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Getting kicked and boxed in Lansing.

Posted: September 13, 2012 by captaingonzo in Sports

How I found myself ringside on my knees with a camera with muay thai kick boxers in my face in Lansing deserves a little explanation.

“If they dimmed the lights a bit this would be like ‘Kickboxer’” Roobs said. Shit, if they dimmed the lights a bit, this would be something that would only happen in the pornos from the 1970s.

No, it wasn’t like that.

This was a round of kick boxing.

Roobs was right in a way because amid the booming muay thai fighting music, the packing sounds of kicks against shins, gloves against faces, grunts within a 2-minute round and sweat falling off people’s ball sacks, this kind of was like the final scene of the movie “Kickboxer” starring Jean Claude Van Damme.

In that movie you could see the sweat falling off people’s ball sacks. But that’s because they were wearing next to nothing when they were fighting during that last fight, with the glass and the glue and that fucking psycho opponent who would kick a cement pillar for practice. Yeah, I saw that when I was a kid. I loved “Kickboxer.” One of his better movies. Rent JCVD if you want to get the faith back. Then play the song by Baby Huey “Hard Times” on loop.

But let me start earlier.

On a random Saturday, a journalist and a photographer were knee deep on their way straight towards Indiana to cover a muay thai kickboxing tournament held at Active Edge fitness gym, 3314 Ridge Road, Lansing. Yes. We were heading towards Lansing, passing billboard after billboard after billboard on that wonderful highway to the other state.

“That’s America. Fast food, health insurance and fireworks.” Roobs said. He was commenting on the bland scene of the highway to Indiana, which we eventually wound up in because it seemed like a swell idea to buy cigarettes. “We’re not that far off.” Take that Governor Quinn.

Indiana the sign said. 

“Alright take the first exit. Exit 1. That’s how you know you are in a different state. What exit is it? Exit 1,” Roobs said.

That must piss people off in legislature. Which exit? Oh, exit 1. The first one right after the state line, then we double back and maybe we can still catch the “Wheel of Fortune” if the traffic is moving.

But while in Indiana, the situation turned grim when we realized that we weren’t wanted there. Take any gas station in the state, and when you go in there you realize that you are in a different country. People don’t like you. They don’t. They can smell that “You ain’t from around here” vibe that you got going. And they know that you are there to get whatever is cheap there or available. Gas, fireworks, cigarettes.

They hate the fact that to you it feels like you are saving money, but to them, it feels just like it does for you in your own fucking state. Broke. They don’t have the money either. To them, $5 a pack is a lot. Especially when everyone is out of work.

This followed us back into Lansing. And as we walked around the town, a sense of “Back to the Future” in 1955 crept up our backs. There was a clock tower. A slew of attorney’s offices, classic cars rolling by, shoe repair shops, bakeries, old time milkshake places, and an old school barber shop. A fine place I’m sure, a place where you can get a really close shave. Or they slit your throat.

“We are strangers in a strange town at a stranger time to cover a fight without a reason,” I said. There was a reason. We needed to dust off those shoes and get back into the game by covering sports. Sports is everything. A teacher at Columbia once told me that.

And the fights were true to its label. Pure muay thai fighting.

While the first two weren’t memorable, which is in no way a disrespect to the fighters because they were just feeling each other out by ways of kicks to the shins, it begs to ask the question, “What does it take to step into the ring?”

An answer like that does not come lightly. All of the fighters were volunteers who choose to do this. Most of them want to go into professional sports. That is a given. But what does it take to actually want to step into the ring? We have no “real” wars that need to be fought now. The only wars we fight now is our personal wars. We fight our demons.

The answer only comes in the ring.

We didn’t find the answer. We tried with tequila. But it only led to more problems. The point is that men will do strange things in order to feel like men. Our society tells men to not feel like real men. I guess these guys were trying to take it back. Even in Lansing, macho still exists. No pussies allowed.

But out of respect for the fighters, here are the results for the 3-round fights.

Alberto Rodriguez, 153 pounds, Chicago Muay Thai, bested a valiant effort by Iszak Morgan, 148 pounds, Team Colon.

Rosario Aybar, 155 pounds, Chicago Muay Thai, beat Monika Reginova, 155 pounds, Hyper Fight Club, during a painful bout.

Andrii Potapenko, 185 pounds, Counterstrike, traded powerful combinations with Carlos Castaneda, 199 pounds, Active Edge, and won.

Yahya Ahmed, 164 pounds, Chicago Muay Thai, overcame Michael Huffer, 205 pounds, Active Edge, with a referee decision to not continue the fight. Huffer was heard as saying that “I had 40 pounds on him.”

Big man Hercules Hayes, 330 pounds, Counterstrike, was outperformed by Steven Lyons, 200 pounds, Midland Muay Thai, during a violent and worthy fight.

An exhibition match between two fighters was also held before the fight lineup.

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In a dingy 7-Eleven in Schiller Park, a guy wearing a Harley-Davidson T-shirt was talking up late night customers who were still trying to buy a lottery ticket for the big draw in the evening on March 30.

