Monday, Monday

Already late for work, I was about a minute from our house this morning when I realized I didn’t have my glasses and had to turn around to fetch them …

I picked my glasses from the night table -- the same place they are every morning -- and got back in the car to try my drive to work again …

Until I made a pit stop at the post office for stamps, looked down at my feet as I opened the entrance door and noticed I was wearing two different shoes. That’s right -- a gray New Balance tennis shoe on my left foot and a brown dress show on my right foot.

Only slightly embarrassed, I joined the line in the lobby of the post office -- behind a police officer in full uniform -- and waited patiently until it was my turn. When it was, I scurried to the counter, trying to draw no extra attention to myself and playing Morgan Freeman’s line over and over in my head from the end of ‘Shawshank Redemption:’ “How often do you really look at a man’s shoes?”

I bought my stamps and thankfully drew no funny looks -- as far as I could tell. And then scurried back to my car, still trying to draw no extra attention. And drove home once again, this time to find matching shoes.

Finally at work -- a half hour late -- it took me another hour to get my ancient computer (don’t even get me started …) booted up and working properly. By the time that happened there was barely an hour left before I would take my lunch break and my mind was so far away from my cubicle I could hardly concentrate …

Leftover Chinese food for lunch, I returned to the office this afternoon re-energized and ready to crank out a couple stories. But still didn’t get a lot done …

My editor sent out an office-wide email announcing a change in our byline format that would include our email addresses and asked for feedback. That prompted a conversation about the majority of our readers being elderly and out of the loop when it comes to the World Wide Web, to which I responded, and the majority agreed, ‘Well, get e-mail, dang it …’ And my friend Liz noted this wonderful column in the Chicago Trib over the weekend …

And later, when a headline came over the wire about Baby Jessica being all grown up, we all took a stroll down memory lane, discussing our memories of the historic TV coverage and the made-for-television movie that soon followed … which led to a conversation about tonight’s ‘Flight 93’ on A&E and my friend Liz, again, saying something like ‘That’s the thing about TV movies: they just make up %#?! No one knows what happened on that plane.’ (… It was more comical hearing her say that then it is writing it now). Nevertheless, the film is getting good reviews and I do plan to watch it, or at least DVR it.

I spent the remainder of my day reading more of the Trib and swapping story ideas …

And came home. Again. For good.

In other news of the day ...
a Sorry, Oprah: It's still a great book! ... my thoughts exactly. I can't say I've read the illustrious book, but if it reads well and people like it, should anyone care?
a In harm's way, as Woodruff wanted ... a great column about the more personal side of Bob Woodruff, along with the related piece about the latest on Woodruff's condition.
a Favre claims he's leaning toward retiring ... It sucks to hear, but we have to move on people.
a Mike Piazza is Padres' catch ... very interesting. I like it.
a Tigers' Leyland expecting quick turnaround ... I like that too. Welcome back to respect, Tigers.


Bonds may provide too much reality for TV

I'm still hoping his knees crumble like a Roman statue before he can get anywhere close to Hank Aaron ... but this might be entertaining ...

Bonds may provide too much reality for TV


Love the 'Monkey'!

Just finished watching my first-ever episode of 'Love Monkey' ...

(cue angel voices)

Nice. ...I'm still kicking myself for forgetting to watch last week's premiere after catching a lot of the pre-premiere buzz and wanting so badly to check the show out. C'mon, it's Tom Cavanaugh playing a character not so distant from his beloved 'Ed' -- but this one's got music, baby!

Now, after tonight's episode, I'm hooked! ...Cavanaugh's character was everything I had imagined and wanted. Judy Greer is as cute as ever. And it's nice to have another image of Jason Priestly aside from '90210' (yuck!, blah!, Ugh!). Plus the show promises to bring in some talented, rising artists ...and some very cool cameos. I mean tonight Ben Folds walked on to the show. Ben Folds!! BEN FREAKIN' FOLDS!!!!! ... After Ben's scene was over, Kates asked if I knew he was going to be featured. Apparently, as I told her no, she didn't see the stain from where I peed my pants out of excitement of seeing Ben on the show ...

...Oh yeah, and Leann Rimes was on too. And the amazing Aimee Mann will be on next week's episode!

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.

... and then there's this from Newsday's Glenn Gamboa about John Mayer sound-alike 'Wayne' ...
Yes, "Love Monkey" fans - you know who you are - that singer-songwriter on the premiere episode of the CBS show about a music-biz exec was too good to be unsigned in real life. Though he was called Wayne in the show, in real life the precocious teen is Teddy Geiger, a 17-year-old singer from upstate New York. Unlike what happened on "Love Monkey," Geiger decided to go with Sony Music instead of an indie label. Geiger's debut, "Underage Thinking," is set for a March 21 release, but the sweet, John Mayerish single "For You I Will (Confidence)" - the song he was performing in the bar when Mr. Love Monkey ("Ed's" TomCavanagh) discovered him - is out now.

For those of you who can't wait for the album, his independently released EP "Step Ladder," which also includes the second song he did, "Love Is a Marathon," is floating around for sale on the Internet. With venerable KCRW music director Nic Harcourt working as a producer to select and line up hot music talent for "Love Monkey," Geiger will likely be only the first in a long line of new stars minted on the show - unless, of course, the show gets canned because people get tired of watching co-star Jason Priestley at baby showers.

C'mon folks, now, I know the future of the 'Monkey' isn't bright, but let's savor it and love it while we have it ...

Meanwhile ...
I can't say I'm keeping up with Commander-in-Chief as well as I did during the first half of the season either. The last two episodes are sitting on our DVR and I doubt they're going away soon. Sure the set is nice, but the initial hook of the show is becoming dull and the fairytale storylines are starting to wear a little too well ...


