Saturday, June 30, 2007

"You are a decent person / And you have a function"

Ran at Waterfall Glen today. Notes:

- It really is one of my favorite places to run.
- As I ran by the "L.P.S. 1921" ruins I thought that they looked kind of like a mausoleum, and that "L.P.S." could be someone's initials. It doesn't make a lot of sense, really; it doesn't look like there's a cemetery nearby. I'm conflicted about "Lemont Postal Service"; it's near train tracks but it doesn't look like a likely place for trains to stop. Also I don't think "Lemont Postal Service" makes much sense; it would be the US Postal Service, and the Lemont Post Office. "Lemont Park Service" is another possibility. I don't see why the year would be chiseled into the building in either case.
- After getting done I helped a couple with a baby find the trailhead and then a few cyclists find the old pump water fountain. Woot.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Now I have to wash my cleats...

Bunch of idiot drunken 13 year-olds interrupted our Frisbee game last night. Among other things, they repeatedly tried to start fights with us and other people at the park, tried in vein to break the old Schwinn (definitely glad I didn't ride my good bike to Frisbee), and apparently at one point took one of my cleats (I was not wearing them at the time), ran to the other side of the park, peed on it, then brought it back and threw it at us. Nobody was injured, and the extent of the damage sustained was that now my cleats smell like strongly alcoholic pee.

Really, with Wilder being such a high-traffic park, it's not unusual for our games there to be interrupted. Sometimes a person passing through will join in the game (as much as the field at Wilder is awful, it is cool that people join in), sometimes silly kids come through and grab the disc, give it a good chuck, and run away. I guess this was a bit beyond that.

I think that one measure of a place is how it disrupts you. Chicago disrupted me with prohibitively long lines at public ice skating, and disrupts me into just wandering around checking out the cool buildings. Well, plenty of other ways, too. San Francisco disrupted me by making it impossible to get anywhere in a timely manner, but introducing me to friendly (if sometimes weird) people while trying. Santa Clara and San José disrupted me with deafening motorcycles. Elmhurst seems to disrupt me like a gnat in my ear. Idiot kids yelling at me from their cars as I run, walk, or especially bike around town. Idiot kids picking fights at the park. Idiot kids littering by the Prairie Path. Neighbors parking their car across the sidewalk because it wouldn't fit in their garage (a few years ago when I was on crutches). Nothing seriously bad or dangerous, just annoying.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I need to be defragged

I am completely, horribly lost right now. To where I can't go for a bike ride without spending two hours thinking about where I want to go. Everything is just too much. Ack.

Also, why do people commonly mistake me for being more radical than I really am? I don't really have a concrete example of this, I just have this feeling that a lot of people say things like they assume that I'm really different from them in kind of a dismissive "I don't have to understand you" way? Or I'm just paranoid?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What it is with the Mountain Goats

For a moment let's forget about musical style completely. I'm going to talk about lyrics.

The 'Goats write lots of songs about doomed love (in fact, this has been a typical theme in songwriting for many years). They do it in a way that's unusual for songwriters. I've been listening to the Arcade Fire a lot lately. Some lyrics from a song of theirs on that very topic, Ocean of Noise:

Left in the morning
While you were fast asleep
To an ocean of violence
A world of empty streets
(refrain)
You got your reasons
Me I got mine
But all the reasons I gave were just lies
To buy myself some time

It's sort of introspective and self-deprecating, and you probably wouldn't say those words exactly to your (doomed) lover, but even so, the words could be re-arranged into something that could be a communication to said (doomed) lover. The details of the events that took place aren't really set out, because the (doomed) lover knows all them, it's an explanation of the speaker's feelings, and one with at least a bit of a motive.

The Mountain Goats, on the other hand (Tallahassee):

Twin-prop airplanes passing loudly overhead
Road to the airport: two lanes clear
Half the whole town gone for the summer
A terrible silence, coming down here
And you... you.

And from Oceanographer's Choice

But then you came in and we locked eyes
You kicked the ashtray over as we came toward eachother
Stubbed my cigarette out against the west wall
Quickly lit another

In the first he's establishing setting. In the second giving action. The mood and emotion are not just pounded in like a guy trying to earnestly plead his case to someone, they're embedded in the setting and in the events, like someone writing a novel. Although the speaker addresses his (doomed) lover with "you", he's telling a story to the audience more than anything else. It creates a distance between Darnielle and the speaker that lets the audience get much closer to the speaker. The songs are free to be more honest about the speaker's character. His first-person portrayals show all the flaws and warts of the characters, show their actions for what they are. He's not fishing for sympathy like so many songwriters; that's the honesty that makes his songs powerful. The feelings follow from the events and are free to be contradictory or ugly. This is why I don't agree with classifying the songs as earnest. Earnestness is (according to Wiktionary) "ardent in the pursuit of an object; eager to obtain or do; zealous with sincerity...", and I think only part of that definition is met by the Mountain Goats' songs. They're really more honest than they are earnest, as the speakers don't really have an objective but to tell the story.

