Saturday, December 28, 2013

Smokey Bears, Next 100,000 Miles.

The New Year is approaching, and what better time to review some safety tips and avoiding unnecessary "Trick Bags" set by local and federal law enforcement. Unlike our greedy freight broker and privileged dispatchers, sitting at home or working in a warm plush office. We as professional drivers live and sleep in our trucks. More importantly, we should have all vehicle registrations, licence plates and permits current and in compliance with The National Highway Safety Administration and Department of Transportation.  These Federal safety standards are regulations written in terms of minimum safety performance requirements for motor vehicles or items of motor vehicle equipment. But fuck all that jibber-jabber. Let's focus on the CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) score and how those points could add up and put you in the unemployment line for the next 12 months.  I take no pleasure in reporting that the CSA acronym was once called: Comprehension Safety Analysis and that these thieves in the White House have become so crazy with greed, and so hungry to control commerce that it reeks of corruption. Alright, time to move on before I spontaneously combust with rage.

Despite the fact that there are new accountabilities for our driving performance, you (the CDL Holder) can receive hefty fines and serious infractions on your CSA score. These points can range from  broken indicator lights to HOS (Hours of Service). Think of the CSA like a game of Golf, each driver starts at zero and can play this system like Milton Bradley until they reach 100 points. Afterward, game over. You lose your CDL privileges and become uninsurable to over 250 motor carriers in the country.  

On the surface, you and your truck might look road worthy and having a working flashlight, a small screwdriver, and an adjustable wrench could save you time and CSA points. During the Winter months, keep your air tanks free from moisture by draining them daily and replacing the air dryer once every two years. General maintenance could prevent roadside breakdowns and could possibly be the difference between life & death. Make sure you have plenty of food, a warm blanket and proper clothing this season. It would not be fair to your family if you came home in a body bag because you thought it would be stylish to wearing cargo shots and flip flops in fucking February when your truck defuncts in Nebraska.

Whether these efforts can help rejuvenate your way of life on the Interstate, each professional driver strives to put safety first, and should utilize good driving habits, critical thinking and road etiquette. Until then, drive safe for the next million miles. Your life and the lives of others depend on it!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Playing with Madness at Hard Rock Cafe.

The world of underground music has always been plagued with Scrap Metal cover bands such as Judas Beast, Battery and Kashmir. Not to say that these Chicago local acts are bad, I am not saying they are good, either.  I mention this only because of my deep admiration for Iron Maiden and Megadeth. Two hard-hitting, in your face kind of music that our parents love to hate. "TURN THAT SHIT DOWN!" me Mum would say. I would go into my room and blast my headphones and drift far away from the painful place they once called, teenage wasteland. Now, as a grown adult, I can find my happy place and see my favorite tribute bands such as High Speed Dirt & Maiden Chicago anywhere in the city.

High Speed Dirt
Last night was a rough one boys and girls, and I am still trying to get my voice back from all the cheering and singing. My blood pressure, adrenaline and serotonin shot though the roof at the Hard Rock Cafe in Chicago, as High Speed Dirt, opened for the Heavy Metal Tribute Show. It was a good performance, and songs such as, Holy Wars, Peace Sells and Wake Up Dead had the crowd hungry for more. Next on the bill was Sin After Sin, playing all your Judas Priest classics. Lead guitarist, Neven Trifunovich shredded his Jackson Flying V, nailing each note to perfection. Painkiller, Screaming for Vengeance and Breaking Law, were just a few songs on their set list and the night just kept getting better.

Neven Trifunovich: Sin After Sin
Two minutes until Midnight and it was party time! That's right folks, Maiden Chicago headlined this gig and their fans had become stage-crazy, as lead vocalist, Bill Swanson worked the crowd and the microphone. He seemed a little apprehensive, when a nine year old boy out performed Swanson during Wrathchild. Who was that kid? Do his parents know that he's out all night singing Number of the Beast, Aces High and Powerslave? Well, okay then. It's a lot better than Taylor Swift and Radio Disney.

