finally this blog will be what i want

chicago taught me everything.

i heard myself talking to people but i was really just talking to myself.

be yourself

forget about everything else

you’re younger than you think

take pictures of everything

you’re not alone

this beer tastes like shit

midwest summertime humidity and hospitality is the most magical healing combo ive experienced and trust me ive been around the block

the city and suburbs were warm and green and people, rich and poor look you in the eye and tell you right what they think

babies too.

people had cubs hats on, way more sox hats than i expected, bears shirts, and smiles.

i spotted more than i expected shirtless men.

and amber seriously fell in love with all of it while all along i kept saying this is all a beautiful illusion, for winter is coming.

when you get older and you return to certain places you say, oh yeah, over there used to be the bank and before that it was dinner theater and before that it was a drug store

this time i was turning the dial on the radio and there was no more The Loop.

one day i’d turn it there and its like love songs or something and i kept it there for longer than i shoulda

like i was waiting for something magical to happen and it would come back.

but it never did.

it never does.)

drove around USC last night and made a big mistake

yoAzdo i love driving? yes.

have i figured out how to do this damn thing in pretty much the entire city?


the reason to drive around USC is because it’s little quick trips that are easy on your car, easy on the gas, and very little traffic so easy on your soul.

none of the rides will get you over $4 but like they used to say on tv, its all about volume volume volume. especially on a monday night which happens to be a Jewish holiday thus the rest of the city is dead.

but whenever you figure out a trick, The System will screw you.

the problem with USC is ubes never pays you right. its supposed to be like $3.08 a ride, but if its a pool the system only pays you $1.54 per person – which is half of what it should pay you. and you have to go back in your records and write them an email with all of the ride IDs — and guess what, sometimes Ubes wont write you back.

so you have to write again. and again. and then fight with someone clear across the other side of the world who would be sooooo happy with making $1.54 in 5 minutes, but bro, im supposed to be making $3.08 in 5 minutes. im driving a Benz. im college educated. I HAVE A BLOG TO SUPPORT.

im talking to chinese girls about their midterms. im talking to freshmen frat dudes who say getting girls is easy because the girls think bc youre young you dont know what youre doing, but you do know what youre doing, he says, on his way to taco bell to pick up food for the entire house. youre talking to sorority girls about their perfume. youre talking to a girl who got in on a full ride because shes badass at the Oboe. so i go, who is the greatest Oboe player today?

and she says Eugene Izotov. she says he plays with the Chicago Symphony. i flip my Cubs hat around so she can see it and say, the Chicago? who was the conductor, is that Solti? she informs me that Solti has been dead for years, that the conductor has been Muti for a while. so we talk about Dudamel. i deserve my full $3.08, uber. no frickin robot is gonna spin his Cubs hat around and talk classical while playing punk rock in a benzo sipping on a super big gulp of cherry coke with a forgotten jack n the box taco in the glove box.

at some point i felt like i had had enough. 21 rides in 3 hours. so whereas normally i refused UberX calls, i took one. hopefully they were headed to hollywood. worst case scenario they wanted to go to DTLA. but just my luck it was a french dude who had a tiny suitcase. an Oboe? no. he wanted to go to LAX. mama mia. ok, i’ll make $20 i thought. wrong again. $16.50.

why would ubes lower its fares sooo low that an airport ride from USC (which is one end of LA) to LAX (the other) would net the driver less than $20 if he is trying to make the Uber X hustle? dont they know thats exactly what will kill the driver? that will make him stop – or worse – thats what will make him just switch over to Lyft exclusively because on such a ride, for sure the passenger will tip him a few bucks, because trust me, if i can exchange classical facts with a pretty girl on a 4 minute ride, what can i parlez avec un frog on his way to Chicago on a 45 minute LAX run?

i told him to get a girlfriend immediately because when the cold wind blows he might need two girlfriends to keep him warm, skinny as he is.