Sunday reads ...

Ok folks. Admittedly some of these stories are dated. But with the holiday hangover and the chaos of the last couple weeks -- that's the way it goes. I've been meaning to share these for weeks and I can hardly stand them cluttering up my desktop anymore ...

First of all. This is just wrong and sad for all that is America ...

Moving on ...

a Revving Up an Old Relationship ... this story is getting a lot of play. If you haven't seen or heard about it, it's truly a classic ...

a A party place grows up: On the lake with two names, a boom brings many changes ... A story I dug up while searching the Internet archives for a related topic. But a good history-laden read about one of our neighboring cities nonetheless.

From Mark Patinkin ... a Providence Journal columnist I got hooked on when my newsgroup start running him. He's got life.

a At 53, the bills are higher, but you appreciate things more ... I can only imagine.
a Google growing on us ... I Google myself all the time too.

From baseball ...
a There's a Central theme within the NL ... Uh, yeah. I especially laughed out loud when Ringolsby referenced Jim Hendry dumping "Sammy Sosa's contract on Baltimore, and the Orioles so welcomed the distraction last year that this time the Cubs unloaded center fielder Corey Patterson on them." And we're all rejoicing because of it in Chi-town!

a Epstein rejoining Red Sox full-time
a It's the Red Sox who see the light ... and they're all rejoicing in Boston too!

a Vintage cards found in dead man's home

And in music...
a Looking forward to her love angel music baby ...Congrats Gwen.
a Soulful Blunt stirs listeners with ‘Beautiful’ ...And it truly is. I was hooked on James Blunt the moment I finished downloading one of his songs on iTunes last fall ...

In other entertainment...
a 'Housewives' Bree Even Shocks Marcia Cross
a Current season will be final one for ‘West Wing’ ... It was fun while it lasted, but I don't think any of us that still watch the show are surprised. For me, the long good-bye started when Rob Lowe left the show ...
a ABC defends head-spinning cancellation of Heather Graham's comedy ... Seriously!? The trailers were bad enough to make me not tune in and the two people that did watch the show confirmed it was one of the worst shows in the history of television.
a 'Why We Fight' ... and why I'd like to see it...

And finally ...
State quarter's extra leaf grew out of lunch break ... Great. And I just took a cannister to the bank full of like $60 worth in quarters ...


Snow, snow, doh!

We’ve had high enough temperatures and sun the last few days to rival an average spring day in Florida. Heck, I was ready to go out and begin preparing our yard for planting season .

Kates tried to tell me, ‘nope. We live in Wisconsin. It’s only January. We’ll have another snowstorm before winter’s over…’

Blah, blah, blah, is what I heard. January, Schmanuary, I said.

And yesterday morning as I drove to work, I laughed when the radio woman said we could expect 4-6 inches of snow starting in the afternoon …Seriously. They’ve been predicting batten-down-the hatches blizzards all winter. And NONE have happened …

Then we woke up this morning to this …

We got at least eight inches. And our street looked more like a war zone, with big branches down all over the place …

I hate snow. Except when it first arrives, and it’s glowing-white-pretty. Then I want it all to be gone by the time I wake up for the next day.

Here’s hoping.


Man dies after dog falls onto car

Now here's a headline you don't see every day ...

Man dies after dog falls onto car from overpass

Fiona's machine

I knew only one thing would pull me off my Imogen Heap kick. And today it happened. Fiona Apple’s ‘Extraordinary Machine’ arrived on my doorstep.

I fell in love with it on the first listen.

I never got caught up in the whole ‘Free Fiona' thing. And I wasn’t one of the fanatics that downloaded the shelved version of ’Machine’ from the Internet. …But I have missed Fiona nevertheless, and this album has me thrilled she came back from her six-year vacation ….

Back are Fiona’s classic, bouncy piano, the soaring strings and cutting voice. And the lyrics -- oh, the lyrics -- are as mature, clever, and yet humorous, as ever, starting with the opening title track (which sounds like it belongs in an animated Disney film -- and I mean that in a good way…) …
I certainly haven’t been shopping for any new shoes
I certainly haven’t been spreading myself around
I still only travel by foot and by foot, it’s a slow climb,
But I’m good at being uncomfortable, so
I can’t stop changing all the time
OK, so maybe you have to hear the music behind them to appreciate the lyrics. But believe when I say this: it’s good stuff.

At Least They Didn't Take…

Our DVR.

Apparently they were too weak after ripping out our DVD player and loading up on my sports collectibles that they couldn’t carry the DVR too.

Thank goodness for that. I guess.

And thank you to the smarty who came up with the ‘ol DVR and his cousin TiVo.

Kates and I treated ourselves to one as an early Christmas present -- mostly because we’d been thinking about it for months and the cable co. gave us a good deal …

We still won’t be watching any DVDs for awhile … But from now on (hopefully), we can forget rummaging through VHS tapes or accidentally recording over something we’d meant to save, all so we could tape another show we’re unable to watch.

Yes, now we can set our precious little silver box to automatically record each and every episode all of our favorite TV shows. And then watch them freely, after work, before bed, or the next day! And we can skip the commercials!!

No longer do we have to pick just one show to watch at 8 p.m. on a Tuesday when there’s three that we want to see. And we can join in on all the shows we’ve been hearing about for years -- like ‘The Daily Show’ (which I LOVE by the way!) -- but haven’t watched because of allegiances to other shows or schedules that won’t allow it …

Wonderful, I know.