I am cursed.

I couldn't get to sleep last night, I was so excited about going into Chicago, meeting up with Heather and some other folk, and seeing the Mountain Goats. I thought it might be something that would finally go well.

I was excited and nervous and couldn't get to sleep until 5. Slept until around 11 maybe? Way too late. Needed to go deposit a check, my security deposit from Santa Clara, that had arrived in the mail. Couldn't find the check. Bad omen. Needed to drop a letter in the mailbox. The post office removed the mailbox that used to be a few blocks from my house; now the closest one is way too far away. Everything in Elmhurst is just taking me twice as long as it should, I can't do anything efficiently.

So I got to the train station in Elmhurst to take the Metra downtown in plenty of time. The train didn't arrive. Just west of the depot there was a big freight train standing still on the tracks. That might be it. Indeed, an announcement came over the loudspeaker that the 5:49 train was 13 minutes late due to the disabled freight train. Unfortunately, since the 5:49 train wasn't moving, and nobody seemed to have any idea how long it would take to get the freighter moving again, after 20 minutes of listening to meaningless updates on how late the 5:49 train now was I just walked back home. Had to call the gang up in Chicago to let them know I'd be late, even if the Elmhurst train was going to depart in an hour or so, which seemed like a best-case scenario given the size and acceleration speed of typical freight trains.

My initial plan was to drive up to Metro. Then my mom came home and offered to drive me to the Hinsdale train station, which is on the BNSF line, where I could catch a train. Worried about parking and traffic, I chose that option. I should have used my brain and realized that Metro is right next to Wrigley, and that with the Cubs out of town there would be plenty of parking nearby. So I got up to Metro probably by 8:25. I don't know exactly the time I got there, but it was shortly before the first band finished playing, and after 8:15.

Because at 8:15 apparently Heather and Eli scored free VIP tickets and went in. Had I known this I would have just bought one off of someone outside and met them after the show. But I had no way of knowing, so I waited outside for about an hour and a half. They came out after the Mountain Goats were done, fortunately, and so I ran into them then.

So to recap, the trains from Elmhurst could have been running. I could have made a smarter decision about how to get to Metro after finding that they weren't. Heather and Eli could have not scored such an awesome deal and met me outside just before the Mountain Goats started. I could have realized that this wasn't going to happen around 8:45 and just found a ticket outside. I could have done one thing right, luck could have once been on my side, but no. I totally missed the show.

So to top things off on the train back to Elmhurst there was a guy that had boarded with no ticket and no money and was trying to get to Lombard. He was dodging the conductors going from car to car asking people for money for a ticket. I gave him a buck; while Metra certainly doesn't want to encourage people doing this, that's pretty abstract, and this dude getting thrown off the train in River Forest was pretty concrete. He thought this would be the last dollar he needed, but it wasn't $3 to get to Lombard, it was $3.05. The conductor was adamant about this last nickel; apparently this guy had done this before, and the conductor was not going to tolerate anyone else giving him more money. They tried to get him to leave the train but he refused, so they stopped at River Forest and called the cops. As the conductor left the car to make the call the guy went down to the lower level and got a nickel from someone, offered it to the conductor. The conductor wasn't buying. The guy wasn't getting off the train. He walked through the cars telling everyone what was going on. None of the sleepy folk in this night's last outbound train were going to protest for him, though, not as he grandstanded and accused Metra of racism (he said he was Puerto Rican). A few confronted him and argued with him, though. There was an opportunity for a fight to break out between him and another passenger on the upper deck, right next to my seat, but fortunately it passed. Finally the police arrived and he left the train. It's a sad story all over, far beyond it continuing my weird string of bad train luck.