illustration by the French artist YoAz

made it back home alive

after a very nice flight on jetblue.

to save some money we routed our flight through long beach instead of LAX.

i think the difference in price was $80 from chicago to the lbc instead of through LAX, but then we realized we had no ride from the airport.

we were thinking about a super shuttle type van but we were so tired. the difference in price was $60 for a shuttle or $75 for a cab so we took the cab. turned out the meter was almost exactly exact from the airport to the truest’s house.

near her crib we decided that i wanted to crash at my house and she wanted to soak in her tub at her place. so i told the dude to keep the meter running as she climbed the stairs of her bachelorette pad.

but my cabbie didnt seem to know what i was talking about and turned off the meter.

he said he couldnt pick up any fares in LA so he didnt mind driving me to my place on the other side of hollywood (a $25 cab ride, typically) and he said he’d do it for free.

without her in the car i started talking to him. turned out he was from Cambodia and moved here 30 years ago after his family was slaughtered after it was discovered that his father was in the army. because he was a teen at the time he was in the jungle working so as they killed his mom and brothers and sisters he was saved.

he now drives a cab seven days a week in long beach supporting his family of five. he has four children, two are in the us army, the other two are in college.

his oldest has served two tours of iraq with the marines and soon may be deployed to iraq. he has your fathers warrior spirit i said. he shrugged.

we talked a little about religion. he said that cambodia and thailand share a border and many types of food and buddhism. he said he doesnt have much time to go to the temple to pray.

i gave him the extra $25 when we got to my place. why not.

went downtown chicago with my mom and my truest

like tourists!

my mom doesnt like cars. shes a natural woman. but she loves me so when i said hey i wanna go downtown with you and look around she said what moms always say “we’ll see.”

secretly she knew we would take the slow train through the burbs to the city. it was a trip id never done before but she apparently does all the time because now that shes retired the city gives her a free pass, which is nice.

even though this is the busblog, based on the fact that i spent years in LA taking public transportation, i was initially against taking a train to the city. what would we do once we were down there? how would we get around?

but it turned out to be so fun. cabs were plentiful and cheap, and between millennium park, state street, navy pier, and michigan avenue we had quite a fun little afternoon.

the only problem we had, blog-wise, was my good camera’s battery died after only a few shots. so we went to Central Camera an olde fashioned camera store on wabash, bought a battery charger, and asked the man if he would charge my battery in my new charger as we ran around the crazy park. he was cool with that, and i took pics via my iphone.

those turned out well too. see:

millennium wasnt around when i lived in chicago. back then the tourists were stuck enjoying chicago for what it was: huge buildings, great art, mediocre sports, and fantastic food & people

but somewhere along the line they decided to spruce up navy pier and the park and put in some crazy fountains, an amphitheatre, a garden, and this trippy reflection sculpture called The Bean. for some reason it make my truest wanna run.

navy pier was a little sad. it was off-season and apparently its all the rage in the midst of summer, but when its just a few hundred people roaming about its sorta like going to mardi gras the week After its all over.

but we did run past this brightly colored tribute to chicago childrens tv of olden times, namely ray rayner, bozo, and fraizer smith. wgn stalwarts and icons in the minds of any kid that grew up in chicagoland back in the day.

after playing around, it was time to get serious. we had the cabbie take us from the pier to the camera store to pick up the freshly charged battery, and then we were driven to the finest pizza place in the entire galaxy, Gino’s East.

i knew it took a while to cook the pizza but i was under the impression it took about 20-30 minutes. no no. 45 minutes! so the ladies ordered salad to start and i chose the creamiest minestrone you’ve ever had the pleasure of slurping.

mom had water, truest Stella on tap, and i chose old style from the bottle. even with a bad stomach it all went down beautifully and some would say it cured me of all the things Tums couldnt. it was delightful.

we ordered a small pepperoni and sausage and barely made it through our 1 slice each. it was cheesy, hot, and delectable.

