Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Oakbrook...

For the past few days we've been working out at Oakbrook, Illinois.

The meetings took place at the Hyatt Lodge at the McDonald's Campus. Otherwise known as Hamburger U.

We've stayed there on a few occasions and it's a very, very nice hotel. The thing I get a kick out of is the decorations. There are high quality paintings everywhere.

However, upon closer inspection, you can see that there's something peculiar about each painting. They all have some sort of McDonalds image inside of them!

Jeannie and Gordon...

Several months ago my TIVO recorded "Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay" off of the BBCAmerica station. I recognized him as the foul mouthed host of "Hell's Kitchen" and wasn't too excited to watch this new program.

However, one evening I was incredibly bored and watched "Kitchen Nightmares" anyway. It was awesome!

Gordon travels around Britain trying to save restaurants that have fallen on hard times. He's still foul mouthed, but he has a great deal of compassion and sympathy for the restaurant owners and chefs. He still yells and screams at them, but he has compassion for them.

I showed Jeannie the show and she became obsessed with it. It's actually changed the way we pick restaurants and order food. It's even helped us cook more.

Jeannie loves that Gordon preaches simplicity, fresh ingredients and hard work. I bought her Gordon Ramsay's autobiography and she read it in 2 days.

Yesterday while I was out in the suburbs working, Jeannie called. She was excited and out of breath. Gordon Ramsay was at the old Marshall Fields on State Street signing his new cookbook.

She told him that he inspired her to be a hard worker and she loved how passionate he was about everything he did. She said he was very nice to her and said, "Come over sweetheart and give me a kiss."
He also told her that he knew that someday he'd pick up a magazine and would be reading about her accomplishments so she should keep up the hard work.


It made her day. She's been beaming ever since.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Last days of April...

Busy weekend.

Our flight back from Houston was a little crazy. Because of the storms in Chicago we were worried about our original flight out of Houston being delayed. So we raced to the airport and managed to get on another flight that was leaving earlier.

As we approached Chicago the pilot warned us that there might be a delay in landing. The storm had settled over the city and we were forced to circle the area for 60 minutes. Eventually the pilot told us that we were going to have to land because we were running out of fuel. So, he was going to make an attempt to get into O'Hare. If that didn't work he was going to have to land in Gary, Indiana or Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

I don't know about you, but the phrase "running out of fuel" is a pretty scary statement. I don't like it when they say that.

Eventually we landed, but it had been a long trip. The flight from Houston is normally 2 hours and it took us almost 4 hours this time. As annoying as that was, we were fortunate to get on that flight. Our original flight was canceled and we would have been stuck in Houston for another night.

***

On Saturday night Jeannie and I went to see "Young at Heart" at Landmark Theater. It's a documentary about a group of senior citizens who put on rock concerts. They're all between the ages of 70 to 92 years old. Here they are singing the Ramones "I want to be sedated":


Right before we went took our seats Jeannie said, "You realize someone's probably going to die in this movie, don't you."

I hadn't realized that. That thought had never crossed my mind. I thought this was going to be a fun filled romp. But I realized she was right. A movie about 92 year old people living the rock and roll lifestyle, we were going to be lucky if only one person died.

"I'm not going to be able to handle it if any of them die," Jeannie said and gave me a look. I knew we were on the way to another "Pan's Labrynth" debacle.

I'm not going to ruin the movie by telling you that someone dies, but be prepared to bring some kleenex. It's a wonderful movie and you'll really love it, but I don't want you to go and think it's going to be all rainbows and lollipops. You will shed some tears.

But again, it's a great movie. Here's another of their videos:



As long as I'm posting videos, here's a sketch that was on Saturday Night Live a few weeks ago. It's one of the funniest sketches they've done in years.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Houston...yawn...

There's not a lot to do in Houston.

I've been working a lot, but in those sporadic moments when I and my travelmates venture out into the city for a quick distraction...there's not a lot to see or do.

This fountain was the most exciting thing Mike and I found. It's a fountain that sprays up and over the commuter trains. It only last for five minutes. After those five minutes are over, I'm not sure what Houstonian's do for excitement.

