Monday, October 31, 2016

Big Idea: Secret of the Chicago Pedway

For the month of October, my friend and fellow ChicagoNow blogger Kim Z Dale is featuring posts related to or inspired by Halloween on her is Listing Toward Halloween blog.

I wrote one called The Secret of the Chicago Pedway and I suppose technically it was my first published short story.  If you don't count anything I wrote for school newspapers back in the day.

The idea came to me since I take the Pedway back and forth between the Blue Line and my office.  I wanted something twilight zoney and came up with the idea of a bar that is hidden within the tunnels of the pedway. I had the thought that this friends go into a bar they never noticed before and something happens there that scares at least one of them, causing him to escape.

An alternative title was The Bar That Time Forgot.

I had the idea that certain songs would play and the lyrics would have double meanings.  Hence, Fallout Boy's My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark.

I didn't get to expand on that but another idea was Matchbox 20 Back 2 Good and the line:

Everyone here, knows everyone here is thinking about
Somebody else

So I had the beginning and the end written, but needed something in the middle.  I also had space and time constraints since this was for an expanded blog post.

I decided that something has to happen in the bar that makes our protagonist realize that something isn't right and causes him (or her) to leave his friends behind.

I thought maybe have everyone meet a former flame that got away and they are compelled to stay at the bar instead of going back to their normal everyday life that is missing something.

 The ending could also have been that when the protagonist finally leaves the bar, a lot of time has past, like decades.  But that would have required a lot more set up and I didn't want to put a novella on Kim's blog.

Happy Halloween

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The Secret in the Chicago Pedway

The Chicago Pedway is a network of tunnels, concourses and bridges connecting buildings, retail shops, hotels and train stations throughout downtown Chicago.  It is also a labyrinth of magical mystery for those who know The Secret.

My coworkers and I usually walked the Pedway together on our way to our respective trains.  Often we would stop at M-Bar for "Bites and Beers" as their hook went.  This particular Thursday on a nothing special week in August led us someplace new.

"M-Bar is too crowded, we'll never find seats," Jessica said.
"We could go to Inn Keepers," I suggested.
"That's too far and besides, the Wi-Fi down there sucks," Steve said.

“I don’t think we have a choice,” I said, indicating the lack of available seats.  “Besides, just once it would be nice if I had the shortest walk to my train”

Inn Keepers was closest to my train, the Blue Line on the CTA and Jessica took the Red line. We usually went to M Bar because Steve didn't want to double back to his South Shore train.

"Fine, if we don't find something else on the way." Steve conceded.

We started walking through the Pedway, through the tunnels that we have taken hundreds of times. We weren't really paying attention because we could walk these in our sleep when we saw a bar we had never noticed before.  There was nothing fancy about the entrance, though the doors were open and a blackboard listing the drink specials invited us in.

Unlike Steve, I walked passed this corridor every day to and from work and I never set eyes on this place before.  As we walked in, I noticed that the name of the establishment was called The Secret.  It looked like a timeless old man bar with some modern upgrades. For instance it had a digital jukebox which at the moment was playing Fall Out Boy's My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark
Be careful making wishes in the dark
Can't be sure when they've hit their mark
We bellied up to the bar and found three empty stools, not too far from the door.  The bar looked much larger inside than it appeared from outside.  It was probably some type of optical illusion but it just seemed to be impossible that a place this size could fit inside the part of the Pedway it had to be located in based on my memory of the streets above.  But that would turn out to not be the strangest thing about this place.

The bar tender approached us.  She asked what we wanted and we asked for our usual:  a domestic beer for Steve, a Moscow Mule for Jessica and a craft beer for me. We talked about the usual stuff: work related things, office politics, gossip, and of course the current status of certain Chicago professional sports teams.

"This round is on the house," the bartender said placing our order in front of us.  "for our new customers."

As usual, I was sitting between Jessica and Steve, which meant I was limited to talking to the bartender while they engaged people on either side of us. Another round of drinks arrived.  I introduced myself to her and she said her name was Katrina.  She had dark hair, brown eyes and looked to be at the younger end of twenty-something.  She went to deal with a customer at the end of the bar when Steve turned to me and said, "she's very attractive for a lady her age."

This was an odd statement.  "Geez Steve, any younger and you'd be a pedophilia.  "

"Are we talking about the same bartender?" he asked, laughing it off.
"As far as I know there's only one here."

"This round is on Joe, " Katrina interrupted with a knowing smile.    "He is celebrating the White Sox successful season."  I wondered which season since they were not doing so well this year.

"That bartender is smoking hot," Jessica said, derailing my train of thought.  If it hadn't been for Steve's previous comment, I wouldn't think much of a woman complimenting another woman, albeit so excessively.

