Awakenings

By on Jan 30, 2015 in Writings | 0 comments

This story is based on the Flash Fiction Challenge posted Fridays on writer Chuck Wendig’s blog.  The idea was to pick three ideas randomly from three lists and work them into a 1000 word story.  My random three were Poison, A Comic Book, and Resurrection.   “Aww, man,” Tommy said, slamming his copy of Micro Man #1 to the floor.  Tommy Wilson sat cross-legged in the middle of his bedroom floor across from his best friend, Todd Tipperly.  Strewn about them were a half dozen comics they had purchased to celebrate the end of 7th grade and beginning of summer freedom.  The first five comics they picked were easy, eagerly grabbing up the next issue of old favorites: Spiderman, the Avengers, and other members of the Marvel Universe.  Micro Man #1 had been an impulse buy.  Tommy had been drawn to the cover art and, in the end, he couldn’t resist passing over his go-to’s for this promising newcomer.  But now that he was looking from the purple-blue tips of his ink-stained fingers to the comic laying at his feet, he was kicking himself for getting sucked in by the flashy cover.  Rookie mistake. “What?” Todd asked from around a mouth full of Flaming Hot Cheetos. “Look,” Tommy said, holding up his stained fingers. “The ink rubbed right off.  This comic sucks.” Todd snorted, sending out a spray of bright-orange crumbs.  “I told you we should have gotten Iron Man.  Micro Man.  You’re such an asshole.” “Whatever,” Tommy said, but he felt like an asshole.  He reached down and chucked the defective comic in the general vicinity of the garbage can.  “Give me some Cheetos,” he said, ripping the bag from his friend’s hands. He gave one last sour glance at Micro Man #1 before picking up Spiderman with a grunt. His irritation might have been lessened a bit if he had known he wasn’t the only Little League aged kid tossing away a comic in disgust, fingers stained. Misery loves company, after all. Micro Man #1 had been an instant success, selling out the initial run of 100 comics in the first couple hours of school letting out.  Milo Franklin, proprietor of Action Comics in the small town of New Haven, had to go to the back room four times to grab out more copies of the instant hit before giving up and just bringing out the whole lot of them.  Milo had no idea that each had the same defect, the ink seemingly falling off the pages with the lightest of touches.  The man who sold him the box of comics had seemed nice enough, albeit it a little creepy.  After a look into the man’s dark, sunken eyes, however, he had agreed to push the new comic without argument. .     .    . That night, Tommy Wilson and ninety-nine other early adopters of the budding Micro Man franchise slept fitfully, their temperatures creeping up with each passing hour.  Tommy had scrubbed hard at his fingers that night before bed, but they had held onto that purple tint.  He insisted that he hadn’t been messing with Sharpies, that it was all due to this stupid comic, but his mom had just giving him “The Look.” Tommy had sighed and given up. But his mother would have been relieved to know that the ink stain was no longer an issue.  His fingers, now clenched into tight fists as he shivered under his covers, had returned to the pinkish-hue as the ink absorbed into his skin, seeping into his veins and mingling with his blood.  It now coursed through his body, touching each organ, each corner of his body. One by one his organs began to slow, losing integrity until they sputtered to a stop.  Neither Tommy or any of the other ninety-nine adolescents woke during this process, no more than they would have awoken during any fever-dream.  Eventually, however, the fitful tossing and turning came to an end as their hearts gave out, the nightmare over. Tommy’s last breath came as the alarm clock on his bedside table turned to midnight. The clock read 12:03 when Tommy’s eyes snapped open, his dark brown eyes now a milky white.  Slowly a grin spread across his face.  He levered up, pushing away his covers, and swung his legs over the side of the bed and onto the floor.  A tingle passed through his body and out to the edge of his limbs.  He flexed his hands, feeling a surge of power.  Yes, this felt good. He glided silently down the hall past his parents’ room and headed out the front door into the warm night air. .   .   . As Tommy approached the baseball diamond where he and his friends played every Sunday, he saw other boys his age streaming in as well – some he knew and some he didn’t- each similarly pajama-clad. Each with the same milky-white eyes.  Each wearing the same shit-eating grin. They came from left, center, and right field, converging on home plate where a man stood.  He stood a full head taller than the boys, his body lean and his white hair pulled back into a pony tail. Sunken eyes gleamed from behind hollow cheeks.  He held up his arms for silence as the boys crowded in, jostling for position, and the boys quieted their rustling and stood in polite silence. “My boys,” the man...

Gymming once more. This time really for real.

By on Jan 29, 2015 in Chicago, Fitness, Running | 0 comments

Leah and I have always been solid when it comes to running.  Before we had our three little time suckers, we trained together for three marathons in a row.  We were dedicated, never missing a run, be it a 20 mile long run or sprints on the track.  We did a ten mile run starting at midnight after a fourteen hour work day. We sound pretty dedicated to fitness, yeah? Or, at least, we were?  You’d think that, but then there’s the gym. Oh, the gym. I started back in February of 2005, when we got our first membership at the YMCA.  That post is about joining the Y in Lakeview, which was an awesome, weird place. Then, let’s see, we have a post here from May of 2006 explaining how we are really going to go the the gym this time.  And I think this time we did…for a few months. (hey, look what I found.  Look how happy we were with the Bears and Colts both heading into the Super Bowl.  If only we knew…) December of 2007…now we’re living in the Ukrainian Village and joined Cheetah gym in Wicker Park.  This was a big step up from the YMCA in both quality and cost.  Would we go this time?  My guess is no. And then, in January of 2009 what do we have?  A post about re-joining the YMCA.  We were back in Lakeview at that point and attempted to rejoin the Lakeview YMCA.  This was ill-fated as we were really too far from the gym to ever make it work.  At least, it was too far for two people with our level of dedication. That ended for good when little Lucy came around 11 months and a week later.  And then we were done for a long while. So, we’ve managed to run when we want to, sticking to a training plan without fail.  Running in snow and rain, blazing heat and suffocating humidity.  But the gym?  I want to do it, but the weights are so heavy. So much effort.  It’s something that has never stuck for either of us. But here we are, all settled in our house in Lincoln Square and living a mere quarter mile from the gym. When we moved here, we were adamant about joining the gym.  I mean, come on.  It’s right there. We had to wait for Rocky to be born and start sleeping through the night, but then we were on it.  I signed up for the three free training sessions that come with the membership to learn a few things.  I thought about continuing with the training, but eh.  It’s expensive and, really, I should be able to self-motivate. I mean, it’s not like there’s an archive on the internet cataloging my repeated failures in the weight room, right? My September I wasn’t working out again.  The monthly dues were being pulled from our bank account, but I wasn’t going.  It was time to bite the bullet.  I re-upped with my trainer and Leah began with a trainer of her own.  As it turns out, the pressure of meeting with a trainer is about the only thing that keeps me going to the gym.  I’ve tried a couple times in the past couple of years to discontinue my training sessions – honestly, needing a trainer seems like a crutch – and each time I’ve fallen off. Leah and I are back on with our trainers as of a month ago.  Leah’s recovered from Veronica’s birth and we’re sleeping just barely enough to work out and survive.  Fitting it in with three kids is about impossible.  I can go either at 5 am or 8 pm, because in between I’m pretty well booked (spoiler: I go at 8 pm).  But finding the time is important because I don’t want to wake up one day with my body falling apart and start bitching about how much harder things are now that I’m...

Ernie Banks 1931-2015

By on Jan 24, 2015 in Chicago, Cubs | 3 comments

This morning, as usual,  I woke up early with Rocky  and flipped on Sportscenter to watch while I sat next to him and woke up with a little coffee.  Along the sidebar was the name “Ernie Banks”.  I knew that could only mean one thing.  I didn’t have my phone with me to confirm so, like it was 1994, I had to wait patiently for the TV to tell me what I already knew.  Ernie Banks had died. For those who don’t either follow baseball or live in Chicago, Ernie Banks was the greatest Cub of all time and a one of the greatest players of all time.  But he was less famous for his baseball accomplishments than for his personality.  Always happy, always positive, he embraced his role as “Mr. Cub.”  His excitement was infectious and he was baseball’s greatest ambassador.  But his career will be detailed in all the papers today and I’m no baseball historian.  What I wanted to relay was the time Ernie Banks was incredibly kind to a nervous young Cub blogger. Six or seven years ago, back when Cub blogs were a thing, I wrote for the oddly named blog Goat Riders of the Apocalypse.  While supposedly nothing ever truly goes away on the internet, retrieving any of the archives of what I wrote for them is beyond my skills, but it was generally fun stuff.  And one benefit of writing for a moderately popular blog was that occasionally Cubs marketing would reach out to us as “press”.  One morning, I received an email from a representative for Charity Hop asking if I’d like to attend a release of Ernie Banks’s new wine and meet the man himself. Meet Ernie Banks? I’m sorry now, meet who again? Suffice to say, I said yes.  As long, that is, that I could bring along our staff photographer, who just so happened to be my wife.  The details of the night of the interview are over at our old website along with our continued celebration that night and Leah wrote about that and my later paper route here.  But the wine and the interview aren’t what I’ll remember that night.  What I’ll remember is that, for that night, Leah and I became Ernie Banks’s “Physicist Friends”. When Leah and I arrived at the event, we felt pretty out of place.  Press loitered around, waiting for their chance to ask a few questions.  We did a little loitering of our own, trying to not stand in the wrong place.  We grazed on appetizers and drank some very tasty wine and waited.  For what we were waiting, we didn’t exactly know.  I had no idea how to actually conduct an interview or how to interject myself between the various reporters to ask my questions.  But, it turned out, I didn’t have to know what to do. Our awkward hovering was interrupted by The Man himself walking over to us.  Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, noticed us lost in the sea of press, and broke off from a cluster of reporters to engage us.  He walked over – I don’t believe he introduced himself (that would have been a little weird) – and started talking to us, asking us what we did.  We informed him we were physicists (I failed to mention that I had recently left physics for software.  I threaten Leah with death if she mentioned my little career change to him) and, from then on, we were his “physicist friends.”  He spoke to us for a few moments, engaging us with his great smile, and asking us a couple questions about the lab where we worked and what we did.  He put us at ease.  And then, as he moved on to speak to other members of the press, he would point to us and ask if they had met “his physicist friends.” It was awesome. And then it came time for people to sit down and conduct an interview with him.  Once again, I didn’t really know how to go about this.  But Ernie Banks called me over and told me to sit next to him; it was my turn.  I didn’t really expect to conduct a one-on-one with Mr. Cub and I didn’t have anything but a pen and a blank pad of paper.  I initially asked him about the wine – I figured I was supposed to – and his started to crank out a canned response about the notes of grapefruit and how it supports his charity.  I could tell he didn’t really care.  So I quickly turned my questions to the upcoming 2008 Cubs season, one that was looking to be a great one.  His trademark optimism poured out and he was confident that this would be the year.  “The Cubs are going to be great in 2008.”  He spoke with me for over 10 minutes, longer than he gave any of the real reporters.  His wife tried to interject and pull him away on multiple occasions, but he wasn’t having any of it.  He was talking to his physicist friend and a fan, not a real member of the press, and I think he liked that. I will certainly always remember my time meeting Mr. Cub and greatly appreciate the kindness and attention he showed me and my wife.  He was truly the greatest Cubs of all time and one of the greatest, most positive...

Honey, call a priest. He’s got the evil

By on Jan 17, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I think it was two Saturdays ago – my days were pretty badly screwed up with all the holidays – that Rocky woke up with The Evil in his eyes.  The sort of evil that says “there’s a very fine line between two-year old and a sociopath.” The sort of evil that says “I hope you weren’t too attached to those picture frames.”  The sort of evil that makes you very, very aware that it’s 6:30 am and your son won’t nap for at least 6 hours.  He can do a lot of damage in 6 hours. Leah and I had been trying to get our house organized and de-cluttered in the New Year.  To do this, we made a list of every room detailing what needs to be done and had been checking off as much as possible before I had to go back to work.  So, the hope was that we could let the kids play while we got some organizing done. Ha, we’re so cute. It was raining steadily and cold, so sending them outside would have been pretty cruel. We tried sending them upstairs.  15 minutes later Lucy descended the stairs in tears. We tried sending them to the basement art studio.  12 minutes later Lucy ascended the stairs in tears.  We struggled to keep the scissors out of his hands for almost three hours that morning before we realized we were in trouble.  Something had to be done.  We convened a meeting of the heads of the household (both of us) at the dinner room table and discussed our options. Pickles Playlot? I don’t know, I said.  I’m worried he’ll hurt a kid. Chicago History Museum? Ugh, tough to get to and expensive. Plus he might hurt an adult. Then it occurred to me what I really wanted to do.  I wanted to strap him into a chair, but that isn’t strictly legal.  At least I don’t think it is.  It’s understandable, but I don’t think it’s legal.  Or is it? “Hey kids,” we said.  “Who wants to go for a drive?” We didn’t even know where we were going, we just knew Rocky would be strapped into his car seat and we could relax.  We buckled him down – I mean, in – and out we went.    As we pulled out of the garage, I felt the stress leave my shoulders.  I turned to Leah and said something to her.  What did I say? Who knows.  The point is, I didn’t have to shout it over three screaming kids. So, the answer to the question “can you strap your kid to a chair and lock him in a metal box without hearing from Child Protective Services” is yes, assuming you’re hurtling down the highway at 60 miles per...

A Change

By on Jan 14, 2015 in General Information, working | 1 comment

With the birth of Veronica came the knowledge that having two full time working parents wasn’t going to work anymore. We were drowning with us both working and we needed some kind of life raft. My job as a postdoc wasn’t a long-term position. Postdocs are 3-5 year positions after which you work on getting a full time job as a scientist at a lab or as a professor at a university. People usually apply for these positions anywhere in the country and that last option just wasn’t an option for us. We have no desire to leave Chicago given that we have a house in a great neighborhood, my dad and stepmom live down the block, Jason’s job is downtown and he has no need to leave that place. Oh and the Cubs are here and we have season tickets so obviously we aren’t leaving those. (LET’S GO CUBS!!!). So. Change. I talked to my bosses and told them I wouldn’t be coming back after the birth of the child and I was going to do the Stay at Home Mom thing, start a photography business, etc etc. But someone at Fermilab mentioned that I should become a contractor for this one area in which I had become an expert. Hmm….maybe I should. Few hours a week, keeping my fingers in the physics (which I love…just didn’t love/couldn’t do the full time). That idea kept stewing in my mind. Followed by some discussions with another group on which I thought I could be useful for a few hours a week. So in the end, working with the local lab I became an “on-call technician”. I work a few hours a week. I get paid some amount of money. I get to go into the lab one day a week (if I want, otherwise I can do all the work from home….but I like to see adults so that’s been nice). This is the first time in my adult life that I haven’t had a full time job. And I gotta say. It’s alright. It’s different and we are all adjusting to me being home most of the time. It’s not easy (and I knew this going in), but with lots of help from my parents and Jason we are slowly getting into a rhythm. With Veronica sleeping more, I’m starting to feel a little more human and so some of the tasks that were super overwhelming are feeling less so. It’s nice being comfortable from a money standpoint and this will definitely make us watch our bank account with a closer eye. But at some point I think you have to note that there isn’t a replacement for being home when the kids are little. We are lucky that we are able to do this right now. And who know what changes in the future but for now this is the path we are on. I like the idea of doing a few different things. Photography, physics, mommy-ing and so on. So. Change it...