Monday, September 21, 2009

Cook Co. GOP: Please, Please Join Us - (But Bring Cash)

Two recent entries in my email inbox: 1) an invitation to the New Trier Twp. GOP picnic ($20 a person, $40 per family) and 2) an invitation to the Cook County GOP "Convention," ($45 +$10 for "VIP breakfast.")

What's wrong with this picture?

With the economy tanking and the Republican Party brand in Illinois rivalling that of the Ford Edsel and the Watergate-era Chevy Vega, you'd think they would make it as enticing as humanly possible to attend a Republican rally.

But not the Mensa-types who pass for decision makers in Republican circles around here.

From time immemorial, political parties have tried to attract the mass of potential voters with free food and free entertainment. Back in the 1880s, both parties in Chicago would try to excite the new waves of German and Irish immigrant voters with events featuring oceans of free beer and oompah bands and ceili dancing.

When I was a kid, the Democratic precinct captains in Skokie would stage an annual event in the newly booming Jewish part of town, featuring free kosher hot dogs, soda and wine.

When I was a teen, I would travel up to Hoffman Estates for picnics of the Phil Crane Youth Caucus -- eats and drinks on Phil.

But now, with the GOP at the lowest ebb that I can remember, they're saying "Please, Please, Pretty Please come -- and we accept Visa, MC and American Express."

The Cook County Republican "Convention," scheduled for next week, is not a convention in the usual sense, but actually a party pep rally, featuring orations by such awe-inspiring luminaries as those well known Demosthenes: Angel Garcia, Republican candidate for County Clerk, Eloise Gerson, the Chairlady of the ever-anemic Chicago Republican Party and the Boy-Wonder, himself, Lee Roupas, Chairman of the necrotic Cook County Republicans.

And for an extra ten bucks, they'll let me into a VIP breakfast.

Angel Garcia is sure to be one of the VIPs there.

Be still my beating heart.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Cubs-Free Summer: CUBS--Completely Useless by September

It just occured to me.

I have had a Cubs-free summer.

This is no small matter for me. I first became a Cubs fan (and do understand that the term fan derives from fanatic) when I was a little first grader in 1963.

In that year, my father, who was a descendent of a Chicago Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher, gave me a 1963 major league baseball almanac.

I was first exposed to the Cubs that year. It became a life-long infatuation. And a life-long sickness.

That year I also bought my first Topps pack of baseball cards.

They were 5 cents at the time and you got 5 baseball cards and along with the cards you got one stick of rather sickly (usually stale) bubble gum.

My first Cubs card was of the Cubs catcher in 1963 -- the immortal Sammy Taylor (I am being satiric here) -- who had a lifetime .223 batting average.

For the benefit of you girls out there -- that really stinks!

But Sammy Taylor was a really good looking Southern guy and he had this really cool, tough looking, way of tilting his catcher's mitt while posing, with an Elvis-styled leer for the baseball card photograph.

So of course, when I went into the McNally Park Little League in Skokie that year (it was the only genuinely religiously integrated entity in a Village that was 60% Christian and 40% Jewish), I became a cather and tilted my cather's mitt in a rather cool, Sammy Taylor-styled way for the team photo.

I hit around .500 that year which was far better than Sammy was ever able to accomplish.

But, of course he had to contend with the 100 mph. heat from Don Drysdale and Bob Gibson and the biting sliders from Sandy Koufax.

I just had to put up with the 30 mph lobs from the likes of Ronnie Kleinschmidt, Craig Kloss and Richie Rubin.

So going Cubs-free for an entire summer is no small matter for me.

I did not attend a single game at Wrigley or on the road, did not listen to or watch a single broadcast after June 1st and did not so much as glance at a box score. This is the first time that I have done that since my college years when sex, drugs, rock 'n roll, a certain geographic distance and a heavy academic load precluded the pursuit of my long-time Cubs obsession.

And what did I really miss?

Carlos Zambrano snapping bats over his knee like an overpaid baby? Ron Santo crapping up the airwaves with his incessant moaning and groaning? Any number of crybaby failed relief pitchers lashing into the fans for rightfully booing them? $40 bleacher seats? $6 cups of warm Old Style?Another one of the highest paid teams in Chicago athletic history, which here in September has no hope whatsoever of even attaining a wild card berth?

I think I can live with the absence of that.

And the slight grey fringe that was appearing at my temples has been arrested, if not entirely reversed, due to the absence of all of the customary Cubs-induced angst.

The Chicago CUBS: Completely Useless By September.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Let's face it, Americans have always been suckers for food fads.

First we had the lo-cal, diet craze of the 50s and 60s. Jackie Gleason thought this so inane that he satirized it in an episode of the Honeymooners by coming up with a get-rich-quick scheme for marketing lo-cal pizza. That was considered laughable in the 50s, but sure enough today you can go to the freezer section of any Jewel Foods and find lo-cal pizza.

One of our obese neighbors in the 60s, an MD's wife, was so thrilled with the development of the revolutionary, new, 1 calorie Diet-Rite sodas, that a veritable mound of the returnable empties would litter her side doorstep every day.

She never seemed to lose any weight at all.

Since then we've had the lo-fat craze, lo-carb mania (I once even saw a candy bar touted as lo-carb) and of course the lite phenomenon.