Meanwhile, after stuffing my face with Rock-n-Roll Nachos, it was time to join in on the fun. The Trooper was played, the audience sang along and I received a bottled beer, brewed by Iron Maiden from lead vocalist, Mr. Swanson. It was a great night in Chicago and that's why I love this town.
There's no place like home and there's no one like Maiden Chicago.

Photos By: Bruce T. Pelletier

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Flight of the Flugtag

Mythology, Technology & Superheroes

Still Smugglin' (Chicago)
The world of sports will always draw fans like a moth into a burning building, and in some social circles, the Red Bull Flugtag is bigger than the "Stanley Cup."  Spectators from around the world come witness over 40 daredevil test pilots that will plunge into the icy cold waters of Lake Michigan. And remember this folks, the Flugtag event is no different than the Flight of Icarus. Daedalus conceived to escape from the Labyrinth with his son Icarus from the island Crete by constructing wings and then flying to safety. However, the wings were fabricated from feathers and wax. The young boy Icarus soared as high as the Sun and his wings turned to ashes. Falling to his death; Icarus' body was carried ashore by Heracles, naming the Aegean Sea and island after the fall of Icarus.

So what the fuck is a Flugtag, you ask? It's translated from a German word, meaning "Flying Day"  The first Red Bull Flugtag competition was held in 1992 in Vienna, Austria. It was such a great success that it has been held every year since. Over 35 cities all over the world host this spectacular event, as brainy engineers attempt to break the world record. Anyone is eligible to compete in the Flugtag event. The criteria varies with location. In the United States each flying machine must have a maximum wingspan of 30 feet and a maximum weight (including pilot) of 450 lbs. In Australian Flugtags the wingspan is limited to 26.25 feet and the weight (NOT including pilot) to 396 lbs. The craft must be powered by human centrifugal force, gravity, and insane imagination. Because the aircraft will ultimately end up in the water, it must be unsinkable and constructed entirely of environmentally friendly materials.

Team Shatter (Chicago)
Now, we shall take fight with an all-beef Chicago-style hot dog (No ketchup!) chopped with onions, a dill pickle and squirt of yellow mustard. Team Shatter is a whimsical group that met at the Art Institute in Chicago, IL. Sal Gltierrez (San Francisco, CA.) Jason Abroms ( Denver, CO.) Rae Kim (Texas) and Teddy Verbockel ( Chicago, IL.) launched their flying frankfurter and nosedived 30 feet into frigid water. "Distance isn't our goal this year, explained full time student, Abroms. He adds by saying, " We are diverse artists that are all are bound together like processed meat in the pursuit of freedom and Flugtag glory."

Other teams in the 2013 National Flugtag Competition include: Live to Fly, Fly to Swim, Hell on Heels, Still Smuggllin' (Chicago) Brolar Bears (Ohio) and Last Action Heroes (Missouri) just to name a few. There were no records broken in the Windy City and after slamming down 41 Red Bull Energy drinks, my sources said that the Chicken Whispers in Long Beach, California broke the new world record at: 258 feet.

Chicago Duck Hunt (Chicago)
It was a hard travel back to my North side home in Chicago. Mayor McGreed made sure that our out of town guests paid for parking by placing the Red Bull Flugtag event away from public transportation and in the heart of Chicago's ghetto. Families were strong-armed by city food vendors that capitalize on this inconvenience should they have forgotten to pack a lunch on that brisk September day. Later that evening, it was time to retire and during my slumber I had this horrible dream. I was flying a Cessnia 1725 and as my co-pilot was a talking Catfish. We were arguing over our flight plan and then that son-of-bitch sunk his fangs right into my belly. This could only mean one thing: a Catfish co-pilot is a symbol of someone that has misrepresented themselves. I had called them out on their bullshit, and was viciously attacked, and because of my innovation, good fortune and the thirst for Red Bull, I over came this intruder.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Village of Elwood is stuck with their Intermodal Idiot.