He didn’t look like the regular type of biker. He wasn’t dirty or had a beard or a 1 percent badge on his jacket. Shit he didn’t even have a jacket. He wasn’t Charlie Sheen in “Beyond the Law.” Some regular fuck who probably never owned a Harley. I didn’t see one parked out front. But who am I to judge?

“Man, someone’s life is going to change, man,” he said. “What is the cash payout? Close to $300 million? I’d be fine with that.” And he kept talking to everyone who was buying a ticket, to anyone who was still hoping for  the American Dream. The big payout. “Good luck man, we all need it. I’m hoping to win big.”

And the more I listened as I was trying to get smokes, condoms, whips, chains and French nail clippers (That’s a Carlin joke), the more I realized that the last guy on Earth who deserves to win the lottery is this guy. Fuck this guy.  “I’ll buy you all a Harley if I win.” Yeah right. I don’t even want to know what kind of nonsense you would spend that shit on. A motorcycle that runs on beer? A tattoo of the winning lottery ticket? A baseball bat that says “Hi asshole, smile!” A subscription to Boat and Motor magazine?

"Look I'm trying to help, but these white motherfuckers in Congress don't want to do shit."

The reason I got so worked up over this is that  the very idea of “hope” gets thrown around so loosely in this country. In 2008 the only hope that we stood behind in throes involved a contested presidential race that actually mattered. In 2012, the hope that we came out in throes for involved buying lottery tickets.

So this is it folks?

In 2008 we rallied in force behind a charismatic leader and led him to the presidency and four years later the only “hope” we got left is playing the fucking lottery? If that’s not a statement about the state of things in this country, then I don’t know what else is.  What a Debbie Downer, man.

But sure, like an asshole, I bought a ticket for last night’s $640 Mega Millions lottery drawing. Outcome was liked I predicted. Not even close. But what really pissed me off was the way this was done this week and that it was such a big story. Sure, it was the biggest payout in this country’s history. But the amount of people who actually thought that this time it would be their time was almost laughable.

It’s kind of sad that we put so much more faith in winning the lottery these days than we put in our elected officials who can actually do something that can make the life in this country easier. Instead, we’ve gotten so jaded over those four years that we might as well play the lottery for our lives to change because the situation on Capitol Hill is fucking hopeless. I blame Republicans. I hope they get a rash that doesn’t go away.

But you heard it all before I’m sure. And I’m just ranting here. Don’t get me started on the gas prices.

I don’t know. I got too worked up over this, mainly because of the way most people, even the news media, tackled this story. What was different about this lottery drawing compared to the OTHER big drawings? Nothing. Odds were impossible. People coughed up more than they should have, which was something like more than a billion dollars in sales. That’s a LOT of delusional people out there. And sure a lot of losers. I haven’t seen this much delusion since Lindsay Lohan became a legal adult.

I would have just used stock footage in the media from the other BIG draw stories from years past. Like those stories about the terrorist cells and them on the monkey bars. Or the stories about obesity with some random fat guy without a face eating an ice cream cone.

“I’ma gonna buy a house for my momma!” “I’m going to go to Disney Land.” “I’m going to pay off my college loans.” “I’m going to go TO college.”

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Nothing. I would hoard it like one of those rich cocksuckers and not spend a dime. Hey if they can do it, I would do it do too. Maybe that’s a very anti-philanthropist position. But what are you going to do? Give it away to charity? Help stabilize the gas prices? Pay off debt for some state so we can put people back to work? No, that just might be something Christ would do (Again, thanks Mr. Carlin).

But I’m not bitter in the least about losing. No no. Buy the ticket and take the ride. Sometimes your bust, in fact a lot of the time you’re bust.

Who the hell looks at odds like 1 in 167 million and  goes “Those are good odds. I’ll take those odds. I have a special feeling, this time.”

Yeah, I have a feeling we all need to get to our math textbooks. Or better yet, back to the store where you bought your ticket and this time buy something with an actual payout. Like beer or whiskey. At least when you’re hung over tomorrow you can actually feel that you got fucked instead of being taken for a ride in this giant collective jerk down known as the lottery. And only three people had orgasms, the ones who actually won. I wonder what they will buy?

But back to your regularly scheduled programming.

I stopped hoping I could sleep with this chick a long time ago.

Now, onto real hope. Root root for the Cubies.

It doesn’t take a lot to get driven to drinking in this culture. All it takes really is taking a cold and hard look at the world in which we live in and listening to the news about the economy, the gas prices, corruption in federal and local state politics, joblessness, the foreclosures and the utter lack of hope, and the tables get set for a dance with the drunken devils pretty quickly. Either that or your team has been losing all season.

And to throw one more variable of Murphy’s Law into the equation, we’ve just had the first of the month this week, so chances are that there are probably legitimate reasons why you don’t have money at this minute too. You paid important bills. Alimony is always a bitch. It could be because the paycheck didn’t clear yet, or hell, it could be because you haven’t seen a paycheck in a few months.

Let’s face it, excuses such as “I spent it on whores down on Manheim Road” can only take you so far. Also, losing bets on sports teams that had no chance in fucking hell aren’t good either.

