Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fool for the City

With all apologies to Foghat and one of my favorite songs of all time, of the many things I’ve discovered in the past two-plus years, the fact that I’m a fool for the city may be both the most surprising and satisfying.

When I took the CEO gig in Chicago in early fall of 2009, I was looking forward to being around the city. I’ve always loved large cities and all that they offer, and had at times fantasized about living in the heart of one of them—typically Washington, DC or maybe NYC. But it was not on my mind in coming to the Windy City and my next career step. And being downtown had never even occurred to me.

I spent the first month or so looking at soul-less tract apartments in the suburbs that were within ten or fifteen minutes of work…but they were all pretty expensive, I still had cable and utilities to account for, and I was looking at $10-12k to furnish them. You couldn’t walk to bars or restaurants, your neighbors were all twenty-somethings just starting out. I just couldn’t embrace it.

Of course the thought of living in downtown Chicago was just as absurd. How could I afford that? What about parking? Never happen.

But then one night sitting in my hotel suite in Oak Brook I was just stumbling around on Apartments.com and up pops this great little two bedroom, furnished, in the south loop. The price was so ridiculously cheap that I didn’t even look at it for three weeks—there must be something wrong with the building, I thought. But it had literally everything but sheets and towels, included all utilities and extraneous costs, looked great in the pictures, and had a really appealing location…so one week when I was staying downtown for a conference, I went on a Saturday to take a look.

My first clue was as soon as I walked in. Yes it had granite countertops and marble bathrooms and was charming, yes it was decorated very much in my style, yes it was on the twelfth floor with a balcony, and yes it had indoor parking. But there, sitting on the counter, was an Indiana University Kelley School of Business decorative plate. That’s where my daughter was going to school, and my son wanted to attend. That’s where my future landlord had gone as well. Turned out he was a year younger than me and we’d grown up about 40 miles apart in northern Indiana. Bill ended up being a really great guy and a terrific landlord.

Cue the lightning bolt and cut to the sun streaming in the sliding glass door.

It was over before it began. I had to have it. We signed all the paperwork and I moved in three weeks later.

What’s happened in the ensuing two years can only be called an epiphany. Turns out I’m a city dweller…for a guy who grew up on a farm and put himself through school raising feeder pigs, mowing yards and detailing cars, who knew? But I love everything about it: the restaurants and bars, the museums, the symphony, the theater, the lakefront. Taking the train to the north side for a game; sometimes just to have a drink at Murphy’s while a game is going on. Even the sirens at night. It’s a vibrant life and style that I have absolutely embraced, and I am going to miss it immensely.

The best mornings include walking to the Lake Michigan shorefront, and either working up a sweat or just sitting on a bench listening to seagulls and watching people jog by while I sipped coffee. My favorite workout is doing a three and a half mile lap around Grant Park; starting by going to the waterfront and walking it’s length to the north, and then circling back and coming down Michigan Avenue. Doing that before work is akin to the warm up laps before a race: here is your soul in the sun coming up over the water, and here is the traffic and bustle and pace of the world as you come back into the city…it‘s like building up your revs for a running start.

In the summers, the Chicago Symphony runs through their weekend show every Wednesday evening in the Millenium Park shell, and you can go for free. So if I could get home in time, I’d throw a bottle of wine in a bag with a glass, some kind of picnic food and a blanket, and walk the eight or ten blocks to sit on the grass in the park and listen to one of the great musical ensembles in the world perform a master work.

All by myself.

That might be the most interesting thing I’ve discovered. Living in the midst of all these people and energy and pace is one of the most comfortable places in the world to be by yourself. Rather than intimidating, everyone is friendly; I think because we’re all in this together. People talk on the elevators, say hi on the street. Waitresses will stop and talk to you routinely. Not because they’re hitting on you or interested in a big tip; it’s because we’re all living in the city and it’s like being in a great private club. I’ve had people I meet at the dry cleaner or cafĂ© or in the lobby invite me over for coffee or drinks after a brief conversation.