"Getting in touch with your inner lesbo?" Steve said.

"Not since college, why do you ask?" Jessica replied.  I wasn't sure what was going on.  As far as I could tell, there was only one bartender working tonight.  I looked at Katrina again, she was at the far end of the bar.  From this angle she definitely looked like a 21 year old girl working at a bar.  However, her reflection in the mirror looked a little different.  It might have been the angle and the lighting but for a second, she did look different; while still very comely, her reflection was much older!

Before I could point this out to either Steve or Jess, another round was free because of the Cubs won that day.  Then another round because of The Blackhawks.  Did they not hear about Patrick Kane? Round after round, on the house or on some patron happy about some local team's success that didn't quite match the current sports landscape I read about daily on my iPhone.

I got up off my seat and decided to thank "Joe' for the drinks.  He was talking to Al, who had just bought the last round.  Great, two birds with one stone.   I thanked them for their generosity and asked if I could return the favor.

"Sure thing, you can buy me a drink when the Bulls three-peat!" Al said.

"That might be a long time, " I said.  "They need to actually win a few more playoff games".

"I know the Jazz are a tough team to beat but Jordan can do it," Al said.  "excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom."

I wasn't the biggest basketball fan, but I recall the 2nd Three-Peat of the Michael Jordan Era and it occurred to me that Joe must be still living in 1998.

"Wow he must really love the old school Bulls," I said to Joe.

"Tell me about it, " Joe said.  "Now I'm a White Sox fan and I just know after that battle with the Angels, we are gonna win the World Series."

While I knew a lot of liquor was flowing, beer hadn't the ability to make me drunk since college.  So unless Katrina spiked my drink, something wasn't right at The Secret.   I excused myself from Joe and walked back to Jessica, who was still making eye at our bar tender.

"Do you notice anything weird about this place?" I asked.

"Yeah, I'm wearing my best boob shirt and the bartender hasn't noticed me," Jessica said with disappointment.    I take yet another look at Katrina.  On the surface I see a young lady with long dark hair and brown eyes.  But her reflection in the mirror is a muscular dude with blonde hair.  His bone structure was fine and perfectly symmetrical.

I think I was beginning to figure out the secret of The Secret.


I tried to leave but was moving very slowly, as if in slow motion.  The double doors of the entrance started to close.  I don't know how, but I just knew that if I didn't get out before the doors shut, I never would.  Somehow I managed to get to the doors.  The doors suddenly seemed much further away than when we first walked in.

The left one had already closed.  I placed my hand on it, and it wouldn't budge.  The right was closing too and I pushed with all my might just barely stopping it.  I scooched myself thorough and took off.  There was no one in the Pedway.  I started to run.   I didn't know what direction I was going and I tried to get my barrings while not slowing down, which caused me to misjudge a step.  Suddenly I found myself on the floor.  A passerby asked me if I needed help.  I asked where I was and what had happened.

"You took a spill on that step," a random stranger said.  Another person muttered: "you'll be fine, I gotta catch the 6:15"

6:15?  There was no way it was 6:15, because we entered The Secret around 5:45 and we easily spent more than half an hour there.  I decided to double back and check on my friends.

I came across the place I was sure the bar had been.  Only a solid brick wall was in its place.  I went home and slept very restlessly.  The next morning when I got to work, there were questions about Jessica and Steve's whereabouts.  What could I say?  Who would believe me?

I have walked every inch of the Pedway since that night.  Even going in the opposite direction and exploring other tunnels and walkways.   I've never found The Secret again.

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The above story was originally posted on Listing Toward Halloween on October 7, 2016.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Some forward progress but not where we want to be

Apparently, Dark Vader went to Michigan
I got a few things done over the weekend, including a plaster repair project that had been outstanding
for a long time.  So next weekend I get to paint. I tried to do the basement access thing but botched it.  It isn't a project one can really do during nap time.  So maybe when the weather gets better in the spring.

Speaking of which, we had a rare 70 degree Sunday in October.  Our weekends are generally sleeping as late as our kids will let us, then doing something with them so they get worn out enough to take a long nap.  Then when they awake, we try to wear them out again so they go to bed and either sleep through the night in their own bed or at least give us a good head start to Slumberland

We went to the last Farmer's Market at Jefferson Park on Sunday.  Our thing is to get some crepes and then let the kids play on the playground.  It's not really relaxing for us though because we still have to watch that the kids don't get hurt and play nicely with other kids.