But the fact remains that you want to get a bit tipsy tonight and that “Money doesn’t grow on trees” phrase doesn’t do shit for you at this point in the game. Truth be told, something had snapped in your head during the day, be it your boss riding you like he was recreating Pulaski’s last cavalry ride, your girlfriend JUST got on the rag and the rent was due and you lied to the landlord AGAIN about one of your relatives being sick. You need a drink. And not one beer, either, because, who the fuck drinks just one beer?

We’ve all been broke to the point when you search through all of the pockets of clothes that you haven’t worn since prom. Sometimes you don’t find shit except expired condoms, broken cigarettes, USED condoms, receipts from four years ago, one lonely Advil pill, and chewing gum that has hardened more than stale semen on an ugly pair of tits.

What I’m saying is that there are plenty ways of getting loaded on a budget. Or at least filling you up with something until that check does clear the next day, or you finally succumb to blowing people for a living. Don’t knock it until you try it. Sucking dick has helped many downtrodden people get Comcast in order to watch Neil Funk call the game. Or so I’ve heard.

And since people start drinking when the tough gets going, this is the perfect time to start drinking. Now I’m not talking about drinking what the bums drink to get you through your rough patch, but this will be pretty close. Don’t worry, I once took a “Bum Wine Challenge” in college, I know what I’m talking about.

My go to stand by is of course the six-pack of tall boys if you do find $5. It doesn’t really matter which one, since you will be drinking macro brews anyway and options are usually limited at your local convenience store. The trick usually is to go a pretty independent convenience store and not a 7-Eleven and that’s where the hunt for the evening’s libations usually begins. I say begins, because once you have a six-pack of tall boys in you, chances are that you are still thirsty and WILL do something stupid. Be warned. Don’t drive. Don’t sniff airplane glue either. And definitely don’t go looking for “those girls on Manheim Road.”

Remember, if she is too good looking to be a prostitute, she’s probably a cop. Also, as comedian Dave Attell says, “If it feels like more than two fingers, it’s probably a dick.”

A friend of mine, who used to be on his own but is married and has a kid now, once told me that “Those tall boys will save your life.” It was a drunken conversation to be sure, but his logic was sound. If you’re broke and have an affinity for the drink, those tall boys will save your life, figuratively speaking. It’s kind of ironic what drunks think is important in their lives. “Those tall boys will save your life.”  Yeah, you know what will save my life? A fucking doctor when I’m having a heart attack years later.

So I usually go with PBR if it is available. PBR to semi-poor people is a fucking God’s gift to the downtrodden. Not because it is what the fucking hipsters drink, but because you can usually get a sixer of those big boys for $5 a pop. You can get Miller High Life or Old Style, but in those cases you are going above the simple fin. And unless the guy at the register lets you slide with being short 60 cents, you’re stuck with PBR. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

And not like it’s a bad brew. It does what it is supposed to do and it supports union jobs. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, the next time some hipster starts waxing poetic about anti-establishment politely remind him that he is supporting American jobs and the current culture by drinking union made beer. And then order him a Zima.

So yeah, I have drank a small river of PBR in my day. But since this is supposed to provide some sort of review of the el cheapo-o drinks, here’s the low down.

Pabst Blue Ribbon. The six-pack of tall boys of PBR are to a poor college student what Mad Dog 20/20 wine is to a homeless guy. It’s the best of the worst shit that he can get. PBR’s have for some odd reason been spoiled by the likes of hipsters because they think it is cool to drink low priced beer. That is total horseshit. Whenever I feel bad about drinking PBR, I think of the late great Dennis Hopper in “Blue Velvet.”

“Heineken?!’ Fuck that shit. Pabst Blue Ribbon!” Then again, I’m not in college anymore.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Sm8JM-K1dc]

Miller High Life. Tall boys of High Life’s are pretty much on par with PBR’s. They might give you a milder drunk, which is strange because they are both at 5 percent ABV, but it just seems that way. Also, High Life might taste better but costs 50 cents more. “Come on, cough up a buck.”

High Life was cool when they just let the “Girl on the Moon” do the advertising. When they brought in that big black fat guy…well then shit got that much cooler, did it not? “You must be outta your mind.” Take the beer away.

That would be an awesome thing to do with people. You see someone drinking something outlandish and overpriced, commenting on the game without a clue in the world, and a van pulls up and two guys hog tie him in front of his date and carry him off. Union guys too. And leave the overpriced drink to someone who gives a fuck.

Old Style. I’m not a fan of Old Style even though I should be because I’m a Cubs fan. But just because they sell it at Wrigley doesn’t mean it’s a great beer. Again, a sixer of this shit might get you buzzed, but it’s the feeling of buying locally brewed beer that should be the selling point.

Sure some people love Old Style. It’s not my beer of choice, but some people swear by it. Which is fine. Old Style has the name Heileman’s on it, which also brews Special Export, which is dirt cheap. I believe that Old Style is brewed by PBR these days.

