Reality TV Gets a bit TOO Real…

I’m all on board with watching this crazy TV show.

As crazy as it sounds, I’m a fan of the TLC reality series “Dr. Pimple Popper” starring Dr. Sandra Lee.  There’s something fascinating about seeing pimples, lipomas, cysts and other growths squeezed and surgically removed from her patients.  The human body is a wondrous miracle that happens to also be capable of producing really grotesque material that makes for wild TV.  Full disclosure: In the past, I had a 4 inch lipoma removed from my abdomen and a benign marble sized cyst taken off the side of my head, but not from Dr. Lee.

Many of the pimple popper patients featured have let their growths expand to amazing sizes.  One episode showed a man with a cyst on his arm that was the size of a 16 inch softball.  Another guy had a benign but bulging golf ball-like tumor on the middle of his forehead.  Cyclops had nothing on this ‘third eye.’  There’s also the poor woman who had a horn shaped cyst sprouting out of the top her of head.  It is cringe worthy seeing custard like goo oozing out of these growths. I might never eat another cream filled doughnut again. You can even sometimes hear the squishing sounds of certain cysts getting squeezed out of their skin.   

One poor woman had a horn-like growth sprouting from her scalp. Or was it a Frito’s corn chip?

The one thing I don’t understand is WHY these patients let their bulging lumps get so big that their body parts become a freak show. Maybe they didn’t have the money or insurance to take care of these issues.  However, the growth growers do receive what appears to be excellent care from Dr. Lee. Many of these epidermal abnormalities look like they were borne from another world.  I wouldn’t be surprised to someday see Dr. Pimple Popper yank the creature from “Alien” out of someone’s body.  

I await Dr. Lee pulling the creature from ‘Alien’ out of someone’s skin.

It can be a challenge to watch some of the scenes inside Dr. Lee’s exam room because they are not for the squeamish. Still, I take on that challenge each week and make it through without getting sick.  Some people like to climb dangerous mountains, some ride scary roller coasters and hope to not throw up, I watch Dr. Pimple Popper and hope to keep my non-vomiting streak going.  (If you’re keeping score, I haven’t thrown up since early February of 1991. )

Have a large lipoma? No worries, Dr. Pimple Popper will numb the skin and pull this excess growth out quicker than you know.

However, I think I’ve met my limit with a new program now airing on A&E.  It features an African American chiropodist who specializes in excising warts, ingrown toenails, fungus and other abnormalities from patient’s feet.  Feet! Ugh!  I cannot let myself even peek in on this program. 

Anyone who knows me is aware that I have an aversion to bare feet, especially toes. No matter how well clipped, manicured and painted they might be, toes are the ugliest part of the human anatomy.  Those goofs who claim to have ‘foot fetishes’ are in my opinion the most twisted weirdos on the face of the earth. Lord knows those ‘foot freaks will be tuned in to “The Toe Bro” as he clips, lances, burns off and surgically heals the ailments of men and women who want to get back to a normal life.

My barefoot and toe phobia means I won’t be able to watch “The Toe Bro”. Ugh.

With ‘The Toe Bro’ (pardon the pun) following in the footsteps of Dr. Pimple Popper, I see the realm of reality medical shows may have no limits.  So let’s examine a couple ideas from my sick mind for future doctor programs. 

You could take a male physician with a stoner persona who does breast enlargements and call his show “The Boob Dude.”   Or a female doctor who specializes in treating man’s erectile dysfunctions, call her “The Dick Chick” or “The Cock Doc.”   My personal favorite idea? How about showing a female proctologist doing her job?  Call her “The Ass Lass.”

I’m just spit-balling here.  There’s probably a load more of specialists doctor shows just waiting to be produced.   Until then, I’ll stick with “Dr. Pimple Popper” and make fast tracks away from “The Toe Bro.” 

You may now proceed to the bathroom and throw up.

Out with it!

A Lesser Known Gem of a Movie

A couple weeks ago I took up one of those Facebook challenges. Each day (for 10 days) the ‘challenged’ was to show a picture from a movie that had an impact on me personally but leave no reason why or any other explanation. These did not have to be the “Greatest” movies of all time or anything like that, which was fine with me.  I was also supposed to nominate a new Facebook friend each day to take on the same challenge.  That part I refused to do because I don’t like throwing others into those kinds of frays. Silly me, I don’t want to be like the parent who tries to peddle their daughter’s Girl Scout Cookies to co-workers.  No thanks on that.

So as the first 9 days rolled on, my film list included “Network”, “Ordinary People”, “Tender Mercies”, “The Godfather,”  “Good Will Hunting”,  “Citizen Kane”, “Hannah & Her Sisters,” “Brokeback Mountain” & “Waking Ned Devine.”  For different reasons, each of these movies affected me personally and that’s why I proudly posted them. 

But it was my last pick, Demetri Martin’s “Dean” that I wanted to write about or give a further “explanation.” Martin wrote, directed and starred in this movie. Late last year I mentioned this film as a new favorite of mine. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t some mega-selling movie that gobbled up awards or nominations when it was released a couple of years ago.  What matters is what I got out of it personally, how I was impacted by this small movie.

