Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Picture this.

In an effort to cut wedding corners, we only invited people who promised us gifts like cruises and horses, we served guests a variety of cheap but salty microwaveable frozen dinners (include a vegetarian option for those willing to remove small bits of dehydrated ham), and we hired our photographer from Craigslist. Craigslist is a wasteland of gently used Danish Modern furniture and serial killers, so I guess you could say we lucked out, in that said photographer was neither a killer nor was she seeking a missed connection or a leather love seat.

Now that the cloud of Facebook photos has dissipated, some beautiful and others candid (mostly of me letting my chin retreat into my neck), I've finally taken the time to look at (and pay for) the actual professional photos. Here are a few of my favorites...

So far, I've received every sacrament at this church. One hot May in sixth grade, we read Lord of the Flies here - a dark, echoing, refreshing alternative to our humid classroom.

I like this picture because it looks like the end of a basketball game.

And this one because it looks like we're in a community theater production of The Crucible.

My cousin Alice - the greatest, most beautiful flower girl I've ever had in any of my weddings.

I like this one in an unfunny sort of way.

They were asked to cheer, but nearly everyone did a passable job of looking sincere.

Riding off into the sunset... or around the block and back to the church parking lot.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

One More Sleep Til Christmas

Since the start of the Christmas season, I've watched four different versions of A Christmas Carol (five if you count the version that takes place in space and has four ghosts and a small amount of time travel). We kicked off the holiday season by going to see the motion-capture Jim Carrey version (my love for Colin Firth has now taken on a third dimension). This was followed by a really, really old version that Matt ordered from Amazon... and then the George C. Scott version. And finally - I say finally because I'm pretty sure I've reached my quota - we spent the latter half of our Christmas Eve in St. Louis watching A Muppet Christmas Carol. It is far and away my favorite. Time to sleep! Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Babies, etc.

Over the past month, my friends have taken it upon themselves to repopulate the planet, birthing babies all over town, filling orphanages, setting records, receiving donated 14-passenger vans from generous members of rural church congregations, and using up all of the names I've had on the secret baby name list that I began composing in grade school (#1. Nancykerigan, #2. Bill Guttenberg Pullman).

In reality, only two babies were born to only two of my friends in November and December, but that in itself is a feat -- many of us are still struggling to take care of ourselves, much less take responsibility for the health and well being a new, impressionable life. So with that I say...

Congratulations, Meg and Kael! Brody Daniel Busing is the greatest, handsomest baby I have ever had the privilege of giving a bottle to. Let's hope his keen ability to cover his eyes with his hands will serve him well later in life, when his parents embarrass him.

And congratulations, Katie and Keith! Although I have yet to meet Natalie Ann Hamlin, I can safely assume that she is beautiful, awesome and always up for a cold beer or a lively discussion surrounding the personal lives of high school classmates.

Love you all... thank you for giving me small, automatic friends for Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

When it comes to breakfast, I cannot win.

I've been on a low-key hunt for an ideal breakfast food over the past few weeks - something delicious that does not require milk... something that can be eaten in the car without an excess of crumbs and can be eaten in front of others without embarrassment or shame. Something wholesome, but not excessive - containing an acceptable amount of fiber without exfoliating the inside of my mouth.

This morning, in an effort to get to work a bit early, I chose car toast... only the bread was too cool and the butterish spread was too cold, and the result was congealed and disappointing.

But onward and upward! I will not let this set the tone for my day.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I don't feel different. Do I sound different?

I guess marriage only makes you boring if you let it. To be completely honest with myself, I wasn't that exciting before, and now the only difference is that I get to float along in this tedious sea with someone else. It's noon on a Saturday, and I've already eaten the rest of my Mini Wheats, watched two episodes of Lost and trolled the internet for whatever funny videos of post-op face lift patients and Jersey Shore clips I missed during the week. So, you know, the usual.

I've also spent the last few weeks noticing things and making mental notes to blog about them, or at least mention them in conversation or write them in an e-mail (a funny e-mail, one not to be wasted on parents or business). When it comes to Matt, I've noticed that his disdain for dishwashers is far more deep-seated and sincere than was originally thought, almost to the point where I'm beginning to suspect a traumatic childhood run-in with a Maytag. When it comes to life, I've noticed that a singular source of frustration can fester and bubble until sandwiches don't taste good anymore and even e-mailed videos of kittens that wave their arms in surprise aren't as cute anymore, but this only happens if you let it. And when it comes to the bitter, bitter cold of a Midwestern winter, I've learned that Chicago made me smart, at least when it comes to layers (and time management!). Not so long ago, you might've found me wearing Umbros in a blizzard or eschewing hats as merely a decorative way to make your hair look worse than it already does. Now I won't leave the house wearing anything less than everything I own. I have a feeling this also has something to do with me slowly turning into my parents, but that's another story for another day. One that involves Bloody Marys and narcolepsy.

Time to go! More to come.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I have a sadness shield that keeps out all the sadness, and it's big enough for all of us.

If I've said this once, I've said it twice (this being the second time, or possibly third). When my days lose structure, my mind loses momentum and all of the thoughts I think collect behind my ear until they're spit out as drool and toothpaste.

I've been home since the beginning of September, adapting to the same routine I had during high school summers... only this time I'm getting married, so that sort of changes things. I wake up earliesh and eat Frosted Mini Wheats, which I used to think tasted like little baskets. But times change and tastes change and suddenly not buying the groceries means you will eat whatever is in the cabinet, from celery salt to candy canes.

Wash the Wheats down with weak coffee, peruse various Web sites (celebrity and otherwise), try to hit the gym at the exact time when the youngs leave for work and the olds are still in the middle of their morning naps. This particular gym, chosen for its proximity to my mom's house, serves as a source of mid-day entertainment for wealthy housewives who don't mind handing their children off to gym-employed strangers if it means three hours on the elliptical, and elderly people who have yet to realize that they are too fragile for leg lifts.

After that, well, sometimes I shower, sometimes I eat lunch, sometimes I write form-letter thank you notes for holiday hand towels and measuring spoons. And it's pretty much all down hill from there. Internet. Glue gun. Casserole. Law and Order rerun. Sleep. Repeat. (But to be fair, it is sort of blissful in its own way, and I will miss this unadulterated time with my mom when life becomes normal once again.)

My youngest brother fell victim to a nasty infection behind his ear, which brought him home from the dorms and into this den of early dinners and hapless DIY endeavors. (Thank you, Paul! You made the last two weeks really fun, and you're getting better to boot!) We went to see Where the Wild Things Are on Monday night, and while it could've been 20 minutes shorter (a little less dirt clod throwing, perhaps?), I really enjoyed it. After all, muted colors, a scrappy child, giant felt monsters with celebrity voices and a twee soundtrack is a formula for guaranteed cinematic success in my book.

It is raining.

If you watch Mad Men, you should be reading the Slate TV Club's reflections of the previous night's episode. It will make you slap the side of your head and think of everyone and everything, from neighbor Francine to Don's pajamas, in a new way. It also makes that dreamy, tipsy feeling one gets while watching Mad Men last that much longer, and that is fine by me.

And finally, if you live in Chicago (or can find the motivation to get there within the next few weeks), I suggest that you go see Mrs. Gruber's Ding Dong School. It's Robot vs. Dinosaur's latest show, and it runs through mid-November at the Gorilla Tango Theater in Bucktown. Full disclosure: I have one sketch in the show, but please don't let that deter you (rumor has it the show is insanely funny). I'll be there on Halloween; I'll save you a seat.

Want to know more? Read Don Hall's review here .

Monday, September 14, 2009

Where I sit...

Day in and day out, flanked by our diabetic family cat (I had originally written this as "fat" - freudian slip) as he lies on the floor and pretends to preen. The dining room has become my new office. During the day, there are jackhammers and at night just the dull, gurgly hum of a window-unit air conditioner. If I were any more motivated, I'd try for something more comfortable and less... everything I just mentioned, but ah well...

