Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ageing Has Never Been His Friend (2nd time)

First -- this pie chart over here on the right is old and out of date. Maybe I'll fix that soon. Or I'll just remove it. On with the chlorophyll!

Celebrating Falcon Heene Day (10/15/09), I meet Rick and Internet Celebrity Baumer at Beckett's, #141 (formerly Belly's). This is the first bar that has closed and reopened under a different name within the year, necessitating a return trip. Beckett's is owned, operated, decorated, and serves the same menu as it's sister- (brother?) bar, Wilde. Before I arrive Rick sends me a text saying it feels like he's drinking in a library. I show up and that "library" is playing Britney Spears.
The Blue on Blue burger is above average, and our waitress/manager stops by multiple times to have the same check-in conversation over and over.
"You guys okay? ... Awesome."
"You guys okay? ... Awesome."
"You guys okay? ... Awesome."

The Blackhawks, having just days earlier put together an improbable comeback, are not performing as expected. They will lose this game, leaving us disappointed. My Grimbergen Double Ale does something similar.

Go Southeast, Young Man! So the three of us do...down Lincoln to Witt's, #142. Belguim beers are on special on Thursdays, so I go to the restroom and return to find we're all drinking Delerium Tremens. We listen to Cake and Pearl Jam, exchange Major League lines w/ a solo drinker at the bar, and I remember to write down a few of the more notable quotes from the conversation:
"Vampires and Umpires are only 2 letters away. Coincidence?"

"Speaking of mushrooms...did you see that Hiroshima and Nagasaki are bidding on the Olympics together?"

" of the most annoying things you can have."
"That, and syphillis."

Thursday night ends and we're smart enough not to tackle any additional EBONY bars.

Moving on to Saturday...Rick runs in and I ride the lead bicycle for the Pumpkins in the Park 5k. A couple of drinks at the beer tent, a brief stop at home to clean up, and then we're out for the evening.
First stop, meeting Internet Celebrity Baumer and EBONY-virgin Borling at Galway Arms, #143. This is a geniune Irish bar down on the southeast corner of our radius (do circle's have corners? i guess not). The 4 of us discuss marathons, I devour a hearty guinness beef stew, and we drink a couple of $4 20 oz Sam Adams. Not a bad deal. I show Borling the EBONY notebook as we fill him in on the process. He begins to leaf through it..."Wait! I'm in this notebook already!" I have his name written down on page one from a story Baumer told us 20 bars ago.

A large crowd plans on joining us soon, so we move somewhere with more room. A couple of filthy back-of-the-room tables open up at The Other Side, #144 just after we arrive, and our growing crew begins to take over. Represented tonight: Abby, her visiting brother Zach, Jamie, Bode, Ken, Kathy, Reamer, Verdo, Molly, Carolyn D, maybe others I've forgotten to write down.
All our friends manage to do initially is prevent us from being served beer. Finally our 312's arrive alongside some fried cheese curds. The marketing genius who came up with the name "curd" probably didn't stop to think about their shape and it's phonetic resemblence to something else.

Drinking beer steins leads to a discussion about Octoberfest (the real one, in Germany), which leads us to conclusions that it is the exact OPPOSITE of Wrigleyville. Everyone is drunk & people pretty much get away with whatever shenanigans they want, except it's actually fun and the meatheads aren't violent.
Baumer, on his 8th or 9th beer now, has his arm around our waitress.
Ken walks into the restricted kitchen hoping to find out if the BBQ sauce they used was Sweet Baby Ray's. He is escorted out without an answer. This would be the first time this evening we would have run-ins with tavern authority figures.
Zach has never heard the animal/bar jokes (he lives in Boston...if he lived in Chicago he'd have heard me tell all of them at least 20 times by now). He gets them. The girls have a dance party to Toto.
A surly Aussie suddenly stops by our table, corners Borling, and proceeds to close-talk him for a good 6 minutes. Rick and I lean in, and we can't decipher a word. The guy finally leaves, Borling says, "I couldn't understand a word either. I didn't know if he was hitting on me or if he wanted to fight us."
Obviously we stayed at The Other Side longer than we planned, but everyone was having a grand time.

Next up...we move north to Frank's, #145. Years ago 2 friends of mine (Tim & Tim) got themselves into a cake fight with each other. Covered in frosting, they had to walk to our old apartment to change clothes and this trek took them past Frank's. For kicks, they tried to stop in and the bouncer denied their entry. Tim yelled at him. "What, you guys don't like cake?!"
On our trip to Frank's Rick danced across Clark St and stopped taxi traffic. Jeff, one of the managers, sees my notebook, asks me about it, and gives us free shots when we explain the premise behind EBONY. Note to self (and readers): use this idea for free shots. A large majority of The Other Side crowd follows us to Frank's. Rick stands on one of the booths, the bouncer yells at him, "You've got 2 strikes! One more and you're out of here!" I don't recall what strike one is, but run-in number 2 is in the books.

Since Saturday night is in full swing, we need to check more bars off the list. We head north again, this time planning on visting Matisse, #146. I order 2 Summitt Octoberfest beers -- both of us much prefer the Octoberfest fall selection over the pumpkin ales that also show up this time of year. I tried the Dogfish Pumpkin beer last week, and it's safe to say if I don't even like the Dogfish variety I'm not going to like any other brewery's creation. Today has turned into a very very rare night out where Rick is drunker than I am. Matisse is a laid back, loungy, chill, basement bar with mood lighting. Rick is in the mood for a party and doesn't like this. He's also starving. Rob shows up, Zach, Abby & Jamie show up. Rick leaves, planning to go get food. We send Zach after him, figuring the buddy system always works best.
They return in 15 minutes with stories about a closed KFC and making sandwiches behind the counter at Dunkin Donuts. The bouncer sends Rick outside to eat his sandwich, no outside food allowed in. He sulks his way through his sandwich, and returns to announce his major displeasure with Matisse and serves up a warning about the skewering they will receive within the pages of EBONY. He doesn't finish his shouting diatribe as the bouncer kicks him out. Run-in #3 in the books! It may have taken us 146 bars to get here, but one of us finally got kicked out of a bar.

Next stop...heading up into boystown to a lesbian bar, The Closet, #147. Something about everyone taking pictures of themselves holding a Charleston Chew became a running theme here, I'm not sure if I can explain this one. A girl is dancing solo on the empty makeshift dance floor, and I join her for some twirling and dipping. We (the collective 'we', this certainly includes me) are all shocked that I manage not to drop her on her head. It's been a long night, and we've still got a crowd of 6 in attendance with us. The friends-rankings are heating up. Spots 2-10 are all still undecided, even though we all know Baumer is taking home the title.

We've visited another 3 bars since then, so we're resting at a very lofty and round 150 bars off the list. As Rick mentioned in the last post, it's been rough lately. I long for the days of visting just 1 bar in an evening, and the constant movement and planned bar-hopping wears on us. I mean, really, think about this. It's the end of October, and I've been to 150 bars within a mile of where I live. That's ridiculous. My wallet and my liver scream for Father Time to bring us January 1st ASAP.

Couple of internet things of interest for ya:
Letters of Note -- this is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. A blog with historical letters of note. Read Hunter S. Thompson getting pissed at Hollywood types. Read Samuel Clemens' letter to a 9-year old girl. One of my favorites, read Beethoven's tortured letter explaining the loss of his hearing and how he hid it from the world, only to be opened by his brother's upon his death.

The NBA season kicked off last night. If you're a fan of the hoops, and you're anywhere near the same age as I am, you'll enjoy this 2009-10 preview from the always superb guys at Free Darko dot com:
Growing Older and the NBA

More later this week. Stay Tuned as we wrap this damn project up!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's a long way to the top, if...

As the summer days of Chicago (and maybe even the fall) are behind us, we approach October with our eyes on the prize. The third quarter is over, and as public companies fuss over their financial statements and earnings calls to appease their stockholders, we say to you, our personal shareholders, EBONY is for real in 2009. Through Q3, our attempt at completeness has brought us 76% of the way there. I’d say we’re right on marathon pace and ready to tackle Heartbreak Hill around the corner. As of the most recent count, there are 184 bars total on the list, and we have 37 left after tackling 8 so far in October, and adding 3 new ones with F. O’Mahoney’s, Lincoln Hall and Rockwood Place (replaces Central, which sucks, because going to Central already was one of the low points of the year). I’m willing to bet there is still a couple more out there that we’ll notice on the way and make sure to add them in.

This journey has been a rollercoaster for me. For what started seemingly as a joke, has turned in to a dedication that I had not expected. A major shout out goes to my girlfriend Annie, for putting up with my drunken mess at nights and not getting upset when we spend 8+ hours on a Saturday afternoon going from bar-to-bar instead of doing normal couple activities. Kyle and I are forever grateful to you. There have been many moments when I wanted to just quit and assume normal social activities instead. My work/life/running balance has tipped in many directions this year, but am at a point where I realize I have nothing to complain about. We are in the homestretch and there is light at the end of the tunnel. People have asked us what are goal for 2010 will be. We used to come up with crazy ideas, such as going to every bar on Clark or Western Ave in the city, but honestly, I can’t do this anymore. I have hit my threshold. I am committed to 2009, but after that, my focus needs to be reorganized. But not to end on a bummer, there is much excitement ahead of us; such as Halloween parties and the final 37 bars left to visit. My heart is fully committed and ready to let loose. Fans out there, let’s Rock n’ Roll!

Below is a brief recap of the 8 bars we visited so far this month. Kyle was the key note taker for these establishments and will provide further detail soon, so enjoy.

Blues, #140. This came after a long day of Kyle running the marathon, lots of post-race drinks at Stanleys, and me personally getting little sleep. My previous evening with Hall is worthy of an entry by itself, so Hall if you are up to challenge, feel free to ghostwrite an entry for us. As a teaser, the pre-marathon revelry started way too early at ESPN Zone and included many drinks throughout the evening with the likes of Todd Williams, numerous race directors, running store owners and plenty of banter exchanged with Bob Kennedy and Keith Dowling (who hates Chenoweth) at Timmy O'Toole's and Kity O'Sheas. Back on target, Blues was an impromtu stop from Stanleys for us. We initially wanted to go to Las Fuentes, but it was closed. We then chose Blues over Kingston Mines due to the difference in cover charges. The bar was pretty empty, no surpirse given it was a Sunday night. The live band was rocking, and the only others in the crowd were runners wearing their marathon medals in their club wear. 2 were Italian dudes who spoke absolutely no English, and the other 2 were cougars from LA on the prowl. I think that was a match made in heaven.

Beckett's, #141. Met Baumer here to watch the Hawks game. From the same owners of Wilde, but more of bar/library feel. Seidler thinks this bar is named after the bookstore Beckett's, but I'm 99.9% certain its named after the great writer Samual Beckett, especially considering his face is on the facade of the building.

Witt's, #142. Three of us came here after the 2nd period of the Hawks game. Great Belgian beer specials, so we each had a Delerium.

Galway Arms, #143. Now we begin last Saturday afternoon. This was the post Pumpkins in the Park race celebrations. Met Baumer and Borling here for quiet drinks and good conversation before the night snowballed.

The Other Side, #144. We met up with numerous other EBONY groupies. Probably had a contingent of 10+ here, good times were had.

Frank's, #145. Night now starts to get crazier. We get free shots of our choice once we flash the buisness cards. I am give 3 strikes from the bouncer before being kicked out. I only manage to use 2 strikes before leaving. Consider it a donation to next time Frank.

Matisse, #146. Apparently this bar doesn't allow outisde food, even when the bar is 80% empty. This brings out my inner hulk. My sandwiched is finshed outside on the patio and I let the bouncer know my unhappiness. I make it rain with business cards and say "You are getting the worst review EVER!". This allows the first time either of us have been kicked out of bar on this journey. About time.

The Closet, #147. My uneasiness is called by this lesbian hangout. Good times are had and the evening ends on a high note.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Instead I'm Just Crazy, and Totally Mad

In 2006 I had lofty goals for the marathon – something with a finish time around 2:50. I rolled through the half that year in 1:23:59, eventually falling apart around mile 19 with some strained core muscles that would end up bothering me all winter. I struggled to the finish line and ended up with a hugely disappointing 3:33:13.

In 2007 I lowered the goal to simply qualifying for Boston (3:10:00). This was the year of severe heat and apparent water shortages. After starting out at 7 min pace I quickly succumbed to the conditions and by mile 10 was already slower than my goal pace. It wasn’t my day, and I bailed on the race shortly after crossing the halfway point. Knowing it was only going to get hotter, and that I was already feeling the effects of the day, I didn’t need to prove to myself that I could finish a marathon. I’d done that 9 times already. I fell out of training after that; sat out the marathon in 2008 and generally stopped competitive racing.

You know about the EBONY goal for 2009, another resolution for the year came in the form of a challenge from my best friend on New Year’s Eve 2008 (mano y mano at the Shamrock Shuffle). This throwing of the gauntlet got me back on the horse, and I seemed to be working myself back into some sort of respectable running shape. Two 5k races in April followed the snowy & slushly Shamrock performance, and May brought about the Soldier Field 10 miler. My training wasn’t as aggressive or consistent as it could’ve been, but progress was being made. The wintertime inception of the Old Man Track Club helped for needed company on weekend long runs, and being asked to carry the heavy mileage on a coed Madison-to-Chicago 200 Relay team gave me something else to train for.

Another 5k followed in July, the long runs got longer in August, and a respectable half-marathon in September during my highest mileage week gave me reason to believe I might actually have a good marathon coming up in October. I’ve never trained as aggressively post-college as I know that my body and ability-level are capable of, but these are the sacrifices we make with jobs, responsibilities and social lives. I’ve always struggled going into marathons trying to find a balance between what I *know* I’m capable of and what I’m capable of *right now*.

So we arrive at the start line of the 2009 Chicago Marathon – the goal is to sit on the 3:10 pace group for 5 miles, catch the 3:00 pace group after 10 but before 15, then switch from pacing to racing for the last 10k. I’m not wearing a watch, choosing not to waste mental energy obsessing over each and every mile split.
The race starts and everything is going according to plan. The 3:10 pace seems easy, and around mile 4 I notice that I’ve pulled away from them. I don’t feel like I’m pushing things yet, so I decide to keep this effort level. Clock watching, I can tell I’m moving faster than 7 min pace, so it’s probably a little faster than I want to be. Slowing down on purpose once you’ve hit a comfortable pace is difficult, and I clearly failed at this. Split times would later show from 5k to 20k I was averaging 6:46 miles. I go by the half at 1:29:54, faster than planned, but well on target.
Tim (the catalyst for me getting back in shape to begin with) is cheering at mile 14. I run by. He doesn’t cheer for me, instead observing that the mustache I’ve given myself for the race, “Makes you look like a pedophile.” High School kids working water stations would cheer for the 'stache as well.
Around mile 15 I need to make a quick bathroom stop. Historically this has been an issue for me, so I’ve gotten pretty damned good at it. This mile probably has an extra 40 seconds, spent as efficiently as possible.

Mile 20, friend & savior Matt jumps in with me as I’ve just started hurting badly. My hamstrings and quads are as tight and sore as they can be, and my legs just feel shot. It seems getting under 6:50’s as early as I did was probably a bad idea, and I have a long history of falling apart anywhere between 18 and 24 miles into the race. Matt convinces me to stop and stretch for a minute, hoping that will help me to rebound. It does, to an extent. We get to a water stop right before the 21 mile marker. I walk with my Gatorade and tell Matt, “Here’s the deal. You get me to mile 25, don’t allow me to run anything slower than 8 minute miles, and I’ll do the rest.” We start the shuffle again. Every mile Matt reads my time, offering encouragement and a few well-placed yells. Mile 22 goes by, 7:43. Mile 23 goes by, 7:48. Mile 24 goes by, 7:55. I’m slipping further and further away from the 3-hour goal, and the two stops I made earlier during mile 20 have severely impacted my race. Boston Qualifying is 3:10, and I know I’m inching closer and closer to that time. The 3:10 pace groups, people I haven’t seen since Mile 4, begin to pass me. The wheels are coming off...
Matt and I roll by the 25 mile mark, and he doesn’t tell me my split. I ask for it, and he doesn’t say anything. I give him the death stare and demand my time. He replies, “8:11.” I reply with a very loud F-bomb that startles runners around me. We start picking it up again. I think of my friend Dan, who completed the Kona Ironman the day prior. All I'm doing is running a marathon. I think that in this year that I found out how to run competitively again I still seem to not be able to finish up a marathon. I think that I'm simply not a marathoner. I doubt myself, I curse myself, and Matt keeps talking me into pushing the pace. I yell at my legs. We finally see the turn for Roosevelt.

While I was expressing my doubts a few days prior to the race my friend Beth made her attempt at motivational speaking. She wrote to me, “Negative thinking kills everyone in everything. That’s why crazy people are so successful. Because they are so crazy they don’t think anything can stop them in what they are doing. Just get all Crazy-Kyle on the marathon. go ahead, spaz out, spaz. There is nothing to stop you. And how much does it suck to know that your dumb head is the only reason why you might mess up. It’s just a head.”

I make the turn up Roosevelt and I know my time is perilously close to the 3:10:59 I need to be under to make it to Boston. I’m pissed that once again I’ve fallen short of what I planned on running, but I know it’s still not too late to miss out on the secondary goal. I get to the top of the hill and know it’s a desperation sprint to the finish, shutting off my brain, going crazy, and I can still probably make it. Muscles burned, joints hurt, my usual rational, calculating brain has been turned off. Crazy people cannot be stopped. Crazy people cannot be stopped. 3:09:51.

A former college teammate heard them announce my name as I finished. He was 40 seconds ahead of me, so he stood and waited after the finish line. We walked through the finish area together. He’s also had a history of spectacular collapses, he ran well today, and he says, “this is the fastest I’ve ever been able to walk after the finish.” I reply, “I just want to sit down on the curb and cry for a few minutes.” We congratulate each other.

So I’m training through the winter for Boston. Halljams will be joining me. We’re now waiting for Internet Celebrity Baumer to qualify in his first marathon, and then the OMTC will be sending a trio to beantown in April. So thanks to everyone involved in my running support-group over the last 10 months – you’re much appreciated and I thank you.
I didn’t hit my goal, but it was the first full-marathon effort I’ve had in 3 years. It was the first time I’ve broken 3:10 in 5 years. And oh yeah, I’ve been to, like, y'know, 200 bars so far this year.

3 days after the marathon I've already put back on 7 lbs. They'll be shed soon enough, casualties of the solitary darkness of winter mileage.

Rick and I have some work to do these last 2.5 months. Check in often, cuz we’ll have updates. We did knock off bar #140 during Sunday night's post-marathon celebrations. I'll let Rick author that entry...he owes you a few entries anyway.

Elsewhere...check out what my brother is doing for the next two weeks.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Soft Shock

On Friday a misguided group of individuals holding signs that read "Oprah Should Get To Light The Torch" seemingly had their hopes and dreams crushed when Chicago was surprisingly eliminated in the first round of 2016 Olympic Host City voting. As friend of the blog Holland put it, "I don't think those people even knew what we were bidding on."

Sure, it would've been pretty cool to host the 'lympics here in 7 years. Our civic leadership deserved to lose out on the bid because it seems to be the only thing they've worked on in recent history. You know that years ago that Daley and the other people in charge of things in Chicago decided they didn’t need to make the *really* hard decisions and govern the city properly if they could land the 2016 olympics and get plenty of money thrown at Chicago and the metro area. It would be their get out of jail free card. When Obama was elected they figured it was a done deal. I’m sure some of them worked hard on the proposal, and I’m sorry they lost. I hoped, for the sake of the city, we would win. I hoped, for those who genuinely wanted the Olympics, that we would land it and more people from the global community would come to love the same city I do. For those in positions of power who now realize they’re screwed, I hope they get back to the city and start working on things they’ve neglected to fix. I hope the ones who don’t come back here and bust their asses get thrown out of office. I hope those who were counting on collusion and behind closed door handshake development deals go elsewhere for their profits.

Here's a few links to great commentary following the announcement:
The Reader's Mick Dumke reminds everyone there's still a city to run.

Roger Ebert requests that even though we lost the Olympic Bid, let's put that effort into winning the Derrion Albert Bid.

The Reader's Ben Joravsky visits Washington Park attempting to find at least ONE area resident upset that we lost the bid.

Pay attention to whatever Mayor Daley decides to focus his remaining energy on in the next few weeks. Let's hope it's crime & education, not more money making schemes and selling off the city's assets.

No EBONY bar visits since our trip to Wrigley. I've got the Chicago Marathon this coming weekend so I'm attempting to lay low. Rick was out of town in Minneapolis hanging out with Olympians, Al Franken, and the last* game at the Metrodome.

Here's the (probably incomplete) list of remaining bars to cross off (join us as the weather gets colder and you need dark beers to warm your insides):
Bobby Love's
Bourbon on Lincoln
Bridget McNellis
Duke of Perth
Elbo Room
Fly Me to the Moon
Full Shilling
Galway Arms
Galway Bay Pub
Joe's on Broadway
Kingston Mines
Kit Kat Lounge
Las Fuentas
Nisei Lounge
North End
Ole Lounge
Rocks Lakeview
Side Street Saloon
Soiree Bar & Lounge
Southport City Saloon
The Closet
The Other Side
The Rockhouse
The Spread
Toasted Ox
Underground Lounge
Wrightwood Tap

Obligatory audio commentary: I'm loving the sounds of Music Go Music. Disco Revival is fine.

*Game 163 still to be played on Tuesday. Sorry Rick!