I’ve been busy …

I’ve been busy.

Busy working, yes.

But also busy with Happy Hour (hello, Durkin’s). And busy with Cubs games (goodbye, White Sox).

Busy with concerts (on Southport). And busy with movies (at Village North, a quaint little place in Rogers Park).

Soon enough, it’s likely I’ll be busy with street fests, North Avenue Beach and who knows what the heck else.

At least, that’s the plan.

Pretty much, I guess, I’ve been busy with, well … with life in Chicago.

You know, as in actually having one.

Because, honestly, that’s a pretty novel concept for me.

After all, when you do things like, oh, spend 20 consecutive months working on Saturday nights from 5 p.m. to midnight at the Tribune Tower (yes, you read all of that right), it’s kinda hard to have much of one.

At all.

But now that I’ve shaken off the shackles of the newspaper biz and its wacky hours, I’m intent on finally fully enjoying a Windy City summer.

For the first time since I moved here in 2005.

So, as I ease back into the swing of this writing thing, I plan to blog here and blog there during the next couple of months –depending on how often my muse taps me on the shoulder – but I have no set schedule or expectations.

Which is a nice change of pace.

I spent five hectic years writing a column and then a blog “about life – and the people who live it,” but the irony of it was that often that group didn’t include me.

These days, though, I’m happy to say, it does.

But, all right, enough with all that sappy stuff.

Let’s get on with the show …

Obama-McCain do Lincoln-Douglas?

From the “Best Idea I’ve Heard All Month Department” comes a letter to the editor that was published June 6 in The (Ottawa, Ill.) Times by reader Larry Thomas …

“With an announcement that John McCain and Barack Obama are looking to debate each other several times in the Lincoln-Douglas style, I felt Ottawa should jump at the chance to be the host for the first one,” wrote Thomas, a resident of Ottawa, where on Aug. 21, 1858, the first of the famous senatorial debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas was held.

“Surely the mayor, or local Republican or Democratic parties, or Chamber of Commerce could make speedy contact to offer our city to the process,” Thomas continued, “This would be an outstanding forum to display and market Ottawa on a world stage.

“With proper security, it could even be conducted in Washington Square at the exact location of the first Lincoln-Douglas Debate.”

Seeing that 2008 marks the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln-Douglas debates and that the national political spotlight is currently shining on the Land of Lincoln due to Obama’s candidacy, I can’t think of a more ideal place for this year’s presidential hopefuls to meet.

Somebody in Ottawa seriously needs to get the ball rolling on this one.

After all, Abe and Steve are waiting.

Heck, so am I.

Seven Dirty Words, One Disappointment

When I was a senior at the University of Illinois, one afternoon in my Communications Law class we listened to comedian George Carlin’s famous stand-up bit “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” as part of an assignment.

While poking jabs at society’s language taboos during the bit, Carlin was both clever (which I admire) and crass (which I don’t mind — as long as it’s clever).

Two years earlier, however, when Carlin gave a free performance at Assembly Hall during an event to kick off my sophomore year, he was all crass.

And no clever.

So much so that me, my friends and hundreds of our fellow students proceeded to simply walk out on Carlin midway through his routine.

He was that offensive.

In today’s Chicago Tribune, reader Oren M. Spiegler of Upper St. Clair, Pa., opined this about Carlin, who passed away Sunday at 71:

“I will remember George Carlin as one of the funniest comedians of my lifetime. I regret that he was so intent on offending civilization as to render his material unsuitable for general audiences.”

On at least one occasion, his material was unsuitable for college kids, too.

And that’s saying something.

My Cousin Vinny

Is it just me, or didn’t new Chicago Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro always look more like an auto mechanic than an NBA player when he was with the San Antonio Spurs?

I’ll give him credit, the guy has cleaned up his look and looked quite dapper during his introductory press conference earlier this month.

And, while I don’t have the slightest idea if Del Negro can fix the Bulls, I’m hoping that maybe there is at least one thing he can at least fix.

Joakim Noah’s fashion sense.

Planet of the Grapes

While visiting my parents on Father’s Day, my mom told me that she had signed up for a wine club through the National Rifle Association.

(My mom doesn’t own a gun, mind you. She just likes owning an NRA card.)

I told her that it sounded like a good deal and, with a smirk, proceeded to ask if Charlton Heston’s likeness was on the bottles.

And if they had a flavor called “Damn Dirty Grapes.”

The 100-year Itch

When it comes to the Cubs, I can be a little over the top when it comes to my devotion

Anyone who knows me, knows that.

But, this season, I’m blowing even myself away.

Because, when I take my seat at tonight’s game at Wrigley against the Baltimore Orioles, it will already be my 19th Cubs game of the season.

I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think that’s already a career high.

At least it is until tomorrow night.

When I attend Game No. 20.

I told you I’ve been busy.

Parting shot

From reader Craig Burzych in today’s Tribune …

“The White Sox were right: Something really stunk at Clark and Addison this past weekend, but it wasn’t the Cubs and it wasn’t Wrigley Field.”

Man, I love baseball in Chicago.



The Wisch List hasn’t gone on vacation.

Or retired.

It’s just been busy.

(Got this dang thing called a job.)

New posts coming very soon, though.



Rim shot, please

So, my good buddy “Dish” of sends me an e-mail with the subject head: “My new favorite website.” This is it.

And now it’s my favorite, too. (You know, for today, at least.)


Now, you can’t Bee serious

I’m a good speller.

Heck, probably a great speller.

