27
Oct

It was my first Bears game and I was ready.

We arrived at Soldier Field just in time to watch the sun set over the skyline. The night was cool and clear. Perfect football weather. Dressed in head-to-toe navy and orange, I had also brought along a blanket decorated like a mini football field. Thought it added a nice touch. Even though we were undisputedly in the nosebleed section, and my poor father had to take more than one break while ascending the sixty or so stairs leading to our seats, we had a gorgeous view of the city and Navy Pier. It had all the beginnings of a wonderful evening.

Moments later, we saw them heading up the same set of stairs. Two gold and purple jerseys. Two gold and green jerseys. The Viking fans made sense; they were our opponents that night. But Green Bay? Why were they here? I anxiously watched as the foursome, already on the receiving end of multiple boos and other non-PG outcries, kept climbing those stairs… and kept getting closer and closer to us.

Sure enough, they turned in at our row. I silently prayed that they wouldn’t be sitting next to my dad and me. It was grade school all over again. Nobody wants the social outcast kid to share your seat on the bus. As mean as it may be, the brutal truth is that you’re tainted by association. That’s when one of the guys clad in an Aaron Rodgers jersey plopped himself down next to my dad, put his arm around him and declared, “You and I are gonna be best pals!”

Okay, they weren’t so bad. After all, they were from the Midwest. By and large we’re all pretty nice people. We got to talking with them, and I could quickly sense that Rodgers’ charm was working its magic on my father. They wouldn’t shut up.

Know who else wouldn’t shut up? The drunken douchebags sitting five rows behind us. Fueled by liquid courage, these guys were relentless in their onslaught of verbal insults:

“What are you doing here? Are you lost, Rodgerrrrrsssss???”

“Go back to Wissssconnnnsinnnn!!!”

“You suuuuuck!!!”

It was funny for about five minutes. Everyone loves to razz a rival, especially one with whom you have a storied history. Though by the third quarter, I wasn’t amused anymore. Not only were they yelling nonstop, but also they were doing a spectacular job of showing off that melodic Midwestern nasal accent. Finally I turned around and glared at them. For a moment they fell silent and blankly stared back at me; then one of them pointed to Rodgers and loudly whispered, “He sucks!” Thing is, I had to disagree. As much as I would like to pretend it’s not true, the Green Bay Packers are the current Super Bowl champions. By definition that pretty much means they don’t suck.

I actually began to feel bad for Rodgers. He was being quite the gentleman and didn’t so much as acknowledge the jerks behind us. I on the other hand kept turning around every few minutes, hoping that my icy stare might permanently silence them. It didn’t seem to be working.

I couldn’t take it anymore, and in a way, I blame the Bears. They were steamrolling the Vikings, so as the game was winding down to the fourth quarter, it was getting a tad boring. As demented as this sounds, had the game been closer, I would have been less prone to distraction. Yet all I could focus on were those morons and their incessant ranting. I wanted nothing more than to tell them to shut the hell up.

What stopped me? Okay, truth time… I didn’t want the crowd to think I was siding with a Green Bay fan. What if they thought we were friends or something? As nice as Rodgers and his pals were being to my dad and me, I couldn’t bear the idea of all those perfect strangers whom I would never see again for the rest my life thinking that I was defending a Packers fan. The horror. These were the same guys who nine months earlier had humiliated us in our own house and took away both the Halas Trophy and a shot at the Lombardi. For better or for worse, you stick by your fellow fans. Kind of like when your embarrassingly drunk friend pukes all over the ladies’ room, but you still make sure she gets home okay.

So I just sat there and silently fumed until finally the douchebag troop decided to leave early. Of course they continued with their obscenities while descending all sixty stairs, thus entertaining an entire section of fans that perhaps hadn’t been able to hear the show for the last several hours. As for my Green Bay and Viking pals, we continued to chat and laugh with them until the final seconds of the game ticked off the clock. They then graciously thanked my dad and me for being so nice to them, and we graciously thanked them for not holding us accountable for our socially stunted fans.