the conversation was good. and i was so energized that i was inspired to take pictures all throughout the restaurant.

got on the train right before it was gonna leave the station and almost fell asleep in our chairs because we were so full and happy and worn out from walking and talking and laughing at my incredible jokes.

when we got home the ladies watched Castle and i messed up my moms beautiful house by trying to get her caller ID to work in her kitchen. the end!

our friend Monkey asks:

Hi Tony…I have never been to Chicago and I just got invited to go next weekend. You’re the only person I know from there and I trust your opinion – top three things I have to do? Any awesome restaurants, tourist traps, miscellaneous adventures to be had?

three very touristy endeavors, but whatever

– Gino’s East pizza (deep dish Chicago style) one piece may fill you up! wash it down with an Old Style beer something you can only get in the midwest

– Art Institute of Chicago – its the museum best known in Ferris Bueller

– The Weiner Circle. go at night.

best date of 2009, a summary

sunday and monday were a blur of good times. mostly because of this one up there.

lindsay came down from milwaukee on sunday and got us a room at the swanky conrad hotel on rush street. we met at 4:20 had some drinks, and headed over to the best pizza restaurant in the world, Gino’s East which turned out to be closer than expected. ($5 cab ride).

wait, a pizza restaurant for a date? well it was either that or steaks, but because lindsays last bf was a billionaire, we agreed that there wasnt any restaurant in the world that i could taker that would impresser so we decided to just eat somewhere that tasted good and we could relax. so she picked ginos. which made me happy.

what made me even happier was we got there in time for the fourth quarter of the Bears game. now take notes ladies who wish to woo me: when we got to the hostess who was set to sit us i asked “where can we sit with a view of the TV?” hostess said, “sorry only place to see the game would be at the bar.” at that point i figured, guess i wont be seeing the end of the game, but miss wisconsin was all, we can totally sit at the bar. and after about two minutes there, i was like, i dont care what happens the rest of the night because right now i have a great view of a tie bears game in front of me, an Old Style in my hand, a deep dish pizza being cooked for me, and a super hot babe beside me. how much better can it get?

besides the pizza being freaking delicious and 100 times better than it should have been, da bears miraculously beat the Super Bowl champs with a field goal with mere seconds left to play in the game. an hour later we were at chicagos united center, best known as the place where Michael Jordan won his last few rings. we had great seats to see Bruce Springsteen and he put on one of the best shows id ever seen, and easily the best Bruuuuce show id ever attended.

he played all of Born to Run, and 20 other tunes, in a three hour marathon show that had no breaks, no time outs, and no encores, just one great tune after the next. i sang almost the whole night and somehow i still have my voice tonight. in fact its 3:19am and i cant believe im alive.

why? because after the show we thought it would be easy to catch a cab back to the hotel. we knew we were going to be drinking the whole night (which we did) and there we were walking around not the best part of chicago. plus lindsay was decked out and strolling around atop some very high, high heels. i was all, sorry i didnt have this planned out better, but she was a trooper and didnt complain.

after a while it became apparent that because of all the cars leaving the area, no cabs could drive in, so when we spotted a Billy Goat Tavern (home of the SNL classic skit “cheezborger, cheezborger, no pepsi, coke” we decided to grab a quick cheezborger and another drink.

the line for burgers was long but moving along mighty fast. but we sidled up to the bar first so we could have some drinks in our hands as we waited to place our food order. the place was loud and happy because most of the crowd was there post-bruce and the rest of them were there to celebrate da bears’ upset victory.

one guy even tried to get on top of the bar to demonstrate the boss dancing on top of the piano until a very authoritative voice told him to get the f down. it was classic chicago. “BECAUSE I SAID SO” was eventually yelled. we ate we drank we made friends with people from Detroit, we drank more, we drank even more and soon we were some of the last people left.