A ‘Comedy About Tragedy’ pretty much sums up this movie

Dean is a twenty something cartoonist trying to get over the recent death of his mother.  Meanwhile Dean’s father (Kevin Kline) is coping with his wife’s passing by selling the family home in Brooklyn and relocating to New York City.  Dean travels to L.A. for a job interview and to meet up with friends there. He then falls for a young woman who introduces her name by saying “It starts with an “N” and ends with ‘icky’.”  Dean and Nicky (played by Gillian Jacobs) have an awkward start to their relationship but they casually bond and click.  Heck, I fell for Nicky’s quirkiness and saw how Dean could do the same.

Dean himself has a dry wit who says funny things to his friends that he just sees as simple truthful observations. I saw his humor and persona aligned with my own.  (We often gravitate towards those who are like us and that would be the case here.)           

There’s more to the story including Dean’s father’s tentative courting of his real estate agent played by Mary Steenburgen. Dean and his dad continue to navigate through their grief, albeit in different ways.  Without spoiling things, the words that end the film are touching without being sappy and wise without being pompous. It’s a perfect close to a story about love, loss and hope.

Nicky and Dean start off in an awkward way but things between them get better.

Dean’s personal revelation culled from his mother’s passing was something I’ve been looking to find for many years.  In fact I was searching so long I actually gave up on locating it.  Here in my middle years not only have I lost most of my family members, I’ve also experienced the deaths of six non-relatives, most at very young ages, who meant as much to me as family.

In Lawrence Kasdan’s 1992 film “Grand Canyon,” Steve Martin’s movie producer character had a great line (told to Kevin Kline, ironically) when he said, “All of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.”  I’m not sure that’s true but in the case of “Dean” I found an answer to the riddle of missing special people in my life.  The impact of that answer makes this movie more than worthy of being on my ‘personally significant’ list.

Check out the trailer for “Dean.”

If you get the chance, catch “Dean” on DVD from your library or on a streaming service, cable, whatever.  I’m not saying you’ll get out of it what I did but you’ll like the movie nonetheless…

The Best Bar Band I Ever Saw

In June of 1979 I graduated from York High School. While most of my friends left Elmhurst to attend downstate or out of state colleges, I stayed home and went to the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.  When my pals came back for their first Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks I was hearing stories about this great band they saw in their college town bars; a quartet called Kool Ray and the Polaroidz.  A name like that makes you think they were a punk or new wave band but these guys played pop and rock hits from the 50’s, 1960’s and early 70’s.  Kool Ray covered Chuck Berry, Elvis, the many bands from the British Invasion era, The Doors, Motown and other familiar oldies.

Students loved to dance to this band whose members weren’t much older than their many fans. They rocked bars, clubs, outdoor festivals and frat and sorority houses.  Kool Ray was becoming well known throughout Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin.  I was hoping they’d travel to the Chicago area so I too could see them but they were doing just fine touring Illinois college towns like Charleston, Champaign-Urbana, Bloomington Normal and other locales.   

Fast forward to January of 1981 when I transferred from College of Du Page to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale to study communications.   After the first week of classes, I saw that Kool Ray and the Polaroidz was playing that Friday and Saturday night at T.J. McFly’s, a popular bar on Carbondale’s main strip.  Friends from my dorm and I went out that first night to see the band and it was a wild and fun time!  Not only did this group play many of my favorite songs of all time, they played them so damn well.

Kool Ray blasted through The Who’s “Can’t Explain”,the Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride”, the Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash” and Marvin Gaye’s “Heard it Through the Grapevine” to name a few. I still remember them doing the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and in the middle of the song, during an extended bass line jam, they infused the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” by singing, “I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.”   These four musicians had it going on.

 During that semester at S.I.U. Kool Ray and the Polaroidz returned to T.J. Mc Fly’s for two night stands (Fridays & Saturdays) about once a month.  I caught them several more times and even got educated on songs I wasn’t familiar with.  They did Marvin Gaye’s soul-pop romp “I’ll Be Doggone” which I never knew before. The same went for Robert Palmer’s “You’re Gonna Get What’s Coming” which to this day is in the top ten of my favorite rock songs. Their cover of Elvis’ “Little Sister” was another money in the bank play.  Kool Ray released an album of cover songs which included an aces run through Roy Orbison’s “Oh Pretty Woman” among other songs.

As I mentioned, this band wasn’t just a group of hacks, they were very capable musicians, young and full of true rock roots credibility.  In 1981, the disco era was on its last legs and while punk or new wave music was making inroads, college students like me appreciated seeing and hearing the best music of the 50’s thru 70’s played back to them live.  Dance floors were always packed and Kool Ray’s players were stars in a small but intense galaxy.

I only lasted at S.I.U. that one semester as too much partying and not enough studying knocked me back home to Elmhurst where I found my academic niche at Elmhurst College .  In time, I was able to score a vinyl single of original material from Kool Ray, it was a pop song called “Day In and Day Out.” Another original was the Beatlesesque cut titled “I Heard You Fell”, which sounded at least as good as the stuff I heard on top 40 radio.  I often played these songs on my college radio shows at Elmhurst College’s WRSE FM. One other Kool Ray original that I never found on vinyl but to this day I could sing the chorus of was “Diane.” “Diane, you blow me away, you’ll never change, you’ll never stay, Diane you’re the one for me!”

One of Kool Ray’s original songs was a pop splash titled “Day In And Day Out”

As time went on, the band made their way to play a club in the south suburbs of Chicago called “Ryan’s” that was once a bowling alley. I saw them there and other places.  In the summer of 1983, I made it a point to catch them play a bar on the north side of Chicago and met the group personally for the first time.  Writing a weekly music column at the time for my hometown newspaper, I wanted to feature Kool Ray and the Polaroidz.  Between sets I asked their road crew if I could have twenty minutes with my favorite unknown rockers and they were more than accommodating.  Until that point I never even knew the names of any of the band members.  There had been a couple of changes in personnel but the mainstays were guitarist Doug Johnson and bass player Dee Pearson. They did most of the singing and were the engines that drove Kool Ray and the Polaroidz.