The movement toward lite everything began in the late 70s with Miller's development of Lite Beer and it crested in the 80's. That was around the very time of the AIDS epidemic, when everyone was talking about condoms and safe-sex.

The simultaneous occurrence of lite everything and condom mania, prompted comic David Steinberg to quip to Johnny Carson, "You know, Johnny, we could make a fortune if we could just come up with a product called "Condoms-Lite."

But now, of course, it is the organic foods craze.

This started with a bunch of aging hippies from places like San Francisco and Evanston who thought that it would be morally superior to eat overpriced, scrawny, deformed produce trucked in to little farmers markets in their village squares every Saturday.

It was harmless enough, but now, I must say, it is clearly getting out of hand.

They are now marketing (I am not making this up) ORGANIC VODKA!!!

I was made aware of this inane development by the marquee on the Foremost Liquor store at Lincoln and Peterson, which touted the development amidst its usual ads for specials on Heinekens and Johnny Walker Red.

I went in to the Foremost to investigate, and sure enough there it was, Snow Queen Organic Vodka imported from Kazakhstan.


When one pictures former Soviet Kazakhstan, organic purity is not what first springs to mind.

Chernobyl-styled nuclear waste dumps, perhaps, but not pristine waters and pure pesticide-free fields of rye.

Perhaps the Kazakh idea of organic is to use only camel dung from free range dromedaries to fertilize their vodka grain crops.

And besides, who really cares if their vodka is organic?

My experience has always been that the stuff is so vile tasting and alcoholicly lethal that after a few quaffs, I no more care if my vodka is organic than if my rocket fuel is organic.

At any rate, it is now available at about $30 a bottle for those gaunt, sandal-wearing organic purists in Evanston and Oak Park.

But the Snow Queen bottle and website graphics prominently feature women with rather pronounced decolletage. The website also boasts that it had busty J-Lo as guest of honor at one of its opening celebrity bashes.

I don't think that will go over so well with the ascetic organic granola crowd.

Someone has to fill the Kazakhs in on the puritanical catechism of American politically correct pecksniffs, circa 2009.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Kronos' Bonehead Free Gyro SNAFU

Chicago is no stranger to lame brained public relations disasters.

Who can forget the 1970s disco demolition at Comiskey Park?

In that event, a local rock station teamed with the White Sox to offer free admission to a Sox game to everyone who brought a disco record. The decidedly anti-disco DJs were then to amass the records midfield and blow them up -- thereby making a profound statement as to the superiority of pure rock 'n roll.

Problems ensued, however, when the drunken Sox fans began flinging the records at each other and at the opposing team's players on the field like so many semi-lethal frisbees. After numerous cuts and gashes and subsequent fisticuffs were reported, MLB officials called the game in light of the general life-threatening brouhaha. The Sox were awarded a forfeit loss.

And then there was the Great Snow of 1979.

Who can forget the reports of Democrat Machine (soon to be ex-)Mayor Michael Bilandic lolling on the beach in Florida with his fetching wife, Heather, while his inept city machine remained impotent as Chicagoans were stranded in snowdrifts left by a paralysing blizzard?

Those were textbook PR disasters of the first order.

But they may have been surpassed by yesterday's Kronos Free Gyro Giveaway.

The geniuses at Chicago-based Gyros manufacturing giant, Kronos Foods decided to combat slumping sales of gyros sandwiches, by offerring an on-line coupon for a free gyro at any one of about 3 dozen participating Chicago fast food outlets on September 1st.

For the culinarily uninformed, a gyro is a kind of big sloppy agglomeration of pressed lamb sliced off a spit and put on pita bread, slathered in a yogurt-based sauce and covered with tomato slices and mounds of onions.

It was reportedly invented in Chicago in 1973.

During my college years, we found downing a gyro to be a perfect end to an evening of non-stop bar hopping and beer swilling. The conventional wisdom was that its gargantuan fat content would sop up the gallons of alcohol running thru our systems.

Of course the perfect end to an evening would have been to accompany a hot co-ed back to her place, in which case you definitely would not want a gyro, unless your date happened to be an Albanian shepherdess who thought that onion breath was a total turn-on.

Anyway, come September 1st and the participating Free Gyro Day fast food joints are deluged with mobs of people brandishing coupons for the free $5 Greek concoction.

Well in advance of the dinner hour, many were entirely out of supplies and were turning away customers in droves -- many of them quite angry.

Mangio's in Wrigleyville, fearful of antogonizing its regular customers, began offering cheaper Polish Sausages in lieu of the promised gyro. People were still leaving angry.

At Dengeo's on the Skokie-Evanston border, the traffic jam caused by free gyro seekers was wildly unprecedented.

When I saw the cars and throngs of people, I thought that maybe Elvis had been sighted there.

Dengeo's was turning away disappointed gyro seekers at the height of the dinner hour.

Several of their regular customers were fuming at being caught up in the mob scene. A manager stood at the door and announced to the irritated throng, "we couldn't give you a gyro even if you wanted to buy one."

I wonder what ensued at the gyro joints in the rougher sections of the South and West sides.

In any event, this couldn't have been the PR result the promotional mavens at Kronos envisioned.

I hear that next year they're going to try and top this by introducing their new all-pork gyro at Jewish and Muslim street fairs.