On Friday Nightingale officially sold her south loop condo.  It was a long, arduous journey if you count last year's efforts.  We put it on the market early August and it went under contract within a week.  Everything seemed to go along fine until two weeks before the closing.  I'm not gonna go into the painful details but essentially it fell out of contract and we had to put it back on the market. 

Luckily, a cash buyer showed up and it went back under contract quickly.  Because it was a cash buyer we could close quickly which helped but we still got stuck with an extra month of mortgage.  Then a week before closing another issue came up, we resolved it but it was a costly solution.

I hate lawyers. I hate realtors and I hate the Fucking Mortgage industry.  If any kind of apocalypse crops up, I really hope those three groups don't survive. 

But at least it is off the books and we will hopefully stop being screwed at tax time.

For grins and giggles, I paid off my car a few months early.  While I had been making larger than required payments from day one (I usually round up to a whole number) there was never any immediate need to pay it off faster than the 60-month terms because my interest rate was something like 2.7%.  Even when my job went away earlier this year and my income stopped flowing, I was so far ahead that I didn't have to make a payment for two months if I didn't want.

We are looking into paying off Nightingale car next.  We didn't get enough back (and certainly didn't make any money) to pay it off in one shot but we can make a big enough dent that we would be within striking range of paying it off in a short amount of time. 

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Enjoying the last of the good outdoor weather

Corn Kernel Sandbox
It's a windy 80 degree day in Mid-October.  It will be decent most of this week and weekend but in
just two weeks I expect a cold, rainy Halloween because, Chicago.

Over the weekend we went to a pumpkin patch and met Katness and her crew.  Her SIL was also there with her kids, who are a little older than ours. It turned out to be a good time with two caveats.  First, our kids did not get a good nap on the ride there, so I knew it would be a matter of time before meltdown.  and two, they didn't warm up to the new surrounds right away so it took a little time before they got into everything.

The overall consensus was that it wasn't that great of a pumpkin patch as far as amenities but the price was right for what we got.  

We did install a backup car seat in my car so now we can divide and conquer errands, which is a good thing because sometimes we have to go to one too many places for our kids to put up with before they get cranky.  We also turned the car seats around in the minivan so Moose and Squirrel can see what's going on.

Boris and I went to Lowe's and returned the big gallon of Flex-Seal and got a smaller one so I can hopefully work on that project when there are two consecutive days of no rain.  Natasha got to go with Nightingale to the super market and buy groceries.  Boris got the better end of the deal but Natasha made the best of it.

I'm thinking this weekend is when I put the lawn furniture and all the toys away.  I think we need to purge some of the toys or at least put them into storage or else we will have toys all over the place.  We are supposed to have an extra cold and snowy winter so that means we will be stuck in the house.  Not sure what to do about that, though I am looking into re-arranging the attic and even the basement spaces so there are at least change-of-pace options.

This morning I weighed 212 lbs., which is a little less than a week ago.  I want to see what 5 days of exercise and good eating will do since running on weekends "costs" too much these days.  I'm thinking I’ll finish out October with some runs if I can work it in and then the rest of the year is swim, swim, swim.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Results of the Flex Seal have been mostly positive

It rained last night and this morning I noticed some water beading on our roof.  This is exactly what the Flex-Seal was supposed to do.  I suspect our roof isn't slanted enough for the water to roll entirely into the gutter but this is just fine as it will eventually evaporate or be consumed by a flying animal.

In other news, I did  paint the door frame of our new back door.  Because it's a PITA to paint a door frame that already has a door on it, I only did one coat and it looks better than I expected one coat to look.  

I still have the basement access to seal, but I want to return the one gallon and purchase a smaller, 32 oz size instead as I won't need that much and once you open the bucket, it starts to cure, so you risk wasting a lot.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Running goal won't be met this year

I'm not even going to qualify that with a probably.  Even though there are 80 days left in the year, it is reasonable to say that I'm not gonna achieve my goal of running 40, let alone 45 miles a month.

DailyMile as of 10/12/2016

In June I was at the 175 mile mark. 129 days later that total is 261 including today's 3 mile run.  It might be realistic to drop to 30 miles a month.  BUT...

Today's run was only meant to be 3 laps around Portage Park because that's how much time I had to squeeze in before work.  And while my pace was better than usual, it still was no where near the effortlessness I once recall.  And running hasn't been effortless in I don't know how long.

Part of me just wants to stop running for the rest of the year and focus on swimming.  It's easier and I get a better workout in less time.

So  I think I might finish out the month or reach 300 miles and then just take a break for a while.  Maybe start up again in the Spring.  I'm not saying there will be no running between now and then but it might be better to switch gears and focus on swimming and weights and other cross training.

