Monday, May 31, 2010

Lonnnngggg Weekend

So I haven't posted since Wednesday and I do apologize, but I was really busy. Honest! Thursday I had a networking/happy hour event with Jumpin' Joe DeMarco and a small business group. Met some good people and enjoyed hanging with Joe.

Friday morning I had a coffee meeting in the morning with a guy with whom I worked a few years ago. We chatted away catching up on each other's lives. Right after the meeting, I went to the gym and put in my 2.5 miles, getting home just in time to head to the Cubs/Cardinals game. Unfortunately, LL is a Cardinals fan...boooooooo....and the Cards won after scoring 5 in the first inning. We rented a movie and had Thai food for dinner as Saturday was going to be an early call.

Because of a softball tournament, I had to be in Joliet at 8 a.m., so I had to leave at 7 and get up at 6. It was a pretty big tournament and we did not come out to play in the first game. We were trailing 12-0 after 4 innings before we finally put some offense together and scored 8 while holding them to nothing. 12-8 was the final score though. Ugh. It was 92-94 degrees during the day, but we managed to run off three wins to get to play on Sunday morning at 9 a.m.

First though was the Blackhawks' game Saturday night, which most of the team watched together at a local bar and restaurant. The Hawks won 6-5 in a very entertaining game. While LL and I went back to her folks' place to spend the night right after the game, most of the team went out drinking and it showed in their play come Sunday morning. We were supposed to have batting practice at 8:15 for our 9 a.m. game, but only the two oldest guys on the team were at the fields ready to go at 8:15 and most of the team straggled in around 8:30 or 8:40. So again we had a awful start and couldn't recover, losing 18-8. The team to which we lost ended up winning 6 straight and finished in second place, but we did not give it our best effort and it was definitely related to guys not being ready to play. Shit.

LL's mom took some pictures of the team Sunday morning and I'll post some of those pictures tomorrow. Good stuff!

After cooling down and cleaning up back at LL's folks' place, we headed to Mokena for Terry and Sandie's annual Memorial Day party. We try not to miss it and it didn't disappoint again! Here are some pictures of the great spread:

Here are the appetizer dishes and salads. Some of my favorites were the Asian salad and the mini-Caprese (a mozzarella ball, cherry tomato and bit of basil on a toothpick). I ate so much I really can't remember all of the dishes....oh yeah, there was a spinach salad with bacon....yum.

Here's the main course spread: chicken, lasagna, chicken parmesan, sliced bone in ribeye, and much more. The kitchen was remodel since last year. You can check out more pictures in last year's entry, including a pic of Terry. Sandie has avoided the camera two years in a row now!! I'll put an end to that next year.

Here's the dessert table spread. Soooo much good stuff here including carrot cake, lemon meringue, key lime pie and a cool cookie.

Here's that cookie! Nice! Unfortunately, we were so tired from being out in the heat all day Saturday, we left much earlier than we did last year. We just ran out of gas.

Monday brought a trip out to Naperville and a visit with my family and lunch. Good food was grilled and we had a nice time. The Blackhawks played game 2 on Monday night and we won again and again by one goal, this time 2-1. A very exciting game.

I hope you all had a great weekend!!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The big weekend

The other day at the gym, I tried to do pull-ups for the first time since before my surgery. Pull-ups are a great way to build strength, but I've been hesitant to do any. Fortunately my gym has a machine that can adjust the amount of assistance in doing a pull-up, so I increased the assistance from the machine and did a few. Not too bad. We'll see how my ability increases over the next few weeks.

In an odd coincidence, at least I hope it is, one of my front teeth has been very sensitive ever since Duncan Keith caught a puck in the mouth on Sunday and lost 7 teeth (4 lowers and 3 uppers). It's annoying to drink hot or cold anything with a sensitive front tooth. Man, I hope this goes away soon.

Big Memorial Day plans?? I'm going to the Cubs game Friday afternoon to kick it off. Saturday morning, bright and early, is an important softball tournament down in Joliet. Hopefully we'll be playing a good portion of the day. The Blackhawks play at 7, so we'll probably just stay down in Joliet with LL's parents and watch the game with my teammates. Sunday morning, hopefully, will bring more softball, but there are no guarantees. Sunday afternoon is my annual party in Mokena. Should be a gluttonous time as always. Monday night is game 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the rest of the day is free to hang out.