The transportation industry sucks… That is a scabby way to begin a column, but after discovering that a deadbeat  logistics company residing in Elwood, Illinois has used up taxpaying resources; leaving this small community with a $163 million debt to repay, has this professional driver concerned about America's future. CenterPoint International Center-Joliet has become the largest master-planed inland port in North America thus, created 3800 jobs. Most of the people employed at CIT-Joliet earn starvation wages, as fat-cat developers zip around in a $750,000 Turbine Helicopter, just to get a birds-eye view of their 6500 sq foot immense transportation infrastructure. Adjacent to Interstate 55 & Interstate 80, CIT-Joliet is in cahoots with BNSF and Union Pacific Railroad as an Intermodal  Terminal. Truck drivers with rail containers, line up for miles to enter this huge transportation hub and others deliver freight to CIT's warehouse.  "The work is tiring and I kept getting sick," explained 26-year old  dock worker, Holly Kent-Payne during her interview with the Chicago Tribune. 

Holly is not the only one that is sick. In fact, this TIF district of Elwood is also sick with financial worries and used future tax money to reimburse developers for some expenses. Furthermore, CIT-Joliet has 88 million dollars in TIF notes, fundamentally IOU vouchers at a 10 percent interest rate for the next 20 years. This is a risky move to investors and now the Village of Elwood has decided to take legal recourse with these greed-crazed bastards for unpaid promises. Now, businesses like this will leave America in worst shape than it was thirty years ago.  Our interstate system slowly rots with decay, Our law enforcement has been corrupted and wages will soon be based on piecework, just like it was in the 19th Century.     

Monday, August 19, 2013

Attitude & Altitude at The Chicago Air & Water Show

55 Years of Guns & Fun Under The Chicago Sun 

The only thing louder then a thousand Marshall full stack amplifiers at a Lollapalooza concert would be the sound of the afterburners of  an F/A-18 Hornet screaming overhead at 700 mph. However, that was last years Chicago Air & Water Show. This year, our infamous leader- Barack Obama cut military funding for Chicago's 55th annual Air & Water Show. Nope, things are different this time around as insurance salesman littered our beautiful skyline with advertisements. Greed is the American way with rich gypsies and flashy millionaire Fuckballs wanting you to like them on Facebook. But so what? Everything I say will be labeled as an act of treason and I could get shot in my face on the White House Lawn. So let's move on, shall we? 

You will not see “Eddie”  (Iron Maiden's mascot)  flying this highly-maneuverable, supersonic strike fighter at the speed of sound near the city’s beautiful skyline. The sonic-boom would shatter all the windows near the lakefront, and there would be a lot of angry rich folks thinking it’s terrorists launching some type of invasion. That’s not case.  This exciting event only happens once a year in Chicago, with civilian pilots implementing Hammerhead maneuvers and barnstorming to the commercial sounds of Rock-n-Roll.

In 1959 the first show was held under the direction of Al Benedict, a Chicago Park District Supervisor at Lake Shore Park and was part of a “Family Day” celebration for inner city children enrolled in day camp programs.  The budget was $88.00, and featured water skiers, diving competitions and Air Sea Rescues. Today, over 2 million people witnessed The Firebird's Delta Team, Lima Lima Flight Team and this year's first all Veteran Parachute Team. No U.S. Thunderbirds, No Golden Knights and no Blackhawk Helicopters. Just some Bozo from California flying a Red Bull helicopter and zipping back to Gary, Indiana.

Now this would make anyone’s mood foul, and it gets even better. Some brain child at the Mayor’s Office of Special Events found a new way to fleece the rich by purchasing a reserve spot at B.Z. Lounge for $500.00 each day, that included beer, soft drinks and a barbecue buffet and is the main focal point for the show.  As for myself, I used my press credentials and was seated in the V.I.P. section where the family members of civilian pilots were seated. I was treated like an orphan when I asked them for a hot dog off the grill. "That food is for the crew," a man in a red polo shirt said with narrowed eyes. Wow, a lousy thirty cent wiener and "The Crew" would rather toss all that food in garbage, than to feed white-trash, such as myself. Folks like this can smell money and they knew I was an Outlaw journalist. 

