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.


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