What have you got planned?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Shoulder and Condo update

What to write about today?

Tonight I have softball in the burbs at 8:30 and 9:30, so I'll be home much too late to write tonight. It will be warm out there, but not oppressively hot or muggy at that hour. Should be fun. During the month of June I'll be getting a steady diet of first base while I work on strengthening my arm. Last weekend I was a little disappointed in the strength of my throws. I was really hoping that with the warm weather, my shoulder would magically be back to normal. No such luck. Sigh. Just have to keep working at it.

Manual Labor Mike is close to finishing the last of the doors and trim surrounding the doors which I'm having him upgrade. There were three doors, all downstairs, that were still the bad, dark brown, old wood style. In addition to the doors, I also had him replace some really bad, cheap, dark brown trim and accent pieces near the doors. Instead of doing something elaborate, I'm just going back to drywall there and making it look a little more modern. The changes should continue to lighten up the downstairs. Next projects: master bathroom and replacing some more old bad wood trim around the windows downstairs.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Working on 18 years....I guess

The county sent me a "Long-Time Occupant Exemption Application" the other day. Apparently they are jacking up property taxes but if you have an exemption, the increase is capped. I like the idea! In order to apply though, you have to fill out a rather simple document which asks, in part, when you moved in. Seems simple enough right? It took me almost an hour to find SOME document with a date on it that seemed to verify when I took possession. It seemed like the mortgage papers would be good documentation, but I've refinanced two or three times over the years so that wasn't as easy as it seemed.

Anyway, it seems that I moved in October of 1992. My tax return for 1992 didn't show a deduction for mortgage interest, but 1993 had a full year's worth. Two months of mortgage interest wouldn't make itemizing worth it, so it's circumstantial evidence.

So who are my neighbors? I've lived here for 18 years, surely I know my neighbors right? Well, outside of my building, I know the guy next door is named Joe. He's in his 50's, had a high paying HR job and then got let go. Now he works at Home Depot after not being able to find another job. He's the only person in the building I know. On the other side is an Asian couple and a neo-natal care nurse, but I don't know their names. A guy down the street went to high school with me, but he's moving out of the country. That's about it. Further down the street I know Mike and a couple, oh, and around the corner is Brian and Rochelle. Just seems like I should know more people than that. There are other acquaintances on the block I guess, but not many.

The neighborhood is much more transient than a suburban neighborhood, so maybe it's surprising I know as many people as I do!

Sunday, May 23, 2010


What a long weekend! Starting with watching the Hawks on Friday night and running through my LOST party tonight, it's been exhausting. Softball on Saturday ran from 9 a.m. (when I left the house) until 9 at night, when I got home. Both the swing and shoulder are getting better, but I realized Saturday that my shoulder is NOT near 100% yet. I just have to be patient and keep working on my throwing consistently until it gets there.

The Hawks won a trip to the Stanley Cup finals and will have home ice advantage regardless of who they play. In an awful moment during the game, one of their defensemen, Duncan Keith, caught a puck in the mouth and lost four teeth. His mouth was understandably swollen in post game interviews, but he came back in to play the entire third period. It just makes you think: what would I do and not do, if I lost four teeth. I tell ya, the list of stuff I WOULDN'T do is pretty damn long and the list of what I would do is pretty short. Wow.

So more insightful entries coming during the week. Hope you had a great weekend too!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Busy couple of days coming up

Tonight I'm heading to the Sox game with LL as part of Legacy Brick Owner night or something to that effect. Those of us who shelled out some coin for a personalized brick outside the stadium had the opportunity to buy half priced tickets and potentially get onto the field for a pre-game parade. Hopefully we'll be part of the first 1800 people and be able to walk around a bit on the field. We'll see!! If we do, I'll post pictures.

Tomorrow is the Blackhawks' game and we might head out to meet some friends and watch the game together.

