Category Archives: Differently

TYOLD May 23, 2014: Chicago Food Porn

Friday, May 23, 2014

Chicago day 2 started later than I had anticipated due to the aforementioned drinking and carousing the night before, but I still managed to get up and out in enough time to get things done.

Stop #1 was an old favorite, Hot Doug’s, a famed “encased meat emporium” (read: gourmet sausages and hot dogs) that has gained near mythical status in these parts.  There is often a line to get in the door but the recent announcement that Doug’s will be closing – the owner is retiring – in a few months has driven things into hyperdrive, apparently.  The below photo is PART of the line at 11am on a Friday morning.  And by part, I mean about 1/4 of the line.  It was about 200 people long and stretched all the way down the block.


I pulled over about here and ask how long the wait was – a woman told me that she had been in line for “about 2 hours.”  I figure she had another hour to go.

I’m sorry, I think the sausages here are incredible but I wouldn’t wait in line for ANY food for three hours unless it came with a side of gold doubloons.

So instead, I headed off to Johnnie’s Beef, another Chicago institution and another Italian Beef purveyor.  There were about 20 people in line, which I could handle.  The sandwiches are a bit smaller than Portillo’s and the meat hotter (and by that I mean spicy) which I liked a lot.  Hard to compare the two but I’d still give the nod to Portillo’s, although you could always do what I did and have both!!

johnniesThe thing next to the sandwich is an Italian lemonade, which is basically lemon Pledge flavored shaved ice.  I didn’t have much of that.

And yes, I ate it on the trunk of my rental car because there were no tables.  I wasn’t the only one eating in the parking lot.

Next I headed off to the Rivers Casino up by O’Hare airport.  Nice place – just like a Vegas casino with all the usual table games and slots.  It reminded me a lot of Red Rock Resort in terms of design, which is to say lovely.  Had fun, didn’t win, but didn’t lose a lot either so there’s that.

On the way back I stopped for dinner at a place called Smoque, a BBQ join in the Irving Park neighborhood.  Now, you’d think with a name like that it would be some pretentious place posing as a BBQ shack but no – this is the real deal in a lot of different ways.  Rough and tumble inside, basic cement floors and wood tables, a nice patio outside, order at the counter, and go get it yourself when they scream your number.

I have been thinking a lot about this since I ate here.  I’m a total BBQ snob – I have eaten a lot of it and I know good ‘que when I taste it.  I have a list of bests and favorites – Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City; Poole’s BBQ in East Elijay, Georgia; that little shack we stopped at in god-know’s-where-Arkansas on one of our Plucky trips.   But I really think that Smoque smokes them all.  This was fantastic, unbelievable, delicious, perfect BBQ.  I had the Texas sausage, two huge not-too-spicy links plus two sides (mac and cheese and cornbread) plus a side of pulled pork and slaw.  The sausage was insanely flavorful – dripping with juices, expertly cooked, and perfect for dipping into one of their two signature sauces – a vinegar one and a sweet one, both of which were not too much of either.

And pulled pork… oh sweet heaven, it practically melted in my mouth it was so tender.  Everything was amazing and I can’t recommend it enough.




TYOLD May 22, 2014: Upgrading

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Back to doing some different, just because I’m off to Chicago and felt like it would be easy to stick in my rut of what I usually do when I go to Chicago – drink and carouse a lot.

So started the trip with something I have always wanted to do but never have – fly first class.  Virgin has last minute seat upgrades often available.  It involved getting up a 4:30 in the morning to get it, but in the end, once you factor in the waived fees for checking luggage, food, drinks, and movies, it cost me about an extra $100.

I may never be able to fly coach again.



Once I got here, an epic drive to get from the airport into the city and then straight to the drive through at Portillo’s.  Some things just can’t be different.  Italian beef with mozzarella no peppers and a side of onion rings.  I dream about this stuff.  And I was not disappointed.


On a Break

Obviously, the Year of Living Differently has come to a bit of a standstill.  There are a bunch of different reasons for this.

First, I got busy.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I sold an idea for a TV movie and I basically have about 3 weeks to turn that idea into a full-blown script.  Between my full time job, my Vegas work, and trying to birth a screenplay, I just haven’t had much time to do anything else.