Friday photo: Halloween Decorations

This is what I hope to someday achieve with our front yard.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Not sleak or sexy but definitely necessary

I got two things done this weekend around that house that are by no means sexy or interesting water cooler commentary.  However, if they were done correctly, it should save me from potential costly repairs down the road.  First, I had our sewer line rodded.  An Angie’s list special $99 for Sewer Rodding and Televising.….Given how costly our flood in 2013 was, I feel like I probably avoided a similar fate this time.  I intend to get this rodded once a year.

Next, I power washed the roof of our porch and when it dried put down a coat of sealant.  Hopefully this will help the water roll off the roof into the gutters instead of into the roof itself.  Before starting with the Flex-Seal, I should have used my leaf blower to blow off all the debris that was up there.  Lesson learned.  I wasn’t expecting this to be an airtight 100% waterproof seal, just a very close approximation.  What I didn’t expect was how difficult it is to spread the Flex Seal.  It’s near impossible with a paint brush and a roller isn’t that much easier.  I did get lucky in that it only took one can to cover the entire roof so  I can either put a second coat on or return it and get $90 refunded.  Though I’ll probably purchase the smaller can for the basement door access.

I still have to paint the door frame of our new back door but I think I can squeeze that in next Sunday at nap time (we are out and about all day Saturday).  I might even be able to work on the basement door access at the same time.  The challenge isn’t just the painting, it’s allowing it to dry without interference from Moose & Squirrel.

The last thing which will probably be the following weekend will be putting away all the deck furniture and other items for the winter.  

Saturday, October 8, 2016

What I need to get things done

In order to get stuff done around the house, conditions have to be right.
Even the Rabbit mocks me

Weather: it cannot be too hot, or too cold  or too rainy.  

Daylight: this should be obvious but outdoor projects require the ability to see what I'm doing.

Time:  If you want to do something right, you definitely don't want to be rushed.  Some things can be done during Nap Time but most things require several consecutive uninterrupted hours.

Materials:  This means not having to run out to the hardware store for anything and also having the income necessary to purchase whatever is needed.

Energy:  The reason I don't do a lot after work even when there is good summer daylight and weather is my energy levels ain't what they use to be.

But most of all,  the one thing I really need or its a nonstarter is....

Child Containment/Distraction:  This one is the biggest challenge and something we often lack.  Nightingale and I could get more done if we had someone on the weekends who could take our kids for a walk or to the museum for a few hours.  Otherwise one of us has to watch the kids while the other works and this works until moose or squirrel want to be with the other parent.

Getting all of these things to line up is really, really hard.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Better photos of the pavers

Here are some better shots of the paver work.  These were taken BEFORE the sod was put in up front.

Much needed Landscaping and paver repair work -- After

Much needed Landscaping and paver repair work -- Before

About a month ago, my neighbor was having some work done on his lawn and i asked his lawn service for a quote on sod.  He told us that he could do it but couldn't guarantee it because of the lack of good sunlight our front lawn gets.  We asked about options and he said that he could trim a few branches from our tree -- not too many because this is a no-no in the city -- and use some special dirt and as long as we watered it appropriately, it should be "all right."

We also decided while we were at it, to get our pavers sanded and sealed.  This was not a cheap endeavor but it was necessary and should last 3-5 years as long as we don't get too many harsh winters and do not use salt for our snow removal.  If we do use salt, use it sparingly.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Weekend, Windows and Doors

This weekend wasn't quite as serene as our sans grandma-nanny ones usually are.  I think it is because our kids only went to daycare 2/5 of the week and missing anymore than a day from Daycare leaves them a bit on the feral side.  Plus they were still recovering from their respective viruses.  Boris was getting over his but Natasha seems to have caught it.  She seems to have a stronger immune system than he; a virus knocks him out yet it only inconveniences her. 

I got a few minor things done around the house but not nearly on the scale that I would have liked. 
Last week I had ordered a replacement part for our Andersen Window but unfortunately it was the wrong one.  In the effort to return it and get the correct one I have now learned more about Casement style windows than I ever wanted.  Two takeaways from the call to Andersen windows customer service:
  • they have a customer service and it is indeed a robust one
  • apparently it is illegal for them to ship on any day but Tuesday as well*

*Someday I will have to write all the gory details about the Storm Door Saga.  Suffice it to say we finally got our last door just in time for the cooler weather.  Larson, the door manufacturer, apparently only ships on Mondays and if you are unfortunate enough to have your ready date fall on a holiday (Labor Day for instance) it is against their religion to make an exception and ship it out the next day.  You have to wait a week, just like it says in the Bible.  Never mind that you ordered these in July and through no fault of your own, they were measured incorrectly and this is a make up order.