Speaking of Special Export. Just drink it cold and shut up. There’s a sail boat on the logo. Nothing great here. Just the cool sail boat. Nothing special. Nothing exported. Just a fucking sail boat. Don’t drink it when it’s warm. You will swear off beer for a week.

Sure, some people will drink anything if it’s cheap, but years on the circuit have taught me that if you can add an extra $1 or $2 to your el-cheapo brews, the better. Come on cough up a buck.

There are many nightmares stories people have of Busch nights, Icehouse, Milwaukee’s Best and other swill.

But the Natural Ice is the king of bad decisions.

Natural Ice. Oh God. This is for serious drunks without any futures. I’ve drank many of these too. You can tell, I’m sure. Always regretted it the next morning, but if you have $4 in your pocket and want to feel like you are driving an 18-wheeler in the middle of the night and forgot the cargo at the last rest stop, then this beer is for you.

Don’t do it unless you have to. They call it the Beast for a reason. At 5.9 or something alcohol, these are designed for getting drunk and getting drunk only. If you have to I mean. This category also includes 40 ounces of anything with an animal on it, or the best forty out there, the Olde English, if you can get your hands on it from some questionable establishment that sells it.

However, most serious drinkers who have gone way past doing themselves favors, end up spending that $5 or $10 on things that are far more potent. And like George Carlin once said, “I sense that some of you want hi-tech.”

There is nothing more liberating that getting drunk on cheap, cheap booze. This is when the really evil nightmares begin that I do not recommend. We’re talking all the good classics here, Dmitri Vodka, Skol, something simply labeled “Whiskey.” I’ve mentioned the “Bum Wine Challenge.”

You see in college, back before reason was something that was valued, I stumbled upon a Web site at bumwine.com.  It’s a site that celebrates the wonderful world of wines that homeless people tend to drink. There’s a bevy of examples on the site of wines that are popular with homeless folks and masochists.

The challenge was that you needed to actually try some of the wines that were featured on the site. These were awful wines. And of course I started with the classic. The MD 20/20. I found some dirty convenience store that actually carried the stuff and bought two bottles of some neon blue shit that would look fine if it was featured in the movie “The Fifth Element.”

I don’t remember much from that night, except that by the time I got to a pint of bottle two, I woke up the next morning, filled with guilt and self-loathing, and a vow to never take a bum wine challenge. These so called “wines” WILL turn you homeless and shivering at the side of the road. People told me that I looked like I’ve died last night. And in a way I did. What died was my curiosity for doing something as stupid as drinking bum wine.

But to the brave folks who do have $5 or $10 to spend, I say buy in bulk. Sobieski Vodka is $9.99. It is great vodka that can last. If you have $5, go with the PBR. Or the others in that price range. After all, you aren’t really drinking a six-pack. You’re technically drinking eight beers if you do the math. Count the ounces.

I’ll see you when the check clears and we start drinking the good stuff.

Wild Turkey 101 here we go.

It was almost fitting and poetic that the morning would start this way. My eyes bulged out of my skull, and in between the pounding headache and a head full of questions that have yet to have answers, I heard the faint sounds of morning sports talk radio emanating from a strange room nearby.

It was standard fare that you hear on most mornings. The Bulls won. Rose didn’t play. Blackhawks won. Rondo is an alien-looking fuck. For some odd reason I thought about baseball season too. Garza this and Garza that. And then the sports talk radio started to seem louder.

Where was I? What is the meaning of this madness, I thought. And as the morning fog began to clear, and the jogging of the memory started, I realized where I was.

“Fuck. This is Berwyn. I know it. I can feel it by the pounding headache and the empty feeling in my wallet. This has to be Berwyn,” I thought.

It was Berwyn. For good or ill. And now that I think about it, that sports talk radio was there last night too when I was tucking myself into bed. In fact, what the fuck is it with this sports radio? Jesus, give it a rest sometimes. People are trying to sleep. Number crunching should be done in the morning, for fucks sake.

One of the creators of Chicago, A Drinking Town with a Sports Problem let me crash at his place and left the 670AM The Score radio on at a loud volume throughout the night. I guess the man was absorbing vital statistics and you have to admire that type of commitment to sports. Hunter S. Thompson used to have the CNN on blaring 24-7 because he was absorbing politics and news. Sports news is not any different. It is important. In some circles.

And I started to question what I would be listening to if I had that type of passion. Probably porn non-stop, but that would start a weird relationship with my neighbors. You’d be throwing out the garbage and your neighbor would look at you strange. Either women are getting their kicks there, or some kind of an explicit pornographic gauntlet is happening. Yikes.

“No it’s a religious thing. They’re Sufis. I don’t know anything about it, do you?  Or maybe they are Catholics? They are always saying that ‘God, they are coming.’ I called a travel agent, but the weird vibe I got ended the conversation. They are packing their bags, I think, so the noise will subside soon. Either that, or I’ll get some headphones. Welcome to America,” I think I would say. There is nothing like friendly conversation when you’re throwing out the garbage.