My doorman Ken routinely harasses me when I wear my Cardinals gear for a game at Wrigley. Of course he also donned a Cardinals hat, and called me to come to the desk to pick up a fictitious package the Monday morning after we won the World Series so he could both satisfy a bet and offer his respects and laugh with me about my team’s success. A Cubs fan no less!

I use to hate eating alone when I traveled on business. I’d rather sit in my room then venture out. But with my experience in the city it’s become an anticipated pleasure, because you’re going to meet someone and make a friend, or at the very least just enjoy a great time with your service staff.

The memories could make up encyclopedic volumes. Walking two blocks to the Firehouse for a steak; drinks watching a gorgeous post-storm sunset from the rooftop; countless games and concerts and walks. Talking to neighbors’ dogs in the park or elevator. My pals who waited on me at Flo’s and Wabash Tap and Little Branch and the Dry Cleaner. The entire young, friendly, and eminently tattooed staff at Whole Foods.

The view looking back on the city from the Planetarium peninsula, bathed in a fresh early morning dew as the sun first put light on it. Calm, crisp fall Sunday’s when I could open the balcony door and hear the Soldier Field stadium announcer call out every Bears first down, following the roar of the crowd. Knowing that someone from the Sox just went yard because I could hear the fireworks exploding twenty blocks away.

The concerts alone would get their own book. Kiss at the UC on my first weekend in town. Paul McCartney at Wrigley. Coldplay at Lollapalooza with the lighted night cityscape as a stage backdrop. Ray Lamontagne and Brandi Carlile at the Millenium Park shell. Two Chicago Blues festivals. Joe Bonamassa and Chelsea Handler at the Chicago theater. U2 and Bon Jovi at Soldier Field on hot summer nights. And evenings without number at Reggie’s or Kingston Mines or Buddy Guy’s listening to every kind of act under the sun, but mostly just smoking hot Chicago blues.

So it’s with a thankful but heavy heart that I finish packing up my little apartment this week. The two bedrooms did exactly what I hoped: they provided a place for my kids and my friends to come and share in the pleasures of the city with me. I love having guests and entertaining, and that has been a real treat here. From birthday visits from Scott Kline and Greg Miller, to the closeness I re-established with “cousin” Hack on his frequent weekends to the city (he and wife Sue still own the two best visits: the impromptu weekend during my first Chicago Blues Festival, and later that summer when they blew into town for my surprise “50th Birthday Party” that was two plus months after my birthday), to Newly and Cooper and Davey Wilson and the weekends when Alex or Dane would pile in with two or three of their friends, to being able to share it with my good friends the Ryans when they needed to be close to the University of Chicago hospital. Half a dozen impromptu “cocktail parties” when people visiting town on business would come over to sit on the balcony. Amazing times and recollections, every single one.

Speaking of the balcony, that’s been a magical place. That’s become my do-it-yourself version of a therapist’s couch. Sipping wine on a glossy summer night; puffing a cigar in one of Chicago’s numerous snow storms; coffee on a beautiful Saturday morning or watching a weeknight thunderstorm. The many pictures you’ve all come to enjoy and comment on in my Facebook posts.

I was never much on a Florida retirement. Maybe Arizona or California; nice weather and less humidity. Even Colorado. But that’s all smoke from a distant fire now. My second home is going to be a downtown apartment. Most likely Chicago, but could be DC too. I’m not cutout for tee times and beaches—though the occasional long weekend or ten day respite is nice. I’m a concert, ball game, dinner and theater, New York Times-on-Saturday-morning-with-coffee kind of guy.

So while I’m not going to the city, but rather am leaving, I can assure you that I have it on my mind. The country sure is pretty, but I’m going to leave it all behind. ‘Cause when I hit that inner city, child, I’m walking on a cloud.

Turns out I’m a fool for the city. ;-)

(And yes, I took all of these photos myself on my iPhone--the obvious exceptions being the two that I appear in)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Of Spacewalks, and Debt, and Near Death at the Home Run Derby

I have to confess that as I start this particular piece, I really don’t know where I’m going with it.

It started in response to my cousin Hack noting on Facebook that today is the last American space walk in the foreseeable future; coming as it does on the final mission of our space shuttle program. That lit a spark in me to talk about American genius and spirit, and how we’ve pretty much squandered both as we’ve pissed away being the greatest country in the world for the last sixty or so years.

