Trains, Planes and… well, just trains.

This post is about trains.  For any readers living in LA- a train is a marvelous new device designed for mass transportation.   Mass transportation is… actually, just go ahead and refer to them in your heads as “not-cars”.  It’ll be easier that way.

Anyway, as remarkable as the not-car system in Chicago is, I’ve just been plain unlucky.  Twice, now, I’ve been on trains where people have vomited.  On the train.  All over the train.

I have friends who have lived in this city for years and never once seen this happen.  I know people who haven’t even heard of this happening.  But I’ve been 5 feet away from people upchucking on a crowded train.  Twice.

What.  The.  Fuck.

If this is some convoluted scheme to get me to think twice before binge-drinking, congratulations.  You win.  After seeing/hearing/smelling literally liters of vomit, sprayed everywhere from the puker’s hair and clothes to the seat across the aisle, I’m never drinking before getting on a train again.  Or at least I’ll try not to think about it when I am drinking.  Or maybe I’ll just make an effort to vomit somewhere safe, like a street corner or someone’s front porch.



So Chicago is divided up in to different neighborhoods, and after being here for about a month, I feel perfectly qualified to give a brief explanation of where their names come from.

Andersonville- Clearly named for Anderson Cooper, hottest of the gray-haired TV reporters.

Uptown- Apparently named as a cruelly ironic reference to what “uptown” means in every other city.  Billy Joel wouldn’t have been able to write “Uptown Girl” if he lived in Chicago.

Edgewater- It’s on the edge of the water.

Lakeview- Has a view of the lake.  Not sure how, since it’s clearly not on the edge of the water.  Maybe you have to live in a high-rise.

Logan Square- Named for Richard Logan.  Richard Logan would be identified as the founder of the hipster movement.  If any hipsters had the motivation and drive to make a Wikipedia page.

Lincoln Square- I guess this is named for the guy who made Lincoln Logs?

Lincoln Park- Ok, Lincoln Logs are cool, but this guy really doesn’t need two neighborhoods named after him.

Rogers Park- Named for Mr. Rogers.  Only part of the city that Rahm Emanuel has no control over, as this part of the city seceded and set up a new colony, under the rule of the tyrannical King Friday.

Wrigleyville- Named for John Wrigley.  Not the guy who made the gum.  A visionary man who figured out that frat parties really don’t have to stop just because you’ve graduated.

Boystown- No Gurlz Alowd.

Buena Park- Part of a new initiative by the City Council to make sure that Spanish-speakers know that at least one park in this city is good.

The South Side- All this is based on third-party descriptions.  The South Side is a vast, war-torn no-man’s-land, where the people who haven’t died from radiation poisoning viciously fight one another in the streets for food and water.  A godforsaken wasteland.  Never, ever go here.

10 Things That Would Make Christianity More Appealing

10. Christians vs. the Detroit Lions.

9. Dancing nuns.

8. Dancing priests.

7. Screw it, just give me a Broadway musical number with the whole College of Cardinals.

6. Good Christian rock bands.

5. Being nice to the gays.

4. Daily services being offered in English, Spanish and Pirate (today’s reading is from the book of C-ARRRR-inthians).

3. More funny hats.

2. Witch trials.

1. Replacing Jesus with Aslan.

How to make technology work for you

You know, people often ask me how I got to be such a huge geek when it comes to computers and technology in general.  I guess everyone assumes that I’ve done a lot of research, taken a lot of classes, or that I’m just gifted with an innate genius (and handsomeness).  And I’m sure they’re right about that last one.  But that has nothing to do with why I’m able to make machines do what I want.

It’s all about attitude.

First, you need to talk to your machines.  Now, most people are under the impression that sweet-talking is the way to go here.  Treat the machines nicely.  Stroke them, feed them, tell them how good they are and how much you appreciate their efforts.  Then, when they don’t do what you want, you throw things, curse, beat your fist against your breast, and rage to the heavens.  But this couldn’t be further from the right approach.  All you’re doing is showing weakness.  They’ll capitalize on that, and use it against you.

