Saturday, September 25, 2010

Too lazy to post a re-run

So instead I'll just post this place-holder blog to keep me post-a-week streak alive. Thanks for all the love on last week's post, I enjoyed writing it. Then again, I was drinking at the airport hotel bar before my trip, and it's pretty hard to not have a good time at the airport hotel bar. Anyhow, I'm out. I'm going to Disney World. Literally.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Where you from?

Yo, this is commitment, I hammered this out at the airport hotel bar. It cost me sleep. No time to edit since I have 22 hours of flights tomorrow, so don't crush me on the grammar errors.

I’m no stranger to “home” trips. After all, I have more homes than John McCain. This one will be a little different though. I’ve done extensive travel in America, likely more than you, and I’ve taken more trips to Lawrence from some outside home than the Oklahoma Sooners have.

“Where are you from?” is a pretty basic question. It’s generally one I have difficulty answering. If I’m on the road in Korea and someone asks me that, I say Seoul. It’s as earnest an answer as any. If I’m in Seoul, I say America. This inevitably leads to the “where in America” question, which is where things get dicey. (On the flip side, when a Korean asks this question and forces me to narrow down to the square block that I may presume myself to be from, I’ll ask the same question in return, and their answer will invariably be “Korea.” No shit.)

I’ve long struggled with the “where I’m from” bit. I can be a dickhead and answer with “nowhere” or I can be a different kind of dickhead and answer with “everywhere.” I’ve been both kinds. See, I was born in a nowhere town in Illinois, and moved to another nowhere town in Illinois when I was still an infant. Clearly, I’m not “from” either locale, though I have an Illinois social security number. As noted last week, both my parents and all four of my grandparents are from Chicago. Also, I’ve always been in favor of the Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs, and Notre Dame, despite the fact that I didn’t actually live in Chicago until I was 24.

Obviously, there’s the Kansas thing. I moved to Kansas when I was a little kid, during preschool. I went to some pre-school and all of elementary school, junior high, high school, and most of college in Lawrence. I’ve spent more time in Lawrence than any other city. On the sports team test, the Kansas Basketball Jayhawks and the Chiefs are absolutely my favorite sports teams in the world and the Royals are certainly my favorite baseball team.

When I was a kid, in grade school and junior high, I hated Lawrence, hated Kansas, even while loving its sports teams. I always planned to get the hell out. I spent my freshman year in college at pretty much the farthest place from Kansas that I could get to. I hated Kansas history classes about John Brown and Charles Robinson in grade school, although I’ve spent the last 10 years boring countless non-Kansans with stories of Bleeding Kansas (also, this represents how horrible a bunch of my teachers may have been - how could they not get me excited about John Brown? I didn’t learn to love him until sophomore year of high school.) I attempted to move out of the state permanently several times, it didn’t take until the 4th time or so.

Strangely, the family the brought me to Lawrence left before I did. The Old Man lead the charge, splitting time in California for a couple years, leaving town for good in the late 90s. My younger brother stayed in state for college, but left Lawrence during the school year at the end of the 90s and permanently in the year 2000, when my mom moved out east. Suddenly, I was the last one standing in Lawrence.

In early 2006, I did a Euro trip. I’d been living in Chicago for a few years, and flew to Europe directly from there, and returned directly to there. The math was simple. Where you from? Chicago.

In late 2006, I moved to Seoul. I technically flew directly from Chicago, but I had been crashing at Mom’s in Baltimore for a few months. Where are you from? Well, clearly, I’m not from Baltimore, yet I no longer really hold it down for the Chi. “Chicago” was the easiest answer, but often with a disclaimer about how I’m from there and Kansas.

I started hanging out with Don. Don had a degree of dualism like myself. He’s from Tennessee. He spent a summer or two in Philly. He morphed into a hardcore Phillies fan (before they one the title) in a respectable way. Why not? There’s no MLB teams in Tennessee. Cheering for the Phillies was the way to go, the same way I would have done it. Like me, Don loved his adopted home and, as I did in my early days, hated the place he’d spent the majority of his life. Don and I would meet girls in bars (note to Don’s GF, should she read this - I’m talking about 2007 here.) and the girls would eventually ask where we were from, and we both had complicated stories.

I went home again. I came back again. I still hate the convoluted story. I got annoyed with Don rocking the same thing we’d always done. I got annoyed with myself. I love Chicago. I have deep Chicago roots. In a perfect world (that requires a better climate in the Chi) I’d live there forever. Don loves Philadelphia too. He only lived there a few months though. Despite sports allegiances, he’s not from there. I’m not from Chicago either.