But back to the matter at hand. The guys at A Drinking Town threw an official party on Feb. 16 in order to celebrate Michael Jordan’s birthday at Cigars and Stripes, 6715 W. Ogden Ave., in Berwyn. The real reason was to drink massive amounts of booze, but that’s just my opinion.

From all my visits to the City of Berwyn, only one thing is certain. This will not be a sober trip. Chances of something going awry are always possible and you would be a fool to assume that this would be smooth sailing.

Either way, the party that the boys threw at Cigars and Stripes was quite awesome. No pretentious bullshit here. Just good times. Good food. Good place. Good vibes. Good people.

Stripes is the type of a bar that the Cheers bar would have been like if you added fucking Rock ‘N’ Roll music, that Devil-may-care attitude, and of course, that wonderful selection of brews that you can’t get at any of the pretentious Hey-I-want to charge $10 for a fucking beer places you see in River North. Sometimes you need places like that when you want to impress some date, but other than that, no drink on Earth should cost that much. Unless you put some hot celebrity’s tits in it, I don’t want to pay that much for a whiskey sour.

Since the theme of the party was Jordan’s birthday, the sponsors tried to accommodate by attempting to show “Space Jam.” Of course, despite some technical difficulties, the movie started with Serbian subtitles. It would have been better if the subtitles were Croatian because then you could make a case that this was Toni Kukoc’s copy of the film. Hey, we were celebrating the 90s.

Serbian or not, I never realized how childish the movie was. But what do you expect from a movie starring the Looney Tunes? “Space Jam” still kicks ass in its own way. Frankly, because of the Quad City DJs.

And as loony as things got, the party proved to be a success. You have to admire a place that sells cigars and then lets you smoke them in the back of the bar in the open air. No bullshit here. I admire that. God only knows that there are places that sell you something that you can’t enjoy on the premises. We’ll call these places downtown money drains. Effete smoke shops. Righteous porn stores. Non-drinking strip clubs.

Lost that loving feeling?

Don’t fret. Even though the concept of a bar is to sell a hangover, the Drinking Town would like to go a step up above whining about the ordeal and offer some tips on how to deal with the alcoholic bullet that you shot into your fucking face last night. Who knows, maybe you got laid too, and are trying to cope together.

So if the roots haven’t settled yet, here are some tips on beating that hangover, brother.

  1. Drink more. Some people frown on it. We call those people pussies. Or gainfully employed people. Sure, as bad as that parched throat is, there is nothing better than having a beer to cure that malady. Any beer, if you can that is. No one recommends going to work operating on alcoholic beverages. This is not “Mad Men.” This is life. Save it for the weekend. Or don’t. Take a belt of the coffin varnish right now. Who is stopping you? Your boss? Tell him that you had a lot of money wagered on last night’s game and like an idiot, you bet AGAINST the Blackhawks.
  2. Bloody Mary. The God of drinks for a hangover. The Mary will provide you with the nutritional nourishment you need. Tomato is good for you. Vodka is good for you, according to some Polish circles. And that celery stick can be used as a shoehorn in case you need to put your shoes on in order to drive the kids to school.
  3. Eggs. Anything with eggs will help. You can have eggs with aspirin. Or aspirin with eggs. Whatever is better. Get a bagel involved into the affair and you have a relationship that only water or tea can ease. Tell them that if those sunny-side-up eggs end up slimy and undercooked again that you would never visit the establishment again. The economy is bad. People should take pride in their work.
  4. Work. Nothing like manual labor to sweat out the small stuff. If you’re reading this then you’re probably a man who feels the need to dig a hole or something for nothing. Just because. Do it. Dig a hole, fix a cabinet, mop the floor, change the oil on your car. Nothing like work to beat the hangover. Soundtrack should be classic rock. Ya know, to feel American.
  5. Sleep. There’s no denying the inevitable. You’re fucking tired. Go to sleep. Unless work is bogging you down, and for many it is not in this economy, go to sleep and enjoy your day off. Watch the shows that are on during the day time in between naps. Ya know, the classic shows like Maury. Or Jerry. And see how fucked those people are. It will make you feel better either way. “He didn’t mean to hit me, he’s a goo-ood man, don’t take him away. I fell asleep in the driveway and he run over my head with the truck. He’s a goo-ood man, he don’t mean no harm. He’s passed out under the trailer right now with his dog Skinner.” – Bill Hicks.

Some of these may sound bitter, but they are not. They are right on par with how you feel when you are hungover after a great party. And while the good times may have passed, and the body is starting to say no, just remember that there will always be a new game, the next game and a new chance at the plate, when the winner or loser will either sock it out of the park or eat it in the dugout. Yes, sports are important. Go play, fans.

But don’t think that this story doesn’t have a happy ending. Remember when I said that only a fool would think that Berwyn is smoothing sailing? Apparently the street-sweeping rules apply on Fridays. And that parking ticket only reinforces my belief in Murphy’s Law. Hey, kudos to the gentlemen police officers that took the time and effort to place the ticket next to my village of whatever sticker at 3 a.m. It was like one municipality talking to another. “Hey, we give out as many tickets as you do too!”