Doug and Dee had an interesting way of explaining why they focused their shows on playing hit songs from the way back past.  Doug said the band remained big fans of that era of classic rock/pop music. The band saw themselves as curators and preservationists who wanted to play songs that should never be forgotten.  Sure they were paid for the gigs and paid well, but the passion and performing of that music came from somewhere deeper.  These young men were sincere artists and a great show happened every time they were booked to play.

Take a listen to Kool Ray & The Polaroidz’ original song “I Heard You Fell” and enjoy.

I last saw Kool Ray and the Polaroidz in the early winter of 1983 when they played a low key club on the northwest side of Chicago.  It was a snowy cold night and this was one of the few times the band rocked in front of less than a full house of fans.  That didn’t matter to me, I still enjoyed their sets just like that first time down in Carbondale. 

All these years later, I sometimes wonder whatever happened to this band that brought me so many hours of live music enjoyment.  Did the guys move on to so called ‘real jobs’?  Did they pack away their Gibson and Rickenbacker 6 strings and 4 string Washburn basses?  Does anyone know? Kool Ray and the Polaroidz, I wonder where you are…

A Few Things On My Mind


I’m a TV news junkie and there’s a phrase often used during newscasts that continues to drive me nuts.  It’s said when a shooting occurs somewhere and the on-site reporter or news anchor will say, “Shots rang out.”  Shots do not ring out.  Shots or better put, ‘gunshots’ are not bells.  I’ve shot guns before, and they don’t ring.  Not to get over dramatic but a better phrase to say would be “Shots were fired.”  That is a more accurate depiction of what goes on when shootings happen.  Of course here in the Chicago metro area, shots are fired way too often.  I don’t want to get into that issue right now, let’s just use better nomenclature to describe the firings of guns.

Gunshots do NOT ring out. They’re not bells, gunshots are fired.


On the subject of conversations, when you watch movies or TV shows there’s a line used that is totally out of bounds.  I don’t know if anyone in real life EVER said it.  It happens when one TV or movie character has to turn down an invitation to do something or go somewhere, they will say to the person inviting them, “Can you give me a “rain check?”  Now the term “rain check” comes from what was written on major league baseball tickets in case a ballgame was rained out.  I don’t even know if that phrase is still on ticket stubs anymore but more important, I have never, ever in my life heard anyone say, “I can’t make that party, can you give me a rain check?”  Art often imitates life and vice versa but “rain check” is a term that belongs in neither place.  It reminds me of how comedian George Carlin mocked the term “Mary Jane” which was believed to be slang for marijuana.  As Carlin stated, “It’s in all the books, Mary Janes, marijuana,.nobody ever said it!” 

The next time someone in real life turns down an invitation and says “Give me a rain check” will also be the first time.


When using public restrooms has anyone else but me noticed the absence of writing on the walls or the sides of toilet stalls? It’s almost non-existent now and has been for the past few years. Not that I enjoyed reading all the obscene poems or crude drawings of penises on crapper walls or phrases like “The joke is in your hand” scribbled above urinals but it seems graffiti like that has gone the way of 8 track tapes.  My guess is social media and the ability to post your weird thoughts online (often anonymously) has done away with bathroom comments and art.

Graffiti on bathroom walls has gone the way of the 8 track tape. Now we see all those postings in social media.


Lately when watching new movies I’m seeing a trend of showing teenagers bedrooms dressed up with strings of lights and all sorts of extra flair.  I’ve caught it in films like “Love, Simon”, “8th Grade”, “Blockers” and “Midnight Sun” to name a few.  It’s usually the girls’ bedroom that’s glammed with lights and trinkets and since I have no business being in or near teenager’s bedrooms I’ll guess this is the way it is with kids in real life. Maybe? Heck, when I was in high school my bedroom walls were adorned with an action poster of hockey star Phil Esposito, a stage level shot of The Who in concert and a promo poster for Animal House.  And I will confess to a “dig me” wall that had a dozen framed photos of me playing baseball and carrying on in school.

Movies & TV are showing teen bedrooms all lit up with cute lights. When I was that age I had one black light poster but no black light to go with it.


In the first week of the New Year I suffered a severe burn and did it in the most unusual way.  In my morning routine I was carrying a bowl of freshly cooked oat meal to my room. The bowl was on a small plate and as I moved too quickly, the bowl slid off the plate, fell to the floor and splattered on my bare feet.  Most of the piping hot oats landed on top of my right foot.  It burned hard and I quickly flicked the steaming chunks off and winced in pain.  At the time I was so busy cleaning the mess off my floor I didn’t notice how much my right dog ached. Even a cold shower a few minutes later wouldn’t ease the pain and by the end of the day I had four strips of scabbing on the top of my right foot.  I was careful when putting on my sock and shoe on that foot and yet those scabs opened up a couple of times, ouch!  Two weeks later I now have scars where the injury took place and a weird story to share about what happened.

Rather than burn my foot with scalding oatmeal, I’d rather walk on hot coals.