I guess they look at buildings.

There are a lot of interestingly designed buildings here. Oh yeah, there was one other odd thing that happened. Sitting in my seat last night, I felt something in between the seat cushions. I reached my hand in and pulled out this:
How in the world did that get there?
Look at that thing. Houston is a tough place, y'all. They just leave scary pocket knives lying around everywhere.

I'm not sure how I'll ever get it through security at the airport so I'm going to have to leave it here. I'm trying to figure out which sofa seat cushions I leave it at here at the Four Seasons.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Houston...

Back in Houston. This time though, we're not out at the Houstonian. We're downtown at the Four Seasons.

Downtown Houston is very interesting. It looks like a new city. There are glass and steel buildings everywhere but very few stone or brick structures. Nothing looks older than 20 years old.
It's also very deserted after 5pm.

I walked around for a couple hours this evening once I crossed past the opera house, I hardly saw anyone for miles. There are tons of restaurants open but very few people inside of them.

I'm sure it's very different when the Astros and the Rockets are in town.
Houston is the 4th largest city in the country. Did you know that? I didn't until I read it in my in-flight magazine.

It's a nice city and has lots of that great "Texas Flavor". Very tough, very Southern and everything's a little bit bigger than it has to be.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Earthquake...

I've talked so much about the hole in the street on Addison that when people have come to visit, they ask to see the hole. It's pretty funny.

It's been fixed for awhile, but the apartment still shakes a bit when trucks drive over it.

This morning around 4:30 the apartment shook so bad that I thought something hit that hole extraordinarily hard. It lasted for several seconds and was a bit noisy, so in my half awake/half asleep state I thought a truck had rolled over and crashed on Addison. I got out of bed and looked out the window and everything was fine.

Turns out, it was an earthquake. How crazy is that!

I wish I'd been more awake so I could have comprehended what was going on.

***

On another weather related topic, the Chicago Sun Times did a Winter wrap up report.

We were all saying it was colder, snowier and longer than any other winter and the statistics prove that to be true. Here are the stats:

11-07-07:
First trace of snowfall.
76:
Number of days when the National Weather Service recorded snowfall.
22:
Number of days in February alone when snow fell.
2:
Number of days it snowed in April. (so far)
-5 degrees:
Lowest local temperature, recorded January 20 and then again on January 25.
7.4 inches:
Amount of snow that fell on January 31st-February 1st. The winter's single highest 2 day total.
60.3 inches:
Total snowfall of 2007-2008 Chicago Winter.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cubs Game...

Brett's in town on shore leave so we decided to to to the Cubs game.
The game was great. The Cubs demolished the Reds 12-3. It was awesome.

We saw several different friends at the game. Ashley was there with some friends and Brett stopped to get a picture with her.

In the sixth inning as the Reds batted, Brett and I were in the middle of a conversation when a foul ball came screaming toward us. We were in the third row behind the third base bag so it was coming at us faaaaaaaasssst. It was coming so fast you could hear it sizzling.

As the ball flew at us, my instinct, for some reason, was to stand up and try to catch it. Everyone else around me ducked for cover. Including Brett, who hid behind his water bottle.

As I was taught, I watched the ball all the way into my hand. Unfortunately, the ball was spinning as it flew and it curved a bit in the air and the ball landed just above my wrist instead of right in my hand.

As the ball slammed into my arm, it made a sick, thudding noise similar to that of a butcher slamming his cleaver into a hunk of raw meat. The crowd around me groaned at the sound.

The ball landed at my feet and I reached down to pick it up, but the next to me dove after it and knocked it away from me. Several people scattered around trying to pick it up, but I did not.

I was certain that my arm was broken. That ball hit my wrist so hard that I didn't feel anything in it for the next three innings. When the feeling did come back, it turned to a throbbing, dull pain. It hurt pretty bad.

However, I shrugged my shoulders, smiled and ignored the pain. After awhile I forgot it happened. However, when I looked at my arm, it all came back. My wrist is pretty bruised and swollen and there's an outline of the laces of the ball.

