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2005-03-03 - 9:15 a.m.

Some Serious and Not-So-Serious Words of Advice:

-People often have preconceived notions of what life is like in a big city. It's dangerous, dirty, impolite, and so on. Dirty and impolite you'll have to decide for yourself. I've heard Chicago described as a clean New York and Toronto described as a clean Chicago. Whatever -- it's all in where you are. Impolite? I'm convinced that often people mistake the I'm-going-to-stay-out-of-other-peoples'-lives attitude for standoffishness. But just try asking someone for directions in Chicago and see if they don't talk you through it and/or offer to walk with you 'til you get there.

Dangerous? Well, that depends. I've been worried at some times I probably shouldn't and confident at times I probably should have worried. Violence is a way of life for some people, and no matter where you live the possibility is always there. But no matter where you are (big city, small town, Disney World), there are some things that can help you feel less worried and may even help you stay out of a difficult situation.*

1. Be aware of your surroundings. If you're walking down a street and have a creepy feeling about the guy half a block behind you, cross to the other side. It'll give you a small buffer AND help you figure out if he's actually following you or just going on his merry way. No one likes looking over their shoulder ever few minutes, so be creative. Glance in a store window and use it like a mirror to see behind you. Look around while waiting for a light to change.

2. Trust your instinct and nurture it. You don't want to become paranoid. But one of the best cautions I've heard was a women's self defense instructor who said, "The last thing you want from this class is to feel confident. You want a last line of defense, but your first duty should be to avoid conflict by being a little scared and avoiding overconfidence." If you think someone is following you, stop in a spot with lots of people (a busy park, a coffee shop, even a bar) and just sit for 5 minutes watching. You'll know to either call for help or that you've been being worried over nothing.

3. Look like you know what you're doing. I'm not saying that you can't ask for directions -- that can be the easiest way to get where you're going. But be smart about it. Take your map (or CTA schedule, or whatever) somewhere like a coffee shop where you can sit down, plan what you're doing, and then walk confidently. I get nervous when I see people on the el staring at the maps above the door and poking their friend and saying, "So, we need to get off at Addison? Are you sure? Why don't we get off here < he stands up, points to a station on the map > and ask?" If you don't know where you're going, ask someone, but don't broadcast that you have no idea what you're doing.

4. Don't flash your money around. Duh. Keep your wallet in your pocket. Corollary: Don't play the shell games on the train. Or buy from people selling things on the train. Especially if you're a captive audience, keep your money hidden.

5. The most prevalent pick pocketing scheme is when getting on and off the train. A few people working together will jostle you, prevent you from entering quickly, and bam, your wallet is gone. If you feel like there are too many people waiting to get on, hold onto your money and watch for someone to block the doors (often they pretend to trip or tie their shoes or whatever). If that happens, turn around and walk off because there's probably someone behind you reaching into your purse. This has never happened to me, but according to the CTA and the Chicago Police Department it happens sometimes.

6. Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT wander around drunk. I don't care if you're in Lincoln Park and it's supposedly a safe area or if you're in Wrigleyville right after a Cubs game and you're feeling chummy with everyone -- if you were a mugger/rapist/whatever where would you go first? Not your own neighborhood where people probably don't have much to steal. An upscale neighborhood with plenty of inebriated young women. If you're going to go bar hopping, call a cab from bar to bar (and especially to go home) and stay in the bar until you see your cab waiting outside.

*I am not implying that people who are victims of a crime do anything to cause it. I do, however, believe that there are some things that can help you stack the deck in your favor.

Okay, now that we've gotten through the major stuff, it's time for some more advice. But less serious.

-Don't try to dry your hair and brush your teeth at the same time. Three things will happen:

1. It will take forever for your hair to dry because you're pointing the dryer at the bathroom wall and don't realize it for 3 minutes.

2. It will take forever to brush your teeth because when you realize you're pointing the dryer at the bathroom wall, you'll forget to move the toothbrush back and forth.

3. You'll bang the hair dryer into the back of your head hard enough to give you a bruise and a nice-sized goose egg.

-If you go to the bus stop and see two busses go by at once when you're only 20 feet from the bus stop? And then decide to just walk the mile to the el because you're tough, right? Don't walk on the other side of the street from the northbound bus. Because you'll end up finding that even though two busses when by at once, that doesn't mean that another one won't go by 5 minutes later. And you'll be pissed because you're in the middle of the block and can't cross the street to catch it so you'll have to walk the entire way anyway.

An Open Letter to the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee

Dear Veterans Committee:

You are all a bunch of assholes. Please take your "exclusivity" and shove it into your own respective personal assholes. I hope each letter hurts, especially the X.

Ron Santo is one of the 2 or 3 BEST 3rd basemen to ever play the game. Brooks Robinson (arguably the best 3rd baseman ever) wants him in the Hall of Fame. As do most of the sports writers in the nation. He managed to get screwed first because he played on the Cubs instead of on a team that won the World Series, and now because your little club has a "We were good enough to get it, but no one else should because that would make us slightly less cool" philosophy.

Please watch this movie and read this book and tell me how someone who played his entire career at the top of the game while battling through juvenile diabetes doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

Is it because he pissed you off, Mike "King Asshole" Schmidt? By celebrating joyously during what seemed like a magical season in 1969 -- being so overcome by excitement he would jump in the air and click his heels together after a win? Did he hurt your widdle feewings? Well, you can feel better. He's now had both legs amputated due to his diabetes and will be hard-pressed to jump, much less click his heels together. I hope you're happy.

Just so you know, people around the country feel the same way. Chicagoans are particularly hurt (because he's forever connected to our city and we also struggle with the suspicion that had he played for an East Coast team he would have been in long ago), but Houston (a major rival of the Cubs currently), Arizona, and New York are among those who wanted him in. And they're not the only ones. Billy Williams was said to have nearly cried when he found out that his old friend and teammate was denied again. Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, and Brooks Robinson were also openly disappointed.

So Veterans Committee? Not the good ones who voted for him, but the crappy ones who like power more than being right? I hope that people forget about most of you quickly. And when you eventually die, you're not remembered with 1/10th of the love that will color all thoughts of Ron Santo. And I hope you're left with nothing but a plaque in the Hall of Fame that children walk by and say, "Mom? Dad? Who was that guy?" Instead the stories they'll hear will be the ones passed down through every generation of Chicagoans who will come to Wrigley and tell their kids the stories of the retired numbers: 42, 26, 14, and 10.

Thank you for your attention.

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