To all you Grateful Dead fans

As I rapidly approach my 56th birthday, I got the biggest kick out this license plate today:

Touch of Gray

Oh, well, a touch of gray, kinda suits you anyway,
That’s was all I had to say but it’s alright
I will get by, I will get by, I will get by, I will survive.

Tales From the Fatherhood: The driving test!

In a regular rite of passage that strikes fear in the heart of the staunchest of suburban parents everywhere, I took my eldest son to take his driver’s test this morning.

And please understand that, when I say “right of passage,” it has absolutely nothing to do with my progeny and everything to do with the fact that I physically and mentally survived my share of those 50 required hours of on-the-road training.

Remember, I’ve gone face-to-face with the most cantankerous of politicians. I backed down an angry Karen McConnaughay on the county boardroom floor. I took an open doored helicopter ride over the South Dakota Badlands. I’ve even sent a Doberman, Rottweiler, and German Shepherd scurrying, but nothing prepared me for the rigors of teaching one of your children how to drive.

drivers test

Until he nearly ran his first red light, I had no idea I could hit those high notes, survive an average heart rate of 396, and remember all those prayers from my misspent Catholic youth.

That famous (and exceptionally morbid) child’s prayer really should go, “if I should die before he brakes, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

Let’s just say I no longer fear a terrorist attack, watching Fox News, or death itself. Of course, now that he’s taken his test, I suppose we really oughtta do something about that passenger side floorboard hole right beneath the imaginary brake.

So we dutifully headed off to the DMV at 7:45 this morning only to discover we weren’t nearly the only ones with the that thought. But I gotta give those Indian Trail folks in Aurora, Illinois credit for their capacity to keep things moving along.

Before we knew it, we were second in line sitting squarely behind an elderly Asian woman who was also preparing to take her road test. Now, I know what you’re thinking! But sometimes there is a grain of truth behind certain stereotypes and the events of this morning certainly proved it!

It wasn’t very long before a friendly, semi-middle-aged blonde woman named Kathy bounded out of the building to explain that she’d be taking the woman for her test. “But first,” she said, “We have to do a safety check.”

Dutifully moving to the back of the vehicle, Kathy intoned, “Turn on your left turn signal.”

And the woman turned on her right turn signal.

“No! Turn on your left turn signal,” Kathy repeated.

And the woman turned on her right turn signal.

“No! Your left turn signal,” Kathy implored, and the woman finally complied.

You don’t have to be psychic to know what happened next.

The obligatory, “Turn on your right turn signal,” was followed by the woman firing off the left one, though she did get it right on the second try.

Our aspiring driver did manage to honk her horn correctly, but when Kathy couldn’t get in the passenger side door, upon her request to unlock it, the woman popped the trunk instead. Realizing that no one had noticed her faux pas, and fearing some sort of vehicular cataclysm, as Kathy started to enter the car I shouted, “Kathy! She opened the trunk.”

At this point, Kathy exited the vehicle and, stifling her laughter as best she could, declared, “I can’t do this – I’ll be right back.” About four minutes later she returned with what could only be the facility manager who, after speaking with the woman for a bit, bravely decided to make a second safety check attempt.

Sure enough, his left turn signal request also did not go well. Our driver did manage to get the right one right this time, but just when you thought there was hope, when he asked her to roll down her window so he didn’t have to shout, she popped the trunk – again.

Looking somewhat bewildered, the manager shut the trunk, and asked her to apply the brake.

Somehow she’d managed to put the car in drive, which immediately elicited a shriek of, “Put it in park!,” which caused the woman to floor it in an Indy 500 start flourish only to slam on the brakes just one second before she took out a row of parked cars.

Though he had no clue as to the aforementioned stereotype, my son was laughing nearly as hard as I was. The only way this could’ve been any funnier is if it was a bit on the Dave Chapelle show. I really have got to go to the DMV more often!

Needless to say, our intrepid drivers license applicant never made it to the road test. And even though I felt bad for anyone who had to endure that ordeal – tester or testee – I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to learn that she wouldn’t be out on the road anytime soon.

Long story short, with Kathy accompanying him, and the bar now set exceedingly low, my son passed his drivers test with flying colors.

But just as I breathed the kind of sigh of relief that could’ve been heard for blocks, I realized my 15 year-old is already on deck.

Please pray for me.

This is the August 28th edition of Left, Right and You!