After the game, a guy in the stands stopped us and congratulated me on almost making an incredible play. I got a couple e-mails and text messages from people asking if that was me who almost snared that liner one-handed.

My only regret was that I didn't get the stupid ball. It was right there on my feet. I thought it was pretty much my possession. I earned it. I didn't think some idiot was going to dive after it and knock it away from me.

Brett's first comment after the whole thing was over was, "That was pretty cool."

And, it was. It just would have been cooler if I'd caught the ball.

After the game, we headed over to IO to watch Jeannie's new improv team. They're called Mrs. Dad and they are fantastic. They're a real nice, fun, hilarious group.

Along the way, we bought some Cubs souvenirs. Jeannie's favorite player on the Cubs is their new right-fielder Kosuke Fukudome. She lived in Japan during her high school years so she feels a kinship with the Japanese player. I got her the Fukudome Samurai headband that is super popular at the ballpark right now.

****Photo removed because someone doesn't understand ironic teasing between friends. I'm sorry they thought I was the type of person who would approve of malicious behavior.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Springfield...Decatur...

I had a couple improv workshops scheduled for Tuesday in downstate Illinois. Both of them were at colleges and were meant to be publicity for my book.

The afternoon workshop was unexpectedly canceled as I was on my way there so I ventured over to Springfield to waste time until it was time for the evening workshop.

Since I now I had some extra time, I went over to Abraham Lincoln's homestead. Abe Lincoln's home in 1860.

My phot of Abe Lincoln's Home in 2008.I hadn't been there since I was a little boy. Amazingly, it was exactly how I remembered it.


Unbeknownst to me, I happened to be there on the 143rd anniversary of his death. Lincoln died the morning of April 15, 1865.


I've toured President's and celebrities homes before and I always get a little nauseous. There's several reasons for it. The place usually smells musty and old. The people around me are driving me crazy. The tour guide is bad or cheesy. But a significant part of it is the realization that I'm standing in the exact spot where that influential person stood. It always effects me.

After that, I headed over to the Lincoln Museum and Presidential Library which is just a few short blocks away. It's only been open for a couple years so I've never been able to visit it. It's amazing.

I've heard many people say good things about it, but I was blown away. The exhibits are amazing. The historical artifacts are great. The stage productions are high tech presentations that'll blow your mind.

The exhibit for Lincoln's White House years is exceptional.

The last two stages depicting his assassination and funeral are unsettling. I was walking through the exhibit with a group of loud obnoxious high school kids and as soon as we walked into the recreation of Fords Theater, they all shut up.

When we walked into the recreation of his funeral room, a few of them even cried.
After that I headed to Millikin University to teach my evening workshop. It went very well. I used a couple new exercises that I had learned and was pleased with how they turned out.

After that, I drove back to Chicago. It was a long day.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

And we raced...

Back in March Jeannie and I attempted to run in the Shamrock Shuffle, but we screwed up. We went to register and we had registered too late.

We were pretty disappointed. All of our friends were in the Shamrock Shuffle and we had really put a lot of effort into training for the race. We decided that even though we weren't running in the race we would still continue to run for exercise.

Well, that didn't happen. We needed the race to be a goal for us to work for.

So, I registered us for the "Race To Wrigley".

The Race to Wrigley is perfect for us because it was in our own little neighborhood and it was only a 5K.

Jeannie and I are not runners! Running 3.1 miles is a pretty huge deal for us.

The race was this morning.
It was 39 degrees when Dan Roan and Wayne Messmer kicked off the race but after a few moments of running I never noticed how cold it was.

I was a little worried when we first started because we were in a huge pack of people and we had to run a little faster than we normally run so that we wouldn't get trampled by all the other people. Once we were able to get back down to our normal pace, everything was fine.

We had done a 3 mile practice run on Thursday evening, but man-o-man, this one seemed a lot longer. Maybe it was because we ran so fast in the beginning, but by the time we got to the 2.5 mile mark, we were bushed.

However, we kept going. I'm proud to say that we kept going all the way through the end. We never stopped. We never walked. We ran (jogged) straight through.

We were pretty happy.