The good news is that I finished the first draft of the movie in about a week and am currently doing some polishing before I send it off.  It’s in better shape than I would have expected and while certainly not perfect, it’s got some good stuff in it.  I made myself laugh a few times and that’s always a good thing, I think.

The second reason is because I was losing track of what TYOLD was intended to be.

I had wanted this to be fun – a way to break out of my doldrums of doing the same thing every day.  I thought a little variety would do me good.

But along the way I discovered that people are creatures of habit for a good reason: it’s easier.  We get up at roughly the same time every day because that’s easier on our bodies.  We have a morning routine because it helps both mentally and physically to get the day started.  We take the same route to work because it’s the fastest way to get there.  We eat things we’ve had before because we know we like them and can digest them.  And in the precious little time that we may have free, if all we want to do is sit on the couch and watch “The Voice,” well then that’s what we should do.

Coming up with something different to do every day was becoming an obligation.  It had stopped being fun.

Interestingly, I haven’t stopped doing different things.  I got to see the second act of Book of Mormon finally (thank you Maureen); ate a couple of new restaurants; and what else?  Oh yeah, I finished a freakin’ movie in a week.  Suck on that, differently.  I just didn’t do it every day and I didn’t stress out about it.

So, I’m taking a little break from the Differentlies.  I need to get the movie polished and submitted and then spend a little time trying to figure out how to recapture the spirit of what TYOLD was supposed to be.

I’m going to start again – maybe as early as next week when I’m off to Chicago on vacation.  I have all sorts of cool things planned including a visits to several museums I’ve never visited, an architecture tour, and a trip to Dubuque to see a friend from high school and maybe ride a funicular.   I may not be doing and/or posting every day for a little while but I think I will get back to that pace eventually.

Thanks for reading – stay tuned.


TYOLD Day 123: Crash Course

I’ve been terrible about updating the blog lately. I’m still actively doing “Different” stuff but I have been either too busy or too lazy to write about it.  So today I went to go post the last few days worth of stuff and…. the website was there.   Gone.  History.  Ghost.  Nada.  Nil.

Internal Server Error.


I have worked in the Internet world kind of since the Internet was first becoming a thing but I’m not technical so I immediately got on the phone with my hosting company (GoDaddy) and put them to work on it.

For the record, the hold music for GoDaddy is the worst in the entire world.  There are three songs that repeat over and over and over again.  One is a jazzy kind of New Orleans Mardi Gras song that isn’t too bad the first time you hear it.  The second is kind of jazzy 60s song – something that might play while Don Draper is doing something bad on “Mad Men.”  And third is kind of a jazzy 80s song, all synthesizers and weirdness.  None of them is longer than 2 minutes.  I was on hold while they tried to fix thingshold for one hour and 24 minutes.  You do the math.

I am going to find the person who is charge of the GoDaddy hold music and we are going to have words.  Strong words.

Anyway, as you can see, eventually they fixed it.  Something about a PHP upgrade.  I just nodded and said thank you and then got back to the Differentlies.


TYOLD Day 122: Dragged Into the 21st Century

I’ve been flying a lot lately – to Vegas already three times this year and heading to Chicago in May, perhaps Europe in June or July, and then to Iowa in August.

Before I get to my main point of this post, let me mention that the $85 I spent to get the TSA Pre-Check was the best $85 I have spent in my entire life.  When I flew to Vegas last week, I breezed past about 25 people in line at the Burbank airport and when I flew home, breezed by about 100 in line at McCarran.  You don’t have to take off your shoes or belt or jacket and you don’t have to take out your laptop or your toiletries bag… GENIUS.

Anyway, one of the things I do like to do when flying is read, but I haven’t felt like taking an actual book with me lately just because they are too cumbersome and I’m too lazy to carry it.  I thought about downloading books and reading them on the computer but you couldn’t do that while taking off and landing until recently.

So today, I finally joined the 21st century and downloaded a bunch of books on the Kindle Windows 8 app on my tablet.  Now when I take my trips over the next couple of months, I’m all set with reading material!

Here’s what I downloaded:

  • Missing You by Harlan Coben
  • Innocence by Dean Koontz
  • Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz (it was on sale)
  • A View from a Broad by Bette Midler
  • Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Regarding the latter, yes I know what it’s about and yes, I know I will probably wind up looking like this if I read it on the airplane:


TYOLD Day 121: My Milkshake

Now that I have finished the Vegas stuff (mostly – still have some things to do for the website), I was finally able to officially start on the movie today.  I had already written character summary, the outline, and the extended treatment (the story of the film in short-story form) but I hadn’t actually started writing the script until today.