But hell, it was a good time in Berwyn, and as Thompson always said, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

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The main guys at Chicago, A Drinking Town With a Sports Problem have been preparing for their Michael Jordan party for some time now, and in lieu of that cultural event designed to celebrate “His Airness'” birthday two weeks from now, I thought that we take a trek down memory lane to a time when many of us were still in our teens, to a time when some of us became die-hard Bulls fans despite some juvenile obstacles.

Yeah, I’m talking about the motherfucking 90s.

“Come on and slam and welcome to the jam.” – Quad City DJs.

The 90s hold a special place in my heart because they were the time of playing alley basketball “all day” with friends and losing myself in Bulls culture and memorabilia, from video games, to cereals, stickers, basketball cards, hats, jackets, books, the first three-peat on videocassette, the second three-peat also on videocassette, and to championship parades downtown.

It was a time when our parents were able to pay their mortgages, have cook-outs all the time, install basketball hoops on their garages without fear of the “bad element” coming in and ruining the fun, and affording things like official jerseys, over-priced shoes, stupid (really stupid) video games and even things like  Charlotte Hornets Alonzo Mourning neon blue-colored  basketballs. Was I the only one who owned this dumb piece of shit?

“Faggot!”

Thank you, guy walking down the street.

Sure, kiddie ventures such as “Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City,” or “Shaq Fu” may seem like trivial things now. But they were important. We were kids. We actually thought that the fact that Ball Park franks plump when you cook em actually meant something because MJ said it. We thought Gatorade was supposed to be delicious because MJ drank it. Shit, we thought that his shoes would make us jump higher. For the record, “Chaos in the Windy City” was terrible. So was “Barkley’s Shut Up and Jam.” That’s why we had to create our own MJ in NBA Live 96.

And think back to the time when the Bulls won that first, that second or that third championship. In the 90s Jordan was God in this city. That’s why riots almost broke out in order to celebrate. That’s what we do when we win. As a city, we come out in throes, breaking shit, causing a disturbance, we honk our car horns until they don’t work anymore, wave flags of whatever team that has won, rob people, spit at the cops who are barricading the streets and get drunk. We have fun. Ya know, guy shit.

Back in the 90s, if you didn’t have MJ’s shoes, then it was probably because some kids jacked you after school after the first day that you wore them. Or you jacked their shoes. Fucking yuppies.

And looking back at all those Starter-jacket woven winter streets and the red or white jersey-colored summer alleys, this city came truly together behind the Bulls. Even now, when the new Bulls are on the verge of something great and uncanny, with D Rose and the gang, there is always that sense of nostalgia, that sense of history that comes from being a fan of this team.

I know this lesson now, but during my humble beginnings in this country during the 90s, it took some time before I realized that I was rooting for the wrong team for a while there.

This was after the first three-peat, after Jordan retired and played baseball and made “Space Jam.” Yeah, those years. After he retired it seemed that some kids were heart broken. And with a pain in my heart I have to come clean. I became a Reggie Miller fan. Not an Indiana fan, but a Reggie Miller fan.

To many Chicago sports fans that’s the equivalent of someone admitting that they have a venereal disease after you’ve just slept with them and pulled out bareback and finished on her stomach. “What do you have again?” “No, don’t kiss me.”

It’s the equivalent of putting ketchup on a hot dog, parking during a snow storm in a city snow lane, singing on the CTA bus in the morning “What are you stupid?” calling it soda instead of pop, and saying Kobe or LeBron are better than Jordan. You just don’t do that. Ever. “You mad, bro?”

I’m quite familiar with the hatred we have against the Pacers. I’m quite familiar with what a pain in the ass they were in 1998 during the Eastern Conference semis. We still hate that cheap ass fucking team. But during my assimilation period into this country I could only rely on my alley peers who played ball out there and their cultural tastes. Out of all the fucking alleys in the world, I had to end up on one where kids liked asshole ball players.

Kids were nuts back then. Here we were in Chi-town, the home of the mighty Bulls, and kids succumbed to wearing Reggie Miller, Alonzo Mourning, Muggsy Bogues, Patrick Ewing and other jerseys because “His Airness” retired and decided to play baseball. Most of them were Polaks. Some were Hispanic.

But the game needed to be played. And as it is with most of the kids who were fans of basketball after Jordan left for the glove, we needed something else to fill our shoes with. And there was that basket, that basket in the alley where all the kids would come out and play.

They all had jerseys on, usually Jordan’s at the beginning, but there was a Horace Grant jersey for the kid who had glasses or the Paxon jersey for the kid who thought he was a perimeter shooter, and then there was that one kid who dared to wear an official white Indiana Pacers jersey. Of course it was Miller’s. We hated that blond kid. What ever happened to him? The kid, not Reggie Miller.

But as a kid trying to assimilate into the country, I thought that it would be a good idea to get a Miller jersey of my own. I just didn’t understand what all the trash talking was about. The jersey seemed to get attention.

Anyway, I bought one of those wannabe blue Pacers jerseys from Sports Mart. The cheaper one since the official one was way over my parent’s budget at the time. I played in that jersey out in the street with the kids during those years and displayed my three-point shooting ability. “Miller chokes.” “Miller eats it again.” “No win for Miller.” “Miller caterpillar.” “Go back to Indiana.”

