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

" 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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