Monday, November 20, 2023

My 19th Annual Thanks/No Thanks List

Late November already? Fall is more than halfway over, and I'm in my usual denial stage; I insist on wearing a fleece jacket when a winter coat would probably suffice. It's also time to reflect, and as I have for nearly two decades I give thanks (and no thanks) to the things that affect my life. This hasn't been an easy year for me or most of my closest and dearest, but sometimes it's the little things. 

Thanks: an end to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes (and those who fought and directly benefitted), reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances, reinforcing my existing friendships, and that after 13 years my Keurig still works every morning. 

No Thanks: inflation, misinformation, miscommunication, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and the ongoing GOP clown car.

Enjoy your Turkey Day, friends. 


Sunday, November 5, 2023

James Swiglo, 1956-2008

My uncle died 15 years ago last week. I blogged my raw emotions the day he was buried, almost oblivious to the history that was being made that evening. I've also discussed my, uh, inheritance

Uncle Jim was a flawed man, but as I said a decade and a half ago, there will never be a right way to die at 52. Part of me can imagine him now at 67, gradually turning into his father (my grandpa), a reactionary grouch. Both of them had a fearful, paranoid side. Regardless, Jim was the kinder of the two. They had a volatile relationship that was sort of patched up when my grandfather died in August 2002, though I found it weird that Jim suddenly kept Chuck in a high regard after his passing. 

Jim's passing was a tipping point in my mid-20s. I was less than a year removed from college, and I was treading water. I was back in Downers Grove, isolated and kind of flailing. I did not want to spend my entire adult life living with my folks --like he did-- so it eventually inspired me to take improv classes. Also, this was the first in a string of deaths in my immediate family, mostly in my parents' generation, extending to my aunt's passing a few months ago.

For a lot of my relatives, their time had come. In my uncle's situation, he kept his pancreatic cancer under wraps until he couldn't; I learned a few years later that he turned down treatment. He was on borrowed time anyway, he surmised, but it also jibed with his pride and his frugality. (Again, he wasn't perfect.) My uncle and mother argued over how to take care of my grandmother, and with Ma taking the reins, Grandma was able to get more thorough assistance. Given everything that has gone on in the world (and my family) since 2008, maybe this "what if" is best left to my imagination.


Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Random Notes, October 2023

 An early Happy Halloween to all:

+ In the 18-plus years I've been writing this blog, I've mostly (but not entirely) avoided discussing Israel and Palestine. It's a loaded, complicated subject, and no matter how informed my opinion might be, navigating over 75 years of strife is just outside my grasp. And yet, more than a few underqualified people have been sharing their purported insight since Bibi declared war on October 7th. Ultimately, more civilians than troops are dying in a region that has only seen imperialism, genocide and generational trauma in most of our lifetimes, and the sooner is ends the better.

+ I finished my last blog post not knowing Speaker Kevin McCarthy had fired his final salvo. The historical, yet rash decision to remove McCarthy as SOTHOR, followed by three-plus weeks of inter-party bickering has left us with a legislative branch with no function. The fissures of the GOP have been laid out for all to see, with three factions: far-right silverback gorillas, conservatives that are trying to curry favor with Trump (but quietly wished they didn't), and milquetoast moderates. Until Mike Johnson was elected today, I was about to suggest someone give Hakeem Jeffries the steering wheel.

+ I went to 29 baseball games this year. Call it cacoethes; I take advantage of my free time in the summer. Seeing minor league games is budget-friendlier than the big leagues, but I still had to adhere to a budget. This year, I saw MiLB games in four new cities (Round Rock, Louisville, Lansing, MI and Charlotte) and one new indie league venue (Crestwood, IL). Next year, given how much gas and airfare cost, I will probably be a little more modest.


Saturday, September 30, 2023

Random Notes, September 2023

 I write essays when I can. In the meantime: 

+ About two weeks ago, I attended my 20-year high school reunion. I tend to get anxious about reconnecting with people I haven't seen in a long time, and this event was no exception. I went to a fairly large high school in the Chicago suburbs, and getting over 500 people to agree on a day, time, and location was a Herculean effort, so that alone made my attendance an obligation. In the end, about 125 of us had an epic reminiscence at a Loyal Order of Moose lodge, guzzling domestic beer and eating mediocre delivery pizza.

+ The first Trump-free GOP debate was a futile exercise. The second was a hot mess. The uneasy slog to an inevitable Trump-Biden rematch continues, and the race to GOP second place truly offers no winners. 

+ Not to belabor the point, but the modern GOP really *can't* get their shit together. Speaker McCarthy has done little to prevent another government shutdown; his quench for congressional power apparently means kowtowing to the fringe right. 

+ Dianne Feinstein was a liberal stalwart and one of the first LGBTQ allies on the national political stage. She'll be missed, but like Ruth Bader Ginsburg before her, she held on for far longer than she needed to and was too stubborn to just retire. 


Wednesday, September 6, 2023

32 Teams, 32 Haiku: My 2023 NFL Preview


After a remarkably wild summer here in Chicago --at least, as the weather as concerned-- football season sort of crept up on us. The Cubs are watchable but not contending, and the other city sports offerings have been a letdown, so why not get in on the Bears at entry level? As for the NFL as a whole, the AFC has a surplus of elite QBs, balanced out by an NFC that has quality wideouts to spare, and a good set of linebackers are a commodity no matter where you are. With world champion Kansas City hosting Detroit --two interesting teams, but hardly a rivalry-- to start the year, where does everyone really stand? 