Yep. So last night -- a night that, for the past three or four years, at least, a videotape always seemed to be rolling in our house -- I waited for Kates to come home from her exercise class. And when she did, around 8 p.m., we turned back the clock -- on our TV anyway -- and watched our NBC favorites. ‘Will & Grace,’ ‘Four Kings,’ (we skipped ‘Earl.’ Frankly, I can’t understand what all the buzz is about. I watched the premiere and didn’t even chuckle. Seriously. And then when they moved it to Thursdays, I tried again, thinking maybe it would be better. Not a chance. Help me out somebody? …) ‘The Office,’ and then since ‘ER’ was a repeat we caught up on Tuesday’s nights showings of ‘Scrubs’ …

And both of us were zonked out on our couch before the end of it …



Great night. Great, fun conversation. Cool atmosphere. All with really good people…

It’s just too bad when the occasion is to say goodbye to a person you really enjoyed working with and being around…

* * *

As the basis for an upcoming story, I went to a “gaming” store last night. I of course was easily captivated by the walls of sports cards and magazines and collectibles just inside the door. The owner quickly started showing off some of his best items and we swapped stories about our own collections…

But that’s not why I was there…

I was there to explore the phenomenon of gaming, particularly online gaming

This store, located in a small, aged but refurbished downtown building, was divided in two halves. On one side was a series of tables, set up with various board games and surrounded by a handful of teens playing Yu-Gi-Oh or some other popular collector card game…

In the other half of the store -- the coolest part --was a softly-lit room filled wall to wall with sleek computer terminals and comfy leather desk chairs -- all for online gaming. A full-out Internet café …

Although, the place draws people of all ages, races and genders, the owners tell me it’s teaching the youth social skills because they’re making new friends every time they come to the café and, while they’re playing the games, they’re competing and communicating with people across the globe (which is pretty awesome in itself. This one kid told me he’s learned some German …). Plus, the gamers are learning teamwork skills and they’re staying out of trouble …

Now, I’ve haven’t been caught up in this whole online gaming thing -- yet -- but man, if I ever did get into it -- and I was 14 years old again, and rich -- I’d probably be at this place for several hours every night.

OK, maybe not that much…

But I just might take my $25 and spend a Saturday there for sure. That would be cool …

* * *

After being out late last night, I stayed up even later trying to catch up on ‘Lost’ and ‘Invasion’ because lord knows my cohorts would be talking about them today …

Lost’ continues to move at a snail’s pace, yet we love and suck up every second of it because we know (or at least hope) it’s all going to lead to the completion of one gargantuan puzzle in the end. My favorite part last night: The end! Jack looking at Ana and asking how long it might take to train an army was priceless (although the whole ‘James’ and Locke thing was good too, and I enjoyed seeing more of Jack’s backstory with Sarah -- but that’s just because I like Julie Bowen …).

And ‘Invasion’!?… Whoah. Last night’s episode was more like a horror movie than a mediocre primetime drama! …Now, we’re getting somewhere with this show!!!


So I discovered a new artist!

… OK, I didn’t discover her. She’s been around for a few years, it turns out. …But my musical ears have been enlightened for sure!

(…My apologies to fans of ‘The O.C.’ who apparently, I learned during my research, have heard some of her songs during various episodes. But for those who never have seen an episode of the teen drama -- like me …)

I give you Imogen Heap.

My story starts with the arrival of the November/December edition of Paste and ‘Paste Sampler No. 19.’ On the disc, Track No. 16 is a mesmerizing, haunting, dream-like, electronic a cappella, titled ‘Hide And Seek’ by Imogen Heap … There’s simply no way to describe it; you’ve got to hear it for yourself.

The track got me so hooked and captivated that I literally had it on repeat for days in December -- listening to absolutely nothing but ‘Hide And Seek’ as I got ready for work in the morning or took some time to write at night …

And I vowed then I would have to find more about this Imogen Heap person …

Fast forward to last night when I was downloading more of my music collection on to my iPod and I wandered off into the iTunes Store. I did a search for Imogen Heap and started listening to some samples from the first album that came up, ‘Speak For Yourself.’ In no time, I was captivated again -- by her soothing, cutting voice, and the catchy grooves -- and I began downloading the album.

The second track on the album -- ‘Goodnight And Go -- wow. Easily my favorite track on the album. A bouncy, fun track about love that made me want to twirl around and dance on a mountain top like Julie Andrews in ‘The Sound of Music’ …I’m not kidding! (You can hear it and other's on her MySpace site.)

The remaining songs are a nice combination of fast-paced, sonically charged tunes and slower grooves. And all of them will surprise you more than the song before, while keeping you wanting more -- I guarantee.

But there’s more to the story …

So as I’m listing to all this stuff, I’m thinking, “I know I’ve heard this voice before! … On the ‘Garden State Soundtrack,’ right? That ‘Let Go’ song, right?” … So I check the track listing on the soundtrack album and, “Nope, ‘Let Go’ is by some band called Frou Frou. Ah well. This Imogen Heap stuff is pretty sweet…”

So today -- I haven’t been listening to anything but Imogen (and while I’m at it, can I just say how much I looooove my iPod? Suddenly, I have the ability to carry my ENTIRE music collection with me on a tiny metal box and listen to any song wherever, whenever I want. That’s just awesome! …I can listen to it in the car -- instead of hearing like the same five songs over and over on local radio -- and at work it makes a world of difference to keep my creative juices flowing and drowning out the surrounding noises of people talking on phones and pecking on computers. Anyway …) and I logged on to Wikipedia (revolutionary web site, I say!) to find out more about this Imogen Heap. And wouldn’t you know it …

Frou Frou IS Imogen Heap! … Apparently Frou Frou was some side project she did with her collaborator Guy Sigsworth. They released an album, titled ‘Details,’ and yes, ‘Let Go’ was featured on the ‘Garden State Soundtrack.’