Saturday morning LL leaves for the east coast for work and I'm going to Crystal Lake to join my other softball team for a tournament. I love playing with the guys on both teams (there is a large overlap) and I like the rules in this organization as well. Heading out there will allow me to get in some practice swings, field some practice balls, get some throws in and get worked into the lineup as the manager deems appropriate. It should be a good day.

Sunday I'm having some people over for the last episode of LOST. I've watched since the beginning and am a big fan. There's a 2 hour special recap from 6-8 and then a 2 1/2 hour finale and then all the stars are on Jimmy Kimmel afterwards. Should be a fun night and busy weekend!!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Beautiful Sunny Day!

It was a gorgeous day today in Chicago; barely a cloud in the sky and mid 70's. My nose faucet from yesterday finally dried up and I'm pretty sure the Nyquil from last night and the 9 hours of sleep really helped. Still, I was feeling tired and a bit off so thinking was again not a priority. In the afternoon I headed to the gym to sit in the steam room for about 15 minutes. It felt pretty good, but it's surprisingly draining! Unfortunately I passed my cold along to LL and now she's not feeling well. Sigh. Tonight I'll make her dinner in an effort to make up for it a bit!

Last night I headed to Arlington Heights for my weekly softball league. Though I didn't feel great, we didn't have extra players, I needed to throw and to take some swings, so I needed to go. Unfortunately I had to fight through local Cubs traffic, then rush hour traffic and then concert traffic out at the All State Arena. Ugh! It took me almost 90 minutes to get out there, which is what I had allotted, but that meant little warm up time. Throwing went pretty well though, little changed from Saturday. Hitting was unfortunate though. I tried a new bat and I really struggled to hit the ball with any authority in the first game. Remembering that I had a similar problem at one point last year, I switched bats to one I've used in the past. Immediately I started hitting the ball harder and hit a triple in my last at bat. Sometimes a little thing like that can make all the difference.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Passing of a Restaurant

Around the corner from me is a BYOB Italian restaurant called Adesso. I've written about it before and even included pictures after it opened up. When it first opened, the food was very tasty and the BYOB aspect made it a great deal: high quality tasty food for a relatively low overall price.

In the first six months plus after being opened, I went there for business, on dates and even saw NFL Hall of Famer Marv Levy there with his wife. The place was hopping.

The problems started with a slight degradation of the food. The gnocchi wasn't as fresh, the rolls seemed more processed, the grilled calamari appetizer was changed and less tasty. Then they weren't open for lunch anymore. The crowds were significantly lighter around dinner time. Cheap paper signs went up discussing their "new" menu. More cheap signs talking about how they can cater your party.

Now they have a sign up looking for server help. Why? I'm thinking it's because their staff, which used to be good, have left due to low traffic which means low tips.

I'd be shocked if the restaurant is open come the winter. Normally I love these kinds of restaurants and would go there once a week to help support it, but their food just isn't up to the quality of a lot of other Italian restaurants in the area. The space used to house an Einstein Bagel. Maybe they'll move back in!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Still not 100%

Some elaboration on my weekend's events. Yes, even though I was not feeling well, I went to play 4 softball games on Saturday. Why? Not because I'm some kind of masochist, but because I really needed to test my arm and see some live pitching. The outcome of the games didn't matter a whole lot to us (only 4 people from my team were there, the rest were subs), but how my shoulder felt on Saturday AND on Sunday were important. It went pretty well all in all.

Going to church services in Joliet is not a regular thing for us, but this service was special as LL's mother chose all the music in the service and her father, who sings in the choir, was doing a reading. Normally I'll sing along to songs if I know them and Sunday I knew the songs and was able to bellow out along with the congregation. Church services are always more enjoyable to me when I can sing along with the songs.

Today I wasn't feeling 100% so I took advantage of the day to do more mundane things that didn't involve thinking: laundry, grocery shopping, haircut and going to the gym. Why the latter? Well, often when you play in longer tournaments out of town, you're not feeling 100% for one reason or another, but you still have to go out there and give it your best shot so going to the gym on a day like today should help me mentally during those times if not physically.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Old is new again

Sorry for the silence late last week; work was busy and then I started coming down with something or my allergies were acting up and that wore me down a bit.