I wanted to espouse the greatness that was America when I was a kid growing up. The spirit that made us all stare in silent wonder at our television sets on that July night 42 years ago and watch a fuzzy picture of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon. Muscle cars and industrialism and jets and space and wonder and awe and just being winners!

I think I wanted to challenge us to get that back...

And then right in the middle of that, I saw my friend Dean Jackson’s FB post about the idiot at the MLB home run derby last night, who almost died trying to catch his THIRD ball of the contest. Think I’m over-reacting? Check out the perch this moron was on just before attempting the catch…

So let me make clear: I’m drawing a line between this lunacy and the hero firefighter who died last week while reaching for a ball in front of his six year old son. I may be wrong, but I see multiple empty beer cups in the above shot. This is not smart behavior. Ever.

Ok, so the country that was great enough to put a man on the moon is also capable of producing whackjobs that are willing to stand on a small metal table twenty five feet in the air and dive for baseballs in a scenario where only a week before a man lost his life. Not that it would make it worthwhile, but these aren't Derek Jeter's 3000th hit or Somebody Else's Milestone Home Run ball. This ball is one of 95 home runs hit in THIS contest. The guy had already caught two, about two thirds of the way through the event.


And of course in the midst of all this we have a congress arguing over making it legal for us to be $14 trillion in debt…which is nearly $130,000 for EVERY American taxpayer.

Want to blow your mind? Check out this website: http://www.usdebtclock.org/

And so we come full circle to why we can’t afford the space program. Because we’re a country that’s made up of people willing to go $14 trillion in debt, and risk our lives to catch baseballs from a made-up sideshow carnival contest, but we can’t comprehend the vision or wisdom or attitude and spirit that it takes to explore new worlds and expand our boundaries.

Call me nuts, I liked us better 50 years ago.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Best Dog...Ever

I’m a confirmed dog guy, for as long as I can remember. I’ve had some great cats that left indelible impressions on me—I once found a litter hidden in our barn after the mother had been hit by a car, and raised the three kittens from the age of eight days—but I’m a dog guy.

From our hunting beagle Soxy, to Taffy the Cocker Spaniel, to the German Shepherd named Casey that practically raised me (let a little air out of the football and he would actually play as the sixth guy to even out three-on-three teams, seriously…of course it had to be touch instead of tackle), to the first dog we had with our kids—a female boxer named Bud—I can honestly say that I’ve been blessed with some of the best dog relationships a human can have.

Bud was our transition dog. Less than two years after we were married, and before kids, we were a young working couple, and we both wanted a dog. I lobbied hard for a lab, but my wife Jenny had always had boxers in their family…so she won out. And I was quickly won over to the breed. Gentle, playful, short hair, great with kids. I became a fan for life.

So we started the search, and through a friend found a family that had a boxer about to give birth to registered pups. We actually went and visited them, played with the mother, and plunked down a deposit. The day Bud was born (Veteran’s Day 1986), we went and picked her out, held her when she was less than 12 hours old, and went back numerous times to play with her before bringing her home at six weeks old. In an ironic twist, though we lived more than fifty miles away from my home town and had gotten Bud locally, we later found out her father lived less than a half mile down the road from my mom and childhood home, and we actually went to see him too a year or so later. We’re weird about dog connections like that.

Bud was a terrific dog and will always be our first kid. She started getting sick in the fall of 1997 with a brain tumor and we had to put her to sleep in the spring of 1998. I’d done that before, but this day I cried worse than either of my parent’s funerals. I couldn’t begin to describe the grief.

But this post isn’t about Bud…it’s about her follow-up dog, Penske.

We were going to let some time pass, as you always say when you let go of a dog. But it was less than a week later when there was an ad from the St Louis Post Dispatch circled and sitting on the table when I got home from work. "Boxers, $300, in Maryland Heights" and a phone number. No, I said. We’re going to wait. But after hours of begging and pleading (Dane was only 5, so I think it was mostly Alex and her mom, but I could be wrong), I finally agreed to just go look.