Don’t believe me when I’m telling how good this album is? Check out the reviews at Amazon.


Too good to pass up

Kates and I ordered Chinese takeout again tonight -- for like the 24th time in like the last 30 days …

Ok. It hasn’t been that frequently, but I’m starting to feel like we’re in that episode of ‘Sex And The City’ where Miranda comes home every night and orders the same Chinese food from the same takeout place at the same time every night …

‘Course some of our orders have been placed at like 10 o’ clock on a Sunday night because we haven’t eaten supper yet and we both had a craving … Plus the food is sooo good and the place is only a couple blocks from our house …


Third time's the charm

Still coming down from the shock of last weekend, this weekend couldn’t have been more relaxing, productive -- and, well, kind of fun …

To celebrate the end of the week, and the invention of gift cards, Kates and I took our most recent gift to the local Neighborhood Grill and dined on a wonderful three-course meal …

On any other Friday night, the dinner might be followed by a trip to the movie theater (there’s not a lot of movies in the theater we want to see right now, and besides, the ticket prices are too dang high…) or we’d pick up a couple DVDs for the night (our DVD player was stolen …). Neither was going to happen.


We drove down the road to the new Lowe’s store! Woo Hoo!!

… I was a little skeptical at first, given my love for Menards. I’ve never been a fan of Home Depot. And I’d heard the prices at Lowe’s are a bit high.

… Sure it was opening night, so the store was in pristine condition. But all those presumptions I had were shot down the moment we stepped in the store. The aisles were easy to navigate and the products clearly marked. The stock is high quality and it’s of respected brand names. And the clerks were refreshingly helpful -- although it remains to be seen if that continues the longer the store is open.

But as the weekend wore on, what struck me more was this: Why is it every time a new store opens in a town I live that myself and whomever I’m with spend more time there than we do any other activity that weekend. …Seriously. It was that way in July ’96 when a new Super Wal-mart opened in Olathe and again the following summer when they opened the long-awaited Great Mall of the Great Plains and my friends and I were there something like four times in its first three days of existence. And then the Super Wal-mart scenario played out again when I was in college in Maryville …

Yeah. So it was hardly surprising when Sunday arrived and we were heading to Lowe’s for the third consecutive day.

There’s a decent explanation this time though, and it’s partly Lowe’s fault. …You see on Friday night Kates and I found the wood blinds we’d been looking for to fit our living room picture windows. We couldn’t buy them, however, without first taking the proper measurements and thus, we returned to Lowe’s on Saturday to actually purchase the blinds. But we had to have the blinds custom cut and the clerk broke the machine while cutting the fourth and final set of blinds, therefore sealing another return trip to Lowe’s for us on Sunday, when we picked up the last set.


I spent the afternoon, of course, installing the darn things, and, of course, watching the Steelers-Colts game (… which, by the way, was an instant classic and was as good as the Super Bowl will get -- no matter what teams make it to Detroit.)

And alas, our new and improved living room has never looked better or felt more cozy. Ah, the ambience …



I can’t think of a better way -- at least right now I can’t think of one -- to start a morning than sipping drinks at a cozy coffee shop, near a window that looks onto Lake Michigan and talking music with a guy whose my age and I feel like I should have met years ago.

Sitting across the table from me was Charlie Williams, a local musician who’s just released an indie-pop album and is trying to get some pub and gigs in the Chicago area. His band is Mira Mira. Their tagline is this:
“Coming from a conservatory background can be dangerous in the world of pop music, but ‘post-classical’ pianist and Mira Mira frontman Charlie Williams doesn’t so much hide his training as render it transparent; writing songs that draw on fancy footwork when necessary, but leaving musical space often enough that one doesn’t get the sense of being at a recital.”
Fancy footwork is a good way of putting it. When Charlie sent me a copy of the album and I listened to it for the first time I thought it was -- interesting and different? But I’ve listened to it a few more times since then and can now say it’s definitely growing on me …

Drawing from influences that include Wilco, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Magnetic Fields and, of course, the Beatles, Williams’ album is raw, indie pop in its truest form. It’s plinky piano, guitars and light vocals with subtle, cool doses of chamber, electronic, trance and classical mixed in.

It’s all in the album’s title, ‘Midnight For You,’ says Charlie.
“It’s sort of a nightime thing. There’s the mindset that you get if you’re staying up talking with somebody until 3 in the morning. Your mind works different, you share secrets, you feel like everything is cosmically important and you feel this connectiveness to people.”

It’s background music, he says and then adds, “It isn’t the album that you put on before you go out to a club, to get you like stoked up for the club.”

And about the vocals?
“I’m not trying to be like ‘American Idol.’ I’m not trying to be like ‘Listen to me sing!’ (he half sings in an operatic voice.) It’s like I’m a real person singing. It was a great experience going into the studio and it was definitely a decision not to process the heck out of the voice. It was like ‘OK, we could Britney Spears it up, but I don’t want to do that. I want to sound like me.’”

And for that I’m thankful.

And I guess what I’m trying to say is check out this album and give it a listen -- more than once.


Elvis' friend & me

It’s a given that I tend to get really excited about little things, and with that I can be a starstruck dork sometimes. But don’t even try prying the smile that comes over my face every time I think of this day for the next few weeks …

I spent most of this morning sitting with Elvis Presley’s best friend, Joe Esposito.