A huge thank you to Derke Price for taking the time to come into the studio and provide the professional viewpoint on how to clear the necessary technical hurdles whenever you run for local office. The bottom line is, don’t be intimidated by the paperwork and process, if you’ve got something to say, run for office! Ancel Glink is always ready and willing to help!

Jeff, Larry and Derke

Then Larry and I engaged in a fascinating debate on the merits of the militarization of our local police departments. It would be safe to say that we had to agree to disagree on the subject.

To that end, for all the callers who called in too late to get their .02 cents in, next week we will open the second half of the show to your views on this touchy subject. So if you have an opinion on the police acquiring military hardware, please call into the show next week (9/4) at 847-931-1410.

Don’t forget! On September 25, Elgin State Rep candidates Anna Moeller and Jeff Meyer will engage in their very first debate right here on Left, Right, and You! We hope you’ll join us!

Until then, thank you for listening!


Tales From the Fatherhood: Why the laundry can be so frightening

Thankfully, of all the things this existence can throw at you, not many can send me scurrying for the crawlspace. That short list includes, an impending dentist appointment, the thought of seeing any of my portly, middle-aged neighbors naked, and the sight of an overflowing laundry hamper.

My theory has always been the reason Target keeps selling new clothes is so you don’t have to wash the stuff you already have.

Since my lovely and longsuffering wife embraced the time commitment being a teacher implicitly involves, I’ve been trying to relieve her burden by helping out around the house. I tell her it’s a sign of my undying love, but the truth is something closer to wanting to stave off the kind of fatigue that encourages celibacy to rear its ugly head.

But before I was allowed within ten feet of the top loader, I had to endure the kind of mental boot camp and competency check that you’d expect from a major intelligence agency. For some strange reason, she seems to think that you can’t wash everything in the same gigantic load.

laundryPersonally, I think it’s great fun to fill the LG to the brim, stand back, and just as the high speed spin cycle sets in, start yelling, “Captain! I can’t hold her together – she’s gonna blow,” in your best Commander Montgomery Scott brogue.

But I digress.

So with my wife’s reluctant assent, I’ve been doing the laundry for the past year. And I can tell you with utter certainty, the first time you miss an errant piece of Kleenex, you realize just how important it is to check your children’s pants pockets.

How that diaphanous material manages to make it through the washer is one of life’s great mysteries. But rest assured, the second it hits the dryer, it turns into something right out of a bad science fiction movie. Think about it! If anyone could ever unleash a cloud of statically charged Kleenex particles against an advancing army, it would completely incapacitate them.

With that hard-earned lesson well in hand, I diligently went through all the applicable front pockets before embarking upon what would turn out to be yesterday’s laundry adventure.

But, before we continue, please let me state that whoever came up with cargo shorts has got to be a harbinger of the Antichrist. They have at least 347 pockets, compartments and zippers in which scheming teenage boys can conceal a variety of nefarious instruments that can turn laundry day into the 29th installment of Nightmare on Elm Street.

In this case, it was a purple ballpoint pen.

Just to taunt me, the device saved its payload for the dryer where it went off like a bag of dye on a hapless bank robber. Forget about black holes, what I wanna know is, how that bleepin’ little tube can possibly hold the amount of ink required to do the kind of damage I saw when I opened that dryer door. Harold’s purple crayon couldn’t wreak that kind of havoc.

The irony, of course, is, whenever I use a Bic for its intended purpose, trying to coax that dark fluid out of it is not unlike trying to coax a Kardashian to come off camera.

Of course, my first course of action was to go into a complete panic which, considering the situation, didn’t take all that much effort. Some of my wife’s favorite hard-to-find work clothes were in that load and I really do enjoy breathing.

The next step was to avail myself of the Internet’s readily available ink removal advice which certainly didn’t help my deteriorating state of mind. My God! I haven’t seen that much contradictory information since Fox News and MSNBC covered the same event.

Hot water, coldwater, don’t use hairspray, use hairspray, use vinegar, don’t use bleach, use bleach and so forth and so on.

Completely confused, I started calling all the mothers of boys I knew because girls would never do something as silly as leaving pen in their pants pocket. But even though they’d all been through the same scenario, they couldn’t remember what the specific remedy was..

Finally settling on hairspray and rubbing alcohol, I dashed off to Walgreens to purchase those countermeasures.

About ten minutes into spraying every single clothing bound ink spot I could find, I knew exactly how the guy who puts that little plastic tip on shoelaces must feel. Twenty-five minutes and three-quarters of a can of Suave Extra Hold later and every last stain had been saturated.