We really thought we were going to be the last people to finish, but we crossed the line in the middle of the pack. We averaged a 12 minute mile, which is pretty slow, but we really happy with it.
There are several 5K's planned for the rest of the year and we're going to try to do one every 2 months.

If we keep up this pace, by 2012, we'll be ready for the Chicago Marathon.

(Hopefully by the time the 2012 marathon rolls around, this blog will be deleted.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Busy, busy, busy...

Oh man.

I have been busy.

I've been assisting with a new project while trying hard to finish 2 of my own writing projects. It's kept me very tied up the last week.

Yesterday, I had to stop working on all of those things so I could (gulp) do my taxes.

I know that most responsible people did their taxes a looooong time ago. While I consider myself very responsible and very good at getting tasks done promptly, the one thing I always put off to the last minute is my taxes. That's usually because I end up owing a lot of money.

I spent ALL DAY working on them yesterday. My apartment floor was covered with receipts, I-9 forms, and tax forms. Finally around 9pm I sent the forms and worksheets off to my accountant. Now, I sit and wait for the bad news to roll in.

***

When I was a kid, there was a "ball girl" at Wrigley Field named Marla Collins. Her job was to sit behind home plate and deliver the baseballs to the umpire when he ran out. Every game, Harry Caray always talked about her.





She was very pretty, had nice legs and always wore little Cubs shorts.








One day, she decided to wear baseball pants to the game. Here's Harry's description of that event.

Here's an old WBBM news report about Marla from 1984. It's worth watching just to see the clothes and reporting style of the announcers.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Long weekend...

The Cubs ruined my birthday and lost on Friday.

However, they won two games this weekend to make up for it. Saturday evening a few people came over to celebrate my birthday.


It was lots of fun.

Jeannie made a cheesecake (my favorite). And, I made homemade ice cream. This time, I made it a day early to make sure it was frozen when I served it.
Aside from eating, we also played two rounds of "Celebrity". Look at how intense Al was when he was writing down his names.Guillermo, Brian and Curt have a pretty intense "Celebrity" rivalry.If you're still not sure what "Celebrity" is, watch "The Office" this Thursday. They're going to be playing it on the show this week.


It was lots and lots of fun.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Today is...

...my birthday.

Jeannie got me the greatest, funniest gift. On May 24th we are going to one of my favorite place on the planet, Arlington Park. On that day, one of the races will be titled "The Jeff Griggs Event". After the race, I'll be able to go down to the "Winner's Circle" and hand the trophy to the winning jockey. Then the park photographer will take pictures of me with the jockey and horse and everything.

It's so funny and so amazing.

Best gift ever.

***

I've been writing like crazy lately. It's all centered around my fascination with ghost stories.

I really love ghost stories. I don't believe in them, but I love 'em. As I've traveled around the country the last few years, I've taken quite a few ghost tours.

I realized last week that I've never taken a ghost tour in Chicago. So, I gathered up the only other friend I know who likes to be scared as much as I do, Becca. We took the "Weird Chicago; Ghost Hunter's Thursdays" tour.

It was a lot of fun. Becca made up a song called "Killer Alley" in the alley behind the location of where the Iroquois Fire took place.
It was a very catchy song and not the least bit offensive to the 570 people who were killed in the fire.

We drove around for 3 hours looking for ghost in hotels, basements and historic sites.
My favorite place was the Congress Hotel. Not so much for the haunted aspect, but because the two ballrooms were amazingly beautiful. The Congress Hotel is kind of a weird place. You can tell that it used to be very nice, but it has fallen from a 5 star hotel to a 1 1/2 star establishment.

However, these ballrooms are fantastic. Traveling around, I do a lot of shows in hotel ballrooms, but these are 2 of the more beautiful ones that I've ever walked into.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Ugh...

The Cubs have started off the season 0-2.

Yikes.

I was at the game today. My seats were pretty decent. Look how close I was to the bullpen. It was pretty nice until the shadows covered the stands and the temperature dropped 20 degrees.

I'm going again on Friday. Hopefully, it'll be warmer and they'll win.