Speaking of feet, most of you know of my phobia of bare feet, especially toes.  Well in about a month there’s a new reality TV show coming to A&E. It follows the work of a podiatrist who helps patients with wonky toes and feet.  The doctor is African American and his show is called “The Toe Bro.”  Just like my oatmeal on foot story, I am NOT making this up.


Recently while watching “The Hunt for Red October” on cable for about the 20th time, I smiled at a phrase I thought would make a good name for a band.  It’s in the scene when Sean Connery’s submarine captain character Marco Ramius directs a crew member to “Re-verify our range to target, one ping only.” The crew member played by Sam Neill questions this directive and Connery again says he wants “One ping only.”  So I was going to suggest “One Ping Only” as a band name. It’s offbeat and clever to those familiar with the “Red October” movie.  So I Googled that phrase online and there’s ALREADY a band called One Ping Only.  They’re a Chicago based group who claim to be “Purveyors of Dive Bar Rock.”  For more information on One Ping Only, check out their website and songs at

Sorry Captain Ramius, there’s already a Chicago based band called ‘One Ping Only.’

The One Ping Only band beat me to that cool moniker.  I’ll keep watching movies in search of other potential names for groups of aspiring musicians.  In fact the other night while watching “Jaws” on cable I came up with another band name that has a nautical tie-in to it.  How about “Ben Gardner’s Boat”?

Try this kit for finding a cool name for a new band.


One More Time- Are You Ready For Some Football?

This year’s Super Bowl pits the Rams versus the Patriots.

Super Bowl 53 is set for Sunday February 3rd in Atlanta.  During the weeks and days before the Super Bowl I really get bugged by one silly quirk.  In radio or TV commercials for food, beer, big screen televisions and other items, if they want to make a reference about the Super Bowl, they have to call it “The Big Game.”  The only way these ads can say the words “Super Bowl” is if they are officially and financially tied to the NFL and the Super Bowl in sponsorship form.  Do you know how stupid that sounds?  Ooh!  “The Big Game!” What COULD they be talking about?  So to the NFL I’m going to stick with just saying I look forward to the SUPER BOWL.  Now go sue me.

Be Square and Stay on the Grid

Every year a few days before the Super Bowl, I get my students to put their initials on a grid of score squares for the game. Then we draw the numbers that will go on the vertical and horizontal axis.  I explain to them how the team’s scores at the end of each quarter will dictate who wins some extra candy treats in school the day after the game.  The sad part of this is most of my middle school students don’t have much interest in watching any sports. While I’ll sound like a ‘get off my lawn’ old man, they’re too goddamn busy playing countless hours of Fortnight or 2K video games.  Still, I hold out hope that they at least acknowledge the presence and of an event that tens of millions of people will be watching.  One of my constant missions is to show my class news clips, current event features and other points of world happenings. I try to open their eyes so they see there’s more to life than moving to another level on MineCraft.

Good luck to my students and their Super Bowl Square picks.

Hot Time in Atlanta

No matter which teams are playing, I enjoy getting sucked into all the fun of every Super Bowl. I’m way into it because the whole phenomenon is over-hyped, over-commercialized and bloated.  In other words, it’s very American!  Back in 2000, I won a full expenses paid trip to the Super Bowl in Atlanta for me and my buddy Marko.  That was the year the St. Louis Rams and their ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ beat the Tennessee Titans, who came just one yard short on the game’s last play to tie the score.  Marko and I spent 3 ½ days partying in Atlanta and did just about everything you could do during Super Bowl Week.  On Super Bowl Eve we took part in a game that involved flicking folded dollar bills at some strangers covered in whipped cream.  Good times.

The 2000 Super Bowl ended with the Titans falling just a yard short of tying the game.

The End of Eating Season.

I once heard a sports radio host say he felt relieved that the day after the Super Bowl was approaching. Why?  Because he said that was the end of “Eating Season.”  He aptly described how for many of us, the season of culinary over indulgence begins at Thanksgiving then segues into Christmas holiday parties, office bashes and family events.  Then there’s the lead up to New Year’s Eve, not to mention all the late season football (pro and college) that’s watched. Next you’ve got the three rounds of NFL play-offs and then the capper of all pig-outs of chips, dips, nachos, sliders, pizzas and plenty of booze, yes the Super Bowl itself!  Forget New Year’s Resolutions, the day after the last NFL game of the year is a good time to re-assess one’s physical shape and what to do to change bad eating habits.

The day after the Super Bowl ends ‘Eating Season.’

Not So Fast S.I.

One more point on this time of the year.  About two weeks after the Super Bowl, the release of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue happens.  There’s all the drooling over tanned super models hanging out in exotic locations, posing in barely there pieces of mesh, string and dental floss.  Often a strategically placed splatter of brushed sand is used to cover up a naughty bit or two.  A few years ago, so called ‘plus sized models’ like Ashley Graham broke through the teeny bikini glass ceiling and appeared in the swimsuit issue. These non-twig-like models struck a critical victory for 99% of the women in the world who are of normal size and eat a diet that consists of more than lemon slices and boiled kale.  Well I just read that this year’s Swimsuit issue will not be released until mid-May.  The idea being it’s best to promote swimwear and fun in the sun when we’re not in the dead of winter.  When that swimsuit issue is on newsstands I’ll have further comments on it. 

The annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue won’t be out until May.

So enjoy the Super Bowl, good luck to my students who sign in on game score squares, use your imagination on that dollar bill flicking game, prepare for the end of “Eating Season” and be patient for the S.I. Swimsuit Issue, it’s only three months away.  