Evil Genius & Herb Hunter
photo by: Warrior Princess
Announcer: Captain Herb Hunter.  Nice guy, but he too reeks with gluttony, stuffing his face with grilled chicken. Good old Herb. He is smooth, quintessential and has logged 24,000 hours of flight time during his career as a Boeing pilot. And remember folks, if it’s not going… It’s not a Boeing. Captain Hunter has become a household name in Chicago since 1988, when he became the city's announcer for The Chicago Air &Water Show. Indeed, I spoke with Hunter regarding the laws of gravity and a G-force. "At super-sonic speeds, the human body is exposed to a centrifugal force, explains Capt. Hunter. One G is the amount of gravity for our body weight on the ground. A combat pilot can experience up to nine G's, that's nine times the normal body weight. And when the blood becomes heavy, it reaches the brain with difficulty and could cause tunnel vision." What Captain Hunter is saying, that if a person weighs 200 lbs, they would experience 1800 lbs of gravity pulling them down inside the cockpit.

My prevailing mood took a slight change for the better, when I saw smoke trails and several people jumping out of some type of aircraft. It was too high up in altitude to make out this U.F.O and all I could see was a smoke trail looping round and round toward the ground.  It was the All Veteran Parachute Team taking their big leap at 12,500 feet with a brisk temperature of only 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  This can be a highly contagious Virus know as The Disease for Speed. This illness is like no other. In fact, it will kill you faster than Goat flu and the sad part is you’ll never see it coming right toward you.

When the human body is falling out of the sky at 120 mph, it’s time to put away that college Physics text book about Irresistible Force & Immovable Objects. For example, when a speeding automobile drives into a building, twisted metal and death is what you'll see.  Imagine what an unsung hero could do to someone's roof if both parachutes fail. The homeowner is going to need a big sponge, a bucket of bleach and shovel to clean up that mess. Okay, I am getting carried away and this is a family event, not some poorly written Hollywood movie that no one will see. So, lets move on.

Buzzing around the Chicago skyline was yet another thrill seeker that’s been affected by this airborne virus. Heli-skiing, cave SCUBA diving and flying more then a 1000 air shows, Sean D. Tucker is a rock star of the sky. Tucker’s airplane, the Oracle Challenger bi-plane is a fire breathing beast with over 400 horsepower that can travel up to 300 mph.  He is a leader in the airshow business and has received all of the industry’s highest honors for low-level aerobatics. Awards include, the Crystal Eagle Award, World Airshow Federation Champion (2000) Living Legend in Aviation (2007) and in 2008 Mr. Tucker was inductee in the National Hall of Fame.  Sean D. Tucker is the only civilian performer to ever be allowed to fly close formation with both, Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds.

When summer stops, the fun stops as well. People will be back to work, the children will be back in school and it will be business as usual once again.  The Chicago Air & Water Show is a reminder to everyone that the fun stops here. Not all Chicagoans will agree with this. Some will shoot their pistols, others will get drunk and then try to hack Facebook for some strange reason. And then we have those who believe in two seasons, Summer and Football. Until then,  let the games begin.

Evil Genius & Captain X
photo by: Warrior Princess

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tall Ships In Search Of The Albatross

Don't Give Up Your Ship!

"I pass like the night, from land to land." -Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Avast, Scalawags and Land Captains. Let's talk about the good life in Chicago now, about beautiful beaches, a majestic skyline and The Tall Ships at Navy Pier. Before there were trucks, the world transported goods and services using wooden cargo ships such as Friends Good Will and Pride of Baltimore. During the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813 these incredible War Machines helped defeat and capture six British Navy vessels. Crimson blood spilled on the inland sea as Forty-One Royal Sailors lost their lives in one of the biggest naval battles of the War of 1812. "We have met the enemy and they are ours," was the famous quote from Commander Oliver Hazard Perry, and his name was commemorated with a travel plaza off Interstate 80 in Clyde, Ohio.  Today, these historic flagships are launched as fateful Tall Ship replicas for the preservation of traditional maritime skills. 