I’m from Lawrence, Kansas. I’m Lawrence trash. My blood family isn’t there anymore. That doesn't mean I don’t have family there. I’m excited to see them tomorrow. It will be good to be home.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Throwing my hat in the ring (and other stuff)

I’d like to take this opportunity to officially announce my candidacy for mayor of Chicago. I can’t see a better suited candidate than myself.

Chicago bona fides? Definitely. Both parents and all four grandparents were born and raised there. Moms from the southwest side, Dads from the Southeast side, so fittingly they met at the Museum of Science and Industry, the palace of the South Side. My maternal grandpa is originally from the West Side, as are the Cubs, and thus it’s through him that I inherit my Cubs fandom despite my South Side lineage. I also spent years on the North Side, and I’ve always been all about the Bulls, Bears, and Blackhawks.

Shadowy past for a dark horse candidate? Damn straight. I claim to have been born in a place called Rock Island, Illinois. You’ve never heard of Rock Island. I totally could have made it up. I became a card carrying Chicago Democrat when I knocked on the wrong door at a strip mall on the outskirts of town when expecting a job interview in hopes of becoming a door-to-door salesman for a pyramid scheme. I’ve held “permanent residence” in more cities than you’ve been to. I live in a foreign country. Rahm and Jesse Jr. cannot beat me in the questionable origins department.

Good ideas? Fuckin’ a. On day one, I will declare that the cops will only do police work henceforth. No more chickenshit tickets. No more harassing citizens for parking 3 inches over a magic yellow line, or for turning left on green at a light that for some reason doesn’t allow turning left on green for 90 minutes each day. No way. The police will have the job of catching criminals. This isn’t Los Angeles. Chicago is a goddamn real city, and the police are going to start acting like it.

The problem, of course, is that bullshit tickets raise a lot of revenue for the city. New revenue will have to come from somewhere. That somewhere will be O’hare.

First off, I will annex Elk Grove Village. Trust me, there’s nothing there but third rate titty bars and regional office parks, nothing of value will be lost. Plus, Obama is a Chicago guy, I’m sure the feds will support my annexation. After annexing Elk Grove, I will demolish it and build runways. Lots of runways. O’hare will regain it’s rightful spot as the busiest, biggest, and most important airport in the world. Fuck Atlanta and Heathrow.

Next, I will convert O’hare into a Special Economic Zone. Citizens will be allowed to buy booze, smokes, and gas for lower prices than Indiana or Wisconsin. High prices in the city would remain, but anybody could take the El to O’hare to buy cheap smokes and booze rather than taking that tax money out of state. Of course, I’ll also establish a casino at O’hare, but only airside. I don’t want Chicago’s hard working poor wasting their cash at my convenient casino, but I do want rich douche bags that are changing planes between Houston and Moscow to blow some cash on blackjack.

Finally, I would ban the abhorrence of garnishing a hot dog with ketchup in restaurants. I’d be fair, of course. This could still be allowed at Navy Pier, the Loop, the Near North, at Wrigleyville on game days, and at the airports. Tourists don’t know any better. Some hot dog stands around town don’t get it though. No self respecting Chicagoan should ever have to request “no ketchup.” It should just be understood.

I saw “The Expendables” a couple weeks ago. Any time Stallone and Lundgren join forces, I’m buying a ticket. It lived up to expectations. Two of my favorite exchanges:

Stallone fighting Eric Roberts, the final boss. Final boss is apropos, as the movie ran like a video game. During the final fight, Roberts says to Stallone: “You know, you and me, we’re the same!” Whoa, action movie bad guys never say that.

Earlier in the movie, Schwarzenegger and Stallone briefly shared the screen. They were rival mercenaries, and delivered this gem (when reading this, remember to think with the most generic, least emotional Sly and Arnold voices you can.)

Schwarzenegger: We should have dinner.

Stallone: When?

Schwarzenegger: In a thousand years.

Stallone: That’s too soon.

Awesome. I also loved the fact that Expendables premiered the same week as “Eat Pray Love” and won. Julia Roberts lost to her brother. This gave me endless joy, especially since a message board I frequent was discussing the whole “Eat Pray Love” thing that week, and thus I spent a solid portion of that week directing rage in Elizabeth Gilbert’s general direction despite the fact that I’ve never read her book.