Despite all that, on Thursday night we went to a fundraiser for a charity that Ricardo's wife is involved with. Fortunately for all of us, it was right around the corner! Anyway, since I wasn't 100%, I didn't drink too much wine. Friday was a half day of work, thankfully as I was feeling sort of beat up. Well my allergies start kicking in, my body just shuts down. Valiantly I fought it off throughout the afternoon and evening on Friday with.....Indian food!

Yeah, a little odd, but we had dinner plans with a good buddy of mine and his wife. We've been going to a great place up just off of Devon called Bhabi's Kitchen. On Friday we pulled up at the time we were meeting, only to find that Bhabi's was closed!! It was a BYOB and the owner was there as a helpful resource in figuring out what to order. The reason I found Bhabi's in the first place almost two years ago was that LL and I were going to my favorite Indian restaurant, Hema's Kitchen, and upon arrival we found that the entire building was condemned!! A block away was Bhabi's and we were very happy. So Friday night we wondered back onto Devon Avenue to find the next Indian restaurant. After walking west a few blocks, I spotted a marquee that said Hema's Kitchen! They reopened down the street about 4 months after their old building was condemned. How fortunate! We ate and had a very nice meal.

Still struggling with my cold, I got up early on Saturday morning to play in a softball tournament. Most of our team was playing for another team (which I played for also last year), so this tournament was just for some of us to get in some swings and practice and for me to throw. Throwing went well, but I still have to get stronger. It's coming along though. My hitting was awful though, but I chalk that up mostly to my being very tired from not sleeping well.

After spending Saturday night in drinking tea and resting, LL and I got up in the morning to head to her church in Joliet with her parents. After the service we had a nice lunch and watched the Hawks take game one in the playoffs against San Jose. An exciting game!!!

So health-wise, I'm feeling like I could be feeling better tomorrow if I can get a good night's sleep tonight. It didn't seem like a full blown cold, just allergies that kind of threw me off for a few days.

And finally, during the day on Sunday, my 2002 Toyota Camry rolled over 100,000 miles. I've always said that I was going to keep the car for 10 years or until it go to 100,000 miles at least. At this point, I can see having the car for two more years pretty easily.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Short, but sweet

In anticipation of my more structured working environment today through Friday, I hit the gym on Monday (ran 2 1/2 miles again and upped my speed) and again on Tuesday. My workout on Tuesday consisted of 18 exercises of 20-30 reps, depending on the exercise. It was pretty exhausting, but also felt very good. Softball was cancelled due to rain, so I wasn't going to have a chance to throw unless I thought outside the box. Since I didn't want to throw for very long, I didn't want to have someone come across town for 15 minutes of throwing.

The solution? After driving around and not finding a suitable place, I parked my car in my parking spot, grabbed my mitt and ball and walked down the street to a bigger parking lot. This one had a chain-link fence all the way around it, so I found a good spot and started throwing the ball against the fence. It worked pretty well and I got 25 or so throws in. The shoulder felt great!! Saturday I'll be playing in a tournament with a make-shift team, but I'll be able to get some swings and throws in without much on the line. Should be a great test.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


The other day I was walking down the street and saw a car with the rear driver side window broken out. It was a white Saturn Ion with Michigan plates. Unfortunately, it's not an all that uncommon site in Chicago. It was mid-morning and the weather was nice, but that evening it was supposed to rain. WWJD? What Would Joe Do? What would you do?

Since it's happened to me (twice), I decided to see if I could track down the car owner and notify them of the problem. I started with 311, the non-emergency all purpose and police number. They patched me through to a cop fairly quickly and I told him what I knew. He said since the car was out of state, they probably wouldn't be able to track him down so the best thing to do was wait and hope the owner returned to the car fairly soon. Clearly this was a jaded cop who didn't want to help anymore than necessary. Would it be hard to track the owner down? Well getting the owner's name, home address and phone number would have taken the cop, at most, 5 minutes. They have a database for the plate info, which would have the address and with that info even I could get the phone number. Why not try? Because you're a probably fat-ass, lazy cop working the phone lines and are unhappy about it. Ugh.

