Wednesday, December 24, 2008

This is what happens when you work on Christmas Eve.

I am dreaming about what I would dip these in.

P.S. Happy birthday, Jesus.

M is for Merry Almost Christmas.

Who knew they had special holiday hours at the gym on Christmas Eve. Who Knew. Too late to go back to sleep. Too early to take a shower. Too awake from a brisk and pointless walk down Broadway to justify coffee or Al Roker. And the Today Show doesn't even start until 7:00. What to do when the world sleeps... besides scrapbook.

Do you know what they do with unsold Christmas trees? I'm asking because I don't. I walked by a lot this morning that was fairly full of lonely trees... unwanted by most everyone except the few people (future self included) who wait until Christmas Eve to make their purchase. Like it's something you waffle on... I don't know. Do I want a Christmas tree this year? I'm debating. It's either that or a down vest from the Gap. If I win the lottery, among other things like building a swimming mote, I will fill my spare bedrooms and bowling alleys with Doug Firs.

Because of this, Yo Gabba Gabba and Garanimals, I really wouldn't mind being a kid right now... Maybe just for a Saturday morning or a summer.

Tilly & the Wall on SESAME STREET from Team Love on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Moscow Mules at Brothers Lounge

Yesterday I woke up determined to a) polish off half a Brita picher of water and b) buy a last-minute plane ticket to Omaha, leaving as soon as possible, returning today. The water was much needed. The ticket was $918 and thus out of the question. I think there's something preternatural about wanting to be near the people you love during the month of December (and into early January, with the feast of the Epiphany as the general cut-off point for sentimentality). What began as a commercially manufactured season has now become a natural feeling of longing for comfort and security and baked goods. I don't know. All I know is that calling Libby today to tell her happy birthday and hearing the echoed hellos of my friends gathered around her parents dining room table in Lincoln was oddly heart wrenching. I wanted to be there. But $918 is a lot of money, and I still owe the John Merlo library at least a third of my paycheck. Anyway, I spent today feeling itchy and restless, like I was late for something important that I couldn't put my finger on... It doesn't help that the windchill here is -30, leaving sane people housebound and brave people frozen to the sides of buildings.

The Country of Honduras (I'm really not sure whose jurisdiction she's under, so it's easier to create a some sort of imaginary organization) is letting us have Mary Clare back for two weeks, starting the day after Christmas. Sometimes I think about it too much and get overwhelmed - when I was little, I would always wake up the night before Christmas and vomit, this being the adult version of that same sort of feeling. I'm trying to keep my expectations down. She is a puzzle piece. I have been running on only nearly complete capacity since September. I have grand schemes for her visit, but in all honesty, we could sit on the kitchen floor drinking Diet Coke and talking about leave-in conditioner for three days straight, and I would be more than satisfied.

Have you seen Mamma Mia? I get embarrassed for other people really easily, so it made me uncomfortable. I used to love musicals, but now I'm more inclined to think that they go against human nature. We are not supposed to explain things through song unless we're teaching children the alphabet. Feel free to argue with me on this, as I could easily be convinced otherwise.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Grab your brass birdcage and put on your most delicate jewelry. I have a proposal for you.

OMG I think of things to blog about all the time, mostly in those moments when I'm drifting off to sleep at night and dreams intermingle with lucid thoughts. The result is something like this: "That's it, I should blog about my love of tomato-based condiments and then the dragon is eating that dog and the owner is screaming and the owner is a blind gym teacher." See? The first part was real, and the second part was a dream creeping in.

But of course now, when I finally sit down after two weeks of very little creative productivity, I have nothing. Except this - a proposal:

Let's all go live in an Anthropologie catalog. Sounds amazing, right? You can bring the porcelain deer and three polite children wearing oversized galoshes. You, over there - you bring the tree house and the tea party and the hand-knit sweater with the owl-shaped buttons. Someone will need to volunteer to find a winter scene and a well-trained Italian Greyhound that isn't frightened of antique typewriters. I'll bring the whimsy. In the Anthropologie catalog, everyone uses perfect grammar and eschews modern amenities. Nothing is practical and everything is clever. I want to go there. You should come to, but be aware that you will have to leave your cares behind.

Are you in?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

So this is what it's like.

When I first moved to Chicago, I made the drive in my Ford Focus (RIP, or Rest in Someone Else's Driveway, I guess I should say), surrounded by literally all of my worldly belongings. This included Rat Baby (a 600lb doorstop/mascot), clothing, books and a few granola bars. This did not include a bed, as I was forced to leave mine behind in Omaha. As a result, I ended up sleeping on an air mattress for the first eight months I lived here. In the winter, the air inside said mattress would drop to ungodly temperatures - I would liken it to sleeping on a cloud of late January and bronchitis. I had to allow an extra hour every morning just to recover from the restless night's sleep I'd just gotten. Despite the fact that in warmer weather it was far more comfortable than one would expect an air mattress to be, I was not sad to see it go. However, its replacement wasn't a great deal better, as it was a floor mattress. No frame or box spring. And even though I'd gotten used to sleeping at eye level with the carpet, it still left me wanting more. No one wants to wake up to the sight of unmatched socks and bobby pins every monring.

Flash forward another five months. When my mom suggested she and my brother spend Thanksgiving weekend up here, I could hardly contain myself knowing she would come equipped with a mini van and the patience (or blissful ignorance) necessary to navigate Ikea. We made a pit stop in Bolingbrook on the way into town on Friday and came away with a lamp, a comforter cover, a table for Lauren, a glazed look in our eyes, an unsatisfied curiosity as to what Ikea meatballs taste like (particle board? paper lampshades?), and a bed. Mission accomplished. It sat unassembled until this morning, when my mom and I set our alarms for 7:00, chugged a pot of coffee and took over the dining room in a flurry of screw drivers, Swedish instructions and good intentions. Three hours later, I had a bed. I don't think it's really sunken in yet. It probably won't until I come upon some newly minted Chicagoan who's still sleeping on a glorified life preserver. Then and only then will I realize my good fortune and think back on the times when I too could "crawl into bed," "roll out of bed" and "deflate my bed" with complete honesty.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving dos, don'ts and general thoughts on gratitude.

Do: Read Persepolis. I read it on the way home last night, and it left me feeling slightly sad, inspired, far more informed on relations between Iran and Iraq during the early 80s. Its honest humor keeps it relatively lighthearted in the midst of extreme turmoil. Anyway, it's a quick read, so if you're looking for something to do while your green bean casserole digests...

Don't: Watch Hard Candy. Lauren and I chose it from the array of free movies available from On Demand. Not even a 40 of Bud Light and a box of Cheez-Its could make it more palatable. I haven't confirmed this yet, but I think it was adapted from a play, as it was chock full of incessant, pointless dialog. We will never be able to watch Juno with the same detached joy now. Our innocence has been stolen. Don't make the same mistake we did.

Do: Rediscover music on an old laptop that has since been adopted by your brother to write college essays on. I spent some time with A & B on iTunes this morning - Architecture in Helsinki, old Belle & Sebastian, Ben Kweller, Blackalicious...

Don't: Take Megabus on Thanksgiving unless you have the patience of a saint and a Nalgene bottle full of NyQuil. It was Mega crowded. The ride was Mega long. The passengers were Mega talkative, which makes it hard when all you want to do is listen to a little M. Ward, lean your head against the cold window, and dream about an imaginary buddy movie starring 1986 Steve Gutenberg and 1994 Bill Pullman. In said dream, I have been cast as the romantic foil.

