A Perfect Storm … in more ways than one

So, just how hard did it rain in Chicago on Monday night?

So hard that my cell phone suffered catastrophic water damage when I ran from Cubby Bear to my apartment (about, oh, three-quarters of a mile) just as the late-night monsoon that finally ended the Cubs game for good began pouring down.

And my cell phone, mind you, was inside my pocket.

Sure, I was more soaked than Michael Phelps in that new SportsCenter commercial when I got home.

But still … who knew Razr phones were made of sugar.

Anyways, thus began my week: A Perfect Storm begatting a Perfect Storm of technological collapse.

And, really, it still hasn’t stopped raining.

Not in my world, at least.

Because, four days after my phone went belly up and my home cable and Internet did the same — for inexplicable reasons (those failures occurred pre-storm) — I’m still living in the veritable Dark Ages.

Two trips to an AT&T store and two more to the Apple Store on Michigan Avenue have resulted only in an iPhone that’s at least a week away from arriving — and the knowledge that phone warranties don’t cover water damage (thank goodness, my brother had an old phone to loan me during the interim).

Meanwhile, two phone conversations with my cable company have resulted only in the knowledge that they absolutely have no idea why my service is still out (the rest of Chicago is apparently working just fine, thanks) — and that the earliest they can get a tech guy out to my apartment is Saturday.

Next Saturday.

Yeah, the 16th.

(What is this a “Seinfeld” episode?)

As a result, I’m writing this blog from a Panera.

I certainly can’t post anything from my place, which was a technology wasteland worthy of the 1940s when I awoke on Tuesday morning.

Imagine if you can — and, believe me, it’s not going to be easy — what it’s like realizing that you’ve lost phone service, cable service and Internet service simultaneously.

You can’t find the right phone numbers to call for help, because, well, you can’t get online. And even if you could get the numbers, well, you can’t call them because — oh! — you have no phone.

So old-school was my place on Tuesday that I felt an urge to turn on the radio, sit down in front of it Indian-style and twist the dial in search of “Little Orphan Annie.”

If only, my phonograph player wasn’t in the shop …

With encouraging words, my friends and family — chatting with me probably while they shopped online and watched TiVo — have told me all week long that things would get better.

And they will. They already have, in fact.

After all, they couldn’t get much worse.

That is unless, you get me started on the bogus parking ticket I received and the permit sticker I now need for my car.

Grr …

Really, though, have a great weekend, everyone.

Shoot me an e-mail or post a comment if you get a chance.

I’ll probably get to read it someday.

I guess.

Morning sickness

So, here’s my morning so far:

1.) I wake up and realize my cell phone no longer works.

(Yet it worked fine at 11:30 p.m. when I made a phone call and set my alarm. What the …?)

2.) I then turn on the TV and realize my cable is not working.

(And this has nothing to do with last night’s wicked storms. The cable was out when I got home at 6 and went to the Cubs game. It’s still out.)

3.) I then attempt to get online and realize my Internet is not working.

(Same deal as the cable.)

4.) When I leave for work, I find a $60 ticket on my car for illegally parking in a residential zone.

The car is parked directly in front of my building.

A zone doesn’t get any more residential for a guy.

I then realize that at some point — when? — my street has been turned into a permit-only zone, but no one told me that.

5.) It’s only 9:30 a.m.

This does not bode well.

Taxi Cab Oppressions

About eight years ago, one of my buddies from high school was working for State Farm Insurance and dating a girl who worked with him at the Bloomington, Ill.-based corporation.

While out with the two of them in Chicago one night, I recall my friend’s girl telling me how a recent work-related travel screw-up had forced her to take a cab all the way from O’Hare Airport to Bloomington.

Total distance: 135 miles.

Total time: About 2 1/2 hours.

Total cost: I can’t really remember, but I think it was about $150.

Since then, that ridiculously long haul has always stood out as the craziest cab ride story (distance-wise, at least) I’ve ever heard.

Until today, that is.

Because this afternoon, my brother told me how last night his girlfriend’s flight home from Denver to Chicago was canceled, forcing her and a co-worker to instead fly into Detroit.

Landing at Metro Airport sometime after midnight, the girls had no bags (somehow, those did fly to Chicago) and no accommodations. It was no matter, though, as for some other work-related reason, the co-worker needed to get home to Chicago that very night.

So, with connecting flights unavailable and no desire to rent a car and drive their exhausted selves all the way home, the two took the only option available to them.

They hailed a taxi.

And took it from the Motor City to the Windy City.

Total distance: About 285 miles.

Total time: Nearly 5 hours.

Total cost: a flat rate of $450, which was billed to the client (You better believe it!).

After hearing this mess, I have a Taxi Cab confession:

The next time my cab gets caught in traffic on, say, Lincoln Avenue, I promise not to complain.

After all, I could be riding in it all the way to Lincoln, Neb.

