Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An October Afternoon

It is the sort of, almost mythic fall day one dreams about. Some trees have been stripped bare and are beginning their winter slumber. Most still wear their autumn garland of color. A few leaves remain stubbornly green, refusing to succumb to the diminishing daylight. The sun at this late hour, at this time of year low in the sky, sends a shaft of bright warmth down the canyon formed by the highrises which line each side of our lakefront street. The warmth tempts the students, recently arrived at the nearby college, to run shirtless to and from their lakefront jogs.

In the playground children run about in their seemingly aimless fashion. Yelling, giggling, their sweet innocent faces express the joy of playing outside on this beautiful day. Soon this play will change. Shorts will give way to long pants, heavy coats, hats, gloves and scarfs. It will be a season of snow. Sledding, snowmen and throwing handfuls of powder into the air to watch it float down around them, or forming it into balls and throwing them at each other will be the order of the day.

But, for now, there is the warm sunlight, gentle breeze and peace and contentment that come from experiencing a glorious day.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

My New Commute - Mid Autumn

With a new job comes a new commute. This one is somewhat different than any I have had before. Each day I take a short, 10 to 15 minute train trip from Chicago's northern border to a suburb located northwest of the city.

It is mid autumn. The leaves are more colorful than I had dared hope after the drought and extraordinary heat we experienced over the summer. Initially the train runs through a tangle of these leaves. Yellow, colored by the fading sunlight of the season, mixes with the last, remaining green of summer. I am learning to overlook the rail maintenance yard and water treatment plant that follows. In an odd juxtaposition, the stately administration building which stands watch over the bubbling cauldrons of recycled water is a study of classic art deco beauty. Soon there is a grass easement on either side of the train sprinkled with yellow wild flowers and queen anne's lace. One evening a doe and her fawn stood in the grass as the train passed.

Neighborhoods of cozy late mid century bungalows sitting side by side along tree lined streets appear. The trees are an autumn rainbow of orange, green, yellow and red. Masses of other treetops can be seen in the distance. The soft transition from one autumn shade to another look almost as if they could have been painted by Monet, had he not been obsessed with his palette of soft pastels.

At my rides end stands the historic first train station for this suburb. Built in 1924 it is an excellent example of Prairie School architecture. It has been moved 130 feet east from it's original location. Today it houses a Starbucks and a company which assists people with declaring bankruptcy. As I think of the lack of respect for the building and it's history that this use shows I am heartened by the fact that there was enough respect to keep it from being bulldozed into a memory.  

Friday, October 5, 2012

Guilty Pleasures - Televised Eye Candy

In my youth television consisted of 3 channels, and even these stopped broadcasting at 11 p.m. or so. Under these spartan conditions my adolescent televised eye candy, although I did not acknowledge it as such at the time, consisted of the eldest of  Fred McMurrays "Three Sons", James West, in his impossibly tight pants, and on occasion Greg Brady. Today television offers us a copious number of channels 24 hours a day and almost unlimited opportunities for satisfying our more lurid visual fetishes. Following are some of my personal favorites.

The Tudors

Although I can claim some small level of dignity with this choice citing it's quasi historical basis, it essentially amounts to a bunch of very comely people running about engaging in political backstabbing and blackmail and extramarital coitus. One of the actors, after bulking up, is the latest choice to play Superman, since the 80's a character they keep trying unsuccessfully to make sexy. Maybe this time they will get it right and get past the underlying goody two shoes nature of the previous attempts which made the "Man of Steel" about as sexually appealing as an unfrosted donut. In some episodes clothing seems to be more off than on and costumes, when worn, appear to be designed by someone fond of tight leather boots and leggings. Nothing even slightly erotic about that. The sets, costumes, leather aside, jewels and locales are lush and spectacular and the scripts and storylines complex. Which keeps me from feeling particularly dirty as I watch it. Then again, maybe I am a master at justification.

The Mentalist

O.k., this one is completely indefensible. While I enjoy the manner in which the crimes on the show are solved, it is also the cast which captures my attention and keeps me whiling away portions of my life watching it. There is the tall, hot detective. Lean and handsome, he also looks somewhat stupid, which is not always an undesirable trait. The stoic Asian detective I also find appealing. Which is odd in that I never even remotely considered myself a "rice queen". Perhaps it is his solid, thick physique, showcased in tight fitting short sleeved dress shirts and ties. This is a fashion choice which usually makes me cringe, however in this case I am willing to give it a pass. In one episode, I was finally able to catch a glimpse of him clad only in boxer shorts. It seemed to make some of the time I have spent watching this worthwhile.


I only recently discovered this one. I can, again, maintain my dignity while viewing by remarking on it's period set and costumes, although I suspect they are a conglomeration of several different periods, and the inclusion of the noted thespian John Hurt as the voice of the dragon...alright, maybe that's a stretch.

I must also admit I enjoy the two male leads. Merlin is adorable in a jug earred twinkie sort of way. He possesses a delightful impish smile. He is complimented nicely by the blond underwear model who plays the young King Arthur. Great care appears to have been taken to ensure that Arthur is often seen in various stages of undress. In the series 4th season, and extraordinarily tall, handsome supporting actor has been added to the cast. The actor, playing the role of the knight with the  decidedly unbutch name of Percival, always seems to have his rippling, powerful arms bared, whereas the arms of the other knights in those same scenes are covered by not only tunic sleeves, but also gauntlets and chain mail armour.

The plots and subplots of this BBC production while often witty and engaging, are not it's only attractions.

I will admit to sometimes reverting to my youth and watching a rerun of "Wild Wild West", paying particular attention to the episodes where Robert Conrad dons the leather chaps his character is so fond of. Although often neglecting to wear a shirt, a favorite episode of mine is one in which he forgets his shirt while wearing the aforementioned chaps. When viewing this episode I can't help noting that there are several bars I am aware of where he would not only fit in but be very popular.
One question has always vexed me though. How was he able to sit down, let alone fight bad guys and swing his leg over to ride a horse, while wearing those tight pants?