But don’t fret.  I’ll show you how to take back your power.

When I get/build a new technological marvel, be it a battery-operated wall clock or a high-performance computer, I talk to it even before turning it on.  I explain to it in no uncertain terms that I am a human, while it is merely a machine.  A construct of humans.  Made to do our bidding.  I am not simply superior.  Nay, I am its lord and master, to whom tribute and worship is due.  I am as a god to this simple being, and it will please me, or suffer the consequences.  It’s that simple.  It helps to already have a narcissism that borders on a god complex.

Now, like every deity, I have to deal with my heretics.  Otherwise, they start to bring the whole population out of line.  Example: my printer started making a strange noise the other night.  So I picked it up, set it down gently on the floor, and I shot it.  I probably could have found out what the problem was and tried to fix it.  But I already knew what the problem was.  The problem was a lack of undying devotion to me.  I left the printer on the floor so that all the apartment could see it.  And it did the trick.  My microwave has been getting things cooked even faster, and the fridge starts shaking when I get near it.

Technology was created to serve us.  Unless we want a Matrix on our hands (and I don’t, because that means we’d have to deal with the crappy sequels), we need to make our technology serve us as it should.  In abject fear.

Hey, it worked for Jehovah.

Concerning the weather…

When I told various friends and acquaintances that I was moving to Chicago, I received one universal piece of advice:

“That’s great, Alex, but watch out for the winter.  Seriously.  Watch.  Out.”

Having already heard about the cruel winter months (though thankfully never having been present for them… yet), I was happy to take this advice and set off on my journey.  Armed with the knowledge that the winters here would be unbearably cold, I felt truly prepared to get rid of all my stuff and move across the country.  Nothing could possibly happen that I wouldn’t be prepared for, because, after all, winter was months away.  I had all the time in the world to prepare.  And there was nothing else in this city that I should ever, ever have to worry about.

As far as I can tell, native Chicagoans don’t feel that the summer is too hot because it takes 6 months for their organs to thaw out, just in time for winter to start again.  Either that, or everyone in the city has secretly agreed to play cruel pranks on newcomers.

When I arrived, it was a balmy 95 degrees, which felt somewhere around 110 degrees, thanks to the swamp-like humidity.  I should mention that I arrived at midnight.  Since the sun was down, I can only assume that the heat was produced by some cruel god’s burning hatred for everything in the Midwest.  Either that or the hot tears of humiliation produced by all the Cubs fans.

See how acclimated I’ve become?  I’m already making Cubs references.

The next few days got, if anything, worse.  Multiple days went by where it was well over 100 degrees, which, of course, felt somewhere around the 7th level of hell.  If I hadn’t had to go about finding a place to live, I probably could have waited out the heat by barricading myself in a small, air-conditioned room.  Or putting myself in a cryogenic freezer for a few weeks.  But I had to venture out into the world.  And when I did, the world kindly repaid my by instantly bathing me in a mixture of sweat, tears, and any other moisture that happened to be hanging out between ground level and 6-feet-up.

To add to this, there were thunderstorms.  Which, one would think, should at least be welcome for lowering the temperature.  But that would only be true in a world where divine beings don’t have a perverse sense of humor.  Scalding rain poured down to form little puddles, where I’m convinced I saw rats in little towels enjoying an impromptu spa day.  Until the lightning started and flash-fried the little buggers.  Think I’m exaggerating?  If so, it’s only so you can understand the horror.

I have no doubt that, come winter, I will be walking down the street with a mass of frozen snot and tears stuck to my face, cursing the heavens that I should have to endure such terrible fortunes.  But, in the noble tradition of all those proud men who came before me, I will fight to subjugate Nature to my will with whatever environmentally harmful technology I can lay my hands on.  And work on building my shrine to Willis Haviland Carrier, who apparently invented air conditioning.  Thank you, Willis.