Declaring myself McDonald’s-free



At the beginning of this year, I didn’t intentionally make a resolution about avoiding McDonald’s restaurants. Those type of pledges never work. And yet, a few weeks into January I realized I hadn’t yet gone to any MickeyD’s, and I didn’t miss it, either.

After a series of months where I stayed away from all of their stores, and then posted a picture of one selected location on the last day of the month, I understand now that I’ve cured myself. I don’t need their food, their drinks, and their presence in my life. If ever I go to one of their restaurants again, I’ll admit defeat here. But until then, I’ll get along just fine.

Farewell, you life-shortening, worker-exploiting symbol of American decadence. What’s left of my life awaits.

Month without McDonald’s, part 5


Once again, on the last day of a month where I did not go to a McDonald’s, I’m presenting another one of their signs as a trophy of sorts. Five months without patronizing this business feels positively great.

By paying their workers minimum wages, and thus ensuring that many of them will go on public assistance in order to survive, the Golden arches have earned all of the worker mistrust that manifested itself with protests at the corporate headquarters in suburban Chicago this past month. Good on those who put themselves on the line for this cause.

Other businesses, particularly in fast food, probably do the same thing McDonald’s does in this regard. But withholding my money from this one business is a good start to realizing that cheap food has costs we aren’t supposed to consider when a food craving sets in.

McDonald’s won’t go under because I don’t eat there anymore. I, however, get the satisfaction of knowing that they depend on sales, and my part of this equation has gone somewhere else, hopefully for good. And that’s more than I was doing a year ago about this.

Month without McDonald’s, Part 4


The minimum wage seems to be McDonald’s best friend. When the Senate killed an attempt to raise the minimum wage last week, I’m sure there were a few happy McDonald’s franchise owners and higher-ups in the corporate structure. But there were thousands of workers who lost out, and I am–and will always be–closer to the latter group than the former. So I’m voting on this matter with my feet.

I haven’t eaten at McDonald’s once this year, in part to protest their low-wage business model, and in part because I’m carrying around too much McDonald’s food with me already. And I don’t miss it, either. Life without McDonald’s is just great.

This is my fourth McGolden Trophy, and the others are here and here and here.

Until next month…..

Quarterly Report #10

Ten quarters is two and a half years. Throw in the quarter where I blew off writing one of these, and I’m almost three years into writing this blog. My output last quarter was just under a post a day, and some of the posts I added weren’t more than a picture and a few words. But it’s clear to me I still enjoy doing this.

This quarter I quit drinking coffee, on the theory that I would sleep better at night if I cut back on the caffeine. And I also created an avenue for artistic expression with the teabag haiku thing that I do sometimes. I have fun with it, and that’s the best reason for doing it.

Last quarter I also didn’t eat at McDonald’s once, which is probably a good thing. I still overeat in other ways, and other fast food outlets may get a visit on occasion (darn you, Colonel Sanders) but on the whole this is a change that I’m glad to have made.

I also commented on some celebrity deaths last quarter, including Philip Seymour Hoffman and Harold Ramis. We all die eventually, and a classmate of mine from high school died very suddenly this month,too. I didn’t know her very well, but again it’s a reminder that we have to enjoy the time that we’re here.

And lastly, I contributed a few things to four other websites, so that cut into the things that I put here. But it’s all good, because taking a thought from my head and then sending it out to the world always feels great.

The next one of these will be in the heat of the summer. Until then….

Month without McDonald’s, part 2


Last month, I commemorated a month without going to a single McDonald’s restaurant by taking a picture of one, on the last day of the month, and posting it here.

This is the second month that I’ve avoided the call of the Arches, and here is this month’s trophy. It’s located on North Clark street in Chicago. I didn’t have a name for this last month, but now I do. Behold the McGolden Trophy, or MGT for short.

I had intended this to be a new year’s resolution for 2014, and so far it’s going great. I’m weaning myself off of the junk they sell, and that can only be a good thing for my health. It’s a lifestyle change that’s long overdue.

See you next month!