Alley ball back then was the stuff they make movies about. You had like six neighborhood kids who would divide into teams and as soon someone scored, another one would yell “Make It-Take It.”

This style of play suggests that the players on the “court” are real imbeciles whose ball-playing skills rely mostly on luck instead of actual prowess. It made sense at the time. “Fuck it, he makes it, he takes it.” Then he would make three or four baskets, and what did you do? You fouled him so hard that he put a dent in some guy’s garage with his head.

And remember the total lack of respect for the neighbor’s garage? Here was a family who put up a basketball hoop on the top of their garage to let the neighborhood kids enjoy it and we just fucking went ape shit after missing a three-pointer to win the game. Balls went flying in anger, someone actually used to jump kick the garage. And if you wanted the ball back, you would throw it so hard against it that it would bounce back right to you.

It dawned on me later, that we were the “bad element” that stopped people from putting up hoops on top of their garages.

Oh yeah, fuck Reggie Miller.

Snow : precipitation in the form of small white ice crystals formed directly from the water vapor of the air at a temperature of less than 32°F (0°C) – Merriam-Webster.

Snow last year.

It comes every year, sometimes sooner and sometimes later, but every year many denizens of this city react to a “minor” snowfall as if they’ve just found out Vader was Luke’s father. Mom drops a pan of casserole on the kitchen floor, dad almost chokes on his beer, sister decides to make the weekend out of it with her boyfriend, a car screeches to a halt in the middle of traffic in the distance and a fairy falls dead when they all hear the news about the inches of snow that are scheduled to fall down on the city.

“Six to eight inches!? Holly fuck! What will we do?” someone will say. What indeed? Ya know, six to eight inches is not that impressive. In fact it’s about average. Just ask any woman about six inches and see what they have to say about that. Shit, ask a man if that’s your thing. Or if you’re brave enough, ask a black guy.

Man, that ain't shit.

Me, I don’t deal with the Chicago winter the way some people do out there. I don’t get frightened. I don’t panic. I don’t make it ruin my day. I listen to the news and I accept the fact that snow will fall and then I go on about my day.

Sure, I participate in the whole ordeal like I’ve done every winter. I’m careful on the road, I take it slow and easy and I do not hurry. I obey the rules of the road, I give the other drivers the benefit of the doubt, and certainly, I do not make hasty decisions. I let it be and I let the usual winter mode of driving carry me home safely.

However, I always hope that that ONE prick driver, be it male or female, who is doing 35 miles per hour or more next to me in the snowstorm finds a ditch somewhere soon just because they are proud that they have an all-wheel drive.

And they usually do find a ditch or a problem of some kind a few streets down the road. You slowly get to the stop light that they were rushing to and you find the same car spun out of control with the emergency lights on and the driver outside in the snow is talking on the phone. I’d like to be the witness to that conversation.

“What happened?”

“I was doing 40 miles per hour and then my car slid and I hit this fire hydrant.”

“In the snowstorm?”

“Yeah.”

“Why were you driving so fast and rushing in the snowstorm? Didn’t you listen to the news?”

“I wanted to selfishly skip ahead in front of ALL of these people who were essentially feeling the same way I was, except that they didn’t act on it like I did. Plus the ‘Bachelor’ was on at 7 p.m. I can’t miss the ‘Bachelor.’”

Here’s what you do in a snowstorm.

After you brush off the snow, warm up your car and get near the vicinity of your home, find a liquor store, stop there and buy what you need for the night. When I was a teenager I would make stupid decisions during a snowstorm. I always wanted to drive somewhere with my friend, like an idiot, to make money shoveling other people’s driveways. Yeah that was the 1990s.  You could make some cool money back then working your ass off in the worst weather.

And you know what we replaced those poor door-to-door kids with shovels with? Those industrial snow throwing machines that always come out when one inch of snow falls on the ground and some dude wants to get the most bang out of it because he paid $500 for it 10 years ago. He needs to fucking use it. And you see those guys out there and they will do the whole block if they have to. “Just being a good neighbor.” “Don’t worry Sam, I got it.” Granted, this year’s storm is nothing compared to last year because those throwers were really useful. But still. “I had some gas left in it and I thought I would use it.”

So find your liquor store, dig out that parking spot and shut the door. Things will all be better in the morning.

Here’s what you should be drinking during a snowstorm, but feel free to improvise. Who am I to tell you what to drink?