General thoughts on gratitude...
I will not sit here and prattle on about what I'm grateful for, as everyone has their own respective lists, and most subjects are overlapping and universal. I will say, however, that this past year has made my qualifications for what constitutes gratitude a bit more open to interpretation. In a good way. I recently read a Vanity Fair interview with Carolina Herrera, and even though I'm not normally one to take heed of the wise words of famous designers, it was actually pretty insightful. When asked what she considers to be the lowest depth of misery, she replied "the suffering of someone you love." I couldn't agree more. It is horrid and painful and inescapable. But once you're able to step outside that suffering just long enough to gain even an iota of perspective, it has an immense effect of how you view gratitude. Because when luck is shining favorably on you, gratitude tends to manifest itself in stock reasons that you absentmindedly pull from the same place that makes you say, "I hate mushrooms, too," "How was your weekend?" and "I'm sorry" when you don't mean it. Conversely, the times when it seems like everything could stand to be better than it is... those are the times when gratitude is real and raw and supremely genuine. So to go back on what I said I wouldn't do just moments ago, I am thankful for my family for keeping me grounded, my friends for keeping me sane, my dad for giving me someone tangible to talk to when I find myself talking to no one in particular, my cat for reaching age 16 with only a mild case of diabetes (the feline drivers license I guess), and Bill Pullman for seriously considering that script I sent him.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Best,
Catherine

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cranberry Sauce and Health Insurance

Now I can get this rash looked at, this finger reattached, an antibiotic for this TB.
Because, after two weeks of freelance auditioning (and two weeks of relentless anxiety, night sweats and late-night episodes of Nancy Grace), I am gainfully employed. Knock on this particleboard desk...

And while I will temporarily be mourning the loss of the free time I'd come to know, love and fully exploit, this is better in the long run. Especially when it comes to paying rent. More on the seven stages of re-employment grief later. Now? A song. Because, as the saying goes, when a life event such as a breakup mars one Pogues song, YouTube opens a window and reminds you that there are others that you like just as much, if not more.

So my adventure into 90s Irish pop music continues, to your benefit.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The last bees of summer: Growing up, literally and figuratively

Coming to you live from St. Louis, where I've spent roughly 1.3 of the past 3 months, all told. Now that I've been 26 for two days, the figurative part of growing up has come in the conscious decision to stop playing the martyr. You probably haven't realized it (because I'm so good at it!), but I'm really good at it. I spent my first afternoon home finding stealthy and biting ways to remind my mom that I'd rather be in Chicago. I've since taken a step back, buttoned my lip and chosen to appreciate my time here (for various reasons I will touch on later). Besides, it is best to take advantage of being laid off by getting out of town. A normal person would feel guilty using PTO to lie on a futon and watch License to Wed. A jobless person feels productive.

Yesterday I decided to ignore whatever sinister virus has taken over my bronchial region and go for a run down Forsyth and alongside Forest Park . It was drizzling a little, but the weather was pretty mild, and as I stopped to get a drink of water near the History Museum, I noticed a bee resting feebly on the faucet, picking up its legs individually to avoid the drops of accumulating rain. A last vestige of summer before the weather becomes completely unbearable. This is evident beyond the few resilient insects, as the park itself was still green and gold... a stately reminder of what makes this city quietly beautiful. Last week my aunt took her kids to the park to take advantage of another balmy day. In her email, she referred to these pictures being a reflection of "St. Louis at its best" - a pretty accurate statement.




My mom's listening to AM radio in the kitchen, and apparently we're getting snow today. I imagine I witnessed that bee's final moments on earth.

We had some family over for dinner last night, a small fraction of the whole (which means like, 15 people). I received half a bouncy ball and some phenomenal homemade cards, including one with my likeness drawn on it. It looks sort of like The Scream, only not as pretty. Instead of saying grace, my uncle decided to look up YouTube versions of I'll Tell Me Ma. I think my favorite is Sinead O'Connor. I can't take credit for these amazing montages involving burning embers, kittens and old album cover images. Someone far more genius than me had a hand in this. I just copy and paste.



I ushered in 26 drinking Bud Select and watching It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia with Annie, Kevin and Heather. It was perfectly mundane, and I loved it. Here's to hoping it sets the tone for the coming year. No unwelcome surprises. Business as usual. I have a lot riding on you, current age. If you let me down, I'll be forced to abandon you for something new this time next year.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wind it up, lean back and show your socks.

The phone interview I was scheduled for at 9:30 this morning has now been postponed until tomorrow afternoon, a factor I did not find out about until 9:30. As a result, I am currently a walking, talking, caffeinated ball of pure adrenaline, and I need something to do. Quickly. I woke up and cleaned my room at 2:30 this morning, I've already been to the gym, I have enough Starbucks and DayQuil in my system to paralyze a Clydesdale. Hand me a box of Lincoln Logs and I'll build you a four-bedroom house with a laundry room, fenced-in yard and central air. I'll build a little matching one for your kids to play in too.

Joe, mi hermano, sent me the Do Da Stanky Legg video as a form of good luck and intellectual inspiration. Check it. And then hit the booty doo.




"In the end the only steps that matter are the ones you take all by yourself."
In addition to being a sucker for Stanky Leggs, I'm also a fool for anything that talks and is made of felt. Therefore the new Weepies video, featuring generic Muppet versions of Deb Talan and Steve Tannen, is pretty great.

DID YOU KNOW?
Did you know that this song was featured in one of Obama's campaign spots? It was.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Ramshackle Day Parade - Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros

The Marble Faun

At this point in time, I would liken myself to both the little girl from Signs who collects glasses of water and the mother/daughter team of crazies from Grey Gardens. Presently there are three glasses of water, two half-full cans of Diet Dr. Pepper and two Starbucks cups (which may or may not be filled with old, cold coffee and a delicate surface film of mold) on my desk. Also, much like Big and Little Edie, I've chosen to ignore the rest of our apartment in favor of my bedroom, which is roughly the size of a (small) box of kleenex. I've been working on my computer a lot, mostly to send out resumes and do Google image searches. Said computer is missing its delete key and tethered to the wall by what has now become its umbilical cord of power. Therefore visits to coffee shops and the dining room are more or less out of the question. Point being, my inclination toward untidiness and Howard Hughes-like behavior is reaching new heights during this break from employment. I could excuse it by saying I thrive on chaos, but at this point I'm one camping stove and two raccoons away from official recluse status. I guess I owe my remaining sanity to LVAC. You kind of have to leave the house and go to the gym every day when you know your membership dues could send an orphan to school for a year.

Last night I went to see Bob Schneider at the Double Door with Heather and her friend Kayla. And as I stood there watching a guy in a pinstriped shirt sway with arms overhead in the front row, I decided that Bob's music could be put into a few distinct categories: music to drink Natural Light and make observations about the intricacies of human behavior to, and more importantly,

music for married stockbrokers to conceive second children to
music for thirty-somethings to reminisce about flip cup to
music for otherwise straight-laced white people to get a little crazy to

Oh man, did they get crazy.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween, or Some Detective Work, or I Blue Myself

About twenty minutes ago, I was standing at the corner of Broadway and Belmont, waiting to cross at the light. A group of bald (of the shaved head variety) men came and stood in front of me, looking around with shifty eyes and mumbling to each other. At first I found myself wondering why the residual members of Heaven's Gate were standing in front of Chipotle. And then I noticed that more than one of them had something blue speckling their inner ears. Paint perhaps? And then, seconds before the light turned red, it all came together.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Only a fool laughs when nothing's funny."

I started in on my library movies last night, beginning with The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. In hindsight, I probably wasn't really ready to watch a movie with its setting and subject matter, and it affected me above and beyond basic cinematic appreciation. I really can't even put into words how moving it was, visually, viscerally, etc. If you are willing to risk your Obama campaign worker stranger roommate walking in on you weeping quietly under a Cubs blanket on the couch, go ahead and rent it. It's worth it.

Montage!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's so easy and easy and easy and easy and creepy and creepy and creepy and creepy

I just got an email from Lucky magazine offering me the Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style, and never before have I had more disdain for the publication because it is a magazine about BUYING THINGS. And I am still feeling guilty about my $8 cab ride last night. I imagine the next time I will be able to justify spending $200 on riding boots will be when the money fichus in our living room blooms in Spring.