While I allowed that to steep, it was time to turn to the dryer drum which looked a lot like the hide of a purple leopard. Thankfully, the Net’s counsel of applying rubbing alcohol and letting it sit, worked like a charm. Though I will say there’s nothing quite like inhaling a generous dose of isopropyl fumes as you wipe down the inside of your dryer. The ensuing stupor reminded of what it was like to sit through all those county board meetings.

Between the pervasive alcohol odor and the lingering scent of cheap hairspray, my anxiety quickly shifted from “my wife’s gonna kill me for ruining her work clothes,” to, “my wife’s gonna kill me for hiring a five dollar hooker.” And she’d probably wonder what the heck we were doing in the laundry room.

Just when I thought my impending doom was a foregone conclusion, after setting the washer to “obliterate,” with one eye shut, I pulled out the reworked load and was shocked to see that 80 percent of the ink had vanished! After a third attempt, I’d actually managed to save all but one article of clothing.

So let’s add up just what I’ve learned from all this:

1. Check every bleepin’ pants pocket even if it takes two hours to effectively search a pair of cargo shorts.

2. Hairspray gets ink stains out of clothes which is particularly interesting information for a guy who hasn’t had much use for that product.

3. Rubbing alcohol is amazingly adept at getting ink off a dryer drum – as long as you don’t pass out in the process.

4. Killing your children really isn’t an option. As a good friend frequently repeats, “I love my children – I hate jail.”

5. After one more explosive pen, celibacy might not be all that bad!

Erma Bombeck! Eat your bleepin’ heart out!

Left, Right and You is coming up at 3 o’clock!

On today’s show, Ancel Glink’s Derke Price joins us in the studio to discuss the nitty gritty of jumping into the electoral process. Larry and I have often lamented how so many well-meaning folks stumble out of the starting gate and get kicked off the ballot because they didn’t fill out their paperwork correctly.

Derke will explain just how to avoid those kind of fatal errors.

Derke Price

Derke Price

Then former police chief Larry and I will discuss the merits of the militarization of our police departments. Larry says liability is driving this new mentality while I say some police officers aren’t willing to assume the inherent risks that come along with that difficult job.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, we’ll be making a special announcement about an upcoming show!

So please join us from 3 to 4 p.m today on WRMN AM1410 and prepare to be enlightened!

Beware the dreaded mayoral “Edifice Complex”

Back when I used to toil for the papers and Patch, on occasion, we’d discuss a malady known as “The Municipal Mindset.” It’s a disease that primarily afflicts city councils and the symptoms always start with statements like, “We have to bring this fee in line with other municipalities,” or “We’re losing money to the Internet.”

Basically, it’s an affliction in which mayors and aldermen start believing they’re entitled to our money by sheer virtue of the fact they’re breathing.

But as bad as the Municipal Mindset is, there’s another ailment that’s far worse – the “Edifice Complex” – also known as “Compulsive Legacy Building.” Thankfully, it tends to affect only long-serving mayors in small to medium cities with the occasional four term alderman thrown in for good measure.

illinois_coal_plantPlease note that, the use of the word “edifice,” doesn’t necessarily mean the illness has to involve buildings. It can be a concept, an initiative, or some other kind of grand scheme. But the one thing you can count on is, the longer they serve, the worse it gets.

If you don’t believe me, then all I ask you is to turn your piercing gaze towards two central Kane County towns. The first is Batavia where Mayor Jeff Schielke is well into his ninth term, and then there’s Geneva, where Mayor Kevin Burns is currently working on his fourth.

And both of these municipalities fell for the Peabody Energy Co. sales pitch by buying into the Prairie State Energy Campus under the guise of the Northern Illinois Municipal Energy Association. It’s a very long story that we’ve already covered here, the end result of which is, while most folks are paying about 50 bucks a megawatt hour, Genevans and Batavians are shelling out $70.00.

In an almost perfect correlation to the length of their mayoral tenures, both cities bought into this scheme to varying degrees. So while Genevans are certainly feeling the power pinch, Batavia felt the need to dip into their electrical reserves, implement a sales tax hike, and raise their electrical rates by 6.5 percent both this year and next.

But one Batavian decided to strike back! Fed up with his $1,000 electric bills, like a Jedi knight giving the Empire what for, businessman Joe Marconi just filed a class action lawsuit against the consultants who told our two cities this southern Illinois coal plant was the best thing since sliced bread.

