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The [Wednesday] Papers

I had a fun night last night, and there's a connection to Monday's column, so I'm going to tell whoever cares to read this about it.

I have a high school friend, Mike - actually met him in 8th grade, which was junior high back in our suburban Bloomington, Minnesota school district - who has lived in Evanston (and Chicago before that) for just about as long as I've been here. Maybe longer!

I also have a college friend, Chris, who moved to Evanston within months of me moving to Chicago.

It was all coming together!

But the truth is, it never occurred to me to introduce Mike and Chris to each other. I don't know why. I've kept in touch with both over the years. It's weird, now that I think about it.

Mike and Chris found each other anyway, though. They've recently seen each other around at various doings in Evanston, and particularly, I think, at Sunday night rat hockey, and they became pals. Then they discovered they both knew me.

So Mike got the ball rolling and got us together last night and my worlds collided. It was glorious.

For dual ease of transportation, we chose to meet at the Independence Tap, though none of us had been there before. It did not disappoint. My walk-in music was by Pink Floyd, and the jukebox was on-point all night - especially with the Dead, seeing as how Chris was the one who introduced them to me. The only thing missing musically was Rush; Mike used to make me Rush (and a bunch of other) tapes in high school. I still have them.

The bartender told dumb bartender jokes that were nonetheless a cut above the average, and even chided us for nostalgically ordering Hamm's, which he took to be a Wisconsin beer. It's not; it was founded in St. Paul and is now a marketing play by Chicago-based MillerCoors, but that's okay. He's a Cheesehead.

(In another piece of magic, it turned out that the bartender and I had a common acquaintance. Worlds colliding, Jerry!)

I'm sure many of you have had nights like this, so you know how golden they are. We caught up on new times, reminisced about old times, recycled old familiar stories that became fresh again - and sometimes muddled - with the passing of time, and recovered lost memories jarred loose by what we determined were the magical properties of Hamm's. "Hamm's Remembers!" became our rallying cry. (Seriously. Every time I took a swig, it seemed a new obscure reference rose from the depths of my brainpan into my consciousness. I'm going to call Hamm's Marketing later today. Hamm's Remembers!)

* * *

In Monday's column, I mentioned that me and my college friends road-tripped from Minnesota to Madison twice a year - in the fall for the football game or Halloween, and in the spring for the Mifflin Street Block Party. Chris was one of those friends and he filled in some blanks.

I had forgotten that we usually stayed with a friend of Chris's from high school who was going to school in Madison, Kim. Kim!

Well, in another magical connection, Kim now lives in . . . Evanston.

Chris also recalled the Mifflin Street brownies he ate one year that were laced with . . . something. He just sat in the back of the car on the way home and didn't say a word one trip - now we know why. He was just trying to maintain, man.

It's funny that Chris remembered the car we were in that time, because the first thing both of them asked me about at the bar last night was my North Star Green 1975 Camaro, which I bought in high school and drove through college until it gave out. I loved that car more than I've loved most things in my life, and you better believe that it had a 350 V8 ("Put a 350 in it!" I mean, pure Wooderson), with what we would now call "fat" Jensen speakers in the back that enveloped you in the music by propelling forward along the curving low-rise roof, then dropping down on you when it bounced off the windshield and swallowed you up.

Mike recalled taking a photo of me with my car on a hill with nothing but sky behind us back in the day. "Turn the wheel!" he said. And that made the photo.

(I thought about digging it out to bring last night, but ran out of time. I'll scan it in here later.)

Chris knew that car, too, from our college days. Later, I had an updated version of a sort: a black 1992 Nissan 240SX. I also loved that car more than most things in life.

Mike, too, was referenced in a way on Monday. He was on my floor hockey team here in Chicago, Moe's Tavern, for a number of seasons. He brought me a present last night: an old ball from floor hockey he dug out of his sock drawer that had "Moe's" written on it.

Hockey is a big thread in our lives. I was always a terrible skater, but Chris played high school hockey and still plays men's hockey (and he's still a stalwart stay-at-home defenseman who takes pride in his outlet passes). Mike, as I said, still laces 'em up for rat hockey in Evanston.

In high school and my first couple of years in college, I worked in the PR department of the Minnesota North Stars, and got free tickets to every game when I worked in the press box. Those tickets went to my friends when my parents didn't use them.

In college, me and Chris and our circle of friends - the self-described Knuckleheads - played intramural hockey, and I still remember what a thrill it was for me to jump over the boards at the original Mariucci Arena like so many famed Gophers and future-Olympians and NHLers had before. Me!

My teammates had almost all played high school hockey, which was something I could only cheer from afar. And here I was on the Mariucci ice with them! I loved it so much. My greatest moment, since I was, um, not good, was when I was standing in front of the net and got blasted in the helmet by a wicked slap shot. It knocked me over. Everyone else got quiet but I was laughing my head off while flat on my back, because it was so great. I yelled, "Play on!" and they did. Because that's hockey.

* * *

Some of you may know that a core member of Beachwood Nation - the bar, not the site, though there is obviously overlap - killed himself a few weeks ago. We had a memorial for him at Nick's Beergarden in Wicker Park. It's such an old cliche - wait, is that redundant? - that it often takes tragedies like a death to bring old friends (or families) together, but that doesn't make it less true. The night we held for Joe was absolutely terrible because of the circumstances, but also absolutely classic. I'm lucky to have friends who are fucking hilarious and fun and great hangs and nice at the same time. It's too bad everyone is so scattered now, but apparently that's the way it goes. I never understood it, but whatever.