I always knew I was far more productive when I was heartpoundingly, unimaginably busy. It's during those times that I can turn five spare minutes into a shiny window of output, creative or otherwise. Getting laid off is paralyzing to a certain extent. You're not angry enough to throw a brick through a window/move to Mexico/open a competing banana stand across the street. You're not satisfied enough to simply appreciate your blessings and surroundings. You're not complacent... but I guess complacency is far more paralyzing than the temporary handicap a lay-off brings. There is still a small fire burning in there somewhere.

Annie has the right idea in turning this unexpected time of reevaluation into something tangible and thought-provoking. I suggest checking it out: awesome idea, amazing person, good read. Me? I've been too busy:

Eating my roommate's waffles
Getting hooked on One Tree Hill
Trying out weird cardio equipment at the gym
Ridding the library of their subtitled movies
Not watching said movies
Dressing like a college sophomore
Watching fan-made YouTube montages, mostly of the Pam & Jim variety*
Strategizing endlessly over how I will spend the $10 Walgreens gift card my mom sent

I burned a CD of some of the songs I had on my computer at work, and while a great many are pretty shiteous and only made the cut because of some inexplicable sentimental attachment, here are a few favorites - listened to day in and day out for the past year...



Really, really awesome video starring my mom when she was eight. If you're ever talking to me and I start to stare off into space, this is what it looks like inside my mind.


Change of plans. The Bird and the Bee video extravaganza.


And this one, because it's so pretty.



*A magical recipe of poorly edited clips, the Grey's Anatomy Soundtrack and Final Cut Pro that only a random 13-year-old girl in Tampa can effectively put together

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Those who can't work shave the cat's back.

This afternoon, I spilled half a mixing bowl of liquefied casserole on my jeans and Chucks. Thursday, I was walked Spanish, as is common these days. Both occurrences were and are inconvenient and supremely uncomfortable. Every other event within the last 72 hours has been relatively positive.

Tomorrow I will cope with being a casualty of this downtrodden economy by ridding the family cat of the matted fur on his back. And as life continues its assault on the latter half of 2008, I'm still trying to laugh. I've been successful thus far. This morning my mom and I went to breakfast for her birthday, but given the circumstances, we ended up at IHOP. In the rock/paper/scissors of day-to-day existence, lay-off trumps birthday by smothering it with pity.

This blog never really had a theme before, at least not an overtly detectable one. I'm seeking purpose in the interim. Hmmmm...

Be back shortly with cereal and perspective.

Monday, October 13, 2008

26.Washcloth

Yesterday, at my friend Lauren's* behest, I jumped in at the corner by my apartment and ran a decent portion of the marathon with her. I'd like to think I kept her going for that stretch, but in reality I probably just served as an annoyance. After all, she had nearly eight miles on me by the time she reached Roscoe and Broadway and was beginning to realize just how much lay ahead. I was caffeinated, conversational and held no obligation to reach the finish line. I was a ghost runner put in place to drink free Gatorade and hound my running mate with constant, asinine observations like "look, free vaseline." Anyway, in the relatively short time I spent on the marathon route, I saw Chicago transformed into something similar to Sesame Street with more grownups and slightly fewer muppets. Each neighborhood greeted the participants with overwhelming enthusiasm, bullhorns, worn recordings of "Pump Up the Jam" and assorted gifts. In Lincoln Park, it was beer. In Old Town, green sponges. In the South Loop, it was little Snickers bars. In the West Loop, it was Fig Newtons. And in Greek Town, it was a ziplock back filled with damp, used washcloths. Probably the most questionable offering of the lot, but at that point most runners had reached a state of heat-induced confusion, and any gift was accepted with unnatural appreciation. It was a huge sweaty love fest, littered with paper cups and the occasional fallen runner. I of course ditched out as soon as I saw the gleam of a Brown Line stop in the distance, but for a few hours, I had the opportunity to see the city at its most utopian. And it was sort of awesome.

My mom's birthday is this Saturday, and I'm going home to help her celebrate. I imagine we'll mark the occasion by splitting a can of room temp Bud Light, poured into styrofoam cups and served over ice cubes.** If we decide to take it up a notch, maybe we'll eat soup. But in any event, I've been trying to figure out what to get her. A few weeks after my dad died, Lynn Johnston ran her second-to-last For Better or For Worse strip in our local paper, and it moved my mom so much that she proceeded to clip it and carry it around with her, showing it to the occasional relative and family friend. Maybe I'll frame it, maybe I'll spend the $65 to have Lynn autograph it. Or maybe I will completely forget between now and then and proceed to give her a homemade card and a gift certificate for a manicure that will never be redeemed. Regardless, here it is, for your "this would warm my heart if I were turning 60, too" enjoyment.


* Congratulations, Lauren!
** Fact: I imagine this will happen because it has happened before.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

But ships are fallible, I say

They began construction on the lobby of our office building the week I moved to Chicago, and they finished it about two weeks ago, celebrating its completion (and the addition of a half-dozen pieces of questionable modern art) with a reception last night. We milled around for a good hour and a half, refusing congealed appetizers, sipping little plastic cups of wine and gawking at all of the people who actually work in our building, on floors above and below us, every day. I ride the elevator with a few each morning. I've never seen them all amassed in one location. I guess it was eye-opening, possibly comforting. With a good Merlot buzz going (I always talk about wine! I love wine so much I guess), I ventured out into the pouring rain and met some Second City folks for a show at the IO... where I drank a bit more (I also love reneging on promises made to quit drinking on weeknights). When I got home, I made toast (and finally, I love toast) and passed out watching It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I woke up a few hours later to a news story about blood spatter conferences. Again: Blood Spatter Conferences. Which apparently exist. I was more likely to wake up to Suzanne Somers selling me a sequined jean jacket, but of course I was roused by blood spatter conferences. It took me an hour to get back to sleep. I guess the last two sentences were the whole point of that entire drawn-out story.

If you are like me, when you are on a plane, you automatically tune out the oxygen mask demonstration in order to do something more interesting, like deciding which Sky Mall page to leave your gum on or playing The Next Song Will Determine the Course of the Rest of My Life with your iPod. Sometimes I worry that I've tuned something out so many times on the simple assumption that I already know how, and that I really don't know how, and that someday I will be forced to actually do it... and not be able to.

These are two versions of one song. In my book, both parties can do no wrong. The only thing Joanna Newsom is guilty of is being incomprehensibly different from anyone else in existence. And the Decemberists could poop in a paper bag and I'd still listen to it.

The cover


The original

Friday, October 03, 2008

I'm taking you to Del Taco...

...and you can get anything you want from the menu. Even one of the more expensive items, like the Macho Burrito.

Happy birthday, Paul! You've made it 18 years without getting arrested or disowned. When Joe dropped that Tonka truck on you the day mom and dad brought you home from the hospital, I knew you'd be a survivor, and you haven't let me down yet. I'll never forget the time you let me give you a haircut when you were two or the time you went to see 27 Dresses with me when you were 17. Have a great day (register to vote). I'll see you tonight.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Dear Sarah Palin,
When you stand on the banks of the Mississippi, you can see Illinois from St. Louis. I just thought you should know that.

Enjoy your time in my fair city.

Best,
Catherine

P.S. I'll be there tomorrow in case you're still around and want to compare bikinis.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Molasses Candy



So for some reason, work completely exploded over the past few days, and I'm back in the mental state I was in Sophomore year of college, when all of my obligations amassed into a semester of Program Board meetings and on-campus concerts and print design projects that resulted in 5 a.m. trips to the Kinko’s on Dodge. Annie and I would eat Chuckles from the vending machine and print poorly designed record store labels while Keith copied his face and butt. But that's neither here nor there. It all amounts to a lot of writing, a lot of sleep deprivation... I brought home some work tonight and rewarded myself with Barefoot Shiraz (viewing that as a reward is a pretty clear indicator of my income bracket).