P.S.  If you’re betting on the game, take the Rams and the points.

Remembering Brian ‘Bubba’ McCarthy

Late last month a friend told me Brian McCarthy, a former baseball teammate, was very ill with cancer and the outlook was not good.  This was stunning news and I kept Brian and his family in a morning prayer/reflection I take part in every day. Sadly, Brian McCarthy passed away last weekend. 

Brian McCarthy’s senior photo (1980)

Whenever someone near my own age who I know passes, I get numb. Brian was one year younger than me so yes, once again I’m numb. Numb with disbelief, numb with shock and numb with hurt.   It’s a reminder that as young as we all may feel, we are mortal. By this age most of us have been through these kinds of situations but familiarity to them doesn’t soothe the ache.  Still, my primary thoughts are with Brian’s family and his many friends. I wish them all only peace and the ability to cope through this sad time and beyond.  

Now from what I remember of Brian from back in the day, if he was here right now, he’d probably say “Hawk (my nickname from way back) cut the maudlin crap and lighten up!”   O.K. Brian, for you, I can handle that.  So here are a few of my memories of one Brian “Bubba” Mc Carthy.

I first knew Bubba from our Little League baseball days.  He was on the Pirates, I was on the Orioles. We both were pitchers. When playing ball, Bubba was always blowing huge bubbles from the massive hunks of Bazooka or Bubs Daddy gum that were jammed in his mouth.  In fact our team referred to him as “Bubbles” because of the constant pink bubbles he’d blow during a game. Maybe that’s where the nickname ‘Bubba’ formed. I never asked.

Bubba was a damn good ball player and steady all-star for his team.  One distinct memory was when we played the Pirates in a single elimination tournament game at old Elm Field. That field was located where the Elmhurst Portillo’s restaurant now stands and it was the only place in town with brick dugouts.  I was pitching out of a final inning jam, two outs, bases loaded and my Orioles were up by one run. Bubba was up to bat and worked me to a 3 and 2 count. I sailed a high fastball just out of the strike zone that he swung and missed at. Game over, we won, the Pirates went home. Whew! Not that this mattered much, we Orioles got eliminated a few days later by those pesky damn Mets.

Fast forward to high school baseball.  Starting with sophomore year, I made each York team as a pitcher. Bubba was on the freshman squad and played all 4 years for the Dukes.  We finally became teammates on the York summer league team of ’78 and then during the Spring season of ’79.   Bubba was a steady pitcher mixing a decent fastball with sidearm curves and really good location. During that summer season he was our go to starter and in that spring season, a reliable reliever putting out run scoring threats and saving games for us starters. 

Brian ‘Bubba’ McCarthy in the middle of his team of baseball Dukes.

Despite being a year younger, Bubba would sometimes lead me. He showed me a good hideout during boring baseball work-outs.  While the rest of the team was taking batting practice, we’d ditch into a football storage room underneath the gym stairs and lounge on padded tackling dummies, exchanging lines from “The Honeymooners” and other jokes.

During pregame work-outs Bubba and I would hit fly balls to our outfielders and see who could sky the highest pop-ups with our long skinny fungo bats.  Once the games started we’d sit in the bullpen beyond the left field home run fence and do a running play by play /color commentary of the contest at hand.  

As anyone who knew him will tell you, Bubba McCarthy was a very funny guy. He was always quick with a dry or sarcastic comment that would crack up everyone, including coach Erl Ellingsen and our summer ball coach Dave Trayser.     

During my last semester at York we were in the same Probability and Statistics class.  Freshman baseball coach Mr. Aggen was our teacher and the first 15 minutes of every class would be held up while we talked about sports.  Mr. Aggen finally decided to give Bubba and I the first 5 minutes of each class to give a formal sports update to the class on what was happening with Chicago teams.  I worked part time at White Castle and brought in a couple of paper hats for us to wear during our in class reports I called the White Castle Sports Update.  At the end of the semester we had a White Castle party with my mom making a burger run and delivering several bags of sliders for our class to munch on. 

Whenever we’d talk about the fine cuisine at White Castle Bubba would say a funny line like, “I should grab a few, I haven’t taken a healthy one in a while.”  A glib line like that was his specialty!

It was great to have someone like Bubba as a co-conspirator for my own shenanigans.  That last baseball season at York included several beer fueled poker parties happening at my house on weekends.  Bubba was always on hand for the cards and the cracking of jokes and camaraderie. 

After graduating York, moving on to college and respective careers I lost track of Bubba McCarthy but heard from mutual friends that he was married and doing well.  That was great to know.   I always smiled when thinking of the fun I had with him.

Bubba, you were always aces in my book, and I’ll let you have the last word on this post.  This is a direct quote that you wrote in my senior yearbook: “Drink beer and eat sliders, and good luck in college.”  

Drink beer.

Eat sliders.

Better Late Than Never Pt. 1

I used to be on top of every hot trend and happening in pop culture. As I settle into middle age my ‘hip quotient’ has dimmed somewhat and I’m O.K. with that. Anyway, here are a few things I was admittedly late to the party for:

For a period of time last year Wendy’s did a $1 per Double Stacker burger sale.  Until this money saving promotion happened, I never had eaten a double stacker.  Warning, they are cheap and very easy to get addicted to.  My goal is to stay away from Double Stackers in 2019.  So far, so good.  