  1. Not Beer. I know that some men entertain some fantasy that colder is better and that the Coors Light Silver Bullet train rolls into town when there is a snowstorm, but it doesn’t. In fact, getting a buzz of beer during a snowstorm is like getting a hand job during an orgy where EVERYBODY is fucking except you.
  2. Alright, you can’t let the beer thing go and I get it. So try what the Germans do. Warm up some brew in a pot to desired warmth, put some sugar in it and enjoy. It tastes wonderful. It’s great for colds too. But yeah, warm beer is un-American so forget I mentioned it.
  3. Not hot chocolate. This is Chicago, A Drinking Town with a Sports Problem. And in some instances drinking is a sport. So put your tampons away.
  4. Brandy. Some people can’t handle it, some don’t like the taste of it or some have nightmare experiences after it. I like to look at it like Samuel Johnson did. “Claret is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.” Also, it warms you up. What do you think those giant St. Bernard dogs have in those barrels around their collar in the cold countries? (For the record, I’m skeptical if actual St. Bernard rescue dogs ever carried barrels of brandy to warm up skiers who were dug up in the snow, but let’s just live in the fantasy that they do or did.) And it’s cheap. Christian Brothers can’t run you more than $12 if you get lucky.
  5. Not rum. I don’t care how much you mix it to make it look like a naval officer’s drink, it shouldn’t be done during a Chicago snowstorm. Rum can be used during a Chicago heat wave if you want to feel like a true pirate who is sailing the high seas, but we’re not there yet skipper.
  6. Definitely not Everclear. I know the Bears didn’t make the post-season and there is no opportunity to paint your chest with a giant “C” on it and go howling in the wind in sub-zero temperatures at Soldier Field, but it just shouldn’t be done. Listen if you have succumbed to drinking grain alcohol, then you don’t have a sports problem, or even a drinking problem. You have a death wish. Go get help. As Mr. Raul Parra of Omegawatt Studios said on here, “Quit drinking like you’re 18.”
  7. Bourbon. Bourbon is good for any occasion. It makes and destroys lives. So it doesn’t really fucking matter when you drink it. Drink it if you want to. Preferably on ice or in shots. And lots of it.
  8. No gin. Ever. Not for me anyway. But yeah, I had some bad experiences with gin. But if you didn’t, then go for it. Gin and tonics are great when done right. Hospital trips if done wrong.
  9. Wine. Wine can be good if you live with a woman and you just got done shoveling the snow and are about to enjoy a nice dinner with the wifey or girlie. Then you can cuddle by the fire or a warm space heater, watch some romantic comedy, stare into each other’s eyes and watch the snow fall, open another bottle of fine wine or two and talk about what you will name your kids one day. I guess that’s okay. Don’t drink a jug of Carlo Rossi Sangria by yourself. You will wake up stupid and won’t be able to read. If you’ve gotten to the point in your sport drinking career that you are drinking MD 20/20 out of the bottle then you’re probably not reading this because you are homeless. And none of this shit about “what a great wine” or “great value” it is. That’s just bullshit.
  10. Scotch. Drink as much as you want. Scotch can be replaced with tequila because tequila is fucking awesome. Drink as much as you want.

Well we’ve come to the end of the list. And I know what you will say. “Hey listen jerk off, I like drinking beer in the winter and fuck you and your list. What are you drinking you faggot?”

Vodka. Ice cold vodka. Shots and many of them. Many Europeans drink this instead of water, I know. But vodka is the perfect drink sometimes when you have a giant driveway to shovel and you don’t have those fancy snow blowers or throwers and your neighbor is a dick and won’t let you borrow it for a bit. Even after you offered to pay him $10. Okay $5. The economy is tough.

Vodka is a winter’s drink. It comes from Europe. Many theories have been floated around as to who actually invented it. Was it the Russians, or the Poles or the Swedes, or some people in Finland? But where ever its true origin is, you know it has been made with winter in mind. How do you think the fucking Russians outlasted the Germans during WWII? Vodka. My dad actually told me that they would feed the Russian soldiers a few shots of the stuff before going into battle. The Polaks swear by it. It kills germs in your body.

In Chicago, the snobs will tell you to drink the most expensive shit which I won’t name here. But what I will name is a good Polish vodka that has been making the rounds in the United States. Bruce Willis is the face behind the vodka when it comes to marketing. But fuck Bruce Willis. He might be a face to sell the product, but guess what, the price sells itself. Sobieski Vodka is $9.99 for 750 ml. and $15 for a liter. If you see other prices you are getting fucked there. And it’s good. Svedka Vodka used to be $9.99 but they got too big and decided to charge $12.99. Get your hands on Sobieski before even those Poles raise their prices. Word from the grape-vine is that things will be changing in March with Sobieski so stock up while the prices are low. Some changes in the company are coming.

I am the face of Sobieski Vodka

But I raise my shot glass to all Chicagoans who don’t bitch about the snow falling, to the ones who get through it like they do every year with their balls in their hands and the shovels in their teeth, and to those who are proud that winter doesn’t mean shit to us. It’s Chicago. This is what it is. That’s the main reason most of those California fucks don’t live here “because the winters are so bad.” Good. Fuck ‘em.

And Fuck Bruce Willis too. (I don’t even know why I say that, I like Bruce Willis.)

"Whatchu talking about Willis?"

Listen I don’t care what your drink is. You know what your drink is. I don’t care how you drive in the snow. You know how you drive in the snow. I just want to get home in one piece, shovel the fucking parking spot and drink my drink in peace and watch the Wheel of Fortune. Maybe a Bulls game. It’s just snow.

If you got a better list, feel free to share.