I’m in three fantasy football leagues this year. This is a record for me, unless you count 2007 when ESPN first introduced mock drafts and the drafted teams didn’t get deleted and I ended up in 10 leagues that I didn’t care about or pay attention to (much). One more league shouldn’t break me.

I always have fairly awesome teams in fantasy football, and I make the playoffs 87% of the time, yet never actually win any championships or money. I’m the Minnesota Twins of fantasy football. I blow 20 some hours a week studying it for several months a year. Why do I keep doing it? Actually, not only keep doing it, but ramp up my participation? Draft Day. Draft Day rules. I can do mock drafts all day, but nothing beats a real draft. At a mock draft, nothing is at stake, but more importantly there’s no comedy. People who are bothering to mock draft are geeks like me. Everybody knows what each player’s value is. I could do 20 mock drafts from, say, the 6th position, and draft essentially the same team each time. There are no surprises.

Real drafts are another animal. For some reason, when stakes and commitment are involved, people make stupid choices. Good players fuck up here and there and take a flyer on Eddie Royal 4 rounds too early. Bad players take Mark Sanchez in the single digit rounds, draft 4th string Chiefs running backs, draft Vincent Jackson during a highly publicized hold out, and other such hilarious moves. One girl (a buddy’s wife) drafted the Redskin’s backup tight end in the seventh round. Of course, since she’s a girl and a buddy’s wife, it’s taboo to actually make fun of her for such ridiculousness during the draft.

In conclusion, vote Jaehak for mayor!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The new style (and why you shouldn't bet on the Jets)

I’m experimenting with a new style. As I can no longer just sit at my convenience store table while chain smoking and allowing genius to flow forth onto this blessed website since the chain smoking (and the genius) part of the equation has been removed, I’ve taken to the streets. My new method - walking around my neighborhood at obscene hours while throwing back soju or beer or both and typing any decent idea that hits me into the pod. Let’s find out if this method works. Tonight, a scant 15 days from my impending America trip, I have many things I wish to discuss.

My fellow American co-worker is leaving my school soon. My school, recognizing that I’m something of a big deal there, has given me a role in the hiring of our new token white guy. By white, of course I mean somebody of any race from America, Canada, Australia, England, et al (well, not England. Sorry chaps.) and by guy I mean somebody of either gender. Thus far, all of the applicants have been, predictably enough in these parts, white guys.

Far too many people seem to grasp the fine art of resume writing these days. I don’t know what the kids are learning, but for me the cardinal rule is simple, and my old man agrees with me - a resume should be one page. One goddamn page. In the early 90s, when I had no work experience at all, my resume when applying to the Lake Perry Marina snack shop was one page long, much of it fabricated. My current resume is one page long, and only 50-60 percent fabricated. One of our applicants submitted a resume that was four pages long! It even made me use an exclamation point! He included job history such as “sales rep, Cutco, 2002.” Cutco, as you probably know, is a company concerned with selling kitchen knives door-to-door. The only reason to put Cutco on a resume is if it’s the only job you’ve ever had. Even then, it’s iffy. An 8-year-past stint at Cutco certainly shouldn’t show up on page 3 of a resume. The applicant also included such gems as “Bungee jumped in 2009,” and “Saw the Great Wall of China in 2008.”

The strange part of all this? We’re probably going to hire him, and because of my vote of confidence. See, as the Nowon old dog, I’m people that knows people, and this dude is from the neighborhood. He’s a friend of a friend, and I ended up drinking with him once a few months back. He seemed like a cool cat. Because of that, I’m fine with my school hiring him. I suppose the lesson here is that it’s who you know that matters most. Then again, if I didn’t know this guy, I would absolutely veto him due to his horribly designed resume.

I know basically nothing about music anymore. It’s sad. A friend posted something on the Facebook about an impending road trip she was taking, looking for advice on songs/records/artists to check out on the trip. There were 20 or so responses to the status update. I knew exactly zero of the bands or songs mentioned. All of these suggestions were given by people in my age group, so it’s not like it was all Jonas Brothers (do the kids still like them?) or something. I used to know a bit about music. Recently, I took a Sporcle quiz on 90s music, and I did awesome on it. However, I missed the number one song of 1998. It was a song called “Too Close” by a group called “Next.” I admit that I was high for a good portion of 1998, but how did I miss the top song? I’d never even heard of the song nor the artist. When I Youtubed it after seeing it on the quiz, hearing the song rang no bells. Billboard was the source for the Sporcle quiz. Was Billboard somehow wrong? Have any of you ever heard of this? I don’t recommend looking for it on Youtube if the name isn’t familiar, the song sucks.