I got the assignment yesterday that Esposito was stopping at a local auto dealership and the news needed someone to ‘do something with it.’ … A ginormous music fan, I am, yes. But an Elvis fan, I never have been. Although I have great respect for the standards he set and the roads he paved for rock n’ roll, it seems to me that a music fan’s allegiances always start with Elvis or the Beatles. I’ve always been a Beatles man.

Nevertheless, I did some hardcore Internet cramming and studying all things Elvis-related late Tuesday, and still didn’t feel as prepared as I would’ve liked. … But I walked into the dealership’s main building shortly after Esposito’s arrival at 9 a.m. and instantly got a sense of Esposito’s gracious and polite personality, as we introduced ourselves. For nearly the next three hours, he allowed me to sit next to him while he signed photos and books for a steady stream of fans, patiently answering my questions with more details than I ever could have imagined …

The long story short: Esposito was a Chicago kid who met Elvis in the Army about 1958 and the two became instant friends. As soon as they were out of the Army, Esposito became Elvis’ road manager and spent virtually every day with Elvis during the next three decades. He was the best man at Elvis’ wedding, he was there when Lisa Marie was born, never missed a show in 18 years and was at Graceland getting ready for the next tour on the day Elvis died.

And the stories I got to hear from the dozens of Elvis fans who came out to greet Esposito were the icing on the cake. I was fascinated to say the least. And I think now I’ll make a little extra room next to all those Beatles CDs for a little bit of The King.

01.20.06 UPDATE: The AP picked up my story today, which you can read here.

In the meantime, a transcript of Esposito's August 2002 interview with Larry King can be found here and here’s some of Esposito’s more interesting answers to some of my questions:

About becoming friends with Elvis: “I always say when I met Elvis, ‘I won the lottery.’ My whole life changed. I was a kid from the streets of Chicago. I was never in the entertainment business and all of a sudden here I am with the biggest star in the world. We came back from the service. Frank Sinatra had the big welcome home show for Elvis. I’m in Miami Beach Fla., and I’m a kid from Chicago; I never traveled. So all of a sudden I’m in Miami Beach at the Fontainebleau Hotel, the top Penthouse, and I’m there with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford and all of these stars and Elvis. I said, ‘Am I dreaming?’ I was out on the patio, overlooking the beach. It was so gorgeous that hotel. At that time it was the biggest hotel in the United States. It was such an experience. I said, ‘I gotta pinch myself. I must be dreaming.’”

About Elvis’ personality: “He was so down to Earth. He’d read something in the paper about a kid who had his wheelchair stolen. He’d call immediately and say, ‘Make sure you get that over to that kids’ house’ and he took it over to the house. And that’s the kind of guy he was and it was just amazing. He would love to help people out and he was good about that. He says, you know Joe I make a lot of money, but money’s only made to enjoy and I want everybody else to enjoy it too.”

About Elvis’ relationships with women: “The one thing about Elvis, he loved women more than anything. He related to women more I guess because of his mother situation. He was very close to his mother. … He could never be a one-woman man, ever. No way. I still am very close to a lot of his old girlfriends, and they all love him. No matter what, they knew he had affairs, they still love the guy and they all say nothing but nice things about him.”

About Priscilla: “It was great at the beginning, let’s face it. But like I say he could never be a one woman guy. So he was definitely in love with her. Got married. It was a beautiful wedding, but eventually -- hey, we were all doing it. Our wives were married and we were single, that’s the way it was. I was the same way.”

About his wedding day: “It was very exciting. I think I was more nervous during the wedding than he was. He was so calm I couldn’t believe it. Priscilla was really nervous. But it was very exciting.”

About Lisa Marie’s birth: “That was very exciting too. He was nervous wreck at the hospital waiting. And after she was born he gave everybody cigars. He was just a little excited kid that his daughter was born. It was just very, very exciting.”

About raising their families together: “Easter Egg hunts. All that stuff. We really had just a normal life. A lot of picnics and birthday parties and parties for everybody. We just traveled and went on vacation a lot. We all traveled together. We did a lot of vacation in Hawaii and Aspen, Colo., and Vail, Colo., and places like that. We all did everything together.”

About Colonel Tom Parker: “Without him Elvis wouldn’t have been as big as he was because he knew how to handle it and keep him a mystery. That’s very important in that business. Never overexposed him. He made sure that people couldn’t get to him easy because otherwise, they get to somebody easy, they don’t want to see you anymore. You always gotta make it where you’re always in demand and he’d make sure that’s the way it was.”

About stardom: “Being a superstar to me is not a good thing because your life is no longer yours. You’re everybody else’s life and they’re always saying things about you they don’t need to tell or talk about. They make it all up. You know if you got any kind of feelings at all, it has to hurt. So you get depressed. It’s a very lonely position.”

Favorite Elvis song: “There’s too many of them. ‘It’s Now Or Never.’ The song ‘Don’t’ in the ‘50s. There’s so many I have that … I look at them differently. People when they hear them, they hear the song. When I hear him, I remember I was at the recording session. So there’s a big difference. So I see them in a different light than other people see them He’s got so many great songs that I love. The memories are just fabulous. When Elvis did a recording session, it was like a show, not like today. Today when a guy records, the guitar player plays one time. The singer comes in, the voices, the drummer and all that. We did a show every time. Everybody’s in the same room, the singers, musicians, everybody.”

Favorite Elvis movie: “I think his best movie was ‘King Creole.’ But ‘Viva Las Vegas’ was good. ‘Follow That Dream’ was a good movie. And they’re entertaining. His movies are entertaining, that’s what they are. Pure entertainment. No sex in them. Lots of beautiful women. Funny. Lot of good times.”