In 1916, Navy Pier had evolved from a freight and passenger ship docking facility to one of the world's top tourist attractions, drawing more then eight million visitors each year. Chicago is also the inventor of Roller Skates, Pinball machines and the Chicago Bears. Ah-but that's another story for football season. Right now, I have chosen to cover Pirates, bootlegging and The Tall Ships Adventure. For openers, this year's festival included 14 amazing Ships from Canada, Norway and the United States. "Tall Ships America is a National organization that supports Tall Ships and their programs," explained Executive Director, Bert Rogers. "We have races between the port events with more than twenty ships sailing at twenty ports at all five Great Lakes this summer", Rogers added. It was obvious that Bert Rogers had spent many days at sea, judging by his calloused handshake and Hulihee sidechops. Yes sir, this Sea Wolf is an elite member of the Noble Order of the Golden Shellback, crossing both the international dateline and World equator in the same day. Bert Rogers might resemble a rigid, salty Gun Boss or human cannon ball to land loving Sand Crabs. But in fact, Rogers is a gracious host and made this Chicago River Rat feel right at Home. 

So what in the hell does this have to do with trucking, you ask? I am getting to that right now.
The traffic signals we use today, originated from cargo ships. In fact, during the Nineteenth Century, the United States mandated that all steamboats running between sunset and sunrise must convey one or more signal lights on the open water used for communication and to avoid dangerous collisions. For example, Port has the same amount of letters as the word left. On the Port side, is a red light to warn others to stop. The Starboard side displays a green light and grants the right-of-way to craft when traveling at Sea. However, the green sidelight does not mean Full Steam Ahead and signifies an unqualified go, and to proceed with caution. There are other Coast Guard regulations, such as displaying a white masthead light and load lines applying to large vessels, and Gaff Schooners such as Red Witch that operate internationally and on the Great Lakes.

Red Witch is a 77-foot long topsail schooner that was designed by John G. Alden in 1986. Fully inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard, she is licensed to transport forty-nine passengers and weights 41 GRT         (Gross Registered Tonnage). "It's peaceful looking out at our beautiful skyline," says Captain Andrew Sadock. It's great, because you can put up your sails and don't use any fuel. Another funny thing, is road travelers assume that all drivers are sober and have a license. With us, we assume the opposite. Everyone on the water is drunk with no license."   Captain Andrew is indeed a Renaissance man, holding a 100 Ton Masters License, a Commercial Drivers License and is a PhD Candidate at Washington University in St. Louis. Futhermore, this Helmsman has over 1500 days at  Sea and learned to sail in the San Francisco Bay. During our short voyage on Lake Michigan, Captain Andrew mentioned their mandatory Hours of Service and stated that they follow the 12 hours on duty and 12 hours off rule. No regulated half-hour breaks or 34 hour restarts. Just gybing and jibing and keeping on an eye on the layline and not a D.O.T Scale Houses on the interstate. 

Next on the list of Tall Ships is the topsail schooner STV, Unicorn. This is the only all-female crew in the world and was built in Holland from recycled metals of old German submarines and salvaged U-boats. She is a 118 foot long fishing vessel with a locomotive-style 1500 horsepower diesel engine and serves as a leadership learning lab for teenage girls and executive women. Other Tall Ships include, Pathfinder, Lynx and the SS Sorlandet, that commemorated their 80th anniversary of her first journey to appear at the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago.

Aside from that, I was all jazzed up to hear tales of bootlegging from Pirate Dave of Chicago's Flagship, Windy. The sunset faded over the concrete mountains as brisk winds blew from the northeast as Pirate Dave shared his vast knowledge of Rum running, murder and the high crimes at Sea. There would, of course be no haggling over moonshine for some Sun fish- except if you had a flintlock pistol during negotiations. Sounds about right, eh? And besides, Pirates have no mercy just like the folks running The White House. Which reminds me, We are all Pirates some how, some way driving our ships to new land.  Should you find the bird of good omen, set it free and beware of the nightmares of the Sea. 