Last month I finally figured out how to use my Xfinity DVR which has been part of my cable package since late 2017. You’d think that a former radio geek/producer/audio file like me would be all over modern technology. Not true! Just catch me using the microwave oven, it’s like watching a monkey doing a math problem.  I’ve always been a more old school writer and creative type. However, now that I’ve mastered the DVR, I’m a TV show recording maniac. 

While it came out in limited release in 2017, I only caught up to the warm witty movie “Dean” last year. It’s one that is now locked into my DVR storage.  “Dean” is about a young cartoonist who is working through the death of his mother and occupies himself by trying to stop his dad from selling their home.  He then finds love in L.A.  Try “Dean” out, it’s an under the radar treat and one I enjoy watching over and over.

Check out the trailer for ‘Dean’. I guarantee you a witty, dry humor funny and touching experience.

I don’t subscribe to Netflix because if I did, I’d probably be glued to my TV 24/7 and never leave the house.  So contrary to the photo below, I have not yet seen the Netflix offering “Bird Box.”  I have friends who subscribe so I will catch up to this movie in time.  The sensory issues of the ‘don’t take off your blindfold’ plot remind me of last year’s fine thriller “A Quiet Place” and also a lesser known movie from 2015 called “It Follows.”  If you want to be creeped out, find a way to watch “It Follows.”

Anyway, thanks to this Sandra Bullock starring film, people are now on social media doing “Bird Box Challenges,” walking around with blindfolds on banging into walls and falling down stairs..  Some are even trying to drive cars with their peepers covered!  So now the “Bird Box” producers had to put out notices asking their fans to stop attempting such dangerous stunts. 

Eating Tide pods, snorting condoms up the nose & spitting them out your mouth, swallowing cinnamon and the dance to the “In My Feelings” song challenge are just a few of the other idiotic stunts pulled by goofs with too much time on their hands. We live in a participatory world full of knuckleheads who are eager to be temporary YouTube stars and frequent patients in the E.R.   Social media mongrels will sniff up the butt of the latest ‘thing’ to do and the “Bird Box Challenge” is just the latest. 
I’m just glad Vincent Van Gogh isn’t around to star on YouTube, otherwise people would be lopping off their ears.

Since leaving country radio years ago I only check into the newer offerings from Nashville on rare occasions.  That explains why I missed out on Carrie Underwood’s 2015 single “Smoke Break” until late last year.   I always liked Carrie’s voice and this song is without a doubt my favorite of hers.  Great lyrics that anyone who’s been over worked or over taxed can identify with.

Enjoy the lyrics video for Carrie Underwood’s fine country anthem “Smoke Break.”

I’m only a year or so late on this next ‘catch up’ but I recently heard the music of country singer-songwriter Ashley Mc Bryde on CBS TV.  Wow! She’s like a mix of Miranda Lambert, Wynonna Judd and Brandy Clark, in other words REAL country music.  Nominated for a Grammy this year, Ashley Mc Bryde’s climb to stardom has an interesting back story and my next blog will address more about that.  She had plenty of naysayers and I’ve got more to say on that.  Until then, here’s the link to the title cut of her debut album “Girl Goin’ Nowhere.”

For those who say Country music isn’t ‘country enough’ anymore. Just click into Ashley McBryde.

One more item on the music beat, one of my favorite things about surfing You Tube is finding songs that were hits for bands that were then covered by other groups.  There are also plenty of unknown aspiring singers who can do justice to well worn songs. This year on my Facebook page I’m going to post up some of the better covers I’ve heard.  With that said, I’ll close off this first blog of 2019 with the Jay Hawks doing up the old Grand Funk single “Bad Time.” 

The Jayhawks have plenty of great original songs but they also can do justice to an old pop hit like Grand Funk’s “Bad Time.”

Last Song People! (For the year that is)

This will be my last blog of 2018 as I look towards some fun things to happen in the New Year.

Come 2019 I will be self-publishing my media memoir “Raised on the Radio.”  Yeah, yeah, you all have heard this from me before but I can safely say the entire manuscript (all 81,000 plus words) is finally completed to my satisfaction. During this past summer I realized what was missing was the tone of the book. It needed to be amped up to express how much fun I had when in radio.  To put it bluntly, as I wrote in it, “Working in big city radio was a fucking blast!”  During the month of November I tuned up that tone to where it belonged and finished the final edit.

While writing “Raised on the Radio’ I adopted the late Glenn Frey’s mantra,‘Perfection is not an accident.’  The book is now as perfect as I can make it and once formatted for download and an online cover is made, it’ll be on sale. Look for it to be out this coming spring and you’ll be able to buy it from Amazon.

Just so you know I have other books to write too.  My next project will be a trilogy of fictional short stories that center on York High school in contemporary times.  I think this set of tales will happen much faster because I have a laser-like focus on what’s going to happen in those stories.

Speaking of York High School, later in 2019 I will be going to my 40th (yes, you read that right) my 40th York High School Reunion!   I feel like it was just yesterday when the York administration handed me a diploma and ‘participation trophy.’  The only reunion I missed was our 10th,because it seemed like we were barely out of college and since I still saw many of my former classmates during that time, a reunion felt premature. Sometimes I joke that going to class reunions results in glasses of booze being thrown in my face from the former high school girlfriends whose hearts I broke.  In reality, that’s not true! I’ll write more about the 40th reunion of the class of 1979 in the coming months.

The York High School Class of 1979 will have a 40th reunion this year.