I wrote this piece the other day and found out that it was published (Web style) today. I did not come up with that title, but it works well. My essay aside, Double X is a great blog -- one I highly recommend to guys and ladies alike.

Time to move to another room! My butt is beginning to bear the imprint of the pears embroidered on this dining room chair.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

This is not goodbye. It's just a long break between animal crackers.

Have you given up on me? I mean, if you did, I would completely understand. It's like that raccoon that sat on top of the telephone pole behind your house for a week and then suddenly disappeared. After a while, you just stop looking.

As it happens, I have left Chicago for the more murderous and less expensive pastures of St. Louis, before I proceed to Omaha in November. I normally leave personal details out of my blog posts, replacing them with vague references to feelings and hopes and dreams, but I feel it necessary to explain that I am leaving to get married. And I couldn't be happier... unless PBS decided to run a primetime "Today's Special" reunion episode, under which circumstances I would be happiest. Anyway, I imagine I'll write more about wedding things down the road. This, however, is a time for reflection.

I arrived in Chicago in November of 2007, fresh from a breakup (with the person I'm now marrying) and eager to test my own fortitude in a city I'd always dreamed of inhabiting. During my first few months, I turned one friend into a few acquaintances. I was cold sometimes. Drunk often. Lonely always. I survived on carrots and mustard and weekend visits from friends. And occasionally... just occasionally, I wondered what the fuck I had done.

Fast forward to Valentine's Day, 2008. I was working for a PR firm and hating love and eager to get home to my carrots and mustard when a co-worker, who up until this point had been known only to me as the one girl I think I could probably be friends with, swung by my office and made a joke in passing about spending a lonely holiday at Chili's. We glanced back and forth for a minute before we both realized the sad truth: we had nothing better to do than to make this quip a reality. At 5:30, we braved the wind and walked west on Ontario to a Chili's restaurant otherwise populated by starry-eyed tourists. We drank expensive margaritas, followed by expensive beer, chased by cheap chips and salsa, and talked about where we had been up until this point. Nothing very remarkable, but we were hopeful.

This person, by the way, is Lauren Svoboda, resident person on my list of top Chicago-related accomplishments.

When you spend Valentine's day at Chili's with a person under unexpected and somewhat sad circumstances, you sort of cement yourself to them because you share a secret that you will laugh quietly about every time it crosses your mind. And you will laugh loudly when you are together.

At this point, it was all downhill in an uphill sort of way, as I had finally made a friend that I could complain to and not feel like a burden, call and not feel like a telemarketer, cry in front of and not feel like a zoo animal. When my dad died, Lauren was the person I called to say that, for the time being, I would not be at work. And three months later, when I received walking orders from my employer, she was the person I called once I'd hauled my belongings home and taken a moment to realize the enormity of the situation.

And when I called, I found out that she had suffered the same fate. If, when I am old and a little closer to dying, I think back on my life in phases, like the time I was listlessly detached or the time I was monumentally happy, this will be the time I was poor, confused and thoroughly entertained. We spent our mornings talking about going to the library that afternoon, our afternoons at the zoo and our evenings drinking sugary pre-mixed cocktails, knowing full well that we had nothing to wake up for in the morning, except maybe lunch.

Getting laid off with someone is sort of like going to Chili's on Valentine's Day only slightly more raw. And thus the cement grows stronger.

A month later, we were back to work but not back to normal. At this point, I would mention Lauren's name in conversation with family and friends in other cities and states, as if by osmosis they knew exactly who she was, what she was like and what enormous role she had taken on in my life. To everyone outside of Chicago, she was a ghost and a super hero and a character from the short story I was writing with this portion with my daily existence.

In reality, we spent a great deal of time drinking things and eating things and watching things and talking about things that usually remained off limits to everyone else. Sometimes we would watch One Tree Hill, sip whisky and tap water and wonder where the months and days had gone since October 16, 2008, and when our novels would be published.

I'm not exactly sure what I wanted to get out of my sudden, unplanned and seemingly immature move to Chicago. I wanted to do the writing program at Second City, ride on buses and trains, carry an umbrella and learn to navigate my way through large crowds. I wanted to go to concerts (I probably made it to four) and do vaguely adventurous things. I did not expect to make really good friends, but that's perhaps the one area in which I was most successful. The number is small, but the people are good. And the very best of all is Lauren Svoboda.

So thanks, Lauren, for not only being the sole reader of my blog, but also my favorite person in Chicago and one of the greatest friends I've ever had. I'll see you in October. Save me some triscuits and please be waiting with a hug.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I know it’s probably odd to emerge from my no-blogging closet to praise a women’s magazine, but I felt compelled to do so. Besides, it’s dark in there, and it smells like old Keds and tennis balls.

I can’t say I stumbled upon this on my own – I don’t subscribe to any of these magazines, and when I buy them individually, I usually opt for Marie Claire because it’s the French version of my sister’s name and I get a few more pages for my buck (granted, that likely amounts to a few more perfume ads and subscription cards, but oh well). Instead, I found this by way of Jezebel, which I hit up daily, usually during lunch.

To preface, I don’t have much of a soapbox when it comes to the way women are portrayed in lady mags. Not because I don’t think it’s fucked up, but more because it seems like the dead horse has been ground into glue, and the fashion industry will always opt for the expensive, the impractical and the emaciated, when given an option. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t pleasantly surprised by Glamour’s use of a not even plus-sized, but a just plain normal model in its most recent issue.

I have these moments that occur from time to time in the locker room at the gym, when I catch someone changing out of the corner of my eye (in an accidental, non-dirty way), and I find myself breathing this silent sight of relief – because that’s how I look. That’s how my stomach looks, or that’s how my legs look, my butt, my back. And that’s exactly how I felt when I saw this picture. That immense sigh of relief.

It’s sad to think that in between those moments, I’ve somehow been convinced that I’m abnormal, slightly bigger or doughier or awkwardly shaped than everyone else. It sucks, and I have a feeling I’m not the only one. It’d be nice to go through life without that distorted sense of physical self brought on by pictorials of skinny Russian models riding tigers or whatever.

So maybe my soapbox needs to be bigger, since it’s virtually impossible not to be an unwitting victim of the images put in front of you. Regardless, kudos to Glamour for taking a look at the world through everyone else’s eyes. I hope it’s not just a glimpse.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Not bitter – just wiser.

Any real excitement in my life has ground to a halt (case in point: I just spent five minutes attempting to eat Lean Cuisine sauce with my fingers while avoiding the confused and pitiful gazes of coworkers). So when my brother, Joe, announced that he would be making a visit to Chicago this past weekend, I attempted to prepare by putting Jeopardy on mute and drinking half a sugar-free Red Bull. Joe returned from his semester abroad in Chile on Wednesday, and it just so happened that his girlfriend, Meg, would be in Chicago for the weekend. I found out a few days before said visit that it all centered around a 21st birthday celebration… one that I was told I could attend (insert same level of sauce-licking pity here). I coolly expressed indifference, spouting vague “maybe I will, maybe I won’t” excuses as I fought my fears/exhaustion and worked on convincing myself that 26 is only five years older than 21, and five years is nothing… unless you’re a five-year-old or a carton of milk.

As we meandered back from a bar near my house so Joe and Meg could drop off their belongings and touch base with friends, I spotted my roommate Kayla, already somewhat tipsy from dinner and therefore vulnerable and maybe, just maybe, open to an evening of bad decision making. I was in luck, and having found a similarly ancient companion, surrendered to the invitation. Twenty minutes later, we were out of the cab and staring into the steaming mess of drunk that was McGee’s.