We were ushered into the family’s back yard, and there were the parents with their little herd of pups—eleven or twelve of them as I remember. They were frolicking around, and we asked about a female. There were only two, they said, “Here’s one—not really the color you want—where’s the other one…?” And as if on cue the little girl blasted out of a hole in the deck and raced at Alex and Dane, bounding straight into our lives. We were sunk. 30 minutes later Penske was a Hoover and stumbling around her new house in Chesterfield.

Yes, her name was Penske. We’re racers in the Hoover household; open wheel racers. And Penske was named for one of my hero’s and the King of Indy, Roger Penske. It was close…she was almost Lola or Enzo. But it was my turn to pick, and none of us really liked Cosworth either. Penske came home with us the Wednesday night after the Indy 500 of 1998 (Eddie Cheever in the Rachel’s Potato Chips Special), and the day before I left for the weekend to race in the Skip Barber Series at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Penske was a most appropriate name in her youth and for most of her life—she raced everywhere; up and down the stairs, around the yard. Sometimes she would actually sprint all-out in huge circles, doing four or five laps of the back yard as fast as she could run, before loping out to a trot like she’d just won the Saturday night feature at some fairground dirt track.

The weird connection with Penske was that her birthday was the same as Alex’s: April 14. So every year they’d each put on a hat, eat cake, and celebrate together. We have some great pictures from those parties.

A lot of people will tell you that their dog thinks they’re a person, but I always said that Penske thought we were all dogs. The way she played, how she reacted to us. I’m still to this day convinced that we were Penske’s pets.

I have a lot of indelible images of Penske: there’s the picture I can’t find of she and I laying on the sofa when she’s about a year old. Or rather, Penske laying on me. I’m stretched out reading a book, and Penske is sprawled out lengthwise and flat on top of me…her head under my chin and her feet stretched out almost to my ankles. I wish I could find it to post it here. I'm sorry that cell phones with cameras didn't come sooner, because you would have incredible pictures of Penske accompanying this piece. We have some hilarious shots of her and the kids--I'm particularly thinking of one where she is licking Dane's face when he's about six--but they're all on film and paper. The ones here, while good, are from the last couple of years and really don't capture her vigor...this was more what we referred to as her "reclining and napping" phase... :-)

One of my favorite memories is of her racing up the stairs of our home at about three months of age, barely able to do it because she was so small, and blasting (yes, I used "blasting" again; she did a lot of blasting in those days) across the landing and hall like a bullet to launch herself onto our bed, hammering her head into whatever part of your body she hit first and then just burrowing in there, like you were a gaggle of puppies and she was trying to snuggle up.

She would also crawl under the bed; at least until she did it one day and was too big to get out; I had to lift up the entire King bed so she could stand up, shake her head, and look at me like she was saying "Well I guess THOSE days are over..." Or she'd lay with her head stuck into dark corners, like the intersection of the couch and loveseat. Until she was about five, her favorite thing was to lay down by you, and jam her head behind your back and hips.

Penske always slept with us, and she would dream vividly and in full action, muffled barks and legs churning as she chased some imaginary rabbit. She would look up at you once in awhile and her upper lip would be stuck to her teeth, making her look like she was trying to do a canine impersonation of Elvis. As you'll also note in one of these pictures, she loved "hanging off" of things--the edge of a stair step, the end of the couch.

When I would get down on the floor, she’d wrestle with me round and round, snarling like it was the end of the world…but stopping just short when it got too rough. Inevitably it would end up with me facedown, her pinning me across the back, and pretending to bite my ears as she growled and licked my neck. All the while her stub of a tale going a million miles a minute.

She ate a bottle of prescription steroids when she was about three, and the vet warned that might take some time off her life at the end…but her physicals were always top notch, and she was really in great shape until the last three months. Her worst infirmity was being deaf as a stone over about the last year…which was an endless source of amusement to both our family and Penske. There must be something special about a dog waking up to find you nuzzling her face, surprised at your touch or that you’re even that close and she didn’t know…because her eyes light up and her tale wiggles non-stop.

