2016

On the triumphant arrival of Portillo’s in Florida.

Whilst MQ and I were vacationing down in St. Petersburg, my brother notified me via electronic telecommunication that Portillo’s opened a restaurant in the area just last week. This was exhilarating news, and plans were made for a pilgrimage to Brandon.

We arrived around two o’clock yesterday afternoon, and I was thrilled that the place looked like the genuine article and not some tepid facsimile a thousand miles in distance and spirit from the real thing up north. At least five people in white official Portillo’s button-downs and bowties were walking up and down two drive-through lanes taking orders.

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Portillo’s in Brandon, FL. Go there now. Mr. Portillo needs to know that we need his food down here.

The parking lot and the vacant lot across the street were packed. The pictures below don’t do the crowdedness justice.

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Upon entering, we were corralled into more of an ordered blob of people than a line. There were at least 30 people in front of us in the blob. The place looked like you’d expect a Portillo’s to look, assuming you’ve ever been to one, and featured a 1920s/30s Prohibition theme like the one in Downers Grove. I should’ve taken more pictures; I’d blend right in with the transplants taking pictures and talking to family back home about how it really was a real Portillo’s, or how it was bigger than the one in this suburb or that suburb, or how they’d never seen a crowd like this one.

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We eventually placed our order with the gentleman in the white shirt and black cap: Italian beef sweet with fries and a Coke for me, Italian beef-cheddar croissant and a water for MQ. She grabbed two seats at a bar, and I stood in another large blob of people for maybe ten minutes waiting for our order to be called out. There was some bumping here and there and an occasional step on a foot, but we all knew why we were there, and each forgave the other.

The food-monger finally called out our order (“Three seventy-two,” I’ll never forget it) and I stepped forward to claim it. Grabbed the tray– white Portillo’s bag stuffed with manna, our drinks nestled in the recessed cupholders– grabbed some ketchup and napkins, and navigated through the crowd and tables to our seats.

I was a viking in Valhalla, guzzling mead and feasting on Saehrimnir with my valkyrie.

(I hadn’t actually killed anyone that day, or been killed myself, and it was a soft drink instead of booze, and the meat was beef instead of pork, and MQ doesn’t like big hats, but you get the idea. It was an authentic Portillo’s experience, minus the snow and the governor being hauled off to jail.)

I apologize for the quality of the pictures. Here’s her beef-cheddar croissant, which we didn’t realize at first was a croissant because it was so big and awesome that they folded it over like a sub roll instead of slicing it open like a hamburger bun:

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Here’s my Italian beef with sweet peppers and standard-issue gravy:

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Here are the fries:

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And here are a commemorative paper bag, menu, and napkin:

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We’ll have to make another trip down there for Chicago-style hot dogs and their chocolate cake, which is the best fast-food chocolate cake on the planet.

It was all so beautiful and it was glorious to have a surprise reunion with my favorite restaurant and to share the moment with MQ and I probably cried a little but that was OK because it was all so beautiful. I thank my brother for the timely information, and MQ for her forbearance and adventurousness. May even more Portillo’s restaurants soon grace the Sunshine State, and may God bless Dick Portillo.

We also went to the Dali Museum and Tarpon Springs.

No higher honor.

I am fond of saying, as (at the very least) my esteemed friend of many years DFJ3 would attest, that “intelligence and wisdom are different things. That’s why you roll for them separately in D&D.”

And so I cannot express my pleasure at discovering– this evening, mere minutes ago– a similar quote from my favorite living economist, Dr. Thomas Sowell:

“Intellect is not wisdom.” Thomas Sowell. Intellectuals and Society.

I am sure that countless thousands of great minds have expressed similar thoughts throughout history. But seeing that I have echoed such as Thomas Sowell on any matter just leaves me pickled tink. Giddy as a kipper.

Scalia’s passing hit me harder than expected, because despite disagreements, that man bothered to think. Sowell’s passing– may it be in the long distant future– will be worse.

On the 2016 field, so far.

Rogue Economist asked recently, i.e., three months ago, “Any commentary on the presidential race thus far?”

I apologize for taking my sweet time to respond, but I will do so now that the field’s a little smaller. My commentary is mostly negative. I’ll keep it brief and proceed in alphabetical order. Here goes.

Jeb Bush: Saturday’s debate was his best, and may have given him a lifeline, but… I can’t really think of much to say about him one way or the other. Just sorta meh. His problem isn’t that he’s a Bush, his problem is that he’s less like W or Barbara (i.e., cutthroat when necessary) and more like his dad (coasted into the Presidency in Reagan’s wake) or his brother Neil (never even ran for governor; black sheep of the family). Nothing radical about him; wouldn’t rock the boat too much as President. He just has to start winning sometime soon.

Ben Carson: He’s the wrong kind of nice for the White House. His affect is a bit off; he does not come across as authoritative or commanding in any field outside medicine and morality. After he drops out of the race, he should run for the House of Representatives from a conservative district, where he can fill in that public morality niche.

Chris Christie: Our times are such that appearance, sadly, matters too much compared to substance. So that doesn’t help Christie unless he wins the nomination— Bernie and Hillary are no prizes at their advanced ages. He has two problems. First is that he’s pissed off way too many Republicans over the years to have a good shot at winning the nomination. Second is that Trump has already staked out the brash, loudmouthed, New York/New Jersey straight-talk territory. There’s no room for Christie.