A rivalry with The Beatles? “He never looked at it that way. He said there was room for everybody out there. Whatever they did was fine with him. He loved a lot of artists. The papers make those kind of stories up to sell papers, that he didn’t like the Beatles and all that stuff. He liked anybody that was good. …When he grew up he was a big fan of Dean Martin. He liked the way he sang with a lot of feeling, good words. He loved Jackie Wilson, Roy Orbison. He loved a lot of entertainers. Depending on the song, and the words and the production of it. Tom Jones was a good friend of ours. He liked Frank Sinatra. He loved the Beatles; he recorded three of the Beatles songs. He loved the BeeGees. He loved John Denver, The Carpenters.”

About those jumpsuits: “The idea came up because he was tearing a lot of his pants out … He’d make a move, he’d do a karate kick and tear the bottom of his pants out, so Bill Belew, his wardrobe designer, came up with the idea. A jumpsuit, they can’t fall, it’s all one piece. And that’s why we got jumpsuits and that’s how it all started.”

On Elvis’ addiction to prescription pills: “He overdid everything. Cars, he’d buy 20 cars. Guns he’d buy 30 guns. Everything he did in life was that way. That’s the same thing he did with medication. He got injured a couple times, and he’d take pain pills. And pain pills give you a great buzz. ‘Oh this feels good.’ Little by little you like it. So you start getting them and that’s when you get hooked. And that’s what happened. Little by little he got hooked on medication, prescription drugs. And it’s hard to get off unless you want to get off. You have to be the one that wants to get off, just like an alcoholic. No matter what you say to anybody, they can sit and agree with you, but they ain’t going to change unless they want to. And he didn’t.”

On Elvis’ death: “There always were points where he would clean his act up. He was in great shape. People would say, ‘Did you know he was going to die?’ I said, ‘No. Never ever.’ It was never in my mind. But his body just said one day, ‘that’s it, can’t take it anymore.’ … I was there. I went with him to the hospital. … Then they came and told us he was gone. And that was a tough one. Very tough. It’s a hard one to talk about.”

On Elvis’ legacy: “I think it’s wonderful. I couldn’t believe it. I would have never expected it. I figured five years. Now it’s 28 years and going as strong as ever and people are loving him. Young kids. It’s been great.”


Still a bit blurry

It goes without saying, these last few days have been a blur.

If you think burglaries mean just a few missing things here and there, and then you get over it -- let me set you straight. We’re not just talking here about the emotions and feelings you go through of being violated, and the stolen memories, and the new fear you experience every time you leave your home. … it’s also the inventorying of all your most valuable possessions and documenting everything for insurance purposes, and taking care of the property damage, and taking every security measure you can think of to deter it from happening again …

Yes, we now have palm-sized alarms attached to every one of our basement windows ($1 each at Menards), and a handful of ADT security stickers stuck to the most visible windows of our home ($30 on eBay).

The prominent ‘Beware of the Dog’ sign may be soon appearing in our front window as well.


Worst fears come true

Not a tragic death in a car wreck or a house fire -- but our house burglarized and trashed.

My mind preoccupied with a package on our doorstep, I came through our side door like I always do and went straight to our front door for the package, never noticing the busted window or the entertainment center in dissarray. Although, I did find it odd our basement light was on, knowing I turned it off before leaving the house ...

It was after I grabbed the package and turned toward our living room that I noticed the set of cords dangling from the entertainment center ... Suddenly, a thunderstorm of emotions startedcrashing around me as I realized the situation.

I quickly broke for our basement rec room and other places throughout the house where valuables are kept. In the basement, a busted-out window, broken glass everywhere, and one whole half of the room rummaged through and trashed with items turned over.

I freaked. And called the police.

Three officers and squad cars were parked in front of the house within minutes … And while I paced and sat on the verge of hyperventilation and tears, the officers worked for the next two hours gathering evidence, taking fingerprints and my statement …

The rest of the day offered no such break. As though it was a terrible dream from which I couldn't wake or a ruthless joke somebody had played on us. There were endless phone calls to family and friends. And to insurance reps. And to pawn shops and stores where some of our stolen items might have been taken ...

And slowly the realization that we'll probably see none of those things again. I've tried telling myself repeatedly it could have been a lot, A LOT worse. And that the stuff they got is just junk, material stuff. But that doesn't stop the reminders or thoughts of every cherished memory each item stored or the thoughtful gifts they had been.

Even more, it’s the sick feeling of knowing that somebody has been in our house without our permission. Violated is the word everyone keeps using. ...And you suddenly become suspicious of everyone. Last night, while doing some errands, I stopped at a Wal-mart and pulled into a parking spot near a, let's say rough-looking, man standing beside a junk car. He asked if I could help him jumpstart the car. I rolled my eyes and tried to offer excuses, but finally gave in and helped him. When we were finished he said, "Thanks man, I’ve been standing out here for like 20 minutes." …I replied, "Well you’re lucky because this hasn’t been my day." I shook his hand, told him to take care and went on my way …

Last night, Kates and I went to bed with half the lights on in our house. I literally slept with my laptop and iPod at my side, and even still, didn’t sleep that well. …I had a dream that Joel woke me up and said, "They got the rest of it!" The dream continued with me running downstairs to find our music collection completely wiped out and nothing but empty shelves in other rooms. Then I screamed absolute bloody murder before waking up … It took me what seemed like several minutes of lying wide-eyed in our bed for me to realize it was just a dream.

That was. This is not.


