Archive for October, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Happy Halloween

I hope everyone out there has a great All Hallows Eve!

Now if you’re like me, you’re going to need your yearly fix of Night of the Living Dead. Don’t own it? No problem, here you go:

Back at the Portage!

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Portage Theatre

Last night, Apryl and I attended a double feature of Howard Hawk’s The Thing and John Carpenter’s The Thing at the Portage Theatre. After watching both versions, questions do arise, such as which film is better? Which version has the the better monster, the giant, muscular “carrot” or the shape shifting alien? Which one sticks with you longer? Hmm, I have a few ideas…

Tonight, Halloween Havoc week continues at the theatre with a screening of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Svengoolie and I

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Hayden and Svengoolie

Look at me! I met Svengoolie during tonight’s screening of Son of Dracula at the Portage Theatre.

Weird Chicago

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

On the Tour

Last night, Apryl and I went on the Weird Chicago Tour. The tour had been a gift from Apryl from this past Christmas, but we had waited for the right time of the season. Despite nearly missing the bus, and then mysteriously not being on the list of passengers (thank goodness I printed out our receipt), the tour was a ghoulishly good time. Ken Berg, our tour guide, is a psychic detective and ghost investigator that has appeared on numerous programs on the SciFi Channel, TLC, and the Discovery Channel. On top of being very knowledgeable, he was a gracious and funny host that kept everyone relaxed. Here are a few highlights from the evening:

Death Alley

This alley has been given the moniker “Death Alley” after an incident at the Iroquois Theatre where a fire claimed the lives of over 600 people, many of them children. Along with the deaths inside the theatre, many of causalities occurred after folks stepped out to the the fire escape only to discover that the escape had not yet been installed. In the alley, there were hundreds of bodies piled on one another, a cushion that saved some who were merely jumping to their death instead of being burned alive. Wikipedia claims that the incident was the “worst single-building fire in U.S. history with the most fatalities”. To put the death toll in perspective, the Iroquois Theatre tragedy claimed nearly three times more deaths than the Great Chicago Fire. So it makes sense that there is a lot of ghost activity in the area. One of the ghost is a small boy who likes to get the attention of women pedestrians as they pass the entrance of the alley. It is said that he will tug at a woman’s coat or attempt to hold their hand as they are walking by. Creepy.

Even more sinister is that Death Alley is also the location where the notorious clown, serial killer John Wayne Gacy picked up over 20 young men that he would later kill and bury under his house. Beyond creepy.

Next on the tour was another piece of historical tragedy, the Eastland Disaster. Despite being tied to the dock, the SS Eastland was overcrowded and top heavy, resulting in the boat taking in water and eventually sinking into the Chicago River, killing over 800 people. Many of the ghost stories surrounding the disaster occur not on the spot of the incident but where the bodies where stored afterwards. One of the places happens to be where Harpo Studios now rest. Apparently, Oprah did a show on the many ghostly occurrences at the studios. To this date, I haven’t witnessed anything out of the ordinary but surely you will be the first to know.

Another big stop on the tour was at the Congress Hotel, where according to our guide over 20 ghosts make appearances. One of the spookiest places of the hotel is the Florentine Ballroom where people report loud, unexplained banging noises inside and on top of the ceiling. The security guard who let us in shared some of his own personal stories, all the while staying very close to exit doors. He said he liked to lock up the ballroom around 5 o’clock instead of waiting later in the evening. One of these loud noises was captured on video. Below, the beautiful yet spooky ballroom:

Florentine Ballroom

The tour continued with a short drive by of the site of the St. Valentines Massacre. This was a bit disappointing since the spot is spooky only in the sense that it’s now just another condo in Lincoln Park. Still, it was cool to finally know where the famous shootout occurred. Oddly, it’s located very close to the Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co where we took Apryl’s sisters for pizza pot pies and tasty Mediterranean bread. Our guide debunked claims from the restaurant that their building was used as a lookout post.

Another alley we toured was where John Dillinger was apparently shot down and killed by FBI agents. I say “apparently” because as our guide pointed out, there were many inaccurate features (eye color, scars, etc.) found on the dead body and those known of John Dillinger. Some even believe that Dillinger retired from robbing banks and became a pig farmer. Perhaps the upcoming film about Dillinger starring Johnny Depp will address such issues.

Strangely, our tour ended in our own neighborhood. The first stop was down a nearly forgotten street called Seely where a house with an outside light blinks on and off. Our guide said that it always reacts that way when the tour comes by but that acts normal otherwise. I will certainly be testing this theory. The “ghost” light below:

Weird Light

Next up, a tribute to the Virgin Mary under an underpass of the Kennedy Expressway. According to our guide, a woman spotted a salt stain on the side of the concrete wall that looked very similar to the Virgin Mary. She contacted her priest and before you knew it, there were thousands of folks praying before the “miracle”. Check out this online story from a few years back.

