a picture.

These were my second class of students. This is preparing to run the first flight of bags ever through the machine. Make it bigger and you will see my "classroom" along the back wall.

Practicing what Mr. Ed taught them.

In Florida we don't have statues up on the buildings looking down. This had a serious cool factor for me.

A merchant walking away, down the side of my hotel.

A park. It was pretty peaceful, but was bounded on either side by some very heavy traffic.

McDonalds delivery. What a concept.

Hey, you guys. Yeah, you in the tour van. Pull over here, will ya.

Our tour driver trying (sucessfully...eventually) to talk the police out of confiscating his license. Apparently the van had 2 outstanding tickets.

Ruins in Antigua. The buildings were from either the 1500s or 1700s, I am none too clear on that, but were destroyed by a series of earthquakes.

I liked the flower/weeds growing out of the roof tiles.
The signs are in tile. How cool is that?

I liked the look of this window. I could tell it had seen a lot. I would have liked to hear the stories. But of course, one does not like to impose.

A view down the street. It turns out that cobblestones are cooler to look at than to drive or walk on.

This is a church in Antigua. I think it is still a functioning church.

The square in Antigua.

Where the tourists all hang out.And you can deride tourists all you want. Deride tourists as not really getting a feel for the country. Whatever. All I know is that wherever you find young tourists and backpackers, you find cool hangouts and cheap beer. Word.

Off to the right is where I waqs buying my cigars. I found the wall of rums with the old suitcases along the top to be pretty intriguing. Gotta blow this shot up for a better appreciation.

Home in Florida. I made myself this mega-cheese, hamburger, and peperoni pizza. handmade crust and all. Yes, it is true. I make pizza magic. That's all I'm saying.

Hope you enjoyed the tour, out
Ramblin' Ed

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Libre Crezca Fecundo (Grow Free and Fertile)

I will be out of the country next week. I am not taking my computer with me. I may blog from the company computer, and I may not.
I leave mine behind because my computer can be seized at the border when I return to the good ol' US of A. I don't have to be suspected of anything, and they don't need any probable cause, which I think is ridiculous. Obviously, I am against that and see it as more evidence that this administration sees the constitution and an impediment and not a guiding principle.
I did not blog this weekend because I am no plumber. If I had been, it might not have taken me as long as it did to make what I am sure will turn out to be temporary repairs to my hot water line, my sprinklers, and the line from my pump to my house. It is a long, wet story. Suffice to say though, I was unable to blog. Catch ya week after next.
Surely if I just tighten this a little....out,
Ramblin' Ed