Perhaps there’s hope yet for a world where Bears and Cheeseheads can live together in harmony.

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

20
Oct

If living in an urban area with a larger than usual population of crazies, you quickly learn how to be antisocial. Avoiding eye contact is a given, and pretending you can’t hear someone talking to you becomes routine even if that means ignoring the barista who only wanted to know if you’d like whip on your Frappuccino.

Yet being friendly is sometimes encouraged. For instance, at sporting events. In fact I’d dare say it’s impossible to attend a game and not get chummy with your neighbors. For one, those seats are super close to each other, and given the – ahem – heftier builds of some fans, you’re oftentimes making more physical contact with the guy sitting next to you than the players are on the field. Second, the bathroom breaks. If you force your entire row to stand up and let you wiggle past them more than once, you kind of have to be nice to them. Otherwise an “accidental” foot in your way or beer on your back should come as no surprise upon your fourth trip to the ladies’ room.

But because these people are here to cheer on the same team I love, it’s not that hard to bond. Case in point? Last week at the Blackhawks game. I immediately knew that the chick sitting next to me was cool when upon hearing my high-pitched scream she said, “Oh good, you’re loud, too. Most people hate sitting next to me because I make so much noise.”

Three hours later, Trish and I had become bona fide besties. We had discussed at length our childhoods, livelihoods, love lives and the fact that you should be very, very careful when comparing any female to a celebrity. During one of the timeouts, they were going around the stadium and matching fans to different Seinfeld actors. As it turns out, most women are horrified when compared to Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Personally I think she’s pretty, but I get it. Whenever somebody says, “You know who you look like?” I usually don’t want the answer. (BTW, guys apparently love being compared to Kramer. Not a compliment, fellas.)

Trish and I gossiped together, laughed together and screamed together. We also cried together when the Hawks lost during the overtime shootout. Suddenly the game was over; all the fans rose from their seats. I turned toward my new BFF who was chatting with her husband. I then turned back to my father who was making a beeline for the exit. I didn’t know what to do. I just met this really awesome person and now I was expected to walk away like the last three periods had never happened? Surely she wanted to become Facebook friends.

I gingerly tapped Trish on the shoulder. She spun around with a big smile. I knew it. She felt it, too.

Me: “It was so nice to meet you!”

Her: “You, too!”

Me: “Good luck with everything!”

Her: “You, too!”

Me: “So mayb-”

That’s when her husband nudged her from behind. She put up a finger for me to hold on and then turned her back to me once again. I waited… and waited some more. Then much to my surprise and disappointment Trish and her husband began to exit the row without even saying goodbye.

Whatever… She lives in Chicago and I’m in LA. It never would have worked out anyway.

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

15
Oct

Icebreakers are the worst.

It never fails that whenever you find yourself among a group of strangers, at some point you’re forced to do the drill: name, origin, occupation.

Living in Los Angeles, this is pretty standard. Every week there’s a birthday party or networking event or random conversation in Trader Joe’s where I end up giving someone my thirty-second autobiography. The one-on-one’s not so bad, though. My new friend and I will inevitably swap “why I moved to LA” stories, praise the sunshine and complain about the traffic. It’s how we vagabonds bond LA style.

The group icebreaker is an entirely different story.

Rewind to last weekend. Once again I found myself at Pepperdine University, this time for a volunteer event. I participated last year as well, but apparently they wanted to shake things up a bit. The volunteers – fifty women in all – were told to go around the room and talk about themselves before the day’s activities were to begin.

Oh boy.

How do I put this delicately? When I was a kid, I broke my wrist. I broke it so badly that it was re-broken twice, once while I was fully conscious. I would have preferred a third re-break to this icebreaker.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not shy and I really do like people. But seriously… Fifty women talking about themselves? How is that ever a good idea? Yeah, we were there to be all charitable and stuff, but let’s get real, y’all. No matter how charitable we all may be don’t forget everyone’s favorite humanitarian project: themselves.