got a cab and sped back to the hotel. got there and it was only 1:15am. strangely wasnt drunk. wasnt even close to being drunk. all senses. all smiles. no apologies. wanted more booze. whats this a room service menu? ordered booze to the room, ignored the price. bro popped open the bubbly. bubbly got drained faster than either of us realized and for hours we laid in bed talking and talking and laughing and talking

until i said now is the part of the evening where i have you do some crazy ass shiznit. to which she said, let me drain my glass first. and she emptied it and did stuff that she could honestly say she didnt dream of doing. ha! then we got comfy and talked even more. good, deep, discussions about real things. imagine that.

and this morning we woke up, decided brunch was the right call. ate in the same place as the handsome bears tight end, who was easily recognized because he had a bears hat on (backwards), and as we said goodbye penciled in seeing each other again on new years. will it come true? who knows. but i do know i really fell hard for chicago this time out. maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the company, maybe it was all the learning that went on during my two days working at the trib. maybe it was da bears, maybe it was da bruce. maybe it was all of that mixed with celebrating my moms birthday and reuniting with all of my old grade school friends, most of whom turned out way more successful than i ever hoped theyd be.

if the plane ride gets hijacked by martians and you never see me again, its because i had one of the most fulfilling working vacations ever, and theyre trying to suck the fun out of my brain like i was a human slurpee of happiness. which is kinda what i feel like right now.

i had such a great time at the Chicago Buzznet Meet-up

that i dont even know how to explain it. maybe it was the wonderful variety of people, maybe it was the excellent location, maybe it was the endless amounts of rum and Goose Island Beer that kept getting sent my way, maybe it was the redheaded slut (pictured) that Dave the PA insisted that i shoot with him,

or maybe it was the fact that midwestern people are the greatest in the world.

no offense, canada.

who knew there would be traffic on the expressway heading into the city at 7pm on saturday night, but there was. all because the city has a toll booth charging eighty cents just past the rosemont horizon which is now called the allstate center. even people with the speedpass couldnt get through quickly because traffic was backed up well beyond the oasis. i was to be late for my own party and there was nothing that could be done because that stretch of highway had no off ramps, so i just cranked the ipod and prayed for a miracle.

then i called my mommy and asked her to call my brother and let him know that i was to be tardy and for him to tell everyone who was waiting.

but because im a dumbass i got lost getting off exit 44a and started driving and i didnt ask for directions until i was already a good 45 minutes late. chicago sure has changed, but wrigley field has been around 100 years and yet the dude at the liquor store gave me a blank look when i asked him which way to wrigley. was i that far away from it?

so i said, clark, addison, waveland, irving park, do you know where any of those are?

so he said, this is devon, keep going that way and you will hit clark.

i drove down devon and went down Little India basically which was very interesting and i would have loved to pull over and take pics but i was late. then i had to ask someone cuz Clark just wasnt anywhere to be seen, and they were all, yeah keep going.

found Clark but the street sign said 5600 Clark and underneath it it said 1600 Clark, i was all W T F!!! make up your mind. and then i saw Evanston 1 mile so i knew i was heading the wrong way so i flipped a bitch and headed south to the mecca of all things perfect, Wrigley Field, which was situated next to where i was to meet all the great Chicago Buzznetters and Bloggers.

got to the place a good hour and fifteen minutes late and no one approached me, not one person wanted my autograph, and there were no hot babes asking me to go home with them – this was not my beautiful home! and where was my brother?!?!

so i called my momma and she said my bro was sick but she had called the place and they said that four people were there waiting for the Buzznet dealie and just when she said that i saw my old kindegarten buddy bobby d at the bar with two of his pals and i sat down with them and the drinking began.

within a few minutes more people arrived, and then more, and we moved over to the fireplace, and more showed, and then more.

whew, the kids had all decided to be fashionably late, which was great but it scared the shit outta me.