Wanting to get SOME progress at least, I tried AAA. I figure a bunch of people are members and maybe this person is as well. AAA doesn't have the license plate info, though they directed me to the State of Michigan site where I could find who owns the car and they were right, but it would cost me $25-$95 . Ugh again.

That's as far as I got. Maybe trying a few insurance companies: State Farm, All State and Geico would have covered a bunch of people, but I ran out of time and I'm not sure they would have license plate info either, though I think they would have.

Anyway, the owner did not return that evening and it did indeed rain. The owner didn't come back the next day either. Or the next. Finally, over the weekend, the car was moved. Sorry driver....I tried!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hitting the 'Ville

Tonight, I headed out to Naperville to celebrate a belated Mother's Day with my mom and dad and LL. LL came out straight from work as it's much easier to head west from her work than it is to head east back to the city. Plus traffic is just a nightmare around Chicago these days.

The trip took me 90 minutes, but it was worth it to take my folks out to dinner. There are tons of restaurants to choose from in Naperville now, but we hit the old reliable Catch 35. The food was delicious and we had a very nice time. The drive home was considerably quicker, but it makes for a long night.

More work tomorrow and then some late night softball. I really need to start throwing, so I'm going to do it tomorrow night in our regular league play, provided the weather cooperates.

ESDNM comes to town on Wednesday, which is going to throw a wrench into my workout schedule, my eating plans, my time with LL, basically my entire life. I'll survive though.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day to everyone....even you muthas.

Up and down weekend. The passing of Ernie Harwell still had me down a bit. On Friday though, my spirits were lifted with a trip to a new restaurant Chilam Balam, a Mexican restaurant that serves sort of tapas style. It's BYOB and the food was really good, but we did have to wait an hour. Normally I wouldn't do that, but we were with another couple and there was a bar next door. Afterwards, we watched a great Blackhawks' game and win where they went up 3 games to 1 in the series. Hockey playoffs are an exciting time of year. A good run at the gym early in the day helped to pick me up a bit too.

Saturday rolled around and I was going to go hit softballs and do some throwing, but the temps plummeted and I decided it was not a good idea to try and throw when it was so cold. It was such a blah weather day that I didn't even feel like going to the gym. So after a relaxing day, LL and I went downtown to The Chicago theater to see Joel McHale. If you don't know who he is, he's on NBC on the show Community and on The Soup on The E! Network. He was really very funny. Prior to the show, we hooked up for a few drinks with the kids of the guy who sits next to me at the Bears games.

On Sunday, we started the day with a late breakfast (an omelet) and then back to the gym for a good strengthening workout. Then I finally got in touch with my mother to wish her a happy Mother's Day and LL's parents came downtown for dinner. We took them to Sapori Trattoria and had the usual great meal, though it was SUPER crowded and fairly noisy in the back room, which I didn't even know existed! Otherwise though it was a great meal.

We came home and watched the Blackhawks' game which I Tivoed. Unfortunately, they lost 4-1, but trailed 3-0 for a good portion of the game. Ugh. The game was at home and with the Hawks up 3 games to 1, they could wrap up the best of seven series. With the loss, they have to go to Vancouver on Tuesday. If they don't win there, then they come back to Chicago for game 7 on Thursday here in Chicago. Several problems with all of this. First, the next opponent should the Hawks win, San Jose, have already finished their series and are resting comfortably. They'll have almost a week off by the time they play their next game. The Hawks could have as little as one or two days off before starting the next series.....IF they win! Ugh. Plus, San Jose has home ice advantage regardless of who they play, so they'll start off at home. Another west coast flight for the Hawks. They REALLY need to win on Tuesday.

AND, I just bought tickets to a wine tasting fundraiser on Thursday. Isn't that the way??

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Story of How I Met Ernie Harwell

Ernie's last call before retiring, in 2002 at Comerica Park: "Swing and a miss," describing a pitch to Tigers first baseman Carlos Pena. After a break, Harwell returned and said thanks to the fans for "taking me to the cottage up north, to the beach, the picnic, your workplace and your backyard. Thank you for sneaking your transistor under the pillow as you grew up loving the Tigers. God has a new adventure for me."
His comments really sum up well how we all got to know Ernie while growing up in Michigan.

