Bring out the Grinch

It has begun. Not the Costco kind of Christmas displays before Halloween but the full on yuletide yoyos. And I was Griswald.

Since I had to drag the kids with me to pick up work downtown, I decided to treat them to the Chicago Toy and Game Fair. I prefaced it by saying we would only be buying Christmas gifts for others. But I wanted to buy every thing there.


The first exhibitor was freakin’ Legoland. I didn’t have Legos as a kid, or if I did I acutely knew the true Lego kids, so my kids have a shit ton of Legos. But they play with them every day. Five minutes into the Expo I had to drag away my begging son to the next exhibitor. By the end he’d forgotten all about the overpriced Danish brick.

We lost a half hour playing with citiblocs, or hipster Lincoln logs, then we had a cookie, played Bug Out, rode cars, mugged with Darth Vader, hopped on a pogo stick, watched a shark fly to the ceiling, then mini helicopters, scribbled on Doodle Rolls, played catch with a hand trampoline and finally had lunch at 4pm. I blew $50 and that was with full restraint. Could’ve spent $500.

Then the kids talked me into Happy Feet Two at the IMAX. And yes, even dancing singing preachy penguins can be cool on 60 three-dimensional feet.

Now I must tell you about parking, for all of the fatherhood wonders there is nothing like parking that can make or break an adventure. When we arrived the garage was full, and cycling around the pier, I found a side road, a quarter block really, east of the new park between Grand and Ohio and just west and under LSD. There were maybe ten cars on either side; the west side of this quarter block, by the park, had a pay box, but the side opposite had nothing except the green curtain of the construction site. No pay box. I linger on the details because I wish that you would park there, even if you have no business there, just to park for free in the city, in an area where $3/hr is a steal, and garages cost you $26, park in this 10-spot Xanadu, sit at the end of the block if you want and watch all the people fighting for parking and racing against tickets and emptying their wallets in the garages; go out on a Saturday or Sunday when there’s no construction, go out and park, my friend, park and revel for free, park for free in this City of Fines and tell me you don’t believe in a god.

My blessedness ended abruptly.

Tail lights stacked red like an orgy of depraved elves. Even a fire engine wasn’t moving. I cut over; all west bound lanes were closed. Pedestrians were out like occupiers. The lit the tree. What could be stupider than a shut-down-the-street-tree-lighting ceremony? A fucking parade. There, after eight hours at Navy Pier, I was caught in premature Christmas ejaculate on the Malfeasant Mile, saying words the kids said I shouldn’t be saying.

Took a half-hour to circle back around to Columbus to get over the river and out of Ho-Ho-Hell when, what to my wondering eyes should appear? Fireworks. The kids put down their windows, told me to stop, gawker walkers spilled onto the street, and we crawled over the bridge. But now this was very cool: the police had blocked off the middle of the bridge, presumably so the barge launching the fireworks between the Columbus and Michigan bridges wouldn’t shoot anybody’s eye out. We got a drive-by firework show, at eye-level. A moment of splendor: the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day. The spectacle ended as soon as we crossed the bridge. Then we were outta there.  Enough for one season.


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  1. #1 by Patrick J Salem on 11/20/2011 - 4:41 PM

    I’m a Christmas hater for the most part–I fake holiday cheer, abhor all Christmas songs (with the possible exception of Springsteen’s live version of ‘Santa Claus is Comin to Town’), and can count on one finger the number of Christmases that didn’t involve some kind of fight–but now I’m a dad to a 2-year-old whose eyes grow big as more and more of our suburban neighbors put up their lighting displays. My wife is urging me to enter the fray so our house isn’t the one black patch in a sea of sparkling lights and inflatable figures. So far I’ve resisted.

    But seriously, Rob, as a fellow traveller in the Grinch tribe, I wonder at your lack of comment on the ridiculousness of all this Christmas kitsch BEFORE THANKSGIVING. I know retailers would like it if they could start their holiday “sales” sometime around Labor Day, but the city doesn’t have to play along, especially when Rahm says we’re broke. Think of all the overtime hours for cops and the Green Vests. What about the electric bill?

    Essentially, I believe that if austerity measures and social sacrifices are required because of fiscal shortfalls, cancelling the secular portions of Christmas would be a good start.

    • #2 by Robert Duffer on 11/22/2011 - 10:32 AM

      “I wonder at your lack of comment on the ridiculousness of all this Christmas kitsch BEFORE THANKSGIVING”–I’m not going to throw myself in front of that sleigh, Patrick. I won’t blame retailers, if anything, I pity them. The demand creates the supply: as long as there are kooks who camp out all night to go shopping, then there will be someone making a buck off it.

  2. #3 by CitiBlocs (@Citiblocs) on 11/21/2011 - 11:46 AM

    I’m actually thrilled and flattered that you “lost a half hour playing with Citiblocs! ” Thanks excellent news from the Grinch – what better testimony could we ask on a day filled with all those traps and potential disaster – parking would deter me and I wouldn’t go near the place ! But PLAY is the reason to go to Chitag and I’m so glad to hear you build something with Citiblocs – all is not lost AND that you had that you got a splendid fireworks show to complete the picture…wish I had been there too ! Thanks !

    • #4 by Robert Duffer on 11/22/2011 - 10:37 AM

      Citiblocs are super cool. Only reason we left after a half hour was because there was a kid with a full diaper nearby. Got any testers? I can promise a fully biased, totally partial review devoid of any journalistic integrity.

  3. #5 by crazy auntie lynnie on 11/22/2011 - 11:23 PM

    Such a great dad making lots of memories for his great kids. We should all be very thankful on Thanksgiving for one thing: we aren’t turkeys.

  4. #6 by CitiBlocs (@Citiblocs) on 11/23/2011 - 12:36 AM

    Let me check with the PR dept (sounds like we’re an enterprise) which we’re not….I’d personally love to have a fully biased and totally partial review – sounds like alot of fun really ! I mean who gets to have a product test by a “partial” Grinch !? That’d be great – can you email us your email to ? Thanks !

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