(For more details on the lawsuit, the Daily Herald covered it pretty well. Or if you live in Batavia and want to sign on please go here.)

And he may be onto something here because one of those “experts” subsequently went on to become the chairman of the Prairie State Generating management committee. No conflict there!

But while I love Joe’s chutzpah and can’t wait until the up-to-now confidential contracts come out in discovery, he inexplicably let the City of Batavia off the hook. Both Geneva and Batavia are only listed as respondents in the suit.

Of the Batavia City Council, Marconi said, “They were misled,” while another Batavia resident, who’s gone over Prairie State with a fine tooth comb added, “I don’t think our cities did anything bad. I think they got snookered.”

Wait a minute – not so fast!

If Peabody’s pitch was so irresistible, why were Geneva and Batavia the only two Kane County towns foolish enough to sign on? Should it be any surprise that it involves two of the longest serving mayors?

So what we really have here are two mayors who thought they could bolster their legacy by beating the market. The problem with that theory is, if any mayor (or city council) really could beat the market, then trust me, they wouldn’t be wasting their time at city hall.

With visions of constituents carrying them down Route 31 on their shoulders for their foresight, instead of paying heed to the general municipal movement towards electrical aggregation, these guys decided to go it alone and convince their respective aldermen to sign onto a long term power deal that hasn’t turned out too well.

But there is a remedy.

What all of the affected towns really oughtta be doing is, admit they were wrong, band together, and do their damndest to get out of this “deal” based on a litany of misrepresentations, not the least of which is selling all but 5 percent of the risk after Peabody promised to retain a majority stake in the project.

But not only are Burns and Schielke letting Mr. Marconi do all the heavy lifting, they’re actually defending this indefensible boondoggle!

Just like it was with so many Bernie Madoff clients, they don’t want to have to admit they were suckered because that would severely damage their legacy. And, of course, their reputations are far more important than their citizens’ fiscal health.

The lesson here goes far beyond this tale of two cities. This is why, with the exception of larger municipalities with all their checks and balances, no mayor should serve for more than 12 years. If you can’t get it done in a decade, then it’s time to hand the baton to someone else.

And the great thing is, we don’t need term limits to ensure that the Edifice Complex doesn’t have time to take hold either. All you have to do is vote ‘em out.

Violence isn’t arbitrary!

Even more ironically, if you do carry a gun, you’re 4.5 times more likely to be shot during an assault and 4 times more likely to die in the process. If you’re a woman, you’re six times more likely to be shot and killed by your boyfriend or husband rather than some indiscriminate stranger.

As tragic as school shootings are, your child stands just a one in one million chance of perishing in one. The odds of anyone dying in a public mass shooting are even longer at 1 in 384,000 or .000003 percent.

To put that in perspective, you have a far greater chance of being struck by lightning (1 in 280,000), dying from a hornet, wasp, or bee sting (1 in 80,000), or shedding the mortal coil in an asteroid apocalypse (1 in 12,000).

Case in point!

A few weeks ago we covered how the press covered the murder of an 85 year-old East Dundee woman. The papers made it sound like there was a rabid killer on the loose, the police did nothing to reassure the residents, and the neighbors quickly got together to discuss just how they might put a damper on this kind of thing.

Richard Schmelzer awaits extradition to Illinois for the murder of his grandmother, East Dundee resident Mildred Darrington

Richard Schmelzer awaits extradition to Illinois for the murder of his grandmother, East Dundee resident Mildred Darrington

Meanwhile we theorized that, given the specific circumstances, the murderer was likely a family member who spontaneously stabbed the victim during an argument – probably over money.

And yesterday (8/25), the elderly woman’s grandson was picked up and charged with the crime. He’s being held in a Texas jail pending extradition. Whether we like it or not, if you lump enough human beings together, we tend to get rather predictable.

While there’s certainly something to be said for an occasional better safe than sorry stance, whenever we react primarily from a place of mindless fear, you can bet on courting a host of unintended consequences.

In this case, our fixation on “random” violence has lead to an over-armed society, the militarization of the police, the frequent demonization of our fellowman, and the loss of humanity that naturally occurs when you start living in the shadow of the Sword of Damocles.

The key to unraveling this downward spiral is us. As long as there’s something in it for the press and police, they’re not going to change. So it’s up to us to stop buying into the patently false assumption that random violent predators – intent on making us their next target – pervade our society.

Because they don’t!