Posted byat 5th January, 2009
Linda, Adriane and I just got back – literally – from a few days in my hometown. Unless there’s a comic book convention involved, any event that unites my three greatest loves is a winner, but this time the trip was a doozie. We went to Chicago to attend the NHL Winter Classic, the hockey game held on New Year’s Day at Wrigley Field. The ivy-covered home of the Chicago Cubs, or as Ernie Banks named it, The Friendly Confines. It was opened in 1914, making it second only to Boston’s Fenway Park as America’s oldest baseball stadium by two years.
Baseball is a game traditionally played outdoors. Hockey is a game traditionally played outdoors by small children and their parents. Except for the Winter Classic.
As the three of us were driving into Chicago, I turned on WBBM-AM in order to get a traffic reading. The local CBS News radio station had started to interview a professional financial wizard out of New York who was offering an analysis of the New Year’s economic health, or, actually, the complete and total lack thereof. With a passion and demeanor so over the top that he made CNBC’s Jim Cramer sound like Perry Como, this guy informed us the economy was going to get a lot worse and damn near everybody was going to be out of a job and our money would be worthless. Major retail chains such as Macy’s were going out of business – use your gift cards now – all of the automakers have had it and the shopping malls and shopping strips were going to turn to swampland fit only for Hoovervilles. The sort of guy who gives hysteria a bad name, when he stopped for oxygen interviewer Regine Schlesinger barely suppressed a laugh. Sure, things are bad and are getting worse, but are conditions really that apocalyptic? Won’t incoming President Obama do things that will put people to work?
No way, Mr. Expert shouted. The economy will get a hell of a lot worse under Obama. He’ll just spend money to get people jobs and fix our infrastructure. That’s a surefire recipe for disaster. We’re all doomed. Too many shopping strips. Too many shopping strips.
Having run the clock out on his insane intensity, Regine wished Mr. Expert a happy new year. Mr. Expert replied in kind and at length; happily and effusively. He wanted all the listeners to have a wonderful new year.
No doubt he was referring to those few who hadn’t committed suicide while listening to his interview.
Later that evening, we joined Len Strazewski and Andrew Pepoy for dinner at the famous and fabulous Gulliver’s Restaurant on the far north side. Andrew, of course, is the writer/artist of Simone and Ajax over at www.ComicMix.com; he’s also an artist on DC’s Fables titles and on Archie’s Katy Keene and Bongo’s Futurama. Len is an occasional comic book writer and editor (Starman, Prime, Justice Society, Trollords) and a full time journalism professor at Chicago’s Columbia College. In conversation, I asked Len which he thought might still be around in print form within five years: the daily newspaper or the comic book.
With the wit and charm that has made him my favorite bon vivant, Len immediately replied “One or the other?” Right. Got it. After some discussion, we all decided the comic book would likely be the survivor – but only because the medium had already been reduced to its smallest core audience and had figured out a way to survive a bit while longer living off of the fumes generated by movie and licensing revenues. The day Warner Bros. and Marvel Films realizes that they do not need to publish comic books in order to produce Batman and Spider-Man movies, it’s game over.
I then immediately made my only New Year’s resolution: I would not allow the ever-worsening economy to undermine my Chicago trip. If, as FDR said, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, we’ve got to give ourselves a break.
On New Year’s Day, Adriane, her friend Marty, and I went to Wrigley Field for the big hockey game. Sitting in the stands looking at a hockey rink where the infield used to be was quite a wonderful and surreal experience. Sure, they used to play football at Wrigley, but not for the better part of 50 years. The weather was an endurable 35 degrees, there was just enough snow in the outfield to make it interesting, and there were all kinds of greats from the Chicago Blackhawks and the Chicago Cubs of yore for me to have a genuine fanboy spaz-out, including two of my heroes, Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull.
The best part? Probably at the end of the Star-Spangled Banner, when two F-18 Hornets did a booming flyover. I never saw that at a hockey game before.
Oh, the Detroit Red Wings beat the Blackhawks decisively, but that didn’t bother me and it didn’t seem to bother the other locals at the sold-out stadium. We had a great, great time.
Besides, we’re used to seeing Chicago lose at Wrigley Field.