Quitting smoking also sucks. I’m still still sticking with it, and I plan to continue, and even if I fall off the wagon I’ll never smoke at work again, at least not in my current line of work. It’s been 7 weeks now. I’ve smoked zero cigs on weekdays and zero cigs before 3 a.m. or so on weekend nights. Last weekend I got really drunk and had a stressful girl situation and lost my nicotine gum and ended up staying out until 7:30 a.m., but I still only had 2 cigarettes. A few weeks ago, a night out that late would mean 2 packs - minimum.

I’m starting to be glad that I quit, but I still don’t believe in the anti-smoker ethos. I’m still anti-smoking ban, and I still hate the militant anti-smoking movement as much as I ever did. I don’t think I could have lasted this long in America. In America, 7 weeks in, I would have seen some horrible self-righteous anti-smoking harpy/fascist on TV by now, and I would have headed straight to 7-11 to spend 9 bucks on smokes. Strangely, I still look at smoking in a positive light. I look back at times that I almost quit, like when I landed at SFO when I returned to America in 2008, or at the fireworks stand in Baltimore in 2009, and I’m glad I didn’t. I would have deprived myself some awesome smoking adventures. Even now, I wish I’d quit the day before yesterday instead of July 12. I could have had an awesome time smoking in Jinju or Namhae. Again, I don’t regret quitting. I don’t want to smoke tomorrow.

Quitting smoking isn’t the only, as they say here, “well being” thing I have going on these days. Given my impending America trip, I’m also re-committed to the gym (I actually almost don’t hate it these days) and on a diet of sorts. I’ve cut out sugar and snacks for the most part, I’m eating tons of fruits and vegetables and only the leanest of meats, I’m severely limiting my sodium and cheese intake, and I’m avoiding excess carbs from pasta and beer. Thus far, I’ve managed to lose all of the weight that I gained last week when I was gorging on pizza and pork and fast food and ice cream while knowing that the sword of the coming diet was swinging perilously overhead. To avoid these foul foods, I’ve found a simple solution - wine.

I realize this is something of a vice “whack-a-mole.” No smoking. Exercise. Keep away from bad food. Bam bam bam. Smokes down. Booze up. Fries down. Skirt chasing up. Fantasy football up. It’s the only way to go. I can’t just become a monk. Strangely, it turns out that drinking is the least harmful of my vices, as it’s the easiest to quit. I can go days without the sauce and be just fine, but if I go a day or two without BBQ sauce, things are not awesome.

The new wine I discovered the other day arrived just in time. Jinro Wine is horrible, barely wine, barely even Thunderbird, and likely has way too much sugar. For only $3 more, there is a drinkable French house wine available at my local grocery store that actually tastes like wine. Plus, when I’m just eating vegetables and cereal all day, one bottle of wine can be pretty effective. As I said though - no smoking and eating bad food and skipping the gym means an increase in drinking, porn, and fantasy football.

My continuing love of NFL and fantasy football has resulted in burning a lot of podcasts. I’ve railed through a lot of Matthew Berry and Bill Simmons lately. In fact, it was those two who invented my awesome Facebook status today. They, not I, were the ones who noticed that yesterday was the once in a lifetime date 9/02/10.

I plan to write something on both football in general and fantasy football specifically. I still have 2 drafts to go, so I really can’t write on fantasy yet as league mates may read this. I still haven’t seen any football games this year, so I don’t want to write a general NFL column. Having seen no teams in action, I would be too influenced by the aforementioned likes of Simmons and Berry. However, I will speak on one subject in which I strongly disagree with both of them - The New York Jets.

This year’s Jets have to be one of the most overhyped teams ever. Every analyst is picking them for the Superbowl, or, at the lowest, the AFC Championship game. Hmm. The Jets were 9-7 last year. The Jets only made the playoffs (and to that lofty 9-7 record) because they played an Indy team in week 16 that was starting CFL-level talent. Those mighty 9-7 Jets have downgraded their rushing game (losing Thomas Jones and Leon Washington, gaining LDT, clearly less than a push) and will quite likely lose their top defensive star (Revis Island) to a holdout. They also signed 75% of Santonio Holmes (as he’s suspended the first 4 weeks). How are these moves somehow worth 3 or 4 more regular season wins? If the Jets played in any other city, they wouldn’t be the sudden “favorites” that they are.

In conclusion, New Jersey is a land of contrasts.