12 miners dead, 1 alive

I gasped when I opened up my newspaper this morning and the top headline proclaimed in huge bold letters '12 miners found alive.' Then I flipped the TV from 'Sportscenter' over to the 'Today Show' ... still too amazed to realize what Matt Lauer was talking about. Finally, I took a doubletake at my newspaper again and then at the headline at the bottom of the TV screen: '12 of 13 miners dead.'

Somebody goofed.

Big time.

In a lot of ways.

Little did I know, my first look at the newspaper I work for was only the beginning, however. ... On the drive to work, Chicago radio stations were discussing the same scenario. The Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times had proclaimed the miners alive. And when I arrived at work, additional regional papers sat on the desk with bold headlines saying "They're Alive!" ... Virtually all the newspapers in the central and eastern time zones, even USA Today and The New York Times, hit their press times last night, splashing the front pages with jubilant headlines ...

Then the truth came out. And in one of those rare 'Dewey Defeats Truman' moments, we all looked foolish ... I sat in our newsroom this morning amid an editor that was clearly frustrated, and overheard a part of the conversation between him and our publisher about what our paper was doing to fix it. Meanwhile, our newsroom receptionist is answering the repeated phone calls from readers who don't understand that we were printing the most current information we had as of midnight last night and have no clue that hundreds of newspapers made the same mistake. To one caller, our receptionist said, 'Believe me, we're as sick about this as anyone.'

The initial -- incorrect -- story hit the wires around 11:30 p.m. The corrected story didn't arrive until after like 2 a.m. -- hours after our newsroom had been cleared for the night. ... Still -- here I was putting on my own editor hat -- thinking about the ways we needed to fix it and the ways we could've done better. As journalists, we're taught and retaught to check and double-check our facts. Admittedly, most of the first-edition stories I saw this morning were pretty thin and lacked any real official mining sources confirming the miners were indeed alive. And why did the headlines have to be so bold, so emphatic? ... Wouldn't '12 miners found' have been better than '12 miners found alive'? ... this link at Poynter gives some interesting explanation and examples of newspapers that did it right and those that did it wrong ...

So maybe we all goofed. ... Needless to say tomorrow's editions will likely be littered with editor explanations of exactly what happened in our newsrooms ...

a USA Today: Media forced to explain inaccurate reports on tragedy
a Kansas City Star: Misinformation about miners resulted in early headlines, late-night fixes
a Akron Beacon Journal: Newspapers left to explain headlines proclaiming miners' rescue
a LA Times: How Did the Media Get It So Wrong?
a Arizona Daily Star: Correct bulletin misses deadline by minutes, misinformation reported

More about the mining disaster...
a Official apologizes to families in mine tragedy
a Miracle vanishes on a dank and miserable night


Miguel for Prior!?

So I just learned this afternoon the Cubs are shopping Mark Prior in a possible trade for embattled (but talented!) Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada ... first reading this news, I couldn't fathom the Cubs letting go of Prior ... then I started thinking about his recent injuries... but when he's on he's darn consistent ... but when he's injured the Cubs don't have a lot of hope ... ah, well.

On the other hand, Chicago added Grissom -- a has been, yes. But arguably one of the best all-round veterans baseball has to offer.


A kitty call

Cat Calls 911 to Help Owner

See ya Mike Sherman …

I’m not so much surprised that it happened as much as I am that it happened so fast …Then again half the coaches in the NFL were fired today -- or so it seems.

I caught the headline on the Internet this morning about as fast as the folks at MSN could post it. Course, I gasped and shouted it to the co-workers sitting around me …

And in grand Wisconsin fashion -- because the Packers for some odd reason transcend LIFE around here -- virtually every news station in the state tonight has made it their top story (never mind the coal mine explosion in West Virginia, an ice rink that collapsed in Germany, a war in Iraq, the monsoon-like weather today and other more pressing issues …) … Ugh. Every station is speculating who the next head coach will be as if the official announcement will come tomorrow, and the local Fox station even has a phone-in poll asking viewers whether Sherman’s firing will affect Brett Favre’s decision to retire. Double ugh.

I hate it when news people jump on stories and over-analyze them like there‘s no tomorrow, when it will take days, even weeks, for the story to develop. … Yes, all these issues are pertinent and questions should be answered. But don’t suffocate me with them.

Here’s what I think: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Packers need to begin rebuilding and Sherman’s just the start …After learning of Sherman’s firing today, I mentioned to a co-worker that I thought Favre was more of a problem this season than Sherman. She agreed, but added that Sherman didn’t exactly appear to be coaching Favre either, as in encouraging him to take better care of the ball or convincing him he didn’t have to do EVERYTHING. ‘Good point, that’s true,’ I said. …Favre did nothing wrong in a lot of people’s eyes this season, and that’s too bad.

So I continue -- Favre should retire. Never mind all the decimating injuries. Forget about the lack of an offensive line. Despite a decent performance yesterday, Favre plain didn’t get it done this year. He’s 36 years old and there’s no denying he’s lost some steps … But the thing that irked me for most of the season were the repeated soundbites from Favre saying that he needed to be the playmaker and makes things happen. Now I‘m no quarterback, but as far as I know, you can’t make plays by blindly launching the ball into triple coverage every time a 300-pound lineman starts running at you. You can be a playmaker and lead the team by protecting the ball, taking the sack when you have to and then capitalizing when the time is right.

Favre’s had better days than what we saw this season. Let’s savor those memories and hope he doesn’t overwrite more of them by deciding to play again next year.

