Man, I’ve gotta do that more often.
Actually, it wasn’t as much of a sabbatical as you might think, since I produced three ESPN columns during the blog’s 19-day hiatus (in case you missed them, they’re here, here, and here) and will have another one running either tomorrow or Thursday. In short: Vacation my ass.
Still, I’m not gonna lie: It was nice to be able to spend an afternoon at a bar (or at the movies, or shopping for new eyeglasses, or kayaking, or buying a new laptop, or working in the garden, or napping, or looking at illustrations for a possible new tattoo, among several other recent midday activities) without worrying about exactly how many e-mails from y’all were piling up back at the office. By the same token, however, I’m looking forward to getting back into the uni-related swing of things now that my batteries have been recharged. Or to put it another way, yes, I missed you too.
I did manage to sneak in a little getaway, as Kirsten and I took advantage of a cheap fare and scooted off on a four-day jaunt to Chicago, where we had the high privilege of meeting The Man himself, Mr. Robert Marshall. I’ll get to him in a minute, but first here are some highlights from the rest of the trip (with special thanks to Kirsten, who was a kick-ass travel buddy and also took most of the photos you’re about to see):
• We ate a lot — like, a lot, including stops at Superdawg, Marie’s Tavern, Hot Doug’s, Honey 1 BBQ (sorry, no photo, although this shot I found on someone else’s Flickr page sums it up pretty well), several excellent breakfast joints, and probably a few other places that I’ve forgotten about. Unfortunately, my favorite barbecue joint, Lem’s, was closed for vacation. Lazy fucks — who goes on a vacation in late August?!
• Chicago is too close to Milwaukee for me to resist, so we spent one day on a quick side trip to my favorite city (thanks for that pin, Kirsten). While we were there we ate at the always-wonderful Jake’s Deli, checked out the amazing botanical gardens at the Domes, met up with my friends Julie and Johnie at Koz’s Mini-Bowl, went to an excellent Friday-night fish fry at Fritz’s, ate custard at Leon’s (not as good as Kopp’s, don’tcha know, but so much prettier at night), visited my favorite bar (although Marcy wasn’t working, so things didn’t feel quite right), and stayed at a motel with lots of very nice signage. Now that’s a day well spent.
• Speaking of signage, Chicago is such an amazing town for signs of all sorts. Yes, there’s tons of great neon, but even the big signs in the grocery store windows that say “Seedless Grapes, 29¢/lb” seem to be rendered with more hand-painted craft than the ones here in NYC. I became mildly obsessed with these grocery signs during the course of our trip, but somehow I neglected to take any photos of them. Man, that always happens to me — either I’m taking too many photos or I’m taking none. Now why is that?
• On our final day in town we had brunch with my buddy Bob Weston. I liked his hot dog shirt so much that I bought one for myself as soon as we got home. (If you want one too, it’s available here.) Then we spent the rest of the day looking at famous buildings and hanging out in Millenium Park (yes, we spent our obligatory few minutes gawking at the bean, which is pretty damn cool).
But the highlight of the trip was definitely meeting Señor Marshall, who put together a big back yard party and cornhole tourney for the occasion. This was my first time ever tossing the bags, and I’d like to think I acquitted myself reasonably well. Robert, who likes to give everyone their own nom de cornhole, tried to name me Bagabond, but I renamed myself the Brown-Bagger.
It was a swell afternoon all around, as we got to meet Robert’s better half, the lovely Katherine Perryman (that’s her in the center, flanked by my longtime Chi-town buddy Tim Adams and Tim’s galpal Karen Kane; the two ladies are also shown here), along with lots of other groovy folks, plus Robert cooked up a serious Mexicano feast, much to everyone’s enjoyment.
Afterward, we walked over to Robert’s studio, which was a very odd experience for me. On the one hand, there were all these things I’d seen and even written about in recent months: the Big 10 bowling set, the hand-painted tabletop hockey figurines, the bobblehead castings, the Uni Watch Stirrup Club inventory, the Baltimore-themed cat-bowling scoresheet, the furballs. But then there was also Robert’s stained-glass art, much of which blew me away.
One thing I really, really admire about Robert is that he never settles for something being “pretty good.” He takes everything he works on, great and small, to its highest level of awesomeness, and his studio was sprinkled with all sorts of little reminders of this, from the Fischer Price Little People that he uses as drawer pulls to the feline-ized SI covers on his fridge. He also showed me this homemade Strat-O-Matic set he once made, which is essentially an art project in itself.
And as many of you have learned first-hand, Robert’s style is characterized by an amazing generosity of spirt. Look, he even made me a miniature bags set as a souvenir! How great is that? Robert, if you’re reading this — and I know you are — please accept my most heartfelt thanks, not only for a wonderful day but also for setting such a high bar and reminding me to work harder and be better. Seriously, dude, it’s inspiring.
And on that corny note, we’ll bring today’s main entry to a close. A short Ticker follows (and tomorrow’s will probably be short too, because I’ll be spending most of today on a family-related errand), but we’ll get back to jam-packed Tickers soon enough, along with new raffles and other good stuff. My thanks to everyone who sent “Hurry back, I miss Uni Watch!” notes, and even greater thanks to those who were tempted to send Ticker material but then thought, “Nah, I’d better not — he’s on vacation.” It was good to be gone, but it’s even better to be back.
Uni Watch News Ticker: I just about blew a gasket a few days ago when Brooks Simpson pointed out that NHL rookies all had the Reebok logo on their socks during a recent photo shoot (additional examples here). But when I contacted Reebok to inquire about this, I was told the following: “There will not be Reebok logos on socks this season. It appears the players were wearing our Gamewear socks — which consumers can buy in all NHL team patterns/colors etc. — for the photo shoot.” Phew. … Wonderful old LSU football photo here. … Check out this shot of Lou Piniella. Sure looks like his jersey has alternating blue and gray buttons, no? (Excellent catch by Mark Kaplowitz). … Here’s a shot I hadn’t seen before of the Mets’ ice cream man cap from 1997. Of particular note: Lance Johnson appears to be wearing a windbreaker under his jersey (with thanks to Trevor Williams). … Completely amazing photo of Sammy Baugh here. (with thanks to Greg Buchanan). … I’m not sure what to think of this, but Matt Englander suggests that it “walks a very fine line re: animal cruelty.” … Lots of negative feedback for NC State’s new hoops uniform (thanks, Phil). … It was Photo Day at Busch Stadium last Sunday, and one fan brought more than her camera. “When Ryan saw the sign, he waved to her and started a friendly conversation,” reports David Vines. “Nice day all around.” … Y’know, maybe i should just go back on vacation after all.