I still can’t tell you anything about the movie, but the first few scenes take place in 2004 and I’ve been having fun listening to music from that year to get me in the head space.  Here’s the list of songs I’m using:

  • Yeah by Usher
  • Hey Ya! by OutKast
  • The Way You Move by OutKast
  • Tipsy by J-Kwon
  • Naughty Girl by Beyonce
  • Dip it Low by Christina Milian
  • Move Ya Body by Nina Sky
  • It’s My Life by No Doubt
  • Toxic by Britney Spears
  • Redneck Woman by Gretchen Wilson
  • She Will be Loved by Maroon 5
  • This Love by Maroon 5
  • If I Ain’t Got You by Alicia Keys
  • The Reason by Hoobastank
  • My Immortal by Evanescence
  • You’ll Think of Me by Keith Urban

And of course a song that I actually refused to play when I was a club DJ in 2004: Milkshake by Kelis.  I HATED this song… in fact, I used to say that it wasn’t a song, it was a collection of noises set to a drum beat.

I hate to say it… but it’s kind of grown on me now.


TYOLD Day 120: Leaving Las Vegas

Not the first time I have finished a Las Vegas guide book, but I’m still counting it as my Differently for the day.  The Frommer’s Easy Guide to Las Vegas 2015 edition is in the hands of my editors and will be in a book store… or downloadable to your e-reader… this fall.


TYOLD Day 119: Holy Crap, I’m Old

Today I finally broke down and made plans to go to my 30 year high school reunion this August.  Bought the plane tickets, booked the rental car, reserved the hotel, and then started drinking because 30 years… really?

Here’s the deal… some of you were around for my inglorious high school days, in which I was a picked upon, fat loser, often beaten up and bullied mercilessly by an array of people that I have cast as villains in my mind.  There was the ogreish guy that punched me in the back every day for reasons that are still unclear to me until I stood up to him and he promptly kicked the crap out of me.  There was the evil cheerleader who liked to trip me in the halls because she thought it was funny to see the fat kid fall down.  There was the slack jawed stoner who would regularly tell me that I was a fag and should just go kill myself.  For a long time I thought it would be the darkest days of my life.

Hindsight, being what it is, allows me to see that these people were probably just as damaged as I was -it’s just that they projected that damage outward whereas I projected mine in.  If I was a better person I would use that hindsight to forgive and forget but a) that would mean redefining myself in ways I’m not willing to think about right now and b) I’m petty and I hold grudges.

So why in the hell would I want to go back for my 30 year high school reunion?

Well, because in the midst of all of that horror there were acts of kindness and friendship and loyalty and love and laughter that I remember to this day.  There are people – some of whom are reading this blog occasionally – who were unknowing heroes and quite literally saved my life back then.  To this day, I can’t believe that I was lucky enough to have them when I was a kid and am thoroughly gobsmacked that I still get to occasionally, infrequently, interact with them as adults.  I am even more stunned that many of them came out of the Facebook wilderness to offer me words of comfort, prayers, positive vibrations, and random amusements during what were the real darkest days of my life in the couple of years between the time that my best friend died of cancer and I had to deal with cancer myself.

I think the way you honor that is to get over yourself and go to your 30 year high school reunion, ignore the villains, and embrace the heroes.

And heck, if nothing else, cancer at least me thin!

See you in August.

Linn Mar High School

Linn Mar High School


TYOLD Day 118: In My Estimation

I went to a couple of body shops I had never been to in order to get estimates to repair the damage to my car after last week’s minor accident.  It’s about what I expected – about $600.  You can sneeze on a car and rack up a $600 repair bill.

The woman that hit me says she’s going to send me a check for that plus a rental car while it’s in the shop.  Hopefully that will be the end of it.

BTW, after two days off, I got back to the abs and did 38 sit ups, 100 stomach crunches (!!), 38 leg lifts, and 1:45 plank.  It’s kind of interesting – I’m not seeing any real difference but I’m feeling it.  When I started, 20 sit ups was pushing things and 1 minute on the plank felt like torture.  Now I breeze past those marks and it doesn’t start getting really hard until closer to the new limits.

Abs of steel, baby!