This storytelling could go on for hours. Penske is the best dog I’ve ever known, and she had her own special communication with each member of our family. She and I would “hug” standing up…I’d bend over and put my arm around her neck, and she would put her face up to mine, nuzzle, and just kind of smile as she leaned into me and wiggled her tail. We’d stand like that for as long as I could bend over, which wasn’t nearly as long as I’d like in the last couple of years.

I share all of this with you because we put Penske to sleep this afternoon (Friday , March 18th); a month before she and Alex would have shared birthdays 13 and 22, respectively. I had hoped to get back to Evansville the night before, but a last minute work situation and numerous calls and commitments kept that from happening. Since I wasn’t there to help with the 4:30 appointment at the vet, and Jenny was going to have to do it alone, her neighbor Sheila went with her. Alex was in Florida, me in Chicago, and Dane was unreachable at some after school activity. The two ladies from the vet’s office were there too, bawling their eyes out—which we’re told is not normal. Penske was routinely touted as the office’s favorite patient, and she received much special treatment when she went there, whether for boarding or an appointment.

So, I’m sitting here tonight thinking of the best dog I’ve ever known in a very long and distinguished list of contenders; and I’m crying like a baby. Today would have been an extremely difficult and tense day at work under normal circumstances, and with this hanging out there I was a wreck all day. It’s the kind of day that I would have come home and just sat on the couch with Penske. When she had her head on my knee, I didn’t need a drink to smooth out the troubles of the world; and I knew I was loved, unconditionally and always. Tonight would have been a prime Penske night.

So godspeed Penske; aka Snoop, Penske Lee, Princess, the Queen, Penny, Racer Dog, Penners, and Penskerella. Dogs are a gift and a blessing; and you were an overachiever in that and every other regard. Thirteen years wasn’t nearly enough, but it was more than we deserved from a dog like you. We love you old girl, and we all miss you terribly already…

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

And the Oscar for Average Goes To....!!!

I love movies, always have. It started when I was a kid, I’m sure, with those magical evenings of my Mom taking me to see “The Sound of Music” or the encore showings of “Gone With the Wind” on the huge screens in ornate theaters with high-brow names like The Embassy in Ft. Wayne, or the Friday night that my Dad took we to Warsaw to the Lake Theater to see Steve McQueen star in my all time favorite racing movie, “LeMans.” The smell of hot buttered popcorn, an ice cold fountain coke, and the frosty chill of a large air conditioned space on a humid summer night in Indiana. My childhood hero racing a Porsche 917 on a screen over a hundred feet wide and forty feet high right before my very eyes.

Of course, I loved the products just as much as the experience. My shelves are filled with as many classic DVD’s of movies as they are with books, and I have tons of them. From local live theater to the boards of Broadway, I love all things theatrical and how they magically tell us a story. I even have a dusty Best Actor trophy tucked away in a box somewhere from one of my six or seven high school performances.

But my favorite was always the movies. Call it my love of 50’s California, the pretty women, the fast cars, or just the huge stars and dreams of riches and glamour…I loved the movies!

And just like everything else, that began to change somewhere along the way. Video and then DVD made it easier to rent a show than to get a sitter or drag your kids to the theater, and soon enough so did ten dollar ticket prices. The lack of great stories didn’t help.

But there were still pockets. I’m a sucker for anything Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford or Jeff Bridges are in. And just like when I was a ten year old boy, I still harbor my actress crushes: Elizabeth Banks, Sandra Bullock and Charlize Theron; the last two even before they won their Oscars.

Yet overall, the movies became something that I did once a year with the family on Christmas Day after we’d opened our presents.

Now, if I can pause for a moment here, I should offer a disclaimer. If you read any of my stuff at all, you know that I have a tendency to rant a bit about our modern ethos. I miss those old timey virtues and values: hard work, discipline, overcoming challenge. And I’ve talked about that in seemingly every example of venue from sports to academics to our country’s leaders. I’m tired of how soft we’re getting and what that’s doing to the quality of our product in these various areas.
So if you don’t like that particular attitude, now would be a good time to change channels or to go to the figurative kitchen for an imaginary snack. Because this is going to be more of the same…

I realized yesterday that the Academy now nominates ten movies for their “Best Picture” Oscar. Apparently they did this last year as well, but my malaise when it comes to Hollywood these days prevented me from noticing. And this strikes me as incredibly ironic: at a time when Hollywood’s product is as mediocre as it’s ever been, when the industry is under fire from all forms of media and entertainment competition, NOW is when they choose to “dumb down” their standards and give every moviemaking kid a ribbon.