It’s at this point that I slipped into observer mode, conducting myself not as a Gap-wearing fish out of water, but as a sociologist of sorts. And I stared unashamedly. At conversations that went from formalities to full-on make outs in just seconds, at girls who’d given up on trying to make their eyes focus hours ago, at Harry Potter lookalikes downing shots of shitty tequila and trying with all their might to exude machismo. When the DJ played “Back That Ass Up,” a staple of my high school years, I wondered what it meant to this crowd. Is it like the “Ice Ice Baby” of my set? Fun and danceable but always listened to with an underlying sense of irony? I never thought I’d feel so strangely possessive of anything performed by Juvenile.

I was brought back to reality when the Doogie Howser of DePaul called Kayla “ma’am,” at which point it was mutually decided that we would call it a night, while Joe and company forged ahead to a four-o’clock bar. A quick Godspeed in their direction, and we were on our way home, tired, drunk and no longer sure of our place in the circle of life.

What I do know is this: I may not be old, but the space between 21 and 26 is a chasm. In it you’ll find lessons learned, a lot of hangovers, a few harsh realities, not as many successes as you’d expect, but not as many mistakes or failures either. Something in it renders you slightly more self-conscious of your own existence, but slightly less concerned with the opinions and reactions of others. Not the girl in the leggings puking in time to a Michael Jackson medley, not the choch in the bowtie whose deck shoes are stuck to the floor, and certainly not Doogie Howser.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Please say it's Breakstone...

Right now I’m really into reading online reviews of the food I eat… while I’m eating it. Which is sort of stupid and counterintuitive, and more often than not, it dictates my own opinion. It makes sense to read a review before buying a product in the first place. But the other day, as I was about to mosey into the kitchen to heat up a Healthy Choice frozen meal, I decided to humor myself by reading the popular opinion first. The reactions I found were so strongly worded, so impassioned regarding the inedibility of this particular meal, so detailed in their disgust (I think someone compared the flavor to a Glade candle), that I threw it away and ate paper clips.

I just caught myself Googling “best cottage cheese,” hoping to God I’d find that everyone loved the cottage cheese I was already in the process of eating. Thinking somehow that just because I think it tastes like Wite-Out and sand, that someone else will think it’s amazing, causing me to reevaluate my opinion.
No such luck.

(Spoons out last bite of cottage cheese and chases it with a piece of gum.)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Everyone loves a parade (or) Pride and Screwdrivers

Living in Boystown provides ample opportunity for visits to the lakefront, feasting on noodles and getting downtown without much time or fuss. On the flipside, our neighborhood is just far enough east that sometimes it feels like we’ve broken off and drifted into Lake Michigan, an island of small dogs and Asian food. We don’t have many festivals, novel bars and restaurants or flagship stores to bring in outsiders… except for one weekend a year, when our little Northside island becomes the center of the universe.

We moved to our apartment last year in May, about a month before Pride, and my trial by fire put be in bed by 3:00 in the afternoon with a hangover that woke me up at midnight (the festival is pretty equal opportunity, in that drag queens and straight girls fresh from Nebraska can both drink themselves senseless). This year, I knew what to expect. My mom and brother had been in town earlier in the weekend for a family wedding, and it was an unspoken agreement that she would be on her way home early Sunday morning, before the parade started to roll and her soul started to wilt.

I’d promised Lauren pancakes and vodka as early-morning prep for the afternoon’s festivities. Not wanting to brave the grocery store, I stopped into Walgreens after spinning class and bought the dustiest box of pancake mix I could find. By 10:30, we were downing flapjacks and flat champagne, and by noon, we’d positioned ourselves along the parade route, just feet from my front door.

For the next three hours, we collected a wasteful assortment of beads, stickers and pins. A neighbor with a wagon and a cooler refilled our glasses, and slowly, as my skin continued to bake in an unhealthy (and later painful) fashion, the floats started to blend together. Pat Quinn, school children, a gay rugby team and some guy in a van with airbrushed kittens on the side… they could’ve all been in the back of a flatbed truck together; I’m not entirely sure.

As things began to wind down and the last float passed by, we refilled our red plastic cups and took to the parade route, mixing in with stragglers and spectators. It is at this point that my memory gets even hazier. There were high fives and Mexican food and a final pit stop at Friar Tucks, a bar that looks more or less like a Six Flags concession stand. It was here that I drank expensive beer and cut a sloppy rug on a dance floor the size of a handicapped stall. And then I went home. I bought a horrible movie that may or may not star Annette Benning. I threw up. I went to sleep. And I woke up surprisingly hangover free thanks to the aquarium’s worth of water I’d chugged hours before.

Lauren remarked yesterday that she wishes we could do this every Sunday. I’m not so sure, as I like the peace and quiet of the antique stores and noodles. But before my memory started to turn on me, some of those floats - the ones with families and parents and friends brimming with, well, pride - made me get that lump in my throat that will turn to tears if you don’t wash it down with vodka. Every day in Lakeview East is pretty beautiful, but this one in particular takes the cake.

HERB & DOROTHY Trailer from Herb & Dorothy on Vimeo.

"HERB & DOROTHY tells the extraordinary story of Herbert Vogel, a postal clerk, and Dorothy Vogel, a librarian, who managed to build one of the most important contemporary art collections in history with very modest means. In the early 1960s, when very little attention was paid to Minimalist and Conceptual Art, Herb and Dorothy Vogel quietly began purchasing the works of unknown artists. Devoting all of Herb's salary to purchase art they liked, and living on Dorothy's paycheck alone, they continued collecting artworks guided by two rules: the piece had to be affordable, and it had to be small enough to fit in their one-bedroom Manhattan apartment."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Subterranean: An olfactory journey

I work above the eastern end of what is commonly referred to as the Pedway – a series of interconnected tunnels that gives Loop workers a place to walk, eat and travel from place to place when the weather is too brutal in either direction – and gives Potbelly another place to stick a franchise (I’m not complaining). While I have little need for the Pedway most of the time, since I usually bring my lunch and am fortunate enough to have a bus stop right outside of my building, I still troll its dark corners from time to time. Often enough to know it well; sporadically enough to still find it fascinating.

Aside from housing an eclectic mix of businesses – small convenience stores, fly-by-night shops with perfume and Kate Spade knockoffs arranged artfully on folding tables; Cosi, Fresh Choice, Burrito Beach, 16 different Dunkin Donuts; the Pedway also houses an eclectic mix of aromas (odors?). I mean, you do the math: no ventilation + dozens upon dozens of places that cook, melt, spray, fry, process and perm = 40 city blocks of unrelenting nasal assault.

I can’t claim to have walked the entire Pedway, but I’ve memorized my path from Houlihan’s, where I begin my journey, all the way until I reemerge at ground level. So, moving eastward…

(Door), appetizer sampler, coffee, ink, Potbelly (burnt), concentrated sandwiches, coffee, coconut shampoo, overripe produce, Sterno Canned Heat, (door), cigarettes, (door), sweaty kids in summer/melted grape popsicles – a thick, cloying smell (which makes no sense because at this point, I’m walking past some sort of small outfit that makes video presentations for Hyatt), hair relaxer, blow dryer heat, rental cars, curry, steam, (door), cool vacuum of museum air, (door), coffee, Mexican breakfast sandwiches, florist’s foam, (escalator), sunlight.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Things to listen to, read, watch... IMHO.

Truth be told, I do have an iPod (see previous post). I guess I lied for effect, but in my defense, what I own is more like ¾ of an iPod, if that. If Apple is the parent, the iPod Shuffle is its red-headed stepchild’s MP3 player – small, screenless, pathetic, useful only if you are running and/or blind. But you work with what you have, and I recently went on a rare downloading jag, refilling the old Shuffle with new music for an upcoming bus ride home.

Yawns – Frightened Rabbit
We Own the Sky – M83
Quelqu’un m’a dit – Carla Bruni
Shove It (feat. Spank Rock) - Santigold
Re: Stacks – Bon Iver
Lisztomania – Phoenix

Frightened Rabbit makes this summer feel like last summer. Phoenix makes me recall being in Omaha, stuck in hot rush hour traffic. Listening to the French first lady sing makes me think of pastries. All of these songs come with my recommendation (and my $.99).