More reads ...
OnMilwaukee.com: It's time for Packers fans to move on
Mike Celizic: Sherman exit means Favre's gone also

* * *

In better, more exciting news: I watched the Bulls/Bucks game tonight … It’s good to see my boy Kirk Hinrich doing so well with the Bulls …. Too bad Chicago couldn’t pull it out. Ah, but the Bucks are a good team too. Darn good game.


How I Spent My Christmas Vacation

Friday. A night at the movies -- at home … Kates and I rented ‘The Graduate ’ as preparation to see ‘Rumor Has It’ (which we never did see) and ‘Upside of Anger.’ … Of the two, it’s easy to see why ‘The Graduate’ has survived and regarded as a classic. For the most part, the performances, especially Dustin Hoffman, are terrific, and the way the movie was filmed -- even with the late ‘60s feel -- was quite intriguing. Top it all off with the wonderful music from Simon & Garfunkel and … yeah. Great movie. ... 'Upside of Anger' on the other hand. A couple good scenes, but mostly it left too many plotlines unfinished, I thought.

Saturday. Christmas Eve. … We ran errands, wrapped Christmas presents and took in a wonderful and inspirational 5:30 service at our church … we opened gifts -- and yes, folks, (cue angel chorus) I am now the proud owner of a white 30GB video iPod. We had our Christmas dinner -- a frozen pizza (with cheese, sausage & pepperoni) grilled to perfection in our oven. … By 9 p.m. we were driving to the in-laws for an 11 p.m. church service. … and in bed by 1 a.m.

Sunday. Christmas Day. … a gluttony of presents under the tree. And Santa was good. Many books …and lots of candy in our stockings. There was a break from the presents for more church, and then of course, more presents … the afternoon disappeared and soon the extended family was joining us for a turkey dinner, another agonizing Packers loss and, more presents.…And by 8 p.m. we were off to my parents. There we shared great conversation, decent TV and, more presents. In bed, a little before 1 a.m.

Monday. The day after Christmas. … We toured the Madison capitol building and gazed at the giant Christmas tree ...

... We strolled through Madison’s East Towne Mall for food, and iPod accessories …and a couple hours later through Milwaukee‘s Mayfair Mall (a.k.a. Yuppy Central) for the iPod accessories we didn’t find at the first mall. … home by 8 p.m.…and filling my iPod until 1 a.m.

Tuesday. Chicago. … We drove into the city amid sun, with a burning desire to see and do all the things we hadn’t had time or energy to do yet this holiday season …

We gazed at the gigantic Christmas tree in Daly plaza and the windows of Marshall Field‘s -- which led to me following Kates inside Marshall Field’s for trying on lots of shoes …

We were walking through Millennium Park as the sun set …

... and to Navy Pier, where we strolled through the gardens, the shops and a walk to the tip of the pier, and then a tasty Mexican dinner back in the peace and serenity of the garden …and filling my iPod (while waiting for a load of laundry to finish) until 3 a.m.

Wednesday. The farm…We had McDonald’s on the way out of town and then stopped at Grandma’s house for a mid-afternoon snack (barbecue) before heading on to indulge in laughter and togetherness at the farm. …We stayed up ‘til almost 2:30 a.m. trenched deep in a game of Phase 10 that should go down as legendary in family lore -- I surged ahead to start off the game, reaching Phase 5 in the first five hands and leaving everybody else at Phase 3 or lower. But I Phase 5 would be my home for the next six hands, as the other players caught up and passed me. That trend continued through the rest of the game with several players surging ahead and then falling flat on various phases (Kates on Phase 6 for seven straight hands and Sara remained there for eight straight hands). It culminated with Orrin coming from behind to reach the final phase, 10, but alas, he would remain there for five hands until all of us landed on Phase 10 -- together the way we had started some four hours earlier. On Orrin’s sixth ‘Phase 10’ hand, Kates laid the cards down and won. …

Thursday. Still at the farm. … Sleeping ‘til 10. Had breakfast at noon. Drove the five-mile loop of farms that make up Richland County, stopping at an Amish furniture store and an antique store on the way. …A mid-afternoon lunch of leftover Chinese takeout that Kates and I brought ….We watched 'Love Actually' (and I cried) …then a late supper (chicken sandwiches) …and a game of Spinner that was soon aborted when we realized we hadn’t been following the rules and ice cream took precedent. ….What followed that was an interesting pouring over views and thoughts that started with the question: What’s the biggest issue we’ll face in the next 30 years. …The question was inspired by John’s reading of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s autobiography of Abraham Lincoln … John said war with China. Kates said religion. I said terrorism …we talked candidates for the next presidential election. We talked natural disasters. And city planning. And heaven and visions. …and I fell asleep on the couch.

Friday. Still at the farm … a late Christmas dinner with the Perry family. More presents … and an early bed time for all of us.

Saturday. New Year’s Eve. … Kates and I made the trek from the farm back home. Unpacked. Showered. And were on our way to Chicago within two hours later to meet our pals Steve, Emily, Glen, Heather and others to celebrate the night away. Great conversation. Great music. Good food. … With about 30 minutes left in 2005, we had settled into a luxurious fourth-floor Jefferson Park condo with a picture perfect view of the Chicago skyline (only on this night it was just foggy enough to almost hide the Sears tower). We counted down the minutes on the host’s computer (which was hooked up to a projector that splashed it in big-screen form across the dining room wall) … and then moved onto the cold balcony where the 10 of us huddled together, clanked our wine glasses and watched in awe as four separate fireworks splashed across the foggy Chicago night sky. … After a raucous game of ‘Scene It,’ we were home a little before 3 a.m. Happy New Year.

Sunday. My last day of vacation. … The unpacking. The coming back to reality. The depression of knowing that this vacation went by too fast and I must return to my job tomorrow …