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.


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