I just finished reading The Forever War by embedded NYT reporter Dexter Filkins, purchased in haste from the Phoenix airport and relished on a number of recent rainy days. Regardless of your stance on our involvement in Iraq, Filkins’ story takes it out of the news and into someone’s head (his own). Every single thing he sees and hears is jarring and unforgettable. I feel a heightened sense of awareness regarding this war just for having read his relatively short book. Needless to say, this is another recommendation.

For the ladies: DoubleX is a new blog from the folks that brought you Slate.

And one more - happy Thursday!

You can't trust a moai.

My brother, Joe, recently informed the world via Facebook that he lost his iPod on Easter Island. That sucks, Joe.

Really, really sucks.

I’d like to take a quick break from thanking God I don’t have an iPod to lose or a Polynesian island to lose it on to wish said brother a belated happy birthday. Now that I’ve traveled down this road of birthday wishes, I can’t exactly miss anyone for fear of exclusion from future Thanksgiving dinners. So, a month behind schedule...

Happy 21st birthday, Joe! I’m sorry I couldn’t be there with you, but I trust that you underwent a traditional Chilean drunkening, shot glass in hand and tongue firmly in cheek. As soon as you make your way back stateside, we’ll celebrate in style.*

*Style = Sitting on the front steps, drinking white wine out of chipped coffee mugs and throwing rocks at wild turkeys.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Eating my words, as long as they weren't made in a facility that manufactures peanuts.

Putting aside one particular incident 22 years ago when a cap full of Mr. Bubble left my sensitive skin raw, red (and clean), I have never been allergic to anything. I am so unallergic that I’ve developed an allergy of sorts to other people’s allergies, lacking sympathy for even the most severe reactions. I’m student body president of the school of thought in which cat allergies are imaginary ailments created by haters; where mold, ragweed and pollen allergies are simply signs of weakness, often accompanying nearsightedness and above-average intelligence. All in all, I’ve always assumed allergies are nothing that can’t be solved by some good old-fashioned exposure. Eyes watering? Rub a cat on your face.

I have since changed my tune. Wednesday morning I woke up with hives that began on the back of my head and ended at my ankles. A trip to what I can only assumed was an urgent care facility and a discussion with a man I can only assume was a doctor produced little more than a verbal prescription for Benadryl and the recommendation that I go see my real doctor. The kind with a license.

By the end of the day, my feet and hands were painfully swollen, and the idea of walking to the next room, much less hauling myself to the airport as I was supposed to do the following day, seemed an undesirable alternative to sitting on the couch, watching HSN and counting my welts. I was fine by Friday, when the extreme temperatures of Phoenix burned away any remaining histamines. So now, while I am hive-free, I am also insanely paranoid because I have no clue what I am allergic to. I had a very benign day last Tuesday, typical in every sense. No weird foods; I didn’t ingest any new detergents or lather myself with any new lotions. As a result, everything is suspect. I could be allergic to English Muffins, Dell Computers, Starbucks Coffee, one of my many threadbare cardigans, Bud Light, water, oxygen, any number of TLC shows about unconventional families, sleep, public transportation… the list goes on.

And now I am left to view everything I touch, eat and wear with shifty-eyed suspicion. A trip to an allergist this morning should hopefully clear things up, and it if it turns out I’m allergic to anything but ketchup or cable television, I should be able to cope. If anything, this lesson has taught me that scratching will make it worse and that maybe, just maybe, allergies are real – within reason. But next time you accidentally step on a bee hive, Thomas J., don’t come to me for help.

Monday, June 01, 2009

You can't always get what you want.

I had never seen it, but I felt strangely akin to it. I knew enough to know that I would like it, possibly love it, and that it would bring comfort in the way 80s family rooms and Dominos pizza and two-liter bottles of Pepsi bring comfort. Call me crazy or illogically nostalgic, but about three weeks ago, I became determined to watch The Big Chill. So on Friday night, while Lauren browsed the outer aisles of Blockbuster for new releases, I hovered in Drama near the Bs. And when she protested, I reminded her that this has been my lifelong dream for the past three weeks. It was either this or nothing. Truth be told, we ended up drinking and watching Twilight, and The Big Chill was left lonely and unwatched. Until now.

It's actually playing as we speak. So far, my thoughts are as follows: No one drinks glasses of milk in the middle of the night anymore. William Hurt is tall and far more attractive than I had previously thought. Kevin Kline has slender legs. If some unspeakable tragedy brings my college friends together ten years from now, we will all get high and confess, through a series of one-on-one conversations commenced on foggy South Carolina streets and in rainy attic guestrooms, that we have all slept with each other -- and that we are wholly, deeply, achingly unsatisfied with all of it. Everything.

And then the Rolling Stones will swell and we will cry. Because of everything and nothing and the kids waiting at home.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Burying the lead.

(I actually wrote this on Memorial Day and just sort of left it without hitting "publish post")

Keeping up a blog is sort of like adopting a stray cat, in that you do it with good intentions, but if you fail to provide the cat with food, attention and the occasional pat on the head, it could turn on you, or die, or become so poorly behaved that your friends stop coming over. And at the same time, you want to do everything right because it is better to either have an impressive cat or no cat at all (impressive = the occasional trick/litter-box trained/declawed, at least in the front). A mediocre cat makes you nervous. It stares at you when you watch TV and gives you nothing but guilt and one more hassle do deal with when you want to go out of town.

A friend suggested going the narrative route -- just talking about the day to day. I guess I've been doing that to a certain extent already, but it always feel super self-indulgent to simply talk about the goings on in life like everyone should know and everyone should care.

I've been traveling on the weekends fairly frequently, sometimes to other midwestern cities, but usually to St. Louis. This past/current weekend marked a particularly important occasion for travel, since my youngest brother was graduating from high school. Add to that a friend's wedding and Paul's graduation party, and there was no excuse not to come home. My sister had flown in from Honduras the week before, and Joe was to fly in from Chile on Saturday. I came home Thursday night, Matt flew in from Omaha Friday afternoon. I'm so used to experiencing my family in little bits and pieces now, and the idea of all of us at once in one place for one weekend was daunting, and wonderful and now, for all intents and purposes, it is over. On the last day of a long weekend, everyone just mopes around and does laundry.

Today was especially dismal because it rained. Summer rain in St. Louis makes your backyard feel like a jungle and your lungs feel like ziplock bags. Everyone is physically uncomfortable, so there's no point in saying anything about it. We are all in the same sticky-limbed boat. It was planned from the beginning that we would go to the cemetery today. They just put up my dad's marker, and my mom wanted to show it to us. Due to varied post-cemetery destinations, we left in our own, small procession. The marker is unobtrusive and perfectly fitting:

In the evening of life, we shall we judged in love. - St. John of the Cross

I think this quote may be incorrectly attributed to Madeleine L'Engle a lot of the time, but oh well. Better that than, like, Dr. Seuss or Janice Dickenson.

So the day has continued to be a series of releases and temporary goodbyes. We dropped Matt off at the airport, and when we got home, I picked up where I left off on David Foster Wallace's essay, "Consider the Lobster." Mary Clare and I bought Paul a few books for graduation, which I'm trying to get selfish use out of before I leave.