Here's the story of how I was able to meet Ernie and his wife:

Sometime in the early 2000's, I bought a bat autographed by all of the 1968 World Series champion Detroit Tigers, except for Ray Oyler who passed away in 1981. My father and brother-in-law also each bought one of the limited edition bats. It remains the highlight of my extensive memorabilia collection, but I thought it was incomplete without Ernie's autograph as well, so I wrote the following letter in care of the Detroit Free Press:

ERNIE HARWELL August 15, 2005

c/o Detroit Free Press

Dear Mr. Harwell,

In 1968 I was 2 years old, but I’ve seen tapes of the World Series games and even a documentary on the season. I’m told that I watched all of the games on television, but that’s taking the word of my father, dubious at best.

Even though I now live in Chicago, until the age of 10 I lived in an around Detroit (Pleasant Ridge and Fenton in addition to Detroit proper). So growing up, you were the voice of baseball for me. When the Tigers celebrated your retirement a few years ago, I had the honor of signing the paper banner. If you still have it, I’m on it somewhere!

The reason I’m writing is that I’m a baseball card and other sports memorabilia collector. Three years ago or so, I was fortunate enough to find a bat autographed by most of the 1968 Detroit Tigers (I guess a few hundred of these were autographed at the same time). To me, the bat is incomplete without your autograph on it. I’m hoping you would know the best way for me to track where you’ll be signing autographs so that I can make the trip to Detroit. Do you have any ideas? Possibly through your agent? I really don’t know. My efforts thus far have not been effective.

I appreciate your help Mr. Harwell. Thanks again for the wonderful childhood memories!!!

A few weeks later, in response to my letter, Ernie sent the letter I've scanned here along with his home address. His HOME address! Who does that?? AND a hand written note! But that's the kind of guy he was.

So in response, I sent the following letter a month later or so:

Ernie Harwell November 5, 2005

(address omitted)

Dear Mr. Harwell,

Thank you so much for writing me back regarding autographing my 1968 Detroit Tigers bat. I was very excited to receive your letter (handwritten no less!!) back in September. While I was hoping that I would make it to Detroit possibly for the Bears/Lions game, business responsibilities took priority and wouldn’t allow for the trip. The White Sox threw an 88 year wrench into my schedule as well, but that was definitely worth it. I was able to see a first round game and game 1 of the World Series in person. It was wonderful.

In mentioning to some sports friends of mine about my intention to visit, they brought up the possibility that you may be headed out of town for the winter. In addition, the holiday season is busy for everyone, so you may already be booked up doing family things. I’d still love to get out there to meet you, possibly take you to dinner (anywhere you’d like to go if you’re so inclined) and to have my bat autographed.

The first few weeks of December seem viable and the Redwings are in town. The first few weeks in January also look wide open to me. Please let me know what might fit your schedule best.

I’ve included some additional contact information below by the way. Sorry about the typewritten letter…..believe me, you wouldn’t be able to read my handwriting!!


(Here I included my contact information.)

About a week or ten days later, on a Monday morning, I got dressed and headed down to Starbucks for my morning cup of coffee as I do everyday without fail (it is an addiction after all). This particular morning, around 8, the phone rang just as I had opened the door to leave. Normally I would have just let it go to voicemail and then gone to get my coffee, but I decided to at least see who it was. Hmmm, a Detroit area code. I don't remember now if it said "Harwell" on my caller ID or not, but it may have. Anyway, I picked it up and through the line came the unmistakable voice of Ernie Harwell. I was almost speechless.

Ernie simply said "Hello Mr. Sutton, this is Ernie Harwell." as if I didn't know immediately. He went on to say that I should just give him a call whenever I was planning on coming to town and that we would figure something out. And that's what I did in the summer of 2006.