Apryl and I have driven by this many times but never knew what it was. I had always assumed it was a sight of where a biker must have been hit by a car. Never did I imagine that it was to many, a scared ground. Unfortunately, the original apparition has been graffitied and painted over but that hasn’t stopped the tribute to continue with lighted candles and prayers written along the concrete wall. Our guide showed us pictures of the original sighting, which were far more convincing. Below, the tribute as it looks today:

Tribute

Our evening ended at the Liar’s Club. At one point the club was one of the first lesbian bars in the city of Chicago. During that incarnation, the owners who were a straight couple were having marital problems. One night, the wife took matters in her own hands, and bludgeoned her husband to death with an ax. According to our guide, there had also been three other recent murders at the building, two of which occurred nearly in the same spot as the first one. A spot that is now occupied by two pinball machines. The most recent strange activity was a few weeks ago when apparently Kiefer Sutherland got drunk inside the bar and began dancing in the street outside the club. Mildly spooky.

While the rest of the folks on the tour got back on the bus, we said our goodbyes and walked back to our apartment. I have never been on a ghost tour, and while it wasn’t terrifyingly scary, it was a lot of fun. I kept thinking that my dad would have gotten a big kick out of it. For the most part, the ghost tour is only as good as it’s guide, and Ken Berg was certainly one of the best. Great time!

Pumpkin Carving Party 08

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

Jack-Os

Check out photos from our Pumpkin Carving Contest from this past Saturday.

The National Pastime and WEVL

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

south_side_park_1907.JPG

Today between 4-6pm on WEVL 89.9FM, you can listen to a baseball tribute show I recorded for the station last week. It’s a bit out dated because I was certain that the Cubs would make it past the first series. Silly me.

My season with the Good Guys

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Sox game

Well, the season is over. And even though the Good Guys were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, it was farther than anyone expected, so I consider the season a great success. While there were a few low points (injuries, extended slumps, etc.), the good definitely out weighted the bad. We even have reasonable belief that 2009 should be another fruitful season.

This season I attended nine home games (a total of 91 innings) at The Cell and watched countless others on the Tube and the radio. Below are a few observations about the 2008 season:

1. My favorite attended games in order:

1) April 28, Sox vs. Orioles – Despite a long rain delay and freezing weather, this ranks at the top because it was a birthday gift from my wife. That, and because it was an exciting game that went 13 innings before being suspended due to rain. In the 11th, the Orioles scored a run, making me believe that the game was lost. And then, Juan Uribe came into the game hitting a solo home run to tie it up. Unfortunately, the Sox wound up losing the game when the game was resumed 4 months later in Baltimore.

2) May 4, Sox vs. Royals – Because the Orioles game couldn’t be completed in Chicago, we were able to exchange our tickets for free upper deck seats during the upcoming series against the Kansas City Royals. Since Apryl was busy with school, I used the tickets for two different games against the Royals. The one that ranks the highest is the game on the 4th which lasted 15 innings until Paul Konerko hit a two-run home run to win the game. I had an early day at work the next morning, so I had debated sticking around for this one. Even though I was tired the next day, I can’t even recall the shoot I worked on. But I sure remember that Konerko blast!

3) October 5, Sox vs. Rays – The playoff win! And my first sold out game at the Cell. Of course, the only reason I was able to attend was because I was working for TBS. Thankfully, I was able to watch the first six innings before getting back to work. When the Sox won, we were the first on the field. It was quite a feeling being surrounded by 40,000+ screaming fans.

2. My favorite games that I didn’t attend:

The best games had to be those towards the end of the season, including our must wins against the Detroit Tigers where Alexei Ramirez hit a grand slam and the 1 -0 tie breaking win against the Minnesota Twins to take the Central Divison. My favorite game heard on the radio was the Sox win over the Yankees when Joe Crede won the game with a single in the 9th inning.

3. The Players:

This was a fun bunch. The boys were often seen joking around with one another in the dugout. From the 40 man roster, my favorites are still Joe Crede and Brian Anderson. But, let’s not forget Carlos Quentin, Jim Thome, Alexei Ramirez, Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko, and A.J. Pierzynski. Ah, heck, all of them are great!

4. Ozzie Guillen

There is no one quite like the Sox tell-it-like-it-is manager Ozzie Guillen. He might not always make the right coaching decision (really, Bobby Jenks again), but he never fails to entertain. Here are some of my favorite Ozzie quotes from the 2008 season:

– “I guess I’m lucky. Every time I get a little upset, the team reacts. But I don’t want to get a heart attack just to win a game.”

– “Anybody who pitched in this big-league game should be embarrassed. This isn’t big-league baseball. We have people who paid a lot of money to watch this circus. People making a lot of money out there to have a game like that. Both sides, not just my side. It’s embarrassing.”

– “Who am I going to blame if my team is not hitting? My wife?”

– “He just had a cramp. I thought he pulled a muscle, but he doesn’t have any muscle. Maybe it was a cramp in his bone.” (on the very skinny Alexei Ramirez)

– “Our guys are taking batting practice with the rats. The rats are bigger than pigs. The rats are llifting weights.” (on conditions at Wrigley Field)

– “Lou Piniella does two things better than me. Managing and eating. It took them three weeks to find a body double for Piniella. For mine, you just go to a model agency.”

– “I could care less about the Cubs.”

4. U.S. Cellular Field

Okay, while I detest naming rights which allow for stadiums to be named after companies, the Cell is a nice ball park. It’s aesthetically pleasing, clean (including the bathrooms) with great views and tasty food. And it’ a mere block away from the train stop.

However, the best part about The Cell is Nancy Faust, the Sox organist for the past 38 years! Nancy’s renditions of popular songs throughout the game help keep a classic baseball tradition alive on the South Side. She apparently started the phenomenon of playing Steam’s “Na Na Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)” during sporting events. My favorite songs from Nancy are her renditions of “Just Because” and “Kodachrome”. Unfortunately, these days Nancy limits her time at the ballpark for only the day games.

5. Stats

Since baseball is a statistical game, I thought I would share a few stats that I’ve collected from the games I’ve attended in 2008. Here we go:

Totals:
Innings – 91 (made possible by extra innings)
Doubles – 12 (most provided by Jermaine Dye)
Home Runs – 9 (fittingly, most of them by Jim Thome)
Double Plays – 10
Strike Outs – 71 (of the 15 pitchers I saw the most strike outs from Javier Vazquez)
Errors – 8 (fair enough, I guess)

Sox record when I attended:
Won – 4
Lost – 4
Tied – 1
(I’m counting the April 28th game against the Orioles a tie.)

My record when I attended wearing my Sox T-shirt:
Won 4

My record when I attended without wearing my Sox T-shirt:
Won 0

So there you go. Perhaps the final word on the Sox until next year. Thanks for the great season, Good Guys!

For all my photos from the Sox 2008 season, click here.

And for the funnest breakdown of the the season, check out the Sox comic “An Illustrated History of the Sagacious Don Guillote”.

Sox Win!

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Hayden at The Cell

If nothing else, we can say we weren’t swept!

My View

This was my view for the first six innings of the ballgame. That means I got to be a part of the exciting fourth inning when the Sox loaded the bases and brought home Thome, Konerko, and Griffery Jr.

Sox fans!

While Wrigley is a great place to watch a ballgame, the Cell is a far easier place to work. Access into the stadium is extremely easy and the rooms are very spacious. Unlike the claustrophobic media room at Wrigley, the Cell’s media room is an auditorium. And while there was a boxed sandwich lunch for the media at Wrigley, it was food stations inside a lounge at the Cell. Quite different.

Before the game, we got one interview with Nick Swisher in the Sox dugout. At the end of the game, we weren’t able to grab any of the players on the field, so we had to go in the clubhouse to get sound bites from Ken Griffey Jr. and Gavin Floyd. So, I got to walk onto the field, hang out in the dugout, watch the game, get fed, and spend time in the clubhouse. All in a day’s work! Seeing as tickets (if you were lucky enough to purchase them at regular price) were running at $50 on the low end, I feel rather lucky!

Today, the Sox will hope to stay alive once more with Game 4 against the Tampa Rays. Go Sox!

And because you can’t get enough of batting practice, here we go once more:

And the Curse continues…

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

Hayden at Miller Park

However, at Miller Park in Milwaukee, which is where I was working, hope was kept alive for the Brewers as they defeated the Phillies 4 – 1. It was a great game for a Brewers fan. Made even sweeter, I’m sure, when the Cubs got swept later in the evening. You see, there is a lot of bad blood between the Brewers and Cubs fans. When the Cubs’ take on the Brewers in Milwaukee, the Cubs fans take over the park, renaming it from Miller Park to Wrigley North.

Miller Park

Miller Park is a bit odd. I have been to one other game here when I was working on the Costas Now program. At that game, the retractable roof was open, allowing in the summer heat. Last night, the roof was closed because of the lower temperatures, which makes it more comfortable but a little more sterile. The stadium is very open with plenty of things to do other than watch the game. For example:

Video Games at Miller Park

You can play baseball video games instead of watching your home team in a do or die playoff game. Huh? Another confusing distraction is tables set up near 19inch television sets where ticketholders can give up their stadium seat to watch the game the same way they could at home. Strange.

Still, there were also genius distractions, like this one:

However, I am not going to bash the fans. They were great. Passionate and very, very loud. See below:

For several innings, this was my vantage point:

And a blurry photo of me working:

Working at Miller Park

Finally, another short video of batting practice:

Are the Cubs a Little League team?

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

…because they sure looked like it last night. Oh well, I got some photos from Game 2.

Wrigley Standing

Above, for much of the beating, this was my view from the standing only section. While very passionate fans at the start of the game, the folks quickly quieted, swearing under their breathe. At one point, a highly vocal Dodger fan near me came very close to getting knocked out by a large and liquored up Cubs fan. The Cubs fan told his friends that if he took a shot at the Dodger fan, he would probably just get kicked out of the stadium. His friends disagreed, and said he would more likely spend the night in jail. Either way, the Dodger fan’s cheers were far less enthusiastic.

Wrigley Men's Restroom

If you’ve got to use the restroom, you better get in line!

Wrigley Good Seats

At the end of the game, I was able to get back in those seats in the 10th row! The struggling Fukudome is booed. Ouch.

Hayden at Wrigley

Another photo-op.

And finally, here is another very short video of batting practice before the game: