Sunday, November 27, 2011

Jay can't play on Thanksgiving Day (or for several weeks)

Jay Cutler had surgery to repair his busticated throwing-hand thumb somewhere in Colorado.  Aspen? Vail?  Somewhere in Colorado that isn't Denver.  Regular readers of this blog will know what I am going to say next, so it will be no surprise:  What?  There are no good hand surgeons in Chicago?  Ah, but there are.

Almost 20 years ago, I had two hand surgeries within the span of nine months.  About five years ago, I had occasion to visit an orthopedic surgeon and I told him about my experience, especially with the second surgery which was pretty complicated.  He looked at my hand and said, "He did a very good job."  Dude was a stellar human being, too.  Perhaps America's premier thumb surgeon operates solely in that lovely part of the Rockies.  It's Jay's working hand so I will cut him some slack.  Mark this day on your calendars.  I guess Jay will convalesce in Colorado, former home of, well, Jay, making it easier for multiple followups with the doc.

Good luck and happy healing, Jay.  Get back to work so I can smack talk you aplenty.

Meanwhile, in Oakland, CA, Caleb Hanie and the Bears took on the Oakland Raiders.  My opinion?  Hanie did not stink too terribly as the Raiders didn't win by that huge a margin.  The intentional-grounding incident in the 4th quarter with the clock at four seconds was kind of ditzy but otherwise, not too shabby and I thought the rest of the team was also with the program.  It might've been a blood bath but was a very not-shameful-although-they-still lost 25-20.

A foggy downtown + brush = Me on vacation!!
I was on vacation this whole past week and got to visit the Magic Hedge in the middle of the week.  A birder and an out-of-town family birder and I all went to the Montrose Harbor location and were treated to some lovely sights and sounds.  During the week, it is much quieter there.  It was an overcast day, cool with a damp chill lingering, the clouds heavily weighing on the downtown area.  There was a full out chickadee party to which we were not invited.  A downy woodpecker did his thing on a tree and I saw a male cardinal which always gives me a big charge (translation:  I can recognize a male cardinal as a male cardinal).  The next day people were said to have seen some NEW snowy owls that were DIFFERENT from the snowy owls of a couple of weeks ago and I am sure the area was instantly filled with the Men of Giant Lenses and the Giant Need to see these birds and capture them digitally, kind of a dick-measuring contest with feathers.

Not part of anyone's breakfast
When we were arriving we met a very charming man who reported seeing juncos and a couple of mergansers and a few other birds.  The charming man liked seeing all bird things.  He could see a cooper's hawk eating a mouse from his window so he had breakfast with the hawk but I am fairly certain he had something more basic, like cereal or coffee and some fruit.  It is always nice to meet someone pleasant but it was also nice to meet someone who got a charge out of all the birds and not simply the major visitors.
Hello, Sage Thrasher.  I come in peace.
Speaking of major visitors, we did not see the sage thrasher.  The charming man has never seen the sage thrasher.  I suspect we will not be seeing the sage thrasher who is so far from his home and who will be able to get there either.  At Thanksgiving, we can be thankful that we all know not just where we are from but we know how to get there if we have the need.

So maybe you've been to Chicago but have avoided the CTA like the plague.  I've lived here a long time and rely on it pretty heavily during the week and for weekend trips to areas in and near downtown Chicago.  This past weekend I experienced something that's usually for weekdays only, which is the "delayed train running express through your station and it ain't gonna stop for you so you might as well just shut up and take it because you got another, better idea?  No, so shut up, there's another train behind it" phenomenon.  This is what you are missing by not taking the CTA on visits.  I share because I love.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 21, 2011

So sorry, Jay, and Don't you know that the bird is the word?

I will give it to you straight and fast.  Just when the Bears are turning into a solid team, winning five games in a row, just when I decide that Jay Cutler has hit his stride and is a good, solid QB, he takes a spill during a play, breaks the thumb on his throwing hand, and is out for 6-8 weeks.  There, I said it.

The San Diego Chargers and the Bears were trading points back and forth until Charles Tillman took the ball from them and the Chargers never got it back long enough to make a difference.  Bears win, 31-20 at Soldier Field, but lost Mr. Jay Cutler.

Our starting QB will be Caleb Hanie who has never started a pro football game in his entire career.  I am hoping we will all be pleasantly surprised and young Caleb will be up to the task.  I am also hoping Congress will get it together and listen to the billionaires.  Finally, I am hoping to see that sage thrasher.  Maybe the Bears can get Brett Favre, except, oh no, one of the Bears finally ended his career last season.  Still, I understand he has a lot of time on his hands.

Well?  How did they get here?
Last week we failed to see the sage thrasher and this week the birders kindly fetched me and we had these intentions:  (1) Find the thrasher; (2)  look at the thrasher through binoculars for an unset period of time; (3) utter things like "cooool," "It's where now?" and "I thought it'd be bigger;"(4) move on.

We did not find the thrasher but we found other birds to look at through binoculars for unset periods of time that really made us forget the sage thrasher in a big way.  There were owls, two different owls, and we saw them.

Birders are a very generous lot.  If there is an unusual species to be seen in the Chicago area, one of the those birders will hit the internet and post sightings.  She or he will detail what was seen, where it was seen, at what time, and what designer's fashions it was sporting.  No, wait.  That last part may not be quite correct, yet not totally wrong.

The birds of excitement were still the short-eared owl from last week and two newly-arrived snowy owls.  Short-eared owls might be seen around town on occasion but snowy owls are very unusual.  When we got there, the birders we ran into advised one snowy owl flew south and the other had been sitting on the pier but was scared by a dog and it flew to Foster Beach.

We got a very good view of the short-eared owl in flight as it banked and hovered and turned.  We looked, we exclaimed, we moved on in search of shore birds but, alas, were treated to a pair of mallards and the Mystery of the Balls of Golf from last week.  The sage thrasher was somewhere in the brush and we were determined to find it.

Brown thrasher bird calls were played which totally fooled me.  "What?  WHAT??" I exclaimed, only to be advised it was a bird call.  The sage thrasher was not at all fooled which leads me to believe that I am not as clever as a bird brain, darn the luck.  We agreed to take a different loop in the trail which is where we saw a gent beating feet toward the pier.  It might've been a morning constitutional but people usually don't take constitutionals while carrying big binoculars and a digital SLR with a long lense; constitutional types are unencumbered or at the mall.  We asked what was up and he shared that one of the snowy owls was back at the pier.  So he had heard about the bird, was in hot pursuit, and we went after him.

As we approached the pier, every birder with a cell phone was converging on the pier, in singles, in pairs, in trios.  The level of excitement was high.  Imagine if a bunch of paparazzi heard that Lady Gaga were in line to buy coffee at the Dunkin' Donuts in Union Station -- that is the level of intensity. These are high-level hunters, well-versed in stalking their quarry, creeping quietly and standing as motionless as a middle-aged guy could stand for an extended period of time.  Snowy owls don't come to Chicago often (much like Gaga who I am certain would not go to the Union Station Dunkin' D if she were in need of a cup of java) and there had to be evidence that one saw it.  "I saw it," isn't enough when your lense is big and it's wearing camouflage gear or a heavy sweater.

Most of us had never seen a snowy owl outside of a zoo.  Snowy owls are big birds, about two feet high and weighing four pounds which is enormous for a bird of flight.  It is the heaviest of all owls.  (Chickens and turkeys are going nowhere so they can weigh all kinds of pounds but flying birds usually weigh almost nothing.  Eagles weigh 10-14 pounds but aren't good eating.  A hyacinth macaw weighs less than three pounds.)  So there it sat in its whiteness, at the end of a pier, behind some fallen pier debris, right above the soccer ball that bobbed in the water, just being cool and looking around while the birders all approached as closely as we individually dared, and when we each decided we had seen it long enough, we left to bask in the memory of the bird and were able to send emails that bore sweet bon mots like, "Just saw a snowy owl, bitches."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Blerg so no blog

I feel like these taste, thanks.
For me, Brussels sprouts are never sought out for consumption because they just taste bitter, hard, and nasty.  I've known some stellar cooks in my life and I've never met a single one who was able to make this vegetable taste anything other than nasty, bitter, and hard.  Nasty with bacon, sure, but still not good.

I feel nasty today (neither bitter nor hard because sometimes you just get sick), so I can't write about the Bears or the birds.  More tomorrow or next week, whenever this thing passes.  Thanks for checking.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Throw the Lions to them

The Bears have returned to a nice normal schedule and thank heavens.  We went to the Lions earlier this season; this time the Lions came to us.  Grrrr infinity.

The score was so lopsided in favor of the Bears that at about 11 minutes into the third quarter, what came into my head was, "Wow, I wonder if any of those Lions would like to just forfeit, go back to their hotel, and have a nice soak in the tub?"  Of course, they don't pay those men to surrender and, as they like to say in sports outings, "the opera ain't over 'til the fat lady sings."  (Obviously, they've not been to the opera recently.)  The Bears have turned things around big time with Jay Cutler finding Earl Bennett (new fave bitch, errr, wide receiver), with guys running with the balls, with the offensive line being unoffensive much like fresh daisies in a field in springtime.  The commentators said this was just not Detroit's night and not the night of Stafford, their QB, especially.  You know whose night it was?  The Bears, who are now in second place in the NFC North.  Bears 37, Lions 13.

One of the most amazing events in college sports took place on 11/11/11, Veterans Day, on board the USS Carl Vinson, docked in the harbor at San Diego.  The TV images were crazy:  a beautifully constructed basketball court, its wood surface gleaming.  The cameras pan back and it's on an aircraft carrier, it's outside, and there are about four thousand people in attendance, including President and Mrs. Obama.  Michigan State vs. number-one-ranked North Carolina.  Michigan State, the team that produced Magic Johnson.  North Carolina, the team that produced Michael Jordan.  North Carolina won but holy smokes, they played on an aircraft carrier, which I found both supremely nuts and way freaking cool.

I joined the birders in an outing to the Magic Hedge by Montrose Harbor and what a treat it was.  We went to see the sage thrasher but instead the raptors were coming, hurrah, hurrah.  After I missed seeing a junco (of course I did), the raptor show began.  We first saw a Cooper's hawk flying quickly away.  This was immediately followed by another, larger Cooper's hawk in hot pursuit.  Each hawk stopped in a tree and posed, turning its head this way and that so we could get a good look.  We trooped off to the beach where a man was trying to get a picture of a short-eared owl.  We saw about 65 golf balls on the beach.  These are not technically birds but, yes, these were those dimpled spheres that are used to frustrate grown men and women by not going where they are supposed to go.  In this case, they ended up on a Lake Michigan beach and the closest golf course was on the other side of the harbor.  Then we saw another junco followed by a kestrel that wanted the junco for its second breakfast.  (The junco made it away this time.)  There were goldfinches in the bushes, wearing their fall feathers which let them blend in with the browned bushes as they ate an early lunch.  Up in the air:  a rough-legged hawk.  I got my first cool sighting:  a downy woodpecker, not in a tree but in the bushes with the finches, hanging out and looking black and white and red, except I said, "woodpecker" because I still pretty much stink at precise identification.  Over in the harbor, there were hooded grebe, diving and diving, diving and diving.  They would surface and they would dive.  And it was fantastic.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Monday night?? AGAIN??? Let's shop!

It is well documented in this blog that I don't like Sunday night games and like Monday night games even less.  Night games compete with precious sleep, getting my blog up before Sunday night TV prime time, and do no one but the networks any good.

I asked the man who runs the office rate-'em-how-you-feel-'em pool how he feels about Monday night games and he said, "I hate 'em.  They just drag out the whole process."  In other words, how can you have a winner if the networks dictate the schedule?  Yes, yes, Monday Night Football is one of the longest running shows on TV (now moved to ESPN so not really TV any more, is it?), but is it necessary?  No, no, a thousand times no, I say.

What to write about when the Bears aren't doing their thing?  Birds, it would seem, except no, not birds.  The birders went to Michigan for a visit.  I don't like to schlep so I have been keeping my binoculars in the trunk of the car that carries the birders and me to birding destinations.  Yes, the binoculars accompanied the birders to Michigan and I trust that they all had a very good time.  And so welcome to my own Sunday punt.

This morning I made a semi-serious attempt to pay attention to the NFL but was only befuddled by the number of announcers/broadcasters/analysts/commentators employed by various networks to give the blibbety blab about professional football and, wow, they are all enthusiastic.  I take that back.  They are ENTHUSIASTIC!!  And each and every one of them has something to offer.  They talk so much that I suspect they could talk the labels off cans, the friendly bacteria out of yogurt, and the paint chips off that unpainted garage up the block from me that was not scraped before it was painted so you can just imagine what that looks like and how big those chips are going to be and way sooner than the owners think.  (They also have a wooden spike fence and decided to paint the pointy parts white except when they laid out tape for the line at the bottom of the white part, they didn't bother to check that it was straight before slapping on the paint so it's kind of a undulating, suggestion of straightness.  I call this fence "Fort Ticonderoga.")

In other words, I could not stand a single word.  I left my place of residence, got in my car, and did the girly thing:  I shopped at a store that sells sewing supplies and crafts.  After all, I had a coupon.

Yesterday featured shopping, too.  I got a new sweater and a pretty and pretty heavy-duty bra.  I had my eyebrows waxed.  I got stuff for my hair and a new tote bag.  I was pleased with my acquisitions and also got to meet up with my friend who also made acquisitions, and to see my friend's nephew's girlfriend,  a personal shopper with a great eye for fashion, who knows how to put things together for people, and helped my friend to amass outfits.  My friend has a very good job and has meetings that mean something and socializes for business so she needs outfits.  I have a sub-mediocre job so I need neither outfits nor new clothes just clean clothes but it's nice to have some new and tidy things now and again.  They were having a cosmetics event at one of the stores and women were sitting in chairs being transformed into various versions of themselves -- crazier, prettier, edgier, older, but not younger because that is too hard to do with mere cosmetics -- while too-loud music thumped.  Better than the spectacle of make-up was that I got to sit and chat with my friend at a lunch.

Today featured another amazing spectacle of shopping.  The store was stuffed because this store offered a coupon for 25%-off everything you bought, including things already on sale.  There were sale racks with fabrics for 50%-off the already-discounted price, then knock off another 25%.  There were young men with their male friends who sewed trying to figure out what some of the notions were:  "It's a small wheel and it perforates ... what?"  There was a young man picking out various fabrics for his fabric stash.  There were young women loading up carts with plenty of fabrics -- fleeces, ducks, denims, and silks -- to make wonderful things of their own creation.  Women studied the pattern books.  People bought Christmas papers and tags and bags and boxes.  They accumulated flower pots, yarn, knitting needles, felt, picture frames, thread, snaps, and scissors.  There were dozens of people ahead of me in line when it came to check out, just 10 minutes later.

Unemployment is very high and I know if I tried to change job it would just be an exercise in futility and heartache and there are too many people who have been unemployed for so long that they no longer receive unemployment benefits.  But this was not in evidence at the mall yesterday and it wasn't at the fabric store today.  People were spending and happy to be doing so.  Yes, there were bargains being had which gets everyone initially motivated, but at the mall and at the fabric store, happy days are here again. 

The birders and the binoculars come back tonight and the Bears go to Philadelphia tomorrow to see Michael Vick and the Eagles.  Last year, the Bears won.  Fingers crossed that they will do it again.

End of punting.