(I ended this post here, probably to go eat something.)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

If you have to get through something by chanting, "This is good for me" silently, weakly and with little conviction, it is probably actually bad for you. Exception to this rule: excercise, because it probably really is good for you -- unless you're running through fire or playing snake tennis. Also, taking vitamins and learning a foreign language.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Disjointed thoughts on unrelated topics

bad ideas...
Apparently I can update this blog from my phone now, but it's probably a disaster waiting to happen. If I were to travel down this thorny path, the end result would amount something like, "on bus no i will not give u money. i can CAPITALIZE on my phone? emoticon"

good literature about bad people...
For reasons unknown, I got really into Brett Easton Ellis last year. Selfish, wealthy East- and West-coasters aren't any more fascinating than fabric softener until you add an early 80s backdrop and suddenly the drugs and drinking and occasional instances of death go from tragic to decadent. Anyway, even though the movie's supposed to be kind of crappy, I'd really like to see it. If you'll refer to my last post, this may be a good chance to go it alone.

good wishes to great people...
On a completely unrelated note, congratulations to my youngest brother for deciding on a school. You made the right choice, Paul -- kudos. Also, happy birthday, Matt Kraemer. This is a bit overdue, but I think "better late than never" seems pretty appropriate at this juncture.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cartoons and forever plans

I fancy myself to be a pretty independent person – I can shop alone, watch TV alone, eat a quiet dinner of broccoli and Easter candy alone... But the true test of this independence comes when those rituals normally reserved for a throng, a gang, a gaggle or at least the company of one other person, are engaged in alone. All winter I endeavored to see a movie alone, but with little success (no success). This wasn’t really out of fear as much as it was out of laziness. But when I saw that Maria Taylor was coming to Schubas, I saw my opportunity to go to a concert alone. It had all the right qualifications for being my baptism into solo-show-going: a smaller venue located close to home, a mellow artist that asked little of her audience, a subsequently mellow audience, no dancing (which I only oppose when alone or on crutches), beer, darkness.

These reasons, combined with the fact I’ve felt akin to Maria Taylor ever since the summer of 2007 when “Clean Getaway” became my unnecessarily dramatic and slightly self-indulgent musical mantra, prompted me to buy a ticket. I didn’t make much of an effort to drag anyone along – I was choosing to go alone, and in the month beforehand, I was proud of my bravery. “This is going to be so sweet,” I thought, licking the ketchup off my fingers and turning the pages of a three-year-old issue of InStyle. “Just me and the music.” I envisioned myself as the mysterious stranger in the corner – the one who knows all the words but only sings them inside her head; the one that ducks out into the night immediately after the encore; the one that doesn’t need the crutch of a friend to have a good time.

I thought I’d planned everything just right – I’d get there minutes before she went on, after the opening band had reassumed their spots in the audience, before the lights when down all the way. In reality, I got there nearly half an hour before the first band even started playing. I nursed a Stella and stared nervously at the Bulls game as it flashed above the bar. The looks of pity from strangers were growing in intensity, and I felt like I had a fever. Crouching behind the sound booth, I began my slow descent into begging. What started as a casual phone call to a friend in another state just to pass the time devolved into a series of regrettable text messages, each one sadder than the last. Pretty soon I was attempting, with thinly veiled casualness, to be rescued from my awkward, awkward loneliness by someone – anyone – who would come meet me… former coworkers, high school acquaintances, creepy people met in bars, 911 operators… I knew it was pathetic, but the house of cards that was my pride had already fallen, and all I wanted was someone to talk to between sets.

As I sent my last text, the lights went down, and we were all equal again. In the dark, I could’ve been there with the person standing next to me, I could’ve sold t-shirts, I could’ve been a confused person who’d wandered in looking for lottery tickets. “We’ll look back on this someday and laugh,” I told my beer. And all nervous thoughts were replaced by the lyrics I was singing in my head. And the show was great, and I survived. But next time, you’re coming with me.

SeeqPod - Playable Search

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bought a sweater for his weimaraner too

I just saw that new Heineken commercial with the walk-in closets, and I dunno... maybe I don't know how to have a good time, call me crazy (or not crazy enough, as the case may be), disagree with me if you will, but I don't think I want to be friends with those people.

If my rich friend took me on a six-hour tour of her new mansion and the final leg involved a glimpse inside her 10-billion-square-foot walk-in closet, complete with a diamond-necklaces-on-pedestals centerpiece...

Oh my God, it's on right now! Bah.

...anyway, while all of my other harpy friends were screaming, I would ask my hostess why she chose to turn the 11th bedroom into a shrine to silk halter tops instead of making it something useful, like a room for watching episodes of Rescue 911, or a room for eating donuts in the dark, or a room filled with Easter grass (much like the room I actually dreamt about when I was four). And I would hope that whoever I'm married to in this commercial (wink wink, nudge nudge Bill Pullman/Paxton) would be doing the same thing simultaneously. As the ex-frat brothers he secretly hates (he joined because his dad made him, and he hates his dad too!) are bumping chests and punching walls over the sight of a giant room filled with fluorescent lights, dry ice and shelves of warm beer, he would be asking where the bathroom is and filling a jewel-encrusted suitcase (stolen from my friend's walk-in closet) with bottles of Heineken.

And then we'd run home to our dark basement studio and wonder aloud, laughing, why we were ever friends with them in the first place.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Free to a good home.

Happy almost-Easter. Here’s the story of a giant rabbit.

I opened my Tuesday by rifling through pictures of Chicago Easters gone by in the Trib and then somehow stumbled upon this picture of a giant rabbit. This man in Germany raises them and sells them to the Koreans for food. Or something. So while giant rabbits might make people in certain cultures think of nachos, they make me think of my childhood. Since my very first pet doesn’t count – her name was Peggy, and she was a cat, and we had to have her put to sleep after only two weeks – I will go ahead and claim a giant rabbit as my first official pet. Hot off of sitting shiva for Peggy, my mom and dad were patronizing the local pharmacy when they noticed a sign on the door that said something to the effect of:

Housebroken rabbit. Free to a good home.

I have this sign memorized because my mom quoted it all the time. So they decided to adopt said housebroken rabbit. His name was Jackie, but my mom thought that name was too white (rabbit) trash and changed it to the much-classier Jamie. Jamie was a Giant Newfoundland that had been abandoned by his previous owners, probably for being too mind boggling. He was the size and shape of a big Rockwellesque Thanksgiving turkey. He had black ears and a black tail and piercing red eyes that meant business. He used a litter box, and his terds looked like cocoa puffs.

Jamie was allowed to roam free – he slept under beds, sunned himself on the back porch and ate from a bowl in the kitchen. Sometimes he would sneak out the back door and hang out on the front porch until my mom let him back inside. When he felt like being an asshole, he’d chew through the washing machine hose and flood the basement. When he felt like being an even bigger asshole, he’d pee on our legs.

Jamie hated being picked up, which made taming him the unspoken goal of all of my friends. Everyone tried to hold him. Everyone was bitten, or scratched or kicked in the chest with powerful giant legs. His teeth were like Bic razors. He existed to confuse – never had anything so cuddly and cartoonish-looking been more intent on eating antiques and murdering you in your sleep.

And yet we loved him.

So much so that we refused to add to our menagerie while Jamie was alive. He spent his days ruling the roost and eating his own poo (I remember my mom informing me that it was due to a vitamin deficiency; for people, it’s Flinstones, for rabbits, it’s feces). I didn’t truly realize the limits of Jamie’s abilities until we moved to a new house with linoleum basement stairs. Jamie slowly became confined to the basement, arthritic and unable to climb such a slippery incline. We got older. Jamie got slower, more isolated and crotchety. We found more exciting ways to occupy ourselves, like eating Pop Tarts and quitting piano lessons, and eventually, we got a cat.

Once in a while, someone would ask about Jamie’s whereabouts, and we’d have to think for a second before answering. Jamie? Jamie! Yes. Good. Basement. Old.

One day, my mom and dad gathered us in the front hallway with sober looks on their faces. Jamie died, they said… We gasped, fumbled with our the drawstrings of our Umbros, wondered what was for dinner.

…a few days ago.

We thanked them for getting around to telling us and asked what was done to dispose of the body. Even though we were a little older, a rabbit of that size still seemed like it would have a corpse rather than a carcass, and we couldn’t recall any body bags passing through the front door in the last day or so.