They’ve made Hollywood pass/fail.

They’ve turned the Oscars into a multiple choice test with more than one right answer.

They’ve erased “first” place from moviemaking’s most famous award, and instead stamped “participant” across Oscar’s chest.

Do they think that in naming ten movies instead of five they’ve increased my interest? They haven’t; my eyes glazed over when I got to the fifth nominee and realized there were five more.

Are they doing it to increase sales? Do they think that in having five MORE movies that can shout “Nominated for BEST PICTURE!!!” in their ads and posters that more people will come out to see them? I doubt that will work.

Or have they just gone the route of all those other brain addled governing bodies?

You know—like the ones that ruined one of the greatest sporting events of all time by moving Indiana to a class basketball system for their high school state tournament. Now there are more "BASKETBALL STATE CHAMPS!!!" signs littering the city limits of Indiana towns then there are corn stalks west of Kokomo, and much less excitement and interest. Back in the day, Indiana would jam up to 30,000-plus fans into the Hoosier Dome to watch one winner take all championship game; now, fans from the eight or ten schools playing (see, I don't even know how many CLASSES they have now) traipse in and out in shifts...less than four or five thousand for any one game. Dude, our SECTIONAL (the first round of Indiana's high school tournament)
use to draw 3,000 for games between six little schools!

Or the stroke of genius that puts HALF of the National Hockey League into their post season--which can now potentially add nearly 30% more games to a season--and allow someone like the Minnesota North Stars of 1991 to qualify for the playoffs and go to the Stanley Cup Finals; beating the teams with the two best records in hockey over the course of an 80 game season, and where if they'd won the actual NHL championship, they'd have finished with a record one game below .500--a Stanley Cup champion with a losing record.

Or the brilliance that WON'T give us an NCAA football playoff for Division 1 (or the championship division, or the BCS division, or the big shots division, or whatever the hell they call it now) but WILL give us bowl games that stretch for a month—and ten days into the new year—and give virtually everyone who goes .500 the chance to play in a bowl. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the pinnacle of college football excellence: Florida International (6-6) vs. Toledo (8-4) in the Little Caesar's Bowl in that tropical football landscape of Detroit.

Ah yes, excellence rewarded at the lowest common denominator. Each a winner and none outsanding.

Well congratulations Oscar. Because now instead of rewarding a true genius in your genre three or even four times…you’ll anoint some wild-card winning entry that shouldn’t have even been there. The good ol’ “I want to see someone DIFFERENT win it…” school of thought.

How charming.

Well count me out. I haven’t watched you for years, and this just closes it. I’m going back to my season-long anthologies of Dexter, Spartacus, and Weeds. Yes, TV productions. Pat yourself on the back Academy, you’ve disenchanted another lifelong fan.

And in what may be one of the truly great cinematic twists of all time, the Academy Award for Being Average goes to…THE PLAIN BLAND MANILA ENVELOPE PLEASE...the Academy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ancient Aliens

Ok, if you know me at all, you know that I'm a pretty open minded person. From personal morays to haircuts and tatoos to religion...I'm extremely tolerant and inquisitive, and am open to many other ideas or beliefs aside from my own.

And I've always had an interest in space and all things flight related. I grew up a child in the 60's, buidling model rockets and jets and idolizing the astronauts. Back when school was put on hold and all classes walked to the lunch room in the middle of the morning in straight lines to watch a rocket launch or space walk on a solitary TV in stunned and awed silence with mouths agape. My dad was a pilot, and I became one too, primarily because of the wonder that all of that instilled in me.