In the New Year I’d like to hit up some karaoke nights and want to check out the places that host house bands that play live to whatever song you want to sing. I’m also culling personal writings & jokes that I’d like to try out at an open mike for comedy.  I could picture my stand-up special being called “No Bare Feet Allowed!”

Yeah, my barefoot phobia has yet to subside but I will be making my regular rounds to East End Pool in the summer.  Come March I’ll order my new swim pass and a short couple months later I’ll be reunited with swim pals like Miriam, Barb, Jim, Melissa, Connie, Desiree her husband Steve and others.

 I’m looking forward to another summer at East End Pool.

Come 2019 while not making specific resolutions I do want to treat myself better.  There are times my closet could do with some new clothes, nicer shoes, etc.  I often put things like that off but it’s time to enjoy some extras, because if not now, then when?  I do for others whenever possible but too often doing for my own self takes a backseat and that should change. Also, I may be looking to buy a new car (my first in many years) and I’m making a vow to take better care of my yard. More frequent lawn trims and tending to the flowers beds and such.

One thing  I’d like to change is my cell-phone. I hate having a complex android phone and want to switch it out for a simple Cricket flip phone that takes calls and allows me to text.  That’s all I want!  I don’t need all that other stuff so if anyone wants to put a simple bid for a Samsung Galaxy 3 phone, let me know!

Thanks to the perks of my radio career, for over 20 years I saw countless concerts, most of them for free.  That left me kind of‘live showed out’ for a long time.  Now I want to get out and see live music again. I’ll just have to brace for the fact that I now have to pay to get in.  The first show I want to see is Elton John in February.  The Allstate Arena is a 15 minute drive from my house and there’s no reason to not see one of my all time favorite performers.

I want to get out to see Elton John in concert at the Allstate Arena in February of 2019.

So now we wind down these last couple of weeks of 2018. I’m going to be seeing several new films in theaters which I’ll give mini-reviews on my Facebook page. Of course there’s Christmas to celebrate and then we move on to a New Year. So until I start new blogging, I want to wish all of you who read my silly ramblings the best holidays possible and to have a healthy and Happy New Year!


Richard Speck is Dead! (Burp!)

Here is an excerpt from my memoir “Raised on the Radio” which will be released in the spring of 2019.

This story takes place when I was the Executive Producer for the Murphy in the Morning Show at WKQX FM, Q-101.  Lots of fun things happened with Murf and this is just one example of that.

(Robert Murphy, the host and overseer of on-air boozing)

In early December of 1991, our program director Bill Gamble suggested the Murphy in the Morning Show do a “Drink and Drive” public safety bit on the air.  It’s a standard radio thing where one or two show members drink alcohol all morning live on the air and keep getting measured for their blood alcohol content with a breathalyzer device.  It’s part stunt and part public service.

I called the Illinois State police and arranged for a uniformed trooper to come to the radio station with a breathalyzer machine. Promotions hired a bartender to mix the drinks from a portable bar cart that was set up in the studio.  It was agreed that Danger Dan Walker and newsman Dave Mc Bride would do the boozing, keeping track of how much  alcohol they downed. Murf would stay cocktail free to keep the radio ship from running into the rocks and shallows.  Eleanor Mondale was noncommittal on whether she’d be drinking.

The day before this drinking show, Gamble told Mc Bride and I that if some serious story like a plane crash or a deadly mudslide crossed the newswires, I was to take over the reading of the news.  We didn’t need a normally straight arrow newsman, half in the bag and slurring through information on a fire at a nursery school.  A sober person would need to handle that kind of news.

(Day Drinking commences. L-R Robert Murphy, Eleanor Mondale and Danger Dan Walker)

So on the morning of the cocktail consuming, Dave McBride started with an Old Fashioned, Dan Walker had some Gin or Vodka concoction and Eleanor was drinking lemonade.  As Dave and Dan kept downing drinks, the state trooper measured their blood alcohol levels on the breathalyzer. He also answered Murphy’s questions on the testing procedure.

(Did Q-101 Newsman Dave McBride down too many ‘Old Fashioned’ cocktails?)

About halfway through the show Dave spotted breaking news that famed spree killer Richard Speck just died of a heart attack in Illinois’ Stateville Prison.  Back in 1966, during one horrific night Speck killed eight student nurses in a Chicago apartment. He spared one woman who hid under a bed and it was speculated he lost count of how many people were in the apartment.  Richard Speck was sentenced to death but that eventually got reduced to life in prison.

(Spree killer Richard Speck at the time of his arrest in 1966)

Dave McBride was pretty buzzed and wanted me to handle the news on Speck’s death.  “Why?” I asked.  Dave noted because this is what Bill Gamble said about serious news, that a sober person should read the bulletin.  I laughed and said everyone is going to be thrilled that Speck’s dead!  Outside of mass murderer John Wayne Gacy, he’s the most hated man in Illinois. I told Dave not to worry about it and have fun delivering the news on the dead killer.

So on his next newscast Dave McBride, sounding quite wobbly, reported “Richard Speck is dead.  (Pause) And I’m feeling pretty good about that!”  The whole show busted out laughing. He shared some of the details but we were all lost in the delivery of this story.  The next newscast Dave reported “Richard Speck died today.” Then clinking the ice in his glass by the microphone he said, “That calls for another!” Another round of loud laughs followed.  I think his last comment on the Speck death was, “Anyone feel bad about this? Because I don’t!” More belly laughs were heard.  This was classic Dave McBride.  The booze loosened him up enough to take a heinous dead criminal story and make it something hilarious.