It turns out my dad had buried him in the backyard one evening, quietly, discreetly - partly out of respect, partly because it was against the law to bury something that large in a city backyard. He led us out to a small mount of dirt near the apartment building that flanked our yard. We stood in silence for a few seconds, the cat making triumphant, youthful circles between our legs; I might’ve pretended to wipe a tear from my eye. We breathed deeply, turned toward the house and went inside for dinner.

And on the third day… just kidding.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

There was a moth caught in the soapdish laminated in lye

I’m feeling the signs of a cold coming on, which is probably inevitable, as my office-mate is home sick today and several other folks in my office are fighting their own versions of the plague. One of my coworkers handed me two small syringe-looking… things – small doses of zinc meant to ward off colds. She instructed me to crack one open and dab its contents around my nostrils. So here I sit, staring out the window, stifling the itch in the back of my throat, looking like a dog that just stuck its nose in its own pee.

A recent episode of This American Life detailed stastical changes resulting from the current recession – dentists are reporting more cracked teeth (I think fights, they say teeth grinding), urologists are reporting a rise in vasectomies (I assume casual sex has replaced things like fancy dinners and trips to the mall, they say it’s because people don’t want to pay for more kids), and lastly, the National Shark Council (I made that up) reports the lowest number of shark attacks in five years. And automatically, I’m thinking – wow, what compassionate sharks. They somehow understand that with everything humans are dealing with, from layoffs to foreclosures, the last thing we need are more lost limbs. The NSC went ahead and dashed my dream of human/shark harmony by telling me its because fewer people are taking vacations.

I baked cupcakes for a coworker's birthday last night, and proceeded to make about 50 more than I needed. I ate more than my fair share, unloaded about 12 on Robot vs. Dinosaur cast members, brought 16 into work, left 10 out for my roommates to (hopefully) consume over the course of the day, and stuffed 20 or so in the freezer. Warning: If you’re coming to visit this weekend to see But These Are My Dress Clothes, and you’re staying my house, I will force-feed you cupcakes all weekend long. I will puree them and put them in your toothpaste; I will shove them in your mouth while you are sleeping and make your jaw move like you’re chewing and you will have to swallow or choke. It’s your choice. Oh, and I will wrap what’s left in your socks and put them in your duffel bag. So you have that to look forward to.

Oh, and I am excited to see you.

Have you ever ordered a veggie burrito from a Mexican restaurant and been satisfied with what you’ve received? Because I have not. And yet I continue to try and try and try again. The disappointment is always the same. The hope is always renewed. The cycle is vicious. It came to a head last weekend when Lauren and I hit up a small taqueria on Broadway. This time, the inside of my burrito looked like an overturned grade school cafeteria tray. Pees and green beans and carrots as far as the eye could see. Little peppered potato cubes and day-glo corn. I stared at it for a few minutes in disbelief, not because someone had thought to encase a bag of Jewel-brand frozen vegetable medley in a tortilla, but because I had allowed myself to be duped yet again. And then I proceeded to pick out the peas and dream about what the veggie burrito might be like at the place across the street.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Live each day like it's your third-to-last.

Over the past year, and even more so in the past few weeks, I have grown acutely aware of my own mortality. It's not like I thought I would live forever before I stumbled into this period of reflection. I just didn't think about it at all. And suddenly I'm spending hours online looking at pictures of irregular moles... the passing of celebrities gives me more pause... any sort of risky behavior is now completely off-limits ("Sushi? No thank you. I'll be locked in my room eating canned soup and vitamins.") Realizing the limits of your own existence also makes you prioritize like a crazy person, to the point where anything that seems even slightly unnecessary becomes a big joke in the grand scheme of things (Laundry? Ha! Why? And don't even talk to me about paying bills, clipping fingernails, etc.) I imagine the key to it all is realizing what's important, understanding what petty things will keep you happy in the day-to-day, and striking a balance between the two. So, in my case, I will call home more often and perhaps do a better job of finding my true calling in life, but if I want to waste two hours of my time on earth milling around World Market, so be it. No one has ever died debating the decorative merits of half-price throw pillows.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

And the eyes they were a color I can't remember

Just once, I would like to be able to pull off red lipstick without looking like a hooker or a corpse. And here I thought it was just because of my unspoken vow to never spend more then $3 on a tube of lipstick. I proved myself wrong by spending $10 and walking away looking like Tim Curry. Ah well, you win some, you lose some, you add another tube to the bathroom drawer. I should start telling guests I'm the makeup artist for an off-off-Broadway production of "Chicago."

Things at work have slowed a bit to the point where I'm envisioning myself at the center of some trend piece for the Tribune about people who have been laid off twice. It will be titled Double Sided Axe. Or something.

I spent my afternoon writing about gasoline refining and listening to my Otis Redding station on Pandora. I've also grown fond of a secret station I have which plays a lot of Taylor Swift. If this appeals to you as well, let's drive to Sonic and listen to "Love Story" or "Tim McGraw" at full volume, laughing as our blond hair blows in the Georgia breeze. If you're laughing, I will cut you.

Speaking of music, there are a few new songs I can't stop listening to, one in particular to point where I'm driving myself crazy with my own addiction. First I fell in love with AC Newman's band, and then his lisp (yes, lisp! not lips) and now this song.

SeeqPod - Playable Search

I actually broke down and bought the new Neko Case CD from Starbucks one morning last week, essentially paying $15 for a venti coffee with room and a bonus CD and a sample of that horrid looking instant coffee that I'm saving to make the day the world ends and my coffee maker gets trampled in the chaos.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

There exists a man who has, for all intents and purposes, stolen my schedule and whereabouts. Or maybe I have stolen his, depending on who set out on this particular segment of life first. He lives two buildings down from me on Roscoe, and on certain mornings, we leave our apartments at the same time. We walk to the bus stop, although I'm usually about twenty feet behind him since his building is about twenty feet closer to the bus stop. We ride the same bus; today I got on first because I am a lady. We work in the same building, which means we exit the bus at approximately the same time (depending on how crowded it is). We get in the same bank of elevators (there are three to choose from). And today, we got in the same individual elevator. Never before has this happened, but it allowed me to pinpoint the exact place our parallel lives diverge: he works on the sixth floor, and I work five floors above, on the 11th. I'm not sure what he does for a living because the sixth floor is one of those plain-label floors with no signs or distinguishing characteristics. Right now, I'm feeling a bit possesive of my weekdays, my block, my buildings. And while nothing else is adjustible at this point in time, I may start taking a different bus.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

You're the one that I still miss, and the truth is that it comes as no surprise.

I was recently chastised for having let this blog fall by the wayside, so here I am. That's not to say that I needed prompting to keep writing; I missed having a forum as well. For the past three weeks, my thoughts have had nowhere to go except my restless feet and the refrigerator. Basically, this job is taking up a lot of room inside my brain, and virtually everything else has suffered as a result. But not anymore! Today, I firmly resolve to maintain a sense of balance, to continue to pursue the creative outlets that make me happy, to finish coloring in this fuzzy unicorn poster.

Things that have happened in the world of what's important to me since I last wrote:

Neko Case released a new album.

E-music erased my account, preventing me from downloading it.

I read
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
(Full disclosure: I never finished Everything Is Illuminated because I just plain didn't want to. However, I really enjoyed this one.)

I remembered how much I had missed someone.

The ARRA passed.

The monkey slamming continued.

My brother Joe left for Chile, and so continues the entire Monahan family's gradual migration to Central and South America. Next thing I know, Paul will decide to attend a party school in Panama, my mom will move to Bolivia, and I'll be forced to find a Nicaraguan Craiglist roommate. Anyway, I'm excited to hear about his adventures, and I imagine there will be many. His first e-mail detailed a wonderland of privatized public transportation and rapid-fire Spanish, where every stranger is friendly and every food item is served with a fried egg on top. This last point ended up being the main focus of his letter, as Joe will eat fried toothpaste as long as it's sunny side up.