The golden arches and Abe Lincoln’s hat


I took this picture yesterday as I was waiting at a red light in Chicago. I love this view, and I could probably crop out the McDonald’s sign attached to his stovepipe hat, but why not leave it in, instead?

Would Lincoln eat McDonalds, if he were alive today? We’ll never know for certain, but at least the McDonald’s jingle could be twisted in honor, as follows:

Ba da bum ba baa,
I’m Lincoln it!

Now I understand

Since last September, I’ve been excited at the prospect of Theo Epstein coming to Chicago. I suggested that it happen almost immediately after the Red Sox collapsed in Baltimore on the final night of the regular season, and I’ve written about it here and here and here. And it’s always been with the assumption that whatever worked for him in winning a championship with the Red Sox (two championships, actually) will be brought here to Chicago as well.

But the news today changed my assumptions. I guess I wasn’t really listening, or hearing only what I wanted to hear, when Tom Ricketts spelled out the reasons why Theo was being brought to Chicago. But today it all became clear to me.

I went to Fenway Park for the first time in my life in May of last year. It was on my “bucket list” of things to do in life, and I was glad to cross that one off the list. I was blown away by what a great baseball experience it was. The Cubs were crushed, almost as badly as the baseball that Kevin Youkilis hit over the billboard above the Green Monster. But I loved it just the same.

A sense of baseball history pervades Fenway Park. You just have to soak it all in, and appreciate how unique it is. Baseball can tear down and rebuild any stadium it wants to, but it can never lose Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. The “baseball stadium as American cathedral” idea comes from these two places, and no others.

Toward the end of the game, as my baseball buddy and I were leaving the park, I pointed some sort of a gift shop  in the bowels of the stadium. He indicated that it had been built just a year or two ago. I looked at it again, and at the sections of the park all around it, and realized that I couldn’t tell the difference between something Babe Ruth would have recognized, and something that didn’t exist when the 21st century began. It was a seamless transition from one to the other, and it was very well done.

One of the things that Fenway Park now has, and I was very taken with during the game, is a number of very large scoreboards high above the action. I remember looking at them on several occasions, and telling myself that Wrigley Field needed something comparable. And if the announcement that a big 70-foot LED screen is coming to Wrigley Field next summer, then it looks like that’s going to happen. It’s decades overdue, but it can only make the fan experience better for those at the game.

The idea of seats on top of the Green Monster in left field seemed silly once, but I will tell you that every seat was sold when I was there, and it’s basically a license for the team to print money. I’m certain that Theo Epstein had a hand in that, and will be expected to offer his suggestions about how the Cubs can do something similar at Wrigley.

I was also struck by how the road outside the ballpark–Yawkey Way–is part of the Fenway Park experience. The mother of all gift shops is literally across the street, so you can actually leave the park, go to the gift shop, and return to your seat during the game. I would expect something similar at Wrigley, either with Sheffield Avenue (similar to the Wildcat Way that preceded the Northwestern-Illinois football game a year ago) or along Clark Street north of Addison.

The Ricketts family also just purchased the plot of land where the McDonald’s is, literally across the street from the ballpark. I would look for that to be incorporated into the park in some way, as well. There are lots of possibilities, and lots of money will be spent to make this a reality.

Some people will just instinctively oppose new changes in the name of “tradition.” But the biggest tradition of all at Wrigley–losing–is what we all want to see changed. Any other tradition is negotiable.  Paint the grass blue like Boise State’s turf, if you have to. Tear out all the ivy and convert it into padded walls covered with corporate signage, if need be. Remove the bullpens down the first and third base signs and put them behind the outfield wall. Do all of that and more in the name of winning, and I’ll happily go along with it.

I started going to games at Wrigley Field in 1987, and the only season I missed going to at least one game (but usually many more than that) was 2006. The Cubs had brought Dusty Baker back for his final year under contract, and I successfully staged a boycott of one during that season. But the result of all this is that Wrigley–for all of its history and charm–now seems a bit old hat. And if the ballpark and its surroundings are overhauled successfully, this feeling should vanish overnight.

Creating something new–while giving the appearance that it has always been there before–won’t be an easy task. But I have seen it up close, and I can attest to the fact that it can be done. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what they come up with.