EDIT: When I say, "string of bad train luck," it really extends for quite a long time. Many people ride trains daily with few incidents. I ride trains rather infrequently and yet have had a Metra train's engine die on the tracks, waited 45 minutes for a Red Line train due to some incident on the train up the line (at least I wasn't on that one when it happened, plus today's shenanigans, in the Chicago area. In San Francisco the first time I rode the Muni it was an F-line streetcar; in the bumper-to-bumper traffic along the Embarcadero (yes, bumper-to-bumper streetcars, all packed with people) I could have walked to my destination faster than the train got me there. The second time I tried to ride the Muni I waited at an N-line stop for almost an hour because Critical Mass was having a bike rally along the N-line route. When the train finally got there it was too full to fit another person on board. Later that day I caught an N-line train back towards downtown and tried to transfer to a T-line, but the turnstiles would accept neither my transfer card nor my money (yes, you can pay with coins at some of the turnstiles in SF). The next day was when Jess and Katie were in town. Our N-Line train stopped on the tracks for a very long time while the incompetent operators tried to help a man in a wheelchair onto the train, causing a few riders to chant, "Refund! Refund!" Later that day we tried to connect to a T-Line train to get us back to the Caltrain station. It was late, and we missed the train back to Santa Clara by just a few minutes and had to wait two hours for the next one. Which gives the Muni a perfect record: every time I've dared to make a trip on a Muni train it's been a disaster.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Go Baseball!

I guess I don't usually blog about Baseball. Anyhow, this is worth saying: MLB's rules on retaliation are total crap, and the recent Cubs-Braves series is a good example of why.

Soriano hit three homers in a game, and on the first pitch of the next game Tim Hudson hit him. Perhaps partially intentional at worst (Hudson was probably trying to brush him off the plate and missed a bit inside). Because it looked bad, warnings were issued to each side. After both starters were knocked out early Cubs' long reliever Gallagher came to the plate for his first career plate appearance. He got hit by a pitch that got away from the Braves' reliever, and rightly no action was taken. But if the tables were turned what would have happened? Had a pitch gotten away from Gallagher and hit anyone on the Braves he almost certainly would have been tossed. Hell, Lilly even got tossed for hitting Renteria the next day!

There's something wrong when the result of hitting a batter is that your teammates can hit batters with no consequence while the opposing pitchers will get thrown out for it.

And if the umps are concerned with preventing retaliation above all else, even when it rewards "aggressors", then why was nothing done about the only play that was obviously retaliatory: Renteria's forearm on the slide into second base?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Everything that happened since my last post

A few things have happened that are the kind of thing I usually mention here:

1. I moved back to Elmhurst. Did so in the form of a road trip with Jessica and Katie, who i had met only briefly beforehand. It was a good trip, with only one "OMG ANGST" day (while driving across South Dakota). I don't think I actually took any pictures with my camera, the two of them got plenty though. Wyoming, especially in the Bighorn mountains, is beautiful. Went to a used bookstore in Omaha called the Antequarium. Saw Danielle in Iowa.

I woke up really early most of the days and I don't know why. Mostly I used the early morning time before my traveling companions awoke for reading.

2. Did a bike ride from Elmhurst out west to the edge of suburbia and back. Heather said to look for windmills, maybe in Batavia. Didn't see any, but I did get a picture of a cornfield with a row of brand new-looking very suburban-style houses behind it, and also one of an intersection with what looked like a fairly new stoplight rigged up at it, right in front of an old barn and silo.

3. Yesterday went to Chicago for the book fair, blues fest, and visiting Heather. All yielded successful results (books by Stephenson, DeLillo and Sartre (I know, I read the same stuff over and over again, sue me), rockin' harmonica by James Cotton, also a somewhat creepy dude from Louisiana that played really repetitive music and made lots of comments on the audience's dancing, beer by... some Belgian dudes, I guess). And I couldn't make the last train back to Elmhurst so I crashed at Heather and Beth and Me-Hi's (OK I totally made that spelling up, because I have no idea how this dude's name is spelled. Good dude, as far as I could tell, though) new place and woke up really early and read for a few hours, which kind of gave the morning a road trip vibe. I would have invited more people that would enjoy books and blues, but I figured (correctly) that the trip would be a very Al city trip. That is, lots of walking and searching for things, lots of scrambling for trains, a very shaky sense of plan, lots of getting approached by a dude on State and Harrison with a mohawk that had flopped down and was growing out around the edges, asking if I was Brian or William or something from St. Louis, and if I was an atheist, and who claimed to be God, and asked me how he could relax (I should have said, "By being disrupted in just the right way!"). The kind of trip that I need to do alone, at least for parts of it, so that I don't feel guilty about making tired companions trudge several extra blocks because of my incorrect guesses about the locations of public phones (cell phones are for the weak; Red Line stop at State and Harrison to the rescue!), and so that nobody has to actually listen to me talk about harmonicas.

4. And then I have to go back downtown tomorrow to run an errand for my dad. And there will be adventures of a different sort, if I have any luck.

5. I am really putting this off, but once I get off my lazy ass I'll post the pictures from my bike rides and stuff in one big OMG PICKTCHARR POST.

6. Now I have to sleep because waking up early is cool.