The White Sox were playing in Detroit in mid July during the week, so it was pretty easy to get tickets and I figured it would be a great chance to get together with Ernie. So I actually called him up and asked if he would like to get together for lunch on one of the days that I would be in town. Since I was able to get some really good seats behind home plate, I decided to see if Ernie might want to go to the game with me. He said he didn't go to games anymore, but that lunch would be just fine. Awesome! We discussed a location and we were all set.

The Monday before the Wednesday trip, the phone rang and Ernie was on the other end. "Joe? This is Ernie Harwell." I'll never forget how he would say that. Turns out his publicist had scheduled a bigwig from NY for lunch and he would not be able to make it. Ugh. It was too good to be true. Then he asked if we could have dinner instead!!! Absolutely!!!

Instead of meeting him at the restaurant, I actually picked him and his wife up at their assisted living home. He still didn't know me from Adam, but he was more than happy to have me drive them over to the restaurant, Steve and Rocky's. As each employee came over to say hi and pay their respects, he made sure to make introductions. So courteous!! Dinner went on for over two hours and he was more than happy to sign my bat a few other things I brought along, including an Ernie Harwell bobblehead doll. To make the bats even more special, I had his wife Lulu sign them as well. She was pretty excited to do it.

So that's the story of how I met Ernie Harwell. When I went back to Detroit last summer to see the Cubs play, I set up dinner again and he was more than accommodating. It turns out, the day before he had lunch with the broadcasters from the Cubs. Lunch with them but dinner with me!! Nice!

A few weeks later, Ernie was diagnosed with a inoperable bile duct cancer. He faced the news bravely and said he would spend his remaining days taking care of his wife and would live as long as God allowed. Eight months to the day later, Tuesday, he passed away in the company of his wife and family at that same assisted living home in which I picked him up a few years ago. Rest in peace Ernie.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Goodbye Ernie. You are already missed and will never be forgotten.

Yesterday ended up being a sad day for me as I was informed of the news of the passing of Hall of Fame announcer Ernie Harwell. Thank you for those who have already expressed their condolences and who called or emailed to let me know of the sad news. Here's a link to a pretty good story and tribute to Ernie. Though I haven't documented my initial meeting with Ernie in my blog (the whole process took place the year before I started my blog), I did write about our second dinner last summer.

How do I convey what Ernie meant to not only me, but literally millions of fans who listened to him over the 40 years he announced Tigers baseball? He was a constant in my childhood and mostly during the best of times; the summer. Whether listening to the radio at home or on TV (sometimes as he mostly did radio), or on the way up to Beaver Island in the car to pass the time while driving, or actually on the Island with my dad's huge radio which could just barely still pick up the broadcast, listening to Ernie's voice was always a calming constant. Even when we moved to Naperville when I was 10, I could still pick up the broadcasts on clear nights and would listen to his voice come across the crackling airwaves before falling asleep.

I've never espoused that any sports figure should be a child's idol and Ernie wasn't mine as a kid. It wasn't until the last five years or so that I actually got to "know" Ernie and what kind of man he was. If there ever was a guy who COULD be a sports figure for children to idolize, Ernie was absolutely that man. A gentleman, a story teller, very polite and a great conversationalist.

Tomorrow I'll write about how I got to know Ernie. Thanks for the memories Mr. Harwell!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


It's May 4th. M-A-Y PEOPLE!!!! What the hell happened to the first four months of the year. One third of an entire year has passed since New Year's. What do I have to show for it?? Pretty much nothing. Ok, that can't actually be right. Let's do an inventory of what I've accomplished the last four months to somewhat justify my existence on the planet.

1) Trip to Switzerland. Can't argue with that. Good times.
2) Eating much healthier now by regularly eating acorn and butternut squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes and a spinach salad, not to mention usually tuna for lunch. Also, I cook with olive oil more regularly than before.
3) Almost fully recovered from shoulder surgery. This is the biggee I guess. I've been going to the gym 3-5 days a week for the last two months, including running 3 days a week for the last three weeks or so.
4) Had three doors replaced and installed downstairs in my condo, plus I have a plan to revamp the look further. Should be nice.
5) Moved a lamp downstairs so I have fewer lights on while working, using less energy and burning less bulbs.
6) Continuing on the green front, I started recycling one of the two Starbucks cups that I used to use each day along with the lid and heat sleeve. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a good travel mug that doesn't leak at least periodically.
7) Working on an invention that I can't talk about, but it's a pretty good idea and I have it prototyped already.
8) Found a way to save $4k on my taxes by simply opening a Solo 401(k) plan instead of just contributing to my SEP. Nice! Almost pays for my Bears tickets!