For the record, I’m not bashing just the womenfolk. Men love to brag, too. However, I will concede that at least men get right to the point. “I am the greatest!” I can respect that. Women on the other hand… We never shut up. Because we all consider ourselves ladies, we wouldn’t just blurt out, “I’m better than all of you!” However, we will nonchalantly tick off an endless list of activities and accomplishments that unequivocally prove that of course we’re better than you. Men go in for the kill with a single bullet to the temple whereas women prefer Chinese water torture.

The most excruciating part of this exercise in narcissism was the dream class segment. Aside from giving the requisite name, alma mater and job description, we were told to list what class we would teach if given the opportunity. Apparently women feel a pressing need to teach other women confidence; far and away it was the number one answer. Other popular responses:

Learning self-esteem. (Just another word for confidence.)

How to find your destiny.

Personal accounting.

Cooking.

Wine tasting.

I felt like we were at an Eat, Pray, Love conference. Then it was my turn… What class would I like to teach?

“Screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s.”

A few surprised murmurs went around the room. That’s right. I didn’t care about other people’s self-esteem. I didn’t care about their destinies either. I just wanted to talk about movies no one else has watched since FDR was in office.

I didn’t make any new friends that day. Was it something I said?

Image: africa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

06
Oct

I’m what you would call a worrier. I worry about everything: money, career, family, friends, love. I even worry about worrying.

Last week I woke up late for a flight and worried all the way to the airport. Mind you, I had already checked in online and still got to LAX ninety minutes before my flight’s scheduled departure time. At first I worried that I wouldn’t find a spot at the airport garage. I did. Then I worried that our shuttle would wait forever before leaving. We took off less than five minutes after I boarded. Then I worried I wouldn’t have enough time to go through security and get my Starbucks. I had my iced venti nine-pump easy-ice chai latte in hand within fifteen minutes. Then I worried that I wouldn’t get a good seat on the plane or be able to sit next to my friend. I scored the aisle and Sarah was seated next to me moments later.

Needless to say, I worry a lot about nothing worth worrying about.

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”  ~ Leo Buscaglia

“If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago today.”  ~ E. Joseph Cossman

“Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.”  ~ Glenn Turner

Yeah, I get it. I see these handy dandy quotes all the time, but they never do me much good. I might stop worrying while I’m reading them, but then it’s out of sight, out of mind. Plus my mind is already too full of worrying.

So while in Chicago last weekend I had the chance to grab lunch with my father. Though he’s lived in the Chicagoland area his entire life, my dad doesn’t venture often into the city, and for those of you in the know, the ‘burbs are a far cry from the Loop.

To make it easier on him, I chose a restaurant just a block down from the hotel at which I was staying in Printer’s Row. Not a super busy neighborhood, and as luck would have it, we found a parking spot just twenty feet from the restaurant entrance. Doesn’t get any better than that. I checked the signs to make sure we were clear of street cleaning or zoning restrictions. All good. I then paid for two hours of parking and made sure our receipt was clearly displayed on the dashboard. All good. We proceeded inside to eat.

After grabbing a table and putting in our order, my dad and I began to discuss our usual topics: the weather and sports. That’s when mid-sentence he got up from the table and walked over to the front window of the restaurant. I watched in confusion as he casually peeked outside. Without saying a word, he then came back to the table and jumped right back into his summary of last’s week precipitation totals. I didn’t understand what had happened, but just chalked it up to my dad wanting to take in the beautiful Chicago scenery.

Five minutes later, he did it again. In the middle of my dissertation on why the Cubs need Theo Epstein, my dad got up from the table and once more looked out the front window. This time I had to know.

“Dad, what are you doing?”

“Just checking the car.”

“Checking the car for what?”

“Wanna make sure it’s not getting towed.”

I then experienced what Oprah calls an “Aha!” moment. There was absolutely no reason why my dad should have been worried. We were parking legally. We had paid the meter. Nothing was wrong. Yet my father could not stop worrying about his precious Ford Focus.

That’s when I began to worry… Whether we like it or not, we really do become our parents.

Image: farconville / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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