The Evil Genius & Bert Rogers
Pirate Dave & The Evil Genius

The Evil Genius & Capt. Andrew Sadock
                                                  Photographers: Bruce T. Pelletier & Ken Kope

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Maiden American

Fabricating The Apocalyptic Army of Iron Maiden.

Millions of fans across the globe will testify that Iron Maiden is one of the greatest live bands of all time. Superior lyrics, galloping guitar riffs and excellent stage presence has given them that hard edge appeal for well over 30 years. Formed on Christmas Day in 1975 by bassist Steve Harris, he left his previous group, Smiler and assembled a weapon of Metal destruction more powerful then one thousand FV-101 British Scorpion tanks combined. Harris had been influenced by  novelist  Alexandre Dumas, author of The Man in The Iron Mask, which had a verbal connection to the mid-evil torture device and "the name" Iron Maiden was created. The British heavy metal band also incorporated their famous mascot, "Eddie" from the brilliant mind of Derick Riggs thus producing thirty-six albums and selling  over 85 million records world wide.

So, what has this got to with America, you ask? The unemployment rate in the United States has remained unchanged, and is close to 8.0%, as  reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And with the blue collar working class struggling to make ends meet, folks just do not have $150.00 of happy money laying around  just to purchase an Iron Maiden concert ticket these days. In fact, more and more fans are supporting their local cover bands and enjoying a nice evening listing to the next best thing for a third the cost with beer money to spare.

From the golden coast of California with The Iron Maidens to the salty Atlantic shores  featuring Maiden New York, Iron Maiden tribute bands have infiltrated our great nation and are battling the war on poverty. Cover charges are less than twenty bucks, and Maiden fans have less travel time to see the show at their local pub. Furthermore, one might drive to the foothills of Maiden, North Carolina that is nestled away in small southern town to cure that fever for more cow bell.

Maiden Chicago had embarked on a long and prosperous journey after auditioning lead frontman Bill Swanson in late February of 2011. Beginning as the lead singer for a B-52's cover band that later, transformed into Revelations, knew what Metal fans wanted. During my interview back in 1999, Swanson stated, " Devo didn't work out and nobody came to that show. So, we figured Iron Maiden was where it was at." He relaxed with what may have been an adult beverage and talked casually about the changing times and finding the right men for the job.

Revelations soon dissolved after four years of local clubbing and like most groups, they are here today, and gone next week. Eric Babcock (lead guitarist) had set a new foundation for Maiden Chicago. Gathering the right soldiers and later joining forces with former bassist of Revelations, Gary Ingram. Eric had co-founded this project and recruited some new members back in September, 2010. After building a dynamic website for their fan base and playing out for two years, it was time for something more challenging both musically and professionally.  "We left on good terms and Eric is now performing with Damage Justice, explaines Ingram. The band owes Eric a lot of credit for his contributions. He's the real deal, the whole nine yards and we thank him for that. Al Contreras (lead guitar) was in the Metal Years and Powerslave and it seemed like a good fit, we knew that he was ready to make a commitment with Maiden Chicago."  Other members include, Bill Swanson ( lead vocals), Ralph Circelli (lead guitar) and drummer, Dan  Driskill.

Maiden Chicago offers a strong live performance with dueling guitars and powerful frontman. Smoke and lights illuminate the stage as "Chicago Eddie" lurks on stage. The drums and bass complement each other well as they play the Iron Maiden classics such as, Number of the Beast, Flight of Icarus and The Trooper. If you're hungry for Maiden and want Piece of Mind while not spending a Pharaoh's ransom, you'll agree that Maiden Chicago is one tough act to follow.

The music of Iron Maiden has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a 1997 Freightliner is indeed a modern day Powerslave. The rich live in chains of Gold and the rest of us live in chains of Iron. Give me Maiden or give me Death!