So it's natural from that combination of characteristics to make the small leap to my belief that there's other life in the galaxy. I mean, literally millions of stars--each one representing the same thing that our sun does--and you're going to tell me there's NO ONE else out there? I don't believe it, even if it's just math. If we're one in a million, that means there's at least another ten or twenty of us out there. At least.

But I'm not one of these people who necessarily believes that other aliens are super beings. Why wouldn't they be just like us? Trying to get to the next planet in their system, maybe hang out on their moon for awhile?

Still, the case can be made that they are, and it's quite interesting. If you ever watch those shows on The History Channel, I think the series is called "Ancient Aliens", there are some pretty convincing pieces of evidence that are hard to explain away. How do you explain the Nazca Lines?

These amazingly geometric and scale accurate designs are visually impressive, especially when seen at the optimal level of 20 or 25,000 feet...in the air, like from a plane. Now, I'm not amazed that an ancient culture in Peru could drag dirt and rocks around to make cave-like heiroglyphs on the ground; and I'm not amazed that they could make them on such a large scale.
I am, however, somewhat stunned that you could make them so size appropriate and geometrically correct for viewers from five miles up in the air...especially in 500 AD. I mean, forget that they're even geometrically correct at that level...WHY BUILD THEM THAT WAY IN THE FIRST PLACE IF NO ONE CAN GET TO 25,000 FEET TO SEE THEM????? AND HOW DO YOU KNOW THEY'RE RIGHT????

Or the fact that cave drawings and ancient mythology is all so parallel...in cultures that were thousands of miles and continents apart.

Or that people lived in the South Pacific on islands literally thousands of miles from other islands, with their only mode of transportation being a dugout canoe. And their culture showed up on those other islands thousands of miles away.
Many interesting facts.

But you have to admit that some of these shows and the leaps they make are pretty astounding. Their logic is not always sound. Alien Expert: "How would these cultures thousands of miles away have EXACTLY (exact being a loose term for these "experts") the same drawings?! I think the answer is clear; ancient aliens."

Well, not necessarily there Nostradomus. People in like times, of the same species, evolving on the same planet...isn't it possible they'd think and act and talk about similar things? Do we find it odd that birds in Asia and birds in North America (taking on the slow, deep, low voice of the mysterious Ancient Alien expert announcer here) "would hunt bugs and food in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY...even though they've never seen those other birds continents away who hunt in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY...?" Of course not. They're birds and that's how they hunt for food.

Isn't it possible that the things that inspired these people to draw in the first place would have evolved similarly to the race of beings? Hence inspiring similar drawings in similar yet distant races? Or heck, maybe they just sealed up a jar with their drawings in it, and threw it in the ocean as a sacrifice to their God...who washed it up on a shore somewhere else ("Look!!! It's a message from God...or ALIENS from a distant land!!!") and then those people drew the same designs on their own wall?
But all of that not withstanding...there's still the mystery of Stonehenge and the ancient pyramids. How did those rocks weighing literally thousands of pounds get pulled up to the very top of that pyramid in Giza? How is it that pyramids in Egypt have exactly the same heighth and angles as pyramids in South America? How did Stonehenge get lined up just so? As the mysterious voice says haltingly on the show..."Is Stonehenge a celestial GPS for visitors from another time and space?"

Well, here's where you've got me. Let's assume for a minute that these other aliens from distant galaxies ARE flying to earth and watching us. They'd have to be an advanced race right? I mean they traversed literally hundreds of millions of miles, maybe BILLIONS of miles, to get here...because that's how far other galaxies are. I mean, we're pretty advanced, and it takes us five years to get to the next planet. So these little gray men either live a hell of a long time, or they've figured out how to get billions of miles in pretty short order. Either way, health care or time travel, pretty advanced.

So we've got these advanced thinking people from billions of miles away who are using some form of time travel or worm holes or just supercalifragilisticexpialidocious fuel to get them here in a nano-jiffy. They've mastered space-age (literally) metals and physics and all of this stuff...
...and they need to line up rocks to figure out where to land?
They need to build a giant ancient sundial to know what time it is and when the next eclipse is?

Yeah. That's probably why that dude on Ancient Aliens has hair that looks like Heat Miser...