(Even co-host Eleanor Mondale was asked to blow into the breathalyzer)

Near the end of the show after tallying up the cocktails, Mc Bride and Danger Dan Walker were found to be legally drunk. They easily blew past .10 on the breathalyzer which at the time was the legal limit for blood alcohol content while driving.  Also, our bartender covertly slipped vodka in the lemonades Eleanor drank and she crossed the .10 line without realizing it.  Dave and Eleanor both lived in the city so they took cab rides home after that show.  Danger Dan was driven home by engineer Captain Jim but not before throwing up in Jim’s car.

(Still buzzed after the show. L-R Dave Mc Bride, Danger Dan Walker and our friendly Illinois State Trooper who deemed both of these guys to drunk to drive)

Ever since that drunken morning show, anytime I hear news of a famous killer dying in prison, like when Charles Manson took the dirt nap, I think of Dave McBride’s comments on Richard Speck and say, “And I’m feeling pretty good about that!”


Coping With The Holidays After A Loved One Passes Away

As my Thanksgiving vacation from school began Friday afternoon 11/16 the first thing I did was go to the wake of a co-worker’s father.  The next afternoon I attended the touching memorial service and reception for the wife of a longtime friend.   Neither passing was unexpected but that doesn’t take away the pain the surviving family members are experiencing.

One thought that ran through my mind was how these losses of life took place right at the start of the holiday season.  I experienced this same sad timing four years ago when my sister Marianne died two weeks before Thanksgiving. Two years before, it was my Aunt Lois who passed and three other people I personally knew also died in mid to late November.

As anyone who’s experienced the deaths of loved ones knows, the first year of every milestone/marker is especially tough to handle.  Be it birthdays, anniversaries and cherished dates of note, there are adjustments and a ‘new normal’ to cope with.

Believe it or not,  25 years ago the movie “Schindler’s List” was part of my coping with the loss of my father.  My dad was diagnosed with terminal metastatic lung cancer in late May of 1993 and he passed away peacefully surrounded by his family three months later.

Two months after that, my sister Marianne, her husband Jack and their two kids moved to Albuquerque New Mexico when Jack accepted a work transfer from the post office.  This meant for the upcoming holidays it was just going to be me and my mother and no other family around.  We had relatives in Arizona and Ohio but here in Illinois, we were on our own.  And we had no desire to travel anywhere.

Thanksgiving for us was low key and we moved on to buy and mail gifts to Marianne’s family in preparation for Christmas.  My mom and I got presents for each other but made no special plans for the Christmas holiday.  We were stuck on what to do.

Finally we came up with the idea to go out on Christmas Eve to the Water Tower Place movie theater to see you guessed it, “Schindler’s List.”  The movie was not playing in the suburbs and I reserved our tickets by phone.  So on the night before the world marked the birth of Jesus, my mom and I sat in a sold-out theater watching the stark and depressing film that depicted Jews in concentration camps trying to survive the holocaust.  Looking back, I bet at this Christmas Eve screening my mom and I were probably the only gentiles in the place.

Not exactly a ‘get in the holiday spirit movie’ we spent Christmas Eve watching “Schindler’s List.”

Next on Christmas morning, my mom and I planned to visit our family’s cemetery plot and decorate the graves of my father and his father.  We drove out early to Mt. Greenwood cemetery.  This would also be the first time we’d see my dad’s tombstone in person as it had been installed just a few weeks before.  A light snow covered all the markers and we brought a broom to locate my dad’s last resting place.  I found his stone marker with the first sweep of the broom and my mom and I burst into tears.  My dad had been gone for four months but seeing his gravestone like that drove home the permanence of his passing that much harder.   It was an awful experience on what is supposed to be a joyous holiday.

After dusting off the snow, we posted up wreaths & trimmings on our family plot.  Some prayers were said then we walked back to my car and made the thirty minute trek home.   Keep in mind my mom and I had yet to open any presents or make any Christmas greeting phone calls to family members.  It was ten o’clock in the morning and both of us were already physically and emotionally drained.  And yet, there was STILL Christmas to celebrate.  Ugh.

Spending Christmas morning at Mt. Greenwood Cemetery wasn’t the brightest idea I ever had.

Somehow my mom and I soldiered on through the rest of the day. We made the phone calls, opened gifts and had a nice meal of chicken and vegetable trimmings.  That year we learned how nobody makes up the rules or guidelines on how to handle those first holidays without loved ones.  You do what you do and learn what works and what doesn’t. That first set of holidays without my dad was gut wrenching but they got better after that.  In fact, the next year my mom and I spent a wonderful Christmas in Ohio visiting her sister, father and my cousin Linda.

My mother passed away very suddenly in October of 2009 but for all our Christmases from 1995 on we always spent part of that day seeing a new movie in a local theater.  I still go out and see a  new film every Christmas day. One year the flick I caught was “The Wolf of Wall Street.” The crazy scenes of drug use and debauchery in it weren’t exactly in the spirit of the holidays.   This year’s Christmas day movie choice will probably be the Dick Cheney biopic ‘Vice.”

Anyway, to show how things can come full circle, I noticed that in early December “Schindler’s List” is coming back to movie theaters to mark the 25th anniversary of its initial release.  It was and always will be director Steven Spielberg’s greatest cinematic achievement and I’m going to watch it. But this time I’ll see it BEFORE Christmas Eve.

This blog is dedicated to all the loved ones who are no longer with us.  We miss them all the time and especially at the holidays.