Recent discussion among roommates of a possible Halloween party (which has since fallen through) led me to do some reflection on last year's Halloween, which in hindsight was pretty supremely amazing. It made up for the year I was Baby Jessica and Jared Nelson set my well on fire. It even made up for the year or two I opted to watch Dateline instead of going out. I ended up in Portland for the weekend prior and, after a trip to a thrift store in Annie's neighborhood, decided to drape myself in $.25 keyboards and extension cords and go as technology (which paled in comparison to her Amy Winehouse). The weekend after, I returned to Omaha to move my final minivan load of belongings home, and went out as Tom Cruise from Risky Business (you say unoriginal, I say a good excuse to wear Wayfarers inside Barry O's). And then I finally came to rest in St. Louis on the actual holiday, drinking White Zinfandel with my mom on the front porch while we handed out candy to the kids I used to baby sit for. In hindsight, I couldn't have spent it better... I was the only kid at home, and as we oohed over babies dressed as pumpkins and a dozen or so Hannah Montanas, my dad sat just inside the front door on the living room couch, writing down every joke he heard in a spiral notebook... commenting on some, laughing quietly to himself about others. He made me repeat the ones he couldn't hear, and half of them had something to do with six being afraid of seven and seven eating nine. By the grace of whomever, last year's Halloween allowed me to be in three pretty meaningful locations within the span of a week. This year I will probably dress as Laura Ingalls Wilder (fingers/bonnet crossed) and end up sleeping in a pile of Charleston Chews somewhere on Clark, but you win some, you lose some, you dress as a pioneer... for some.

Congratulations on passing the IL Bar, Cort! I expect you on my doorstep, looking lawyerly, bright and early tomorrow.

Friday, September 26, 2008

What a good time to blog! In the morning!

I'm a total morning person. I forgot that... but give me some expensive, burnty tasting coffee and an hour of free time at my disposal, and it all comes flooding back. Quite obviously, I will proceed to use that extra hour productively.

Yesterday morning, I was reading on the bus (because when you go to work early, you get to sit down and relax instead of standing in stop-and-go Lakeshore traffic for twenty minutes with your armpit in a stranger's face and your canvas tote suffocating a small child or sitting elderly person). Anyway, I'm reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and right before my bus came to a stop, I read this line - an excerpt from a letter written by one character to another (a friend he's been separated from due to circumstances beyond their control):

I am not meant to be alone and without you who understand.

I won't bore you with the context, but upon reading I ran three blocks to my office, coffee sloshing and scalding and spilling, sat down at my computer and wrote this long, emotionally driven email to some of the people I can't imagine living life without (if you didn't get it, I'm sure it will eventually become a Precious Moments clipart-filled forward you receive on some lazy casual Friday). I think I was in some sort of trance. It was pretty sappy, but completely from the heart (I do not bullshit before 9:00 a.m.). I moved to Chicago with a purpose, and I'm still so completely glad I'm here, but sometimes the idea that I physically extricated myself from the very people I can't live without is baffling to me...

So anyway, there you have it. A beautiful line to reflect on. Give me a few more days, and I'll be off this contemplative kick and onto something more palatable, like turkey burgers.

And now for something completely different...
Do you watch these Target Women videos? You should.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thanks but no thanks on those yogurt coated clusters.

Dear All-Bran Yogurt Bites Cereal,
When I purchased you at Jewel on Monday evening, I forwent my usual box of raisin bran because a) you were on sale and b) your box conspicuously claimed that you contain "Crunchy bran flakes with yogurt coated clusters." However, upon opening said box this morning, I now think a revision is in order. Something to the tune of "Crunchy bran flakes with three yogurt coated clusters," because that is more accurate. I just spent the last ten minutes physically sifting through your flakes with my hands (which is gross, but you drove me to it) in search of additional clusters (none!). Next time I want to buy a box of bran flakes, I'll do just that, which will leave me with enough leftover cash to justify the purchase of [some crappy magazine].

Catherine

P.S. The sample packet of fiber drink mix you threw in isn't solace enough. It just makes me think of drinking a class of pencil shavings. Nice try though.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're going to try to see it.

A few summers ago... five summers ago to be exact, I stayed in Omaha in between semesters to intern at an ad agency. Because I'm innately shy and pretty severely introverted (I've only recently learned the value of talking to coworkers), I would spend every lunch break in my car, listening to the City Club forum and eating a PBJ, as women from the various banks and other ambiguously corporate entities in the area power walked around me. A few months prior, I'd purchased David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, only to leave it sitting on the shelf where I would visit it from time to time, imagining the day when I would have enough strength to lift it (it weighs as much as a baby or cat) and enthusiasm to read it. So, after chewing to NPR for a few weeks, I decided to tackle the impossible. And every day after that I would read about three pages over the course of an hour, the majority of the time spent trying to find my place again after getting distracted by a bird or a power walker or the booming sounds of Dodge St. construction. To put it lightly, the book is a behemoth. It is long. The print is small. The pages are bible-thin, and it is written in a stream-of-consciousness style that make the thoughts of a five-year-old seem organized and concise. Long story short, I gave it my all... I tried for a month or so. I made a dent, but I never, ever finished it. Since then, I've carted it around to every duplex and city I've moved to, hoping to eventually dive in again. If I'm going to be honest with myself, it probably won't happen, but it's kind of comforting having it nearby. Like knowing there's goodness inside is satisfaction enough...

When I learned that David Foster Wallace had died (a week ago today), I read a little more about him, I stared at the lurking book... and today I found the commencement speech he gave the class of '05 at Kenyon College. I didn't go to Kenyon, but that's my year, my generation, and his speech struck more of a chord than I expected. The power of perspective is immense, and while no one should be OK with mediocrity, everyone should try a little harder to accept what cannot be changed (at least immediately) and turn it into an opportunity for growth. I say everyone... at least I mean me. I don't think life is short (short compared to what?) but it's still not worth wasting the time we do have on bitterness or regret. Enough. Read.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I've never fainted before, but I imagine if one we're going to faint, this is what they would feel like beforehand. I'm trying to keep myself occupied. If for some reason a string of coherent sentences is interrupted by something like this: fdlsafjdklsa fjf;ew9qiru3-qw[ femak, it's because I'm lying face-down on my keyboard.

So I get about 72% of my news from Gawker, 6% from CNN.com, 8% from the NYT, 5% of my editorialized content from Slate, 9% from assorted blogs and 2% from cereal boxes, containers of Yogurt, the Red Eye and the old man who stands on the corner of Michigan and Chicago yelling about communism. I guess I'd liken my love of Gawker to a gun-toting Republican's love of conservative talk radio. It's preaching to the choir, but it's really good preaching. Anyway, any iota of admiration I had left for Joel Stein (read: jealousy) was wiped away by his LA Times article on Palin, which Gawker speared first. I just echo their sentiments. I'm too tired to set up a link, but it's there...

Update: Last weekend, while out and about with MC, I found a copy of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell nestled among more notable works at a little used bookstore in my neighborhood. I decided to sit on the floor and read some excerpts, and right then and there, I was finished with it forever. It wasn't worth the $6, or the humiliation of the transaction with the cashier... It's just downright horrible, and my standards are ungodly low.

That's all I have for now. Hopefully the weekend will result in a story worth telling. TGIF!

(If you realized that the above percentages add up to 102% like I just did, five minutes later, you win mathematical superiority over me.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

While I'm alive, I'll make changes changes to earth.

Fall will always be hands-down my favorite season. I guess it had a 25% chance of winning out, plus it has my birthday, two pretty decent holidays, etc. But still. But STILL. It’s the only season that simultaneously renews my enthusiasm from where I am and makes me miss the places I’ve been. It’s three months of sensory overload, and I am in it for the long haul. I had no urgent tasks to accomplish over lunch today, but I made myself leave… even in the elevator I got nervous about the uncertainty of a pointless lunch break. Determined not to end up perusing Walgreens for an hour, I proceeded to wander, my biggest purchase/accomplishment being a small soda from Flat Sammies. I managed to come back feeling refreshed.