Come to this show! But These Are My Dress clothes is my Second City Writing Five class's sketch revue. I've seen it rehearsed every Monday for the past five weeks now, which amounts to watching the same sketches over and over and over again, and yet my amusement persists. Smart writers. Talented actors. It's a good show - I'd even venture to say great, and I only think a few things are actually great (sleep, carbonation, aspartame).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My obsession with monkey attacks is reaching full tilt. Also, I am now more grateful than ever that my dream of having a monkey sibling never came to pass.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Robot vs. Dinosaur

Between working, entertaining out-of-towners and staring at assorted walls, I haven't had a great deal of time or mental energy to blog. However, I'm still posting here on Sundays (or Tuesdays, as the case may be).

Thursday, February 05, 2009

You are my sunshine... and my robot voice.

(Tribute Week continues. It's like Shark Week, only with fewer sharks and more college friends.)

In October of 2007, I paid a visit to Portland to visit Annie Wilkins. One morning, after a night of misbehaving, we woke up and realized that virtually the only thing we could both remember was chanting "You are my robot voice" in the backseat of a car. No context. No explanation. Nothing. So that being said,

Happy birthday, Annie. You are my robot voice.

It would be easy for me to ramble and ramble and ramble and throw out hundreds of inside jokes, but it will just amount to confusion and me falling out of my chair in a fit of silent laughter. Instead, I will simply say thank you for being my other half. And giving an amazing hand helmet. Enjoy the pizza rolls and PBR tonight. I love you!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Congrats, Mich and Adam.

I failed to mention last night that the main reason for my going to Omaha is to attend Michaela and Adam's engagement party, which is sure to be epic, and deservedly so. They are my prototype for the proverbial perfect couple. If they're brought up in conversation, the statement usually ends with someone throwing in an "I love those guys," because people genuinely do. They ride their bikes to Target together. They've raised two beautfiul cats. They love watching The Biggest Loser. They turn weekend roadtrips into enviable adventures. They tolerated me during the summer of '07 when I became their unofficial third wheel, using their pool, eating their food and living quietly and vicariously through their happiness. They are not sickeningly similar or questionably contradictory, rather they've achieved a perfect balance that some people work years to find.

So with that, I send out a sincere "we should all be so lucky" and bid you adieu. I still have two articles to write before my date with Southwest Airlines.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Goodbye Blago, Hello Warren Buffett

Did you know that Stars does a cover of Fairytale of New York? I'm listening to it right now... and staring at people through the windows of the Suisse Hotel instead of finishing up a smattering of articles I really, really need to finish. I've always been horrible at working late. I can work early and write a novel between 7 and 9 a.m., but after 5 p.m., my mind wanders and my stomach growls and I am useless.

One vital reason for finishing my work tonight is the long journey to Omaha tomorrow afternoon. I don't think I've ever been this excited to travel from one midwestern city to another in the dead of winter. I know I sing its praises constantly, but the place where you come of age in the most real sense will inevitably hold special meaning... I met my best friends there, I loved people there (in a mostly platonic, occasionally romantic way), I got my first adult-person job there, I had my first solo apartment, my first genuinely solid sense of self, my first Zima... I will never live there again, and I don't really want to. But knowing it exists as a respite from the day-to-day is one of those things that keeps me going. Much like Zima.

The aforementioned song, plus a bonus.

SeeqPod - Playable Search

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Goodbye, John Updike.
Thank you for filling my summer with tales of Rabbit Angstrom's adulturous exploits. Also, that cameo on the Simpsons was pretty sweet. You will be mised.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I think everyone has a Normal and an OK, Now You're Being Crazy internet threshold. Checking your e-mail is normal. But Googling holistic remedies for cat eczema or the location of Robert De Niro's summer home or the calorie content of a medium-sized apple or the middle name of Kurt Cameron's youngest child? OK, now you're being crazy. I always try to stop myself before the latter occurs, but I am rarely successful.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"We do footwork and spins like the Temptations. All the world's a stage we're going through."

Happy belated Inauguration Day! The national morale boost is palpable - revel in it. We're not in a great place, but for the first time in a long time, we're poised to be.

Speaking of good things, only this time too much of it, I just consumed a lot of broccoli. Like, a Lego forest's worth.

Also speaking of good things, I highly recommend reading anything by Lorrie Moore. Ever since reading "The Kid's Guide to Divorce" in a creative writing class at Creighton, I've been hooked. Second-person narrative can slip into choose your own adventure mode really easily if it's allowed, but she does it really, really well. Just finished reading Anagrams (her first novel, I think), and I loved it. It switches between reality and imagination, time, space, etc., but never loses site of the story at its core - the relentless affection between Gerard and Benna. Depending on the life imagined, they are friends, lovers, co-workers, caretakers... I'm a bad reviewer who can't do a good book justice. But if you're looking for something to read...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Thoughts triggered by a phone call, recorded as an alternative to doing real work.

I got the chance to talk to Mary Clare yesterday, the first time since she left to return to Honduras after New Year's. The conversation brought up several topics I've been thinking about a lot, so it was a nice opportunity to process what have otherwise been jumbled ideas. When you weed out the grocery lists and song lyrics, things start to make more sense.

On what other people think.
If you don't take what other people will think into consideration when making decisions, you are probably either a robot (robot reference! again!) or a true renegade, and if the latter is true, I commend you. Taking the possible opinions or reactions of others into account is somewhat inevitable and sometimes helpful. But it can also be detrimental to growth and change and forward movement. We tend to create this one big fictional ogre of a person, an imaginary "They" that is hiding in the bushes, watching your every movement, hearing your every thought, ready to pounce on you, wrap you in a net and smear you with judgment should you make a decision it deems irresponsible or illogical. (I imagine judgment to look like potting soil and smell like gerbil cage.) But the truth is, there is no ogre or chorus waiting. We are all too concerned with ourselves to give anyone else that much thought. No one is that special, and that's a good thing. So go ahead and join the circus, leave the circus, move somewhere new, return to some place familiar, etc. In the end, if it makes sense to you, They will either support you or be too busy picking their own noses and worrying about their own lives to even give it a second thought.

On grief.
Grief is like those good ideas that people put dry erase boards in the shower for. To make it slightly more sinister, it looks like the leprechaun from those Leprechaun movies, and it is an asshole. When moments come around where its presence would seem logical, it's nowhere to be found, leaving you with an inflated sense of strength, a false sense of well being, a mind too busy with moving forward to make room for looking back. It's at those wholly inappropriate moments that it climbs out of your pocket or wherever it lives and turns you on your head - in a crowd, at the grocery store, at work. Mine is the bus... that all-too-familiar swell of sadness triggered by Lake Michigan at rush hour or the last page of a book. It's predictable in its unpredictability, and to the lady sitting across from you pecking at her Blackberry, it makes you seem crazy.

On peanut butter.
We didn't talk about peanut butter, but I hear they are warning people not to eat peanut butter right now, and it's really bumming me out.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A blessing and a curse.

I actually heard the latter half of this story on Thanksgiving, but at the time I think I'd just written my 600th family-centric post, deciding instead to stick it in my back pocket with the other gum wrappers and save it for later.

Ever since I was old enough to reminisce, I knew I'd been blessed by Mother Teresa. My mom had the opportunity to meet her when I was in utero, and as legend has it, she touched her growing stomach and made some wise crack about my future as a Missionary of Charity (a detail I usually leave out when telling this story because it leaves me no room to question my vocation or overall purpose in life - if Mother Teresa provides you with one, you're kind of obligated to follow up. Ah well...). So, since I probably had gills and no finger nails at the time of our meeting, I obviously do not remember this. That being said, it's a nice thought to carry around and pull out every time a bad day rolls around. You got the last seat on the bus? I've been blessed by Mother Teresa. Sub-zero temperatures? Eat poo, Mother Nature. I've been blessed by Mother Teresa. Anyway, for the past 26 years or so, I've had that to fall back on when everything else seems quietly out of line.