Cubs’ relief auction sandbagging it

At the team’s official Web site, the Chicago Cubs are urging fans to: Bid now on a Felix Pie autographed baseball, and you can help towns in Iowa, where the Cubs’ Triple-A club resides, recently ravaged by the floods.”

Eight All-Stars on the Big League club, and the best John Hancock the Cubs can come up with for charity is Felix’s, huh.

What, did Sam Fuld have writer’s cramp?

That said, while Felix’s baseball is currently going for only $140 (or, the price of a pile of sandbags), if you want yet another measure of the Cubs’ incomparable popularity, get a load of this:

The total number of Iowa Relief Auction bids for baseballs, bats or jerseys signed or worn by Major League All-Stars Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer or Billy Wagner as of lunchtime Monday?


The total number of bids for a baseball signed by Big League bust Felix Pie (again, Felix Pie) as of lunchtime Monday?


Cubs Fever: Catch it.

Or not.

Oh, Felix.


Dog Day Morning

Like catchers, M. Night Shyamalan and lame pick-up artists, I like signs.

Funny ones, at least.

And it seems like there are no shortage of those in Chicago.

This morning, while walking through Wrigleyville, I spotted another one — several, actually — plastered on the front doors of apartment buildings.

In one line of hand-written scrawl accompanied by a phone number, it read:

“Do you need someone to walk your dog and get paid?”

Apparently, busy cheapskate dog owners look elsewhere.

Or, this guy will pay for the chance to walk your dog.

Devin Hester’s playbook is ridiculous

On Wednesday — when he should have been at training camp — the Chicago Bears’ kick-returner-extraordinaire-slash-wide-receiver-in-training Devin Hester was instead on the horn with the Chicago Tribune, telling reporter Vaughn McClure, “I can’t go out and play this year making $445,000.

“Come on, man.”

After all, that would be … ahemridiculous.

Now, while I think most people can eke out a living on $445K (I’m pretty sure I could), I also do think that Hester is underpaid by current NFL standards.

Then again, if you get paid by the plays you memorize, maybe not …

Because, also in today’s Trib, Bears writer David Haugh writes that, “Offensive coordinator Ron Turner revealed Wednesday the Bears only asked Hester to learn four routes last season because of his multiple duties.”

That bit of news prompted my buddy Ryan (a Bears season ticket holder, not the architect of the “46” defense) to react this morning by firing off the following e-mail :

Four Routes??? How hard can this position be???

I’d imagine his four routes were …

1.) Devin — Go Deep

2.) Devin — Run 15 yards and turn around

3.) Devin — Run 10 yards and turn left

4.) Devin — Run 10 yards and turn right

To which, I’d add …

Yeah, but he also had to remember which end zone the Bears were facing.

I mean, come on, man.

My visit to see “The Dean”

In October 2005, the White Sox were rolling through the Major League Baseball playoffs.

And I was, well, rolling my eyes at it all while working the late shift at the Tribune Tower.

Manning the phone for the paper’s Metro desk, my chief duty from 5 to midnight each night was to keep tabs on murder and mayhem in Chicago.

On one evening, however, as it became apparent that the Sox were almost certainly going to win the World Series, I did a bit of moonlighting for the Trib’s sports department.

And it left me with one of my more memorable Tribune experiences.

That evening, the sports staff was simultaneously covering the Series and putting together a commemorative book for the Sox’s impending championship, so things were hectic.

As a result, around 11 p.m., I was plucked from Metro, ordered to hustle down to the parking lot behind the Tower and take a company car up to Evanston.

My mission was to pick up and deliver back to Chicago the foreword for the commemorative White Sox book that was written by a retired sports reporter who wasn’t too keen on e-mail.

That reporter?

None other than Jerome Holtzman, the longtime Tribune and Sun-Times baseball writer, who passed away Monday at the age of 81.

Known as “The Dean” in baseball circles, Holtzman was a sportswriting titan who invented the “save” statistic, earned a spot in Cooperstown and was named by Bud Selig as Major League Baseball’s first official historian after retiring from the newspaper biz in 1998.

On Tuesday, Holtzman’s remarkable career — and his troubles with those pesky computers — were detailed in the Trib through a collection of his colleagues memories.

As a former sportswriter myself and lifelong admirer of Holtzman, whose stories I’d read at the breakfast table while growing up in Bourbonnais, I was thrilled with the little assignment.

And as I weaved my way along Sheridan Road in Evanston, looking for Holtzman’s home in the dark and the rain, I remember thinking how every time I had ever seen the man on TV or in a photograph he was always wearing suspenders.

Finally, once I found Holtzman’s darkened home and knocked quietly on the door, the Hall of Famer appeared, type-written foreword in hand and clad in a pair of dark slacks, a white T-shirt …

And suspenders.

I loved it.

Still do.

Rest in peace, Jerome.

And, you know, if you get a chance to bend God’s ear, ask if he could maybe cut the Cubs a break this year.

Lord knows, they need it.