Hillary Clinton: In the most recent Democratic debate, Hillary claimed that she— former First Lady, former Senator, former Secretary of State, would’ve been President except she screwed up the 2008 primaries, frontrunner in the current campaign with tons of cash on hand— is not part of the Democratic establishment. If you need evidence that she’s establishment, here it is: the fact that the DNC didn’t dump a candidate who they have to hide from the general public as much as possible because they dislike her the more they see her, combined with the fact that the DNC didn’t dump the only candidate in the race who is teetering on the verge of federal indictment, combined with the fact that the DNC couldn’t find anyone willing to run against her, clearly demonstrate the Democratic establishment’s preference for Hillary. That she could be that brazen in making such a patently absurd statement is truly Clintonesque. Bill would be proud.

Seriously, though, I don’t like her. She is the single most corrupt person in this campaign.

Ted Cruz: Probably the sharpest thinker and campaigner in this whole mess, and of those left he probably cares the most about the Constitution, and he somehow won Iowa despite his opposition to ethanol subsidies. However, he looks like he’s wearing a Ted Cruz mask most of the time and his cadence is a little weird. Plus, the Canada thing could conceivably come back to bite him in las nalgas.

Carly Fiorina: At this stage she has no shot at the nomination, which is a shame, because she comes across as authoritative, collected, and prepared. Plus, she got most of these questions correct. Any GOP nominee would be damned foolish not to put her at the top of the VP list. I think she’ll stick around a while longer as a sort of tryout for Veep.

John Kasich: I’m sure he has some good ideas but good Lord, he just drones on and on about… about… I’m not even sure what about. He seems like he’s running for Mayor of Sleepy Midwestern Town or Dogcatcher or Step-Dad or something. He should’ve run back in 2000, when he— oh. Never mind.

Marco Rubio: He had one big problem, now he has two. The first big problem was amnesty. The second big problem was his response to Christie’s challenge in the most recent debate. Rubio’s a nice guy, and may represent the bright future of the party. But the second big problem was his response to Christie’s challenge in the most recent debate. He was an effective Speaker of the House here in Florida, and as Senator he struck the biggest legislative blow against ObamaCare so far. And the second big problem was his response to Christie’s challenge in the most recent debate. As an aside, I know Rubio’s older brother, and it was neat to hear Marco talk a bit about Mario in the most recent debate. The second big problem was his response to Christie’s challenge in the most recent debate.

Bernie Sanders: Two old Cold War phrases come to mind: “useful idiot” (полезные дураки) and “fellow traveller” (попутчик). But the galling thing about Bernie isn’t his economic illiteracy, it’s the fact that he could do the world a favor by tearing Hillary to shreds in the debates and he simply won’t do it. So much for speaking truth to power.

Donald Trump: First, I would like to apologize on behalf of my birth state, the glorious State of New Hampshire, if they go ahead and give Donald Trump his first primary victory tomorrow. In lieu of offering detailed analysis of the man and his campaign, allow me to me offer a transcript of some online back-and-forth with the esteemed Dr. Hmnahmna during last Monday’s Iowa caucuses, edited for dramatic effect:

VDV: People in Iowa are actually voting for Trump– NOW is it the end of the world?



DR. HMNAHMNA: Yes. I recommend you start drinking heavily.



VDV: Hosted a party last weekend. Let’s see what’s left.


VDV: Cheap red wine



VDV: Whiskey



VDV: Arsenic



VDV: Battery acid



VDV: O Great Cruz. Please save us from Donald. [Moderator notes: If it turns out Iowa was the beginning of Trump’s downfall, Cruz deserves a medal.]

DR. HMNAHMNA: Bloomberg will save us all.



VDV: Thank God. Here I was thinking my cup can fit a little too much soda in it, but BAM– Bloomberg to the rescue.



VDV: You know, just six months ago I was thinking, this might be the best group of GOP candidates we’ve seen in a while. Solid governors, up-and-coming senators, good representation of different wings of the party… and now I’m sitting here offering livestock to Ba’al in hopes of stopping Trump.



I think Cruz (or maybe Rubio) and Sanders represent the ideological wings in the race. I mean that descriptively, not perjoratively. I think that if you could install Bush, Christie, Clinton, or Kasich (or maybe Rubio) as President, you wouldn’t see a whole lot of boat-rocking, just some drift off to the left or right. I’d throw Trump in with that group if anyone could just him up, tape his mouth shut, and put him in one of those YES/NO wheelchairs like Captain Pike.

That said, last week I was presented with a scenario in which I could see myself voting for Trump. Here goes:

Obama strings along the feds’ investigation into Hillary Clinton to weaken her as much as feasibly possible. When it becomes apparent that she’s going to beat Sanders, Obama springs the trap. Hillary gets indicted and has to drop out. The DNC simply won’t let Sanders be the candidate, and so they throw Joe Biden’s hat in the ring. Uncle Joe will “reluctantly” take on the burden of being handed the nomination, campaign on taking up the Obama mantle, brag about forcing Obama’s hand on gay marriage, and remind us of his family tragedy at every possible opportunity, germane or not.

If that happens, then I swear to you and God Almighty that I will do whatever I must to make Trump the Republican nominee, thereby ensuring the best damn Presidential debates ever. Those two hair-plugged, brain-addled gasbags bloviating at each other would make for the most glorious spectacle in televised political history.

On the end of the Bears’ season (’15-’16).

The downside: lots of injuries (including a season-ender for the first-round pick), several winnable games were allowed to slip away, and the defense was the fourth-worst in team history.

The upside: that Thanksgiving victory against the Packers at Lambeau on the day they retired Brett Farve’s jersey was pretty *&^%$#@ awesome.

In toto: a wash. Hopefully the Bears find a good replacement for likely-to-depart OC Gase, heal well over the offseason, draft wisely, and make some solid signings. There’s greater cause for optimism than there was a year ago.