Yes, I'm starting my annual pigskin delve with my boldest prediction. 

*notes wild card


  1. Lions (10-7). Music in Motown/again; in Great Lakes dogfight/kitties claw to top.

  2. Vikings (9-8). Close wins, lucky breaks/won’t sustain; can Flores fix/the secondary?

  3. Bears (8-9). Fields is fun to watch/but wins are scant; porous D/curbs any progress.

  4. Packers (7-10). No summer of Love/in Wisconsin tundra; soft/D evokes Swiss cheese.


  1. Eagles (13-4). Iffy holding calls/aside, vengeance is likely/so elite, it Hurts.

  2. Cowboys (10-7)*. Dak says he won't throw/15 interceptions... he'll/throw 16 instead.

  3. Giants (8-9). This year’s boom or bust/squad; Daboll and Jones will thrive/or fail, simply put.

  4. Commanders (5-12). New owners, who dis?/Crafty D, patchwork O means/more Beltway boredom.


  1. Saints (10-7). Oil of Olave/keeps the Carr running; deep D/won’t just pump the brakes.

  2. Falcons (8-9). Boo-birds’ high-flying/…ground game? Lack of wideouts eye/of the rebuild storm.

  3. Buccaneers (7-10). Brady to Baker/saves some doubloons; younger squad/barely stays afloat.

  4. Panthers (6-11). Young Bryce scurries as/O-line falters; low-key D/is Cats’ saving grace.


  1. 49ers (13-4). Purdy persuasion/regardless of who's QB/loaded O will feast.

  2. Seahawks (10-7)*. I was wrong about/Geno; offbeat Gulls win with/excess receivers.

  3. Rams (7-10). Absurd dead cap space/aging Stafford and Donald/not bad… but a mess.

  4. Cardinals (3-14). Marquise attraction/wideout carries O while/Kyler recovers. 


  1. Bengals (12-5). No average Joes/here; win-now mindset gives Chase/but windows can close.

  2. Ravens (11-6)*. Receiver upgrade/(finally) lets Lamar throw/outside the numbers.

  3. Steelers (9-8). Rarely bad, that’s not/news; how wicked will Pickett/be in season two?

  4. Browns (7-10). D upgrades help, but/Watson rubs us the wrong way/even with a Chubb.


  1. Bills (14-3). If Hyde, Poyer, and/Von can stay healthy, they’ll break/records (and tables).

  2. Dolphins (12-5)*. Tua is ready/assuming he’s healthy, or/he’ll die on his Hill.

  3. Jets (10-7)*. Does Rodgers play out/of pocket… or a cave? There’s/something in the Sauce.

  4. Patriots (7-10). How the tables turn/Mac must attack, or Kraft will/Jones for a rebuild.


  1. Jaguars (10-7). Lawrence won’t welk; new/targets burnish his Pro Bowl/case. Cue the bubbles!

  2. Titans (8-9). Levis better learn/quick; solid D can’t cover/atrocious O-line.

  3. Colts (6-11). It’s Tony Dimes’ time/run-happy O obscures young/buck under center.

  4. Texans (5-12). Young with upside, yet/briskly cowed by injuries/new O-line might stun. 


  1. Chiefs (14-3). Youthful D is boom/or bust; with Mahomes, they’ll romp/the West anyway.

  2. Chargers (11-6)*. Color me shocked if/they win a playoff game for/once; Horse Knob Herbert?

  3. Broncos (8-9). Forget the diva/treatment, Peyton will force Russ/to earn his paycheck.

  4. Raiders (5-12). Too many Pats’ hand/me downs (Jimmy G, Hoyer)/hold back Josh Jacobs.

NFL MVP: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

Offensive POY: Christian McCaffrey, Niners

Defensive POY: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Jets

Offensive ROY: Bijan Robinson, Falcons

Defensive ROY: Jalen Carter, Eagles

First Head Coach Fired: Josh McDaniels, Raiders

Super Bowl LVIII: Niners 30, Bills 26


Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Georgia On My Mind

 Warren G. Harding, our 29th president, died 100 years ago this month. At the time of his sudden passing, he had high approval ratings and was expected win reelection in 1924. His connections to the Teapot Dome scandal, a bribery investigation that dragged on for two years, overshadowed all of Harding's accomplishments posthumously. 

There are some neat parallels between this and our 45th president, who is on his fourth indictment and counting. Had Harding lived to see Teapot Dome play out, he almost certainly would've been indicted as well. The end result of Teapot Dome was a member of Harding's cabinet and a few presidential aides going to prison. This latest Trump indictment corralled 19 collaborators, including disgraced former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani; for a pioneer of RICO laws, getting charged with racketeering is a sad irony. Naturally, all parties are pleading innocence. 

The very idea of an elected US president standing trial for anything seems absurd. That was true in 1923 and it remains preposterous now, but Donald Trump is a special case. He's still running the GOP table (so to speak) and his base has hardly wavered. I assumed six years ago that if the crap hit the fan, most of Trump's lackeys and brown-nosers would take the fall while their vainglorious boss got off relatively scot-free. Seeing that Trump mugshot offers hope for a long-awaited reckoning, but it's only surface-level assuagement. 

Next time: my annual NFL preview.