In the case of Chris and Mike, it wasn't tragedy that brought us back together, it was hockey! Sort of. I just know that, for me, there's nothing better in life than hanging with funny friends delivering the comedy over beers and tunes. And no place in my life has been a better place to do it than the old Beachwood Inn, even with all its dysfunction and soap opera, because there was plenty of that too.

Many of you have similar friends, and have or have had your own Beachwoods. I'm not claiming a unique experience. In fact, though our individual experiences are special, the general experience is pretty universal. But these are the experiences, too, that are not nurtured or valued enough in society, because people are too busy valuing money. That's not me. As much of a hardened journalist as I might be, I've also always been a "Is this great or what?!" kind of guy. What makes me mad are the people who ruin what a good time we should all be having.

I'll never forget one day when I was at the Tribune and an editor chided me across the newsroom saying, "What are you so happy about?" Now, those of you who have read me but not met me might not think of me as a "happy" journalist. That's because I know how to do my job. But something I never understood about the Trib - and this was in the early '90s, though I doubt it's changed and I also doubt it's only slightly worse than other newsrooms - is why everyone there was so unhappy. Check that - I do understand, and it was mostly because it was a dysfunctional newsroom with lousy management and wicked office politics. But even still, who should be having more fun on the planet than reporters at the Trib - or reporters anywhere, really, despite the challenges. In fact, understanding what's so great about what newspapers could be is exactly the kind of understanding that should have led to more newsroom involvement in digital innovation and stands against corporate greed both back in the day when, instead, everyone was sticking their heads in the sand and selfishly clinging to old ways. Now it's simply too late for many of them. But then, there's a reason Pete Hamill (actually, Paul Sann) used to say, "Newspapers will always break your fucking heart."

Anyway, I don't know that I was particularly happy that day in the newsroom, because that's not really my style, but I was probably just enjoying something that I was doing that day - like, my job. I was also happy to be there - until I wasn't, partly because no one else seemed to be.

Maybe that's why I always despair a bit, too, whenever I have a great night like I had last night, because as we know, the good times can't last. I've never understood why, though. It can always be great! Why is everyone so miserable? I mean, I know why some of us are angry. We ought to be angry. I'm apparently "perpetually seething," according to one local columnist. But I'm angry at the bastards, as any good journalist should be, not angry as a general emotional state. As a general emotional state, I'm perpetually rocking.

I'll just blame rich people, because basically everything bad in society is their fault. Those are the people we cover - people of wealth and power. People in a position to ruin what's great about life in their own pathological pursuit of - usually - money, or whatever else it takes to fill the holes in their souls.

That's what's so maddening, to use a current example, about the Lincoln Yards project. Among its many problems, the plan threatens one of the city's special places, the Hideout. The Hideout is a place the city should nurture - even if by just leaving it alone. It's not the kind of place that is important to a developer whose sole interest, believe me, is bringing home an absolutely huge payday. The developer's interests should come last in this equation. The developer does not care about you. The developer is not interested in those special nights you have with your friends and a beer bear.

It's an old story seemingly on repeat forever. These people - we might call them "the rich" - are (almost) all the same. They don't see the value of nurturing neighborhoods, they see the value in exploiting them. They don't care about ballpark rooftops or artists enclaves or building a behemoth of a luxury condo building next to your quaint hovel. [This is bad parallel construction, I know; the first two things are things we want preserved but the last is something bad. If I was editing this piece, I'd ask for a change.] They don't get what truly makes humans connect in important ways, because for them the only connections are transactional. And maybe they aren't human. Unfortunately, they are in the majority.

They are why the good times can't last. Connect the dots! They have less heart than a cartoon bear that was probably designed to make beer appealing to kids. Beer that is now produced by a nasty corporation, just like the music on the jukebox we listened to last night is distributed by a nasty corporation. But it's still ours, all of it. Because we make it our own. It's like someone once said of baseball: It can't be killed, no matter how hard the owners try. (You might say the same of newspapers, except they clearly can be killed. Journalism, though, will survive. Not the same thing.)

* * *

Anyway, the Hamm's bear plays hockey. I love that bear, even if MillerCoors owns him now. In my mind, Hamm's is still from the land of pines, lofty balsams; brewed where nature works her wonder. It's a pretty awful beer, truth be told. But so awfully good.


Editor's Note: I rewrote the end tonight. I thought it went off the rails, it was really bugging me. So this is version 2.0. (Actually, I kept futzing with it, so it's more like versions 2.0 through 6.0.)


New on the Beachwood today . . .

The Ex-Cub Factor
Featuring: Kosuke Fukudome, Adam Warren, Dan Vogelbach, Luke Farrell, Isaac Paredes and Rich Hill.


Impeachment And Insubordination
"If Trump's abusive orders to senior officials were actually implemented as policy, they would support multiple articles of impeachment," Joshua Matz and Laurence Tribe write. "The widespread practice of ignoring his tweets, statements, and even direct commands - or treating them as merely advisory - has thus saved Trump from potentially dire political consequences."


FCC Should Revoke Sinclair's Licenses If They Lied To It, Which They Did
"[P]roviding false statements to the Commission has been a basis for license revocation since the inception of the Communications Act in 1934," the commission's administrative law judge just noted.


The Illinois Clone
"I am a plant physiologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign . . ."



What's up with people walking around with a plus sign on their foreheads in downtown today? from r/chicago





Raining in Chicago/Walter Robinson.


A sampling.







The Beachwood McRibTipLine: Situational.


Posted on March 6, 2019

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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