So I guess that's something at least. Still, time just flies.....

Monday, May 03, 2010

You get what you pay for

First, my mom pointed out, correctly, that I spent 21 years in one place other than my current neighborhood: home. She couldn't be more right! Though we moved around, it was always home.

Second, another good day at the gym where I ran 2.5 miles again, which is fairly standard now, but I did it while being pretty tired and feeling a bit off. It's good to be able to power through those low energy levels. It really felt like I wasn't going to make it just after I started.

Third, I went to Whole Paycheck to pick up some kind of meat for dinner. I have to say, not only are the workers at WP nicer and more helpful than Jewel or Treasure Island, but the people who shop there seem nicer. Twice people were otherwise distracted and they almost walked into me or cut me off and both apologized profusely. Very nice.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Half of 44 is.....half my life

After church today, I noticed that even though my church is only 8-10 blocks west, it was noticeably warmer there than at my condo a block and a half off the lake. Odd. But I should be used to that by now right? Every spring and summer I hear the same bad four words: cooler near the lake. Granted, in the winter it is slightly warmer near the lake as well, but that's usually relative to the suburbs, not a mile inland.

Anyway, it got me thinking about why the temperature difference was even odd to me. It certainly shouldn't be because as of this summer, I have lived in the neighborhood 22 years. Twenty-two years. That's half my life! I've lived in this neighborhood longer than I've lived anywhere. That's a bit scary. It doesn't feel like it at all. The area has changed pretty dramatically and even with the drop in home prices, I've made a ton of money on my home. Not that I want to move anytime soon. Heck, I'm still rehabbing various parts of the place. Next on the list is the master bathroom by the way.

Wait, it's only been 21 years. Damnit.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Quick Saturday entry

The Hawks play shortly, so I'm going to make a quick entry today to make up for missing yesterday.

Today my softball team had a tournament out in Arlington Heights, about 50 minutes away or so. On the line, a world series bid for the ISA tournament in Tampa in September. Since I'm still rehabbing my shoulder, I was just going to fill in as manager: make the lineup, shift players around, keep scorebook, whatever else needs to be done. Though were were supposed to have 12 players there for the first two games, one guy called in sick and another just didn't show up (I guess he was iffy to begin with). We have 10 guys in the field, so it was just me on the bench when we were in the field.

Our first game was a knock down, drag out fight that was 20-19 going into the last inning and we were up. We broke through and scored 5 to go up by 6 and shut them down to win a big game. There actually is a guy on the team slower than me, so I was the "base burglar" who could go in once per inning and run for someone, but could not otherwise play in the game. So I actually contributed and scored some runs!!

In game two, we came out flat and stayed flat in a 13-3 loss to a team who was one level above us in this organization, but whom we've beaten many times. Oh well.

Trouble came in game three as we lost one player who had a prior engagement. Since we had no subs, I had to go in and play first!! Fortunately I had taken batting practice in the morning and ground balls as well, so I wasn't completely rusty, though I hadn't faced live pitching for 5 months! Anyway, I went 3-4 (including 2-2 in the last decisive inning) as we won 20-10 in 5 innings. We went into that 5th inning trailing 10-9, but scored 11 to end it by the slaughter rule. As it turns out, I was the winning run!!

In our final game, we played another team one level above us and we jumped to a 2-0 and then 4-0 lead. They clawed back to make it 4-1 and then 4-3 in the 5th before scoring 5 runs to make it 8-4. We got two runs back in the 6th to make it 8-6, but couldn't muster anymore runs in the 7th and lost by that score. I was only 1-3, but hit the ball hard twice.

As the highest finishing team at our level, we won two bats and a birth in the World Series in Tampa!! Yay!!!!