Fast forward to this past Thanksgiving. Sitting at the end of a long table with my aunt, uncle, mom and brother. Conversation makes its usual turn to talk of McDonald's franchises in somewhat unsavory areas of St. Louis. Standard banter. And then suddenly, I'm blindsided with a story I've never heard before. During that same bout of gestation, my mom and dad were grabbing dinner at a McDonald's near their apartment in the city when they were approached by a mentally unstable and possibly homeless woman. She could've asked for money or a French fry, but instead she chose to curse my mom's stomach. To curse me, an unassuming, downy quasi-human who had, so far, done nothing to harm anyone else. Apparently she made my mom cry and blah blah blah, the point being I had just nine months to make it through unscathed. To grow vital organs and eat through my stomach. But in those nine months, I managed to acquire a blessing from one of the most revered humanitarians in history and a curse from some lady who probably collects Bartles & Jaymes bottles filled with eyelashes.

As a result, so I've surmised, I'm destined to be mediocre. It's the ying and the yang of good deeds and value meals, and I am the result. Hovering gently in the middle. If I'd never heard the second part of my fetal journey, I would've continued to believe that I'm some sort of female Emperor of the Sun, called upon to shoulder the burden of holy greatness. It's probably better this way, as I can now reconcile my newly realistic obligations as a human being, my unnatural love of sweet & sour sauce packets, and the faint memory of a wrinkled Nobel Peace Prize-winning hand seen through small, developing eyes.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The true story of seven strangers. And Chet.

Hey you guys that watch The Real World too. I think there may be three of us, four if you include the elderly woman who fell asleep watching Good Eats and rolled over on the remote. What do you think of this Chet character? Because I have a pretty high tolerance for the bros, hookers and robots MTV has managed to dredge up over the past five years or so, and I can't stand the guy. He gives off a creepy vibe that not even his keffiyeh can cover up. Twenty bucks says he either stabs somebody or turns the confessional into pet store/meth lab/ball pit by the end of the season.

Of course, I'll continue to watch until everyone who wants acceptance gets acceptance and everyone who wants to be famous gets their fifteen minutes and everyone who just wants a hot tub and a fish tank wall... gets that too.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Pluck your eyebrows for the crowd

Even though I've given up on openly declaring my resolutions, I still have an unofficial list going that will shrink slowly but surely until it finally dies in June, a death knell that tolls when I realize I still smoke when I drink, I still watch classes at the gym like some spandexed playground monitor instead of actually going to them, I still don't do things I should and do do things I shouldn't. However, I will venture to openly shun meat... again. After four solid years as a fairly dedicated pescatarian, lapsing only occasionally, drunkenly and unashamedly, I started to incorporate turkey into an otherwise eclectic diet consisting of bean burritos, ketchup and airplane peanuts. This small step snowballed into chicken nuggets and cheeseburgers at Duke's with Jo and suddenly my brothers were making jokes about my unofficial Tour of Meat and the next thing I knew, I was eating lamb with mint jelly at my aunt's house. Lamb. With mint jelly. It's one thing to eat baby versions of things. It's another to cover it in something green, gelatinous and completely counterintuitive.

So I'm back where it all began, and so far it's been easy and somewhat comforting. I never really craved meat before, but once I gave myself permission to eat it, I didn't have any guidelines to follow. And as I've now learned, a lack of guidelines makes people dip chicken wings in ground beef. Even if I'm still stumbling around, puffing Parliaments outside of a spinning class in June, at least I have guidelines and peace of mind.

Random, unrelated thought that requires some sort of transition:
When my real iPod bit the dust last year, I decided to invest as little money as possible into its replacement. The result was a Shuffle that I've come to simultaneously love and abhor. When you rely on a Shuffle, you end up hearing the same five songs over and over again, three of which you keep reminding yourself to remove because they're horrible. Anyway, this is an old Belle and Sebastian song, but every time it makes its Shuffle rounds, I'm reminded of how much I like it. And then I listen to it nine times in a row to avoid anything too Fergalicious.

SeeqPod - Playable Search

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Prelude to a Kiss

I've never seen it, but it's free from OnDemand, and from the first five minutes I think I'm going to love it. Meg Ryan and Alec Baldwin dancing to the Divinyls and talking about insomnia.


Saturday, January 03, 2009

"...in avoiding specific goals, he had avoided specific limitations."

I sat behind Frank and April Wheeler at mass on Christmas day - a nearly exact replica of how I'd imagined these two characters to look... tall, attractive, poised and casual, at least outwardly. For some reason I'd been able to avoid simply thinking of them as Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet, forming my own cast of envisioned characters. And suddenly there they were, the most prominent members of my cast, singing "One Bread, One Body" just feet away. They had two young kids to boot - a boy and a girl, just like the book. I had to leave promptly to avoid staring and/or asking them what they were doing so far from Connecticut.

For some reason I was under the impression that the movie version of Revolutionary Road was supposed to be released on December 26, so I rushed to finish it in time for opening day. It was then that I found out I had an entire month to go before it would reach theaters. Oh well... I've actually read mostly so-so reviews anyway, so I might just save my money and buy a bowl of soup.

I guess the point of this meandering reflection (I've been trying to make more sense, to talk more linearly) is that I really, really enjoyed the book. It was more or less inevitable that I would appreciate its context - I'm thoroughly fascinated by Mad Men and the late 50s/early 60s in general, mostly the social mores, apparel and aesthetically curious cuisine. But I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the story itself. It could've been melodramatic, but it really wasn't. Melodrama has highs and lows with typically heartbreaking endings. The difference with Revolutionary Road is that the entire story is heartbreaking, and it never tries to be anything else. Even the events, instances of humor and moments of (apparent) marital bliss that seem pleasant on the surface are tinged with foreboding. As a result, you never get very attached to anyone. You never get attached because you know, as well as they know maybe, that they are doomed. That's not really a spoiler, because doomed can mean a variety of things. Like right now, I am doomed to sit in a airport for a long time. Doom is relative.

Anyway, I'll most likely see the movie (the soup can wait, and I hear you can get the senior discount if you use the kiosk), and I probably won't like it as much as the book. But that's to be expected. No movie can live up to the one that plays in your head, especially when you’re close enough with its characters to stand behind them in the communion line.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Monahans! Ready??

The above title is a quote from my sister, shouted enthusiastically as she jumped into a circle of siblings and strangers. Then the Monahans shotgunned* beers in unison... because that is what siblings do when too inebriated to realize they're just being lame. So sums up my New Year's Eve. My favorite in recent memory, and we didn't even have to leave the apartment. Everyone - friends, brothers, sisters, cousins, strangers, the guy who lives downstairs, came to us.

Happy new year.

Back when I still had misty and ill-fated dreams of becoming a famous cartoonist able to replicate Garfield with one eye closed and create what were mainly glorified stick figures, much to the amusement of my parents and select teachers, I had one particular idea in mind that would resurface every year in early January. Every year between the ages of eight and eleven, whereupon it was forgotten about... sent packing to those dark corners that house the birthdays of friends from camp and the lyrics to Stay by Lisa Loeb and the theme song from Mr. Belvedere. Its memory returned to me last night, and I realized just how unfunny and probably unoriginal it was... however, to satisfy the ghosts of time and the folks at the New Yorker, here it is: (Note: This was drawn using Microsoft Paint and my right hand, both of which suck at doing anything.)

See?? They're unemployed because the year is over. It doesn't get more nuanced than that. The 2008 old man is still drinking champagne, and "unemployment" is backwards because it's for the people outside. Given the economic climate (and the rudimentary MS Paint artwork), I have a feeling this wouldn't fly. Another piece of genius lost to the ages and the documents folder on my family's computer.

I took an unpaid day off today, so I should probably go do something outside or watch Matlock. Thoughts in the pipeline: Revolutionary Road, Fraud Complex

*Never able to finish a shotgunned beer in one round of gulps, I proceeded to sip my Coors Light leisurely from a jagged hole in the side of the can for the next half hour.


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