I kind of fell off the 826 wagon after moving to Lakeview, mostly because I lazily let time pass, and the distance to Wicker Park seemed too far, and then I just started to feel guilty. Blowing small situations out of proportion comes pretty easy for me, and I began to assume that after a prolonged absence, they wouldn’t want me back. After all, volunteers are a dime a dozen, and I imagine they may be upset that I borrowed a few books and then conveniently dropped off the face of the earth. Regardless, I’m going back… I have a TA meeting tonight and a workshop to man on Saturday. We are rewriting the endings to fairy tales. I am excited.

Ummmm…
So.
The theme in my head seems to be travel, for two reasons. Jo returned from India last weekend and came over last night to show me pictures of her travels. What a beautiful place. Having never been to India, only about half of the pictures looked like the India I envision – all Darjeeling Limited and monkey thieves. The other half exhibited a surprisingly varied terrain. If you’d thrown in a guy wearing rope sandals and smoking weed out of an empty bottle of Fat Tire, I would’ve sworn it was Colorado. Anyway, by the time she left, my desire to travel (which has never really been satisfied or even taunted) sort of overwhelmed me, and I made myself go to bed. And then I dreamt that I was robbed by monkeys.

Second, and more importantly perhaps, my sister leaves tomorrow for 14 months in Honduras, where she will live at an orphanage, teach children, do some social work, etc. And I only ask two things of her: That she change the world (not save it, mind you, just change it) and bring me an orphan of her choosing. But in all seriousness, and not to make this blog completely family-centric, I’m so ridiculously proud of her. If anyone’s truly carrying on my dad’s legacy at this point in time, it’s MC. I’d like to think that I will follow suit in some way… I really have to if I don’t want to eventually be eaten alive but thoughts of what I’d rather be doing. But in the meantime, I wish her well. Assuming that she doesn’t even read this, an open message to Mary Clare or anyone else leaving tomorrow for 14 months in Honduras:

I’m going to miss you so much it makes me want to crawl into a closet and eat a box of Reduced Fat Wheat Thins. Can’t wait to visit you (it will be just like DR ’07, only with more guaguas and public urination).

Here is a Frightened Rabbit song that makes me think of you, not because you’ve ever heard it before, but because it more or less summarizes a pretty vital life philosophy:



And here is some Daddy Yankee:



Safe travels. Te quiero.

Friday, September 05, 2008


It rained all day yesterday. The entire day. Bus stop to bus stop, sleep to sleep, etc. And it's funny how soon people forget that just a few short months ago, we were trudging over ice and through snow without batting an eyelash. We were nursing bruises, frostbite and crippling cases of SAD, but we carried on with our sanity generally intact. Now, after a summer of decent weather and consistently clear skies, 24 hours of rain results in a state similar to marshall law. Every conversation came back to it... Walgreens made a mint off of it (I stopped in to make my daily purchase of hair elastics and cheap mascara and found a long line of disaffected tourists waiting to buy overpriced umbrellas)... Plans were canceled and shoes were ruined. I stepped outside at the end of the day with an fairly important decision to make:

Take a train and a bus to Bucktown to go to the gym
Pro: Healthy, etc.
Con: Rain

Take the express bus home, drink a beer and watch The Bucket List
Pro: See above
Con: N/A

Will leave it up to you to decide which option I chose.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I hope they serve beer on Mega Bus.

I do not trust Sarah Palin's eyebrows. But I guess that's sort of a non-issue.

I'm seriously considering reading I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell out of pure curiosity. I'm positive I will hate it. I'm sure I will ultimately be worse off as a person for having read it, but the time I've spent mulling over the mere possibility of reading is infinitely greater than the time it would take to find the corner of Borders least littered with empty Frappucino cups and subscription cards and just. read. it. Maybe not even cover to cover. My younger brother, who fits squarely into Tucker Max's intended demographic, couldn't even give it two complete thumbs up. That either says a lot for the caliber of my family's general intellect or not much for the book. I'd like to think it's a combination of the two.

(Note: I just took a ten-minute hiatus from writing to peruse Tucker's Flickr account. But I was making fun the entire time! In my head!)

I decided to dip my toes into the lukewarm pond of discount domestic travel last night and take Mega Bus home for the first time ever. My bus was supposed to leave Chicago's Union Station at 11:55 and reach St. Louis's Union Station at 5:25 this morning. However, it was an hour late, so I ended up spending the end of my Friday night and the beginning of my Saturday morning talking to an...

(Gross. I can't stop, and these pictures aren't even interesting.)

...older woman about her grandchildren and watching a drunk couple stop kissing and stumbling long enough for the guy to board his bus to Toledo. Due to recent events (aherm), I was a little nervous about taking a bus. At night. Next to strangers who may or may not feel it necessary to harm me or at least just stare a lot. However, once the bus started moving, and I began to doze, I realized it was the people around me who were in danger... at least in danger of being made to feel uncomfortable. I've been having nightmares lately, and it's not unusual for me to wake up saying something nonsensical (confusing) or crying (awkward). I would sleep in five-minute increments and then spend the next half hour trying to discern whether or not I'd done anything crazy in my sleep.

The guy sitting next to me looks fairly restful and unfazed. Check.
The woman in front of me is still scraping the cheese off of her Egg McMuffin wrapper. Check.
I'm not drenched in sweat or covered in cryptic messages written in Dr. Pepper Lipsmackers. Check.
We're good to go.

By the time we rolled into St. Louis this morning, just half an hour over our original ETA, I hadn't made any lasting friendships on the Mega Bus, but I hadn't burned any bridges either. And for a $16 ticket and a chance to get home, that's the most one can hope for.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What I listen to when I am alone.

What I will deny if you approach me about it in person.

Man Singers
Depressingly uncreative, overly sentimental... They fall in love with their best friends and sing about staying in bed all day with a girl I imagine to be Rachel Bilsen. They sound like I should be paying them $250 of Creighton's money to play in our campus coffee shop. Their lifeblood is Zach Braff. I buy their songs in $1 increments from iTunes in the hopes that the next one will break my addiction. I listen to them on repeat. Current unfavorite: Josh Radin

Country Music Videos
I discovered the music video channel on On-Demand the other night and chose to watch two hours of country music videos instead of taking a shower. In the process I learned that Keith Urban is pandering to some non-existent mainstream country music-loving hipster audience. His videos are full of kids in skinny jeans fighting in laundromats. I'm going to be honest with myself and you as well; I will probably do the same thing tonight, this time with wine. Current unfavorite: Anything Rascal Flatts

Flavor of the week: Dave Matthews Band
Sometimes you have to go with whatever feels right at the time. And since I'm working late and deserve a number of things, including sleep and the discontinuation of the janitor's whistling, I owe it to myself to satisfy my ears. Current unfavorite: Anything that reminds me of boy-girl parties and sounds good reverberating through the hollow halls of an empty office building.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I get the picture.


In the small corner of the apartment that I inhabit, which happens to be smaller than the other parts because I would rather save a few bucks on rent and sleep in a twin bed, with all amenities (desk, bookshelf, alarm clock, entire wardrobe) squarely within my cramped reach, there is one window. The window looks directly across the driveway into the corresponding window of the building next door. I have noticed, out of the corner of my unassuming eye, that their extra small room is used as a computer room (probably more suitable). There's a chair, a phone, etc. I haven't let my gaze linger long enough to glean any further details.

Anyway...
anyway.

I've made a concerted effort to keep my shade all or mostly closed when I'm in my room, especially when I'm... oh, I don't know, getting ready for work, checking my email in a sports bra or hosting The Saddest Dance Party Ever, featuring me, my ailing laptop and my roommate's cat, if he stops eating long enough to show up. Long story short, I do my best to keep my bedroom behavior, however sordid (more often pathetic), to myself.

I returned from St. Louis on Sunday to find a potted plant in my room - a gift from one of my roommates. I think it'd been sitting there in the dark, unwatered, for a week or so because it looked dead and smelled like hummus. I immediately rushed to the window in an attempt to resurrect it with sunlight when something caught my eye across the way. A 10 x 14 framed picture of two little boys, propped up in the window, facing me. And while I could've seen much worse (looking out the window into the lives of others is always a gamble), the portrait's presence was pretty jarring, as it unleashed the assumptive floodgates of my imagination. Why did they put that there for me to see?

Well clearly...
They have seen me wearing a towel tucked into a pair of Umbros, drying my hair and singing misquoted Mason Jennings lyrics into my flatiron.
They have seen me lying on a pile of shoes, reading Parade magazine and picking my nose with a tweezers.
They have seen me staring at nail holes in the wall, taking dusty, apprehensive sips from a month-old glass of red wine.
They have seen me completely unedited, and it's scaring their children.

So they put their picture up to remind me that just nine suspended feet away, young minds are developing. I have been passive aggressively warned to keep my blinds shut, and I will oblige... minus the ten minutes a day when I give my plant sunlight.

Friday, August 15, 2008

In my time here.

Last night, after watching 3/4 of The Hottest State* with Mary Clare, I woke up alone on the couch, in front of the blue TV screen. It was that in between place in sleep where waking thoughts are mixed with sleeping ones, and I was momentarily convinced someone was breaking into the house. The quick feeling of severe panic was magnified by the fact that we're now short the stereotypical protector, and even though my dad's presence has probably never been the best defense against possible intruders, it took a split-second nightmare to finally realize he's gone. A week and a half later...

But in the midst of all of this, a few key learnings:
When you are sad, people like to feed you. If I never see another coffee cake again, I will be lucky.

I now know a multitude of ways to respond to "I'm sorry," "How are you holding up?" and "Take care of your mother."

Even if I thought it was just a cheesy plot device before, the urge to look for signs is irrepressible. The cardinal that lingered in the tree as I ran by panting, showering it in a cloud of sweat. The butterfly that landed on my knee while I sat in the backyard, feet propped up on the trampoline, reading an old issue of Glamour and smoking borrowed Parliaments.** What were before just overly friendly (possibly rabid?) creatures are now sources of comfort.

Even though I've spent the past week doing nothing particularly exerting, I am tired. So ridiculously tired. Sleep until 11:00 and then take a nap at noon tired. The bags under my eyes are beginning to obstruct my vision.

I could not have designed better friends if such a program or robot existed.

My brother Paul is my hero. Number one on the list. To surpass Bill Pullman and Richard Carlisle*** at just 17 years of age is a feat to be admired and a well-deserved achievement.

I am not ready to be normal again.

We**** are rockstars.



*Do not waste your time.
**Grief smoking doesn't count.
***Inventor of the coin-operated vending machine.
****You know who you are.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bleachin' your teeth, smiling flash, talking trash under your breath

The debate has waged on since May as to whether I should I go Lollapalooza for one, two, three or NO days. I'd honestly be okay with all four of those options, although it turns out the two- and three-day options will only work if I magically produce a barrel of salable plasma. So one or none, and it looks like one's winning out. Paul and his friends are coming up to stay with me for the weekend, and they'll be attending all three days. Plus, I haven't seen Jordan since I moved and he'll be here, so, you know... reasons. Kangaroo Jack, etc. I'm going for Saturday because it has the highest Bands I Actually Want to See quotient, although skipping Sunday means missing the National and the Weakerthans. Eh, who knows... I'll probably trick myself into thinking a Sunday ticket makes sense too. Then, the following week, when I'm eating kleenex for lunch and using bingo chips for contacts, I will be satiated by the knowledge that I spent $80 to see Gold Digger performed live.

Tentative Saturday schedule:
Margot & the Nuclear So and So's
Mason Jennings
MGMT
Explosions in the Sky
Okkervil River
Broken Social Scene
Wilco

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Stop doing.


At the job I held prior to the job I currently hold (doesn't get much more specific than that), we were at one time instructed to make "Stop Doing" lists, as opposed to "To Do" lists. It could be because the number of bad habits I employ far exceeds my list of life ambitions, but I found the task really easy, to the point where my list was long and disorganized and extended onto footnoted post-its and scribblings on the backs of my hands. I'm not sure what happened to that list, but I've started to compose a new, improved one, a Stop Doing 2.0 if you will. Most of the items will remain proprietary, known only to me, my secretary and my life coach. (Stop Doing #445: Save money. Fire private secretary and life coach.) But for now, I have vowed to stop drinking on weeknights and, stemming from that, to stop being a pushover when the peer pressure to do so mounts. I tend to be friends with enablers, and since that will never change (enablers are also fun, passionate, unceasingly caring and extremely loyal), I need to grow a pair. Diet Coke is cheaper anyway, and I can always slur my speech for effect. Falling down shouldn't be a problem either.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I was putting on my shoes for work yesterday, which incidentally had small heels, and I thought about the line from Little Women when Amy's going through the box of donated clothes and pulls out a pair of shoes for Jo to wear to the ball/coming-out party. She says something to the effect of, "Jo! Look at these shoes! What cunning little heels!"

I think I'm going to try to say "cunning little heels" more often.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Life is funny.

I don't have a ton to say right now. It's been a weird week. But last night, as I lay on my boxspringless mattress trying to fall asleep despite the drunken din below my window and the missing ceiling fan up above, I thought about the last time my dad was sick. And I remembered writing about it in a now-abandoned LiveJournal. I went and found it this morning, and it didn't take me long to be reminded that life is cyclical, and age doesn't always bring wisdom. In some ways I wish that I could channel the me of three years ago when dealing with the world's complexities.

November 14, 2004
Meh.
I'm 22 now. Last year I gained the right to drink in bars and on the street from bottles nestled in worn paper bags. This year I've gained a palindrome and the sneaking fear that from now on the years will personify themselves as small, numeric bullet trains, hurtling past me faster than I can find responsibility...somewhere...

In this pile of ankle socks and cats.

Friday night we saw Sideways. It's a movie I probably would've seen anyway, but living in Omaha brings a certain obligation to put food on Alexander Payne's depressing table. I liked it - I know more about banjo making than I do about wine, and there was many an uncomfortable moment - but I enjoyed it all the same. There's something strangely soothing about Thomas Hayden Church's voice.

Saturday we ate at the Dell for my birthday dinner. I dragged Mary Clare along in an effort to bridge the ever-closing gap between MC the sibling and MC the slightly younger, shorter and cuter college friend. Annie and Shelley had spent the afternoon planning what I would later find out to be a Barbie-themed party afterwards. Mary Clare chose to return to the dorms, which was probably better. The alternative was to stick around and watch me pass out halfway up the stairs later on that night. Because I am excited by technology, I've posted some pictures of the evening. So now I'm 22. The tiny trains are picking up the pace. I'm not ready, and they don't care.

I'd originally defined the intensity of this semester with fairly tangible tasks and obligations. A full load of credits, an internship at an ad agency that will remain unnamed because I don't want to end up like that Capitol Hill intern who's blog was discovered (resulting in a a job loss and a great deal of public shame), and a position as editor of Creighton's literary mag. And while all of this has left me with small, bloody bald spots at times, nothing has gotten out of control.
I keep eating.
I keep sleeping.
I keep showering, sometimes with soap.

But the last few weeks have caused that intensity to morph from a "Full House"-type drama to a more "Party of Five" inspired stress. Two weeks ago, my dad fell off a stepladder and passed out in my neighbor's driveway. A passerby found him, and they got him to the hospital in good time. Turns out he had some bleeding under his skull (a Heeeeematoma), and they kept him for a few days just to make sure he'd be okay. So he missed a week of class, but was back on his feet pretty soon after.

Cut to three days after that, when, while driving to Web Design at 8am in a cold Omaha drizzle, a Maroon Coup Deville ran the light at 24th and Farnum and gave my '91 Sentra the spanking of its life. In the process of spinning, braking and most likely making animal-like vocalizations, I hurt my knee - developing a Heeeematoma where I'd had ACL surgery a few years back. The Sentra was a lost cause, so Matthias and I jacked my stereo, and I'm currently driving a rented Ford Focus for what could also feed a small country, or at least me, for a good month. I have to get a new car when I go home for Thanksgiving - my mom's been hinting at doing the deed before I get home, which could entail a whore-red '87 Tercel waiting for me in the driveway.

Cut back to this morning, when I awoke at noon to find out that my dad, who they thought was fine, had been ambulanced to St. Mary's after waking up vomiting in the middle of the night with a severe headeach. He had emergency surgery this morning to stop the bleeding in his head. He's still in ICU, but my mom says he's awake now and making the occasional poorly received joke.

So I'd like to believe that everything's fine, but this is hard for a number of reasons. It's hard because right now I just want to be home with my family - with my brothers, watching Law & Order reruns with them, making fun of Paul's tiny mustache, telling them things are going to be okay. It's hard admitting that my dad's at the age where something small like falling off a stepladder could mean something big like internal bleeding and surgery. I don't want to believe that he's getting to the place that I've spent my life dreading he'd reach.

And all of those fears, some unfounded and some completely logical, spiral into worrying about my family's welfare if my dad can't work anymore, etc. I get selfish and worry about work I'd have to make up if I had to go home on short notice. I should probably look at the small picture and hope that he'll be able to eat sugar-free pie with us at Thanksgiving. I haven't had a decently coherent conversation with him in a few weeks, and I miss him.

So this is what being 22 is like and this is what approaching the end of the first half of the last year of college feels like. I don't want to wish away time, but I'm ready for this segment to be over. I can't even remember the last time I allowed myself to completely relax. But there's a cat on my bed and he looks lonely, so for now tension is eased in short spurts of cat-sleeping, and watching Britney Spears lick Snoop Dog's goatee. Then I can go home.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Paper Snowflakes



Last night I saw Son Ambulance at Schubas. The only other time I've seen them was probably 2005ish, when they played a free show at the Joslyn for art patrons, local fans and anyone else who wandered in off the street looking for air conditioning and/or macaroni art projects. And at the time, I was too busy painting a rudimentary self portrait with a group of more talented five-year-olds to pay close attention. Anyway, this time the audience was more intimate, slightly older, and with two beers and no dinner, the buzz probably added a little something as well. All in all, the show was good. Not great, mostly because it took them awhile to catch their stride and get into things, and the set ended soon thereafter. The band itself is awesome, and I'm not just saying that as a former Omahan. But... for the sake of full disclosure, the lead singer used to live across the street from me on Dewey Ave., in that big, crumbling mansion full of hipsters, vagrants and hipstervagrants.

In other news...
This morning I left a frozen veggie burger in a plastic bag somewhere in the apartment. I'm not sure where, and I'm already dreading the day I go to throw away a q-tip and find it decaying beneath the bathroom sink.

I'm treating this like my regular blog, so maybe I'll post it in my regular blog as well. (If you're reading my regular blog, it means you're reading the copied and pasted but no less authentic version.)

I have never wanted to be where I currently am less than I do today.

Pitchfork is this weekend. If you're in Chicago, you should go and hang out with my sister. You will have to be comfortable with the fact that I'm living vicariously through you (it's a pretty painless process).

Annie and I, along with a few other rather rad people (see photo), are traveling from our respective cities to KC this weekend to celebrate the nuptials of John and Monica. There are also plans to drink, reminisce, make mistakes and reminisce some more about mistakes recently made. Hopefully we'll return with stories and actual blog posts, because I'm feeling like a cock tease for hinting at good things to come.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

At home in St. Louis. Where the men are men, and the humidity is cloying. I have resigned myself to looking effortlessly dewy for the next three days.

I'm not big on talking to strangers. Never have been. This characteristic was beneficial as a child, as not even candy would provoke me to start a conversation with the friendliest unfamiliar looking people. That Rick Springfield song was old news to me. So whenever I approach a situation where stranger conversation could possibly occur, I usually take the necessary precautions in order to seem aloof and unapproachable. Last night, after four hours of pita eating, gift buying and people watching at Midway, I finally boarded my plane for home and promptly took a seat in the back... a dark corner where I could rest my head against the small, thick window and watch Chicago disappear into a cloud of ozone. When I could sense that someone had taken the seat next to me, I promptly buried my head in my book and attempted to exude indifference. Most people can sense it when you're not up for making small talk, and most are simultaneously understanding. After all, it's 10:30 on a Wednesday night. We've all been turned into zombies by a painful series of 15-minute delays, and we're all anxious to reach our destinations. My seat friend was an exception to what I thought was a widely accepted rule and commenced conversation before he'd even had a chance to stuff his carry-on into the overhead compartment.

"What are you reading?"
"Um, just this...book." (Exhibits book cover, continues studying last three words of previous paragraph.)
"Is it scary or funny?"
"Um, funny. I guess."

Thus began an hour long conversation that covered everything from tractor buying to the politics of small town living. I never learned his name, but I did learn virtually everything else about him. For instance,
- He has a one-year-old son named Ethan.
- He has Ethan's footprint tattooed on his left tricep. (It's difficult to show strangers a tricep tattoo. It involves complicated meneuvering from both parties. But I have to admit, it was kind of touching.)
- He monitors power lines for a living.
- He was celebrating his 29th birthday and hoped to get back to Bunker Hill, IL in time for a Milwaukees Best or ten.
- He owns livestock.
- He's not fond of minorities. (I responded to this with a grimmace, but I don't think that was enough to turn his world around.)

The conversation proceeded, despite my exxagerated efforts to stuff ear buds into my ear drums and cover my face with a blanket.

"Do you have a boyfriend?"
"Um, no. I mean, I did, but I don't anymore."
"Isn't hard to meet people in Chicago? Everyone's moving around all over the place."
(At this point, I mind-punched him for finding that dark place in my brain where the only other inhabitant is 50-year-old spinster me.)
"No, not really."
"How long are you in town for?"
"Until Sunday."
"So would it be rude to ask you to lunch tomorrow?"
"Yes, no, no. Not rude. But I can't." (I have to take a nap on the couch and give the cat its insulin shots.)

At this point, normal conversation would probably taper off, but this particular exchange continued until I met my brother at his idling car outside the airport. I never learned my traveling companion's name, but I owe him a bag of dry roasted peanuts for coaxing me out of my book and into reality. Normal people talk to strangers every day, and they usually learn something. I learned that it's possible to get an infant's footprint tattooed on your tricep, and that power line workers get a free vacation day when it rains. It rained today, and I found myself hoping he made the most of his day off.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wish me luck.

I have to leave in approximately 45 minutes to get a root canal. I'm actually really tired right now, so I can't imagine what state I'll be in once I'm given some horse anesthesia and pushed back onto the streets of Chicago all by my lonesome. With my luck, I will forget about the post-it in my pocket that details which busses I have to take to get home and end up passed out behind the counter at a Dunkin' Donuts, drooling on the linoleum and muttering to myself about dolphin-safe tuna.

Hot:
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia on Hulu
String cheese
Sleep

Not:
Root canals
Inexplicable fatigue
Ballet flats that smell like cat poo

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I cannot think of a single day, since I moved to Chicago, when I have not spent money at Walgreens. If I were to add up exactly how much I've spent there, I would probably cry. And if I were to amass everything I've purchased, I'd probably cry harder because I'd be staring at a huge pile of Red Bull cans, gum wrappers and cheap makeup. Sometimes I go twice a day and the ladies at the registers shake their heads with pity. One time Steve Carrell was in front of me in line. Last night I bought a box fan. "Good!" you think, "A logical and somewhat redemptive purchase!"

But wait... It is made of candy.

Just kidding.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A bit overdue...

And unless my dad learns how to turn on a computer, discover the internet, take a Google tutorial and miraculously find this blog, he will never, ever see it.

That being said, happy belated Father's Day, Dad.

I'm lucky to the oldest and potentially least-accomplished child of a greatly accomplished scholar, professor, humanitarian and all around amazing human being.

When I'm feeling thoughtful, I will ocassionally reflect on the gifts my parents have bestowed on their children... genetically (skin that burns under 60-watt light bulbs and a veritable chin lottery, of which I am the loser), materially (hubcaps, $5 Old Navy gift cards), intellectually and so on.

When it comes to what my dad has passed on, a great deal of it is fairly obvious, at least to me. My sister is a major fan of helping other people. She also likes Spanish, joining my dad as the only other fluent family member. All three of my siblings are incredibly intelligent, some are obvious leaders. Two of them have lived or will soon live in Central and South America, respectively. My brothers are good rugby players. I, on the other hand, waffle on my feelings toward mankind and will hesitate to offer anyone any sort of assistance unless I get something in return, like peanuts or back rubs. I can ask where the bathroom is in Spanish, and if I said it out loud, you would probably tell me that I'm actually telling you I have hepatitis. I'm the B student to my family's A+ average. All of my recurring nightmares have to do with playing touch football in grade school and breaking my glasses.

I imagine I will figure out my gift one of these days, but in the meantime I will wear my mediocrity with pride and view my last name as sufficient evidence of my good fortune.

Anyway, Dad, if you took all of the aforementioned steps and found this, check your email - I sent you an e-card. And I love you.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I just got lost and slept right through the dawn.

Despite the misleading name, the Weepies create some pretty uplifting music. I think it's one of those things though, similar to when you eat scrambled eggs during a particularly bad bout of the flu... I associate them with an unsettling time in life and subconsciously abandoned them as a result. The release of their most recent album prompted me to give them another try, and I realized that their music also reminds me of driving down Blondo with the windows half-cracked on the old Ford Focus. Fall in Omaha was short but beautiful.

Anyway, I'd never seen the video for the World Spins Madly On before, and I think it's the stop-motion monster that got me.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Bad apples.


I had an extensive conversation with my roommate Heather a few days ago over our feelings toward apples. Heather had recently made the decision to ditch them altogether, instead sticking with oranges, which are entirely more reliable. I on the other hand am an apple loyalist, refusing to believe that the bad apples outnumber the good. But man, when an apple is bad (and I'm unfortunately not speaking metaphorically - I am indeed talking about the fruit itself), it is really bad, and it can ruin your day. I recently stumbled upon a bag of Braeburns purchased from the Jewel near my apartment, and so far I am 0 for 3. Every day at Apple Time (approximately 1:15 p.m.), I reach for it in the fridge with the hope that this one will be the one that keeps me believing. And then the first bite tastes like a sandbox, but I keep going. And then the second bite tastes like florist's foam, and then any subsequent bites taste like pure masochism.

The last time I had a genuinely good apple experience was when I lived in Bucktown and bought my produce at Olivia's. The slightly elevated price was the premium I paid for not wanting to throw up in the microwave every day at 1:16. As for this batch, I'm done. The remaining Braeburn will be left in the refrigerator for the next six months before either evaporating or being thrown into the neighbor's compost heap (garden?). I then will give apples one more collective chance to impress the shit out of me. After that, I will join Heather on the Orange Team and only look back if I lose my health insurance and have to adopt the "keeping the doctor away" adage. But then, and only then.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Posting anything self-indulgent yesterday was pretty callous. Thoughts obviously should've been elsewhere...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Planting flowers


I borrowed the March issue of Paste from my sister's roommate for the flight back to Chicago yesterday, and by borrowed I mean stealthily grabbed it and shoved it in my bag. Eppley, all Scooters Coffee and friendly service, pleasantly surprised me with a delayed flight, so I had plenty of time to eat a flavorless apple, stare at strangers and read the magazine from cover to cover. There was a sidebar about a country-singing couple called The Wrights who released their second album in January on a small indie label. A midday spaceout led me to check them out and subsequently love them. As far as country music goes, I think you should go big or go home. I'm not a fan of the loud in between.

The trip to Omaha flew by, most likely because I spent most of it in a sleep-deprived, mildly hungover stupor. As I stood in Michaela's kitchen eating discount ice cream at 3:00 Saturday morning, she reminded me that I'd been up for just shy of 24 hours straight. The next day I took advantage of this fact by being mean to my family and reading a book during Mary Clare's graduation ceremony.

I made it out to E&S Friday afternoon to have lunch with my old coworkers. Afterward I quickly perused the office in search of familiar faces. Most of the people I knew were out for one reason or another, and instead I was met with a bunch of fresh, unjaded youngins. I wanted desperately to pull a Billy Madison, shaking them and throwing them into cubical walls (for effect), warning them to stay put for as long as possible. It wasn't until I left that I saw that place as a cocoon of creativity, happy hours, baby showers, halloween candy, karaoke and general comfort. I've never felt as much in my element as I did there, and I hope I can eventually get back there in some capacity... figuratively.

Other things I did:
Discovered that Hal Holbrook is alive, well and headlining at the Orpheum
Took a family nap
Subjected a box turtle and two hamsters to some drunken roughhousing and an impromptu photoshoot
Ate at Jason's Deli on one of my family's three trips there (within a 36-hour span of time, mind you)
Soundly beat my brother in tic-tac-toe
Missed out on seeing a number of people I wanted to see (but with any luck, I'll be back later this summer)
Noticed that the Deweyplex is for rent and resisted the urge to turn it into a museum
Felt really, really old


I'll stop waxing nostalgic since I'm pretty sure the only other person who reads this besides me is that Brazilian flat screen television salesman who commented on the other blog. But needless to say, it was good to be back. The last six years of my life are parceled within its borders, bound by the Missouri, topped off by Council Bluffs. I miss it more than anything. I'm glad I'm trying something new. And as my brother so astutely pointed out as we finished off our last bites of soft serve, Chicago is getting a Jason's Deli this summer.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Run past the heather and down to the old road

I haven't been back to Omaha since I moved in October, so it's been, what? Six and a half months? Due to a series of recent life shifts, big and small, anticipated and unexpected, my perception of time is somewhat skewed. When a lot happens in a little bit of time, little bits of time grow in magnitude and significance. And six and a half months seems like for. Ev. Er. Needless to say, I'm more than jazzed about having the opportunity to return for MC's graduation on Friday. I left behind some stellar human beings.


That's what I'm talking about.

Anyway, if you use Dodge Street to get anywhere (including the nearest bathroom/Mexico), if you eat peanuts out of dog bowls and like your champagne on tap, if the sight of Connor Oberst is as commonplace as a McDonald's sign, if Dewey Ave. is your Sesame Street, I will see you on Friday.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

They say it's your feast day.


Leaving vague and seemingly incomplete voicemail messages is sort of my mom's forte, but perhaps the most infamous message was received a few years ago and went something to the effect of, "Catherine. This is Mom. Happy feast day." However brief, I knew full well what it was referring to. Today, that message came in email form because today is in fact my feast day.

Although there are several St. Catherines, some with "C"s, some with "K"s, some with funny hats, etc., I was named after St. Catherine of Siena, she of the "C" and the stigmata. She is the patroness of Theta Phi Alpha sorority, nurses and Italy. And her feast day is April 29. When I younger, it was not uncommon to find me deeply entrenched in one of the three Lives of the Saints volumes that were housed on our living room bookshelf. I could rattle off the martyrs upon request (occasionally going so far as it include means of death, although lions and fire were usually fail-safe guesses). I was jealous that my sister's namesake was the patron saint of television. And I always had a subconscious feast day countdown rattling in the back of my mind. We usually got Crayola markers of the neon variety, occasionally we got candy.

Today I just got an email, but it warmed my heart nonetheless. Maybe next April 29 I'll get stigmata.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thoughts on the last stall in the bathroom at my place of employment.

1. If you stare at the purse hook long enough, with enough imaginative intensity, you will have an Alice in Wonderland moment wherein the screws turn into eyes, the top hook turns into a nose, and the bottom hook turns into a mouth. This can be somewhat unnerving.

2. Someone keeps two different kinds of body spray on top of the toilet seat cover dispenser. One is green, but I