But after stumbling to a somewhat-disappointing 4th-place finish in the districtwide finals as a first grader (I flubbed “lyric,” a word I’d simply never heard before. I think I misplaced the “i” and threw in a “k”), I never competed in a schoolwide spelling bee again.

That’s still weird to me, as I’m certain I was — after, you know, learning what a lyric is — a better speller than almost every other student in my grade. Whereas numbers, basketball or, well, detentions were the forté of some kids in school, my strength was words.

Still is.

Now, letters, on the other hand, well they belonged strictly to my childhood buddy Thoufiq Kutty.

Along with his brothers Malik and Rafiq before him, Thoufiq — now an attorney and alumnus of Northwestern University and University of Chicago — was part of a spelling dynasty at Bourbonnais Upper Grade Center during the 1980s.

Back then, the Kuttys did one thing: They won spelling bees.

And by the time Thoufiq rolled into junior high in 1988, it was simply expected that he would sweep the 6th, 7th and 8th grade bees over the next three years.

Just as his brothers had before him.

Really, I don’t know he had any other choice.

The pressure was on.

And I certainly didn’t want to add to it.

So, each spring during a schoolwide assembly, I’d sit up in the gymnasium balcony, twiddling my thumbs and spelling to myself while watching other classmates drop like flies during the bee, misspelling an “allusion” here or a “conscience” there.

And every year, at bee’s end, Thoufiq stood alone. Victorious.

And, I’m certain, relieved.

Now, it’s not that I would have surely beaten Thoufiq (in fact, it’s unlikely I would have), but never once did I even enter our school’s spelling bee during junior high.

I believe I may have claimed stage fright as my excuse, and perhaps that did have something to do with it. But I think even more of a reason for ducking the bee was I feared I’d actually win the thing.

And beat my buddy, snapping his family’s cherished streak.

I didn’t even want to try.

In any case, the only reason why I’m sharing this little tale with you today is to display the strong respect that I have for spelling.

And bees.

That said, however, I still had to laugh this morning when I read a “BREAKING NEWS” e-mail alert sent by my hometown newspaper, the Kankakee Daily Journal (where I have friends, and once interviewed for an editor job).

Because, while spelling bees are great and all, I’m still not sure they’re quite this buzzworthy … 🙂

Sent: Thursday, May 29, 2008 8:33 AM

Ajay Chatrath, an eighth-grader at Grace Baptist Academy in Kankakee, correctly spelled his first word this morning in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.More on this story will be posted on as details are available.


Heat Waive

Chicago Summer R.I.P.

May 26, 2008 – May 26, 2008

Wednesday afternoon update: Well, at least the sun is out today. But, still, people simply should not be wearing parkas and scarves on “L” platforms three days before the start of June.

This happens next year and the CTA is going to have to start keeping those heat lamps at my Red Line station active until May 31.

Or July 31.

The current shut-off date of March 31 is not cutting it anymore. Not even close.

Of, course … ahem, I’m guessing CTA officials probably have other things on their minds today besides the Chicago chill.)


Bad TV, Good Stuff

Just like boys, apples and hair days, there’s a lot of bad TV out there. But who knew that screen captures from some of it could end up being so good? Take a look at these, and have a laugh.


Pun Porn

You could say HBO Def Poetry alum Big Poppa E has a way with words. And, boy, did he ever show it last weekend with his pun piece “Illegal File Sharing” at the 2008 O. Henry Pun-Off in Austin, Texas. Punny stuff.


Ten years, Ten thoughts

Last Saturday marked the 3,653rd day since I graduated from college.

Ten full years.

Yes, some how, some way an entire decade has slipped off the calendars since May 17, 1998, the day I strolled onstage inside the University of Illinois’ Foellinger Auditorium wearing a stuffy cap and gown, and then strolled off it with my diploma in tow.

(Too bad a 10-year projection of the print newspaper industry didn’t come tucked inside it.)

A day after graduating, I turned 22 years old.

And, apparently, one day after that some gizmo called the Galaxy IV communications satellite failed while orbiting Earth, resulting in a loss of service to about 90 percent of the world’s pagers.


Jeez, how old am I, anyways?

In any case, with a decade of life in the real world now under my belt, I got to thinking this week about how much things changed since that sunny day in ’98 when I morphed from Joe College into Joe Journalist.

And headed out on my own.
In honor the 10-year anniversary, I came up 10 things I was doing in 1998.

That I don’t do any longer.

1. In 1998, I didn’t own a cell phone.

I think I knew exactly one person who did.Besides this guy.

2. In 1998, I wore a watch.

Now I just use my cell phone.

3. In 1998, I had an alarm clock.

Now I just use my cell phone.

4. And in 1998, I had a landline phone.

Now — you guessed it — I just use my cell phone.

5. In 1998, I didn’t have an ATM card.

I actually went up to a bank teller to withdraw 20 bucks.

Either that, or I wrote a check out to myself and cashed it at a grocery store service counter.


6. In 1998, I didn’t have a home computer.

And my newspaper office had just one with Internet service.

Dial-up, of course.

I checked e-mail one time a day.

Now, I check it, about one time a second.

7. In 1998, I thought Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa hit home runs naturally.

They just, you know, worked out really, really hard in the offseason, drank milk and took their vitamins.

8. In 1998, I was an idiot.

9. In 1998, I was more likely to HotBot than I was to Google.

If you don’t know what HotBot is, well, try Googling it.

10. In 1998, I could buy a gallon of gas for 97 cents at the
Speedway station in Ottawa, Ill.

I am so not kidding.

Told ya things have changed.

And I don’t think they’re changing back.