Life in a nutshell

I’ve been on a Chicago rampage lately. And by that I mean, listening to the band Chicago. The good stuff from the 70s. Not the cheesy love crap they put out these days.

I’m not sure why, but I had a sudden urge to listen to some of their stuff last week. I pulled out some of the vinyls I’d picked up this summer, and jammed to them, nearly non-stop for the duration of the weekend.

Few bands. No, no bands, have pulled off that brass rock sound the way Chicago did. That finale of “Beginnings,” a raucous brass instrumental typically reserved for a drum and bugle corps. And “Make Me Smile” and that thumping melody. And “25 or 6 to 4” with that great guitar solo, which has me singing ‘wow-a-wow-a-wow-a-wow-wow’ with it every time.

Thanks Dad, for handing down your love of Chicago to me.

* * *

We’re still waiting on our lawnmower to get repaired …

I took the darn thing to the shop almost a month ago …

Luckily our front yard is shaded enough that the grass barely grows …

Our back yard on the other hand is starting to look like an Amazon jungle.

Seriously. How long does it take to fix a lawn mower!? …

* * *

Again neglecting to go to bed at a decent time a couple weeks ago, and defying all sleep patterns, Kates and I were flipping channels and caught 'Switched At Birth' on one of the movie channels ...

Talk about a blast from the past ...

I remembered watching this made-for-TV movie when it first aired in the early '90s. I had to have been like 10 or 11. Really, I was barely old enough to understand it then; it was my parents who I remembered being so enthralled in the story. After all, those were the days, it seems, when TV movies actually had substance and were about current events, not globe-devastating earthquakes or killer insect invasions...

Yes, 'Switched At Birth,' the story of Kimberly Mays and the court fight that followed when two Florida couples discovered their daughters had been switched by hospital staff shortly after their births in 1978.

For some reason, it[s a movie that has always stayed with me. While I was amazed at how much of the movie I remembered -- specific lines and scenes, even -- Kates and I couldn't help from laughing at the cheesy acting and music that shrouded it all now.

The most fun might have been discovering all of the familiar faces in it. Bonnie Bedelia, Kelli Williams, Ed Asner ... And Alyson Hannigan!?! Alyson Hannigan! played one of the Twigg sisters in 'Switched At Birth' ... Unbelievable.

Fun, fun, fun.

* * *
While we're on the subject of movies ...

Kates and I finally got around to a couple more new DVD releases over the weekend ...

First up, 'Meet the Fockers' ... if you haven't seen 'Meet the Parents,' definitely see it first. ... And with Barbara Streisand and Dustin Hoffman playing Ben Stiller's parents, er, Mr. and Mrs. Focker, the humor is 10 times sweeter ... good stuff.

The second was 'Failure to Launch.' Now, when I mentioned this one to my friend Liz -- the ultimate movie aficionado -- she moaned, 'Oh, that's terrible!' Thus, my expectations were lowered considerably as we sat down to watch ... but we actually enjoyed the film. I can take or leave Matthew McConaughey's southern drawl, but Sarah Jessica Parker is as adorable as they come these days. Still, while it was cute -- and Terry Bradshaw and Kathy Bates were as funny as could be -- I didn't enjoy the main storyline between McConaughey's Tripp and Parker's Paula as much as I did the sub plot surrounding Paula's quirky roommate Kit (played with the hilarious deadpanning of Zooey Deschanel).

Good stuff.

* * *

I shook hands with a true hall of famer on Saturday. The great Bob Feller. Nice guy.

As he was signing autographs and posing with fans for pictures, I came away with an autographed ball, a photo and a picture with him ...
But the most entertaining part may have been the spoiled, geeky kid in line with me, Corey, who rambled NON-stop about the zillions of autographs he’d collected during the last two years.
At first it was just plain annoying. He stepped into the line behind me and began conversing with a more personable, Italian father-son combo in front of me. They found common ground talking about their respective autograph collections, but Corey seemed relentless in trying to prove he was the superior.

‘So what’s your best autograph?’

‘How many do you have?’

‘How long have you been collecting?’

‘What sports do you collect?’

Seriously. His voice sounded like Sesame Street’s Bert.

But after awhile, their conversation became sort of entertaining -- because the more personable kid -- I think he said his name was Jamie -- kept winning the battles. Muhammad Ali was Jamie’s best autograph. Shot Corey down in a blaze of glory.

Almost feeling sorry for Corey, the Italian father -- who came across as one of the nicest, most patient men in the world -- started taking Corey off the subject of autographs. He asked Corey if he played sports, had any friends, what he liked to do. To none of our surprise -- Corey said he didn’t play any sports, he stayed inside a lot and didn’t have any friends. “I’m a social reject,” he said with so much confidence and acceptance it was truly sad.

“My mom wants me to be in drama club,” Corey said.

“Well you should,” the father replied. “You could make some friends that way.”

Corey just looked away. A second or two passed. And then for the umpteenth time he bursts into song: ‘Spotlight on James Brown now.’ There was an uncomfortable silence every time he did it. Finally he supplemented his outburst with, ‘I can’t get that line out of my head. I heard it on the radio this morning and I have no idea what song it is, I’ve never heard it before. … the song mentions Wilson Pickett too.’

“It’s ‘Sweet Soul Music.’ Arthur Conley” I muttered under my breath. Jamie -- the Italian kid -- read my lips though, and flashed me a smile and nod in concurrence. It came up later in the conversation that he was a fan of classic rock and oldies also.

But that would be the end of the entertaining part of The Corey Show. Sooner than later, we were within a few feet of getting Bob Feller’s signature and Corey, who had slipped ahead of me in line and was on his way to skipping in front of the Italian father-son, was back to being downright annoying. … He was now complaining about how long it was taking to get through the line (where we’d been for barely a half hour, far less than some of the other autograph lines I’ve stood in for lesser-known stars) and he hardly seemed grateful for his mother, who he mentioned drove him an hour and a half to the card shop where Feller was signing, the same mother who was sitting outside in their car and came into the card shop for a few moments to make sure he was doing OK and hand him a wad of cash.

Finally, Corey got face-to-face with Feller, got his four autographs, even told him how to sign the baseballs and asked the old man where he keeps his World Series ring.

Poor, Bob.

With Corey out of the way, it was my turn with the great. Feller graciously engaged me in conversation and was even more gracious signing a baseball and then inscribing a photo for me. His signatures couldn’t have been better, and to top it off he posed with me for a picture.

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