so i met Dave the PA whose is a PA not a PA, the lively and gentlemanly Brian from thestateimin, his two Depaul pallies bassonist akhdarbazzoon and opera singer mistywordpower, mba student dailytravails and his hottie sweetpickles who arrived with Buzznet pins which was killer, and elginroots and erin the oakparkmaster, and bob and his two friends – a cozy group and you know what, perfect for the setup at the uncommon ground because we could all sit by the fire and talk about how much we loved Buzznet because just like the meetup it wasnt a circlejerk of myspace whores or the lost-in-the-supermarket feeling of flickr. people are sweet to each other on buzznet and there were always new people to discover.

i totally agree. buzznet is the perfect size right now, i know it wont always be this way as we’re growing like mad every day but currently its killer.

uncommon ground decided to make last call at midnight, which was fine with us because one great thing about being in a city is a short cab ride to another bar. my man bobby d knew a cool place up the road so we piled six of us into a cab and jessica and erin gave me sips from their flask of vodka and we were good. we spilled out across the street from the sweet p? the sweet t? the pee p? somewhere, and it was crowded in the front and sorta empty in the back. bobs buddy lit up a smoke and i was all you can still smoke in bars in chicago? thats awsome.

turned out you could only smoke in the front, which is why it was packed there, and we pissed off the only other table back there, but you know what go back to russia if you dont like it commies. i dont even smoke and i believe that in america you should be allowed to do whatever destructive shit you wanna do – its why its called a bar.

bob got a tray of booze and we pretty much drank it all. then we hopped in another cab and went to an after-hours country bar. i have no idea what it was called because at this point the endless shots and beers had begun to hit me. and that worried me because i had to drive back to the suburbs. and even though im an excellent driver and i hold my booze beautifully – while taunting the youth of america by pointing at my empties saying SEE SEE! ISLA VISTA IN THE HOUSE BITCHES, i really frown upon drunk drivers.

so at the country bar i bought old styles for the ladies and sipped on gingerale and danced off my buzz to the band.

the place was totally packed by the way, and i dont think anyone there was really into country music but it was 4am and it was open so why not dance to a cover band of 40somethings in ugly clothes singing johnny paycheck tunes. yes i danced yes i took blurry pictures yes i started a squaredancing circle yes i tipped like a coke dealer, yes i had a fucking awesome time in part to my buddy bob who found all the best places and also thanks in part to erin and jessica who kept it lively and fun.

so around 4:30 the girls had disappeared so i bid adeui to bob and his bro and took a quickie little taxi back to my mommas car. and swung by the country club one last time to see if the girls just might be outside waiting for a cab and sometimes your spidey senses are right on the money. not only were they there but so was bob. so i drove bob to a hotdog place where he had parked his car, and me and the girls grabbed dogs and we cruised by wrigley and took a pic. and then i drove them home.

on the way there i cranked Tsar and jessica was in shock as to how much she liked them and i was all baby i have lots of friends in bands but theres a reason im constantly hyping tsar – its because theyre that good. she rewarded me by eating half of my hotdog despite allegedly being a vegitarian.

when we arrived out front of their house they invited me in for some late night board games but i had to decline because my mom would probably wake up any minute and see the icy rain coming down and fear that her only son had sped off the expressway and met his untimely death.

but ladies, trust me, under any other circumstances i would have taken you both on and triumphed left handed. so maybe this summer when i return to wrigley.

i got home at 5:20am and sure enough my mom had woken up a few minutes beforehand and didnt see the vette in the driveway and was a tad worried and heard me in the hall and said oh im so glad youre back and i was all ma you really should trust the Lord if youre gonna call yourself a Christian, which is a little joke i have for her because her favorite hobby is collecting mangers. i said my prayers and passed out within seconds.

at 11:30am i woke up just in time for some orange juice, advil and the nfl today pregame show, and then watched the bears beat tampa bay. and not only did i not have to use my AK but i cant imagine a better 24 hours than what i had just encountered.

thank you Chicago for everything, i will return, im thinking maybe we all go to a Cubs game and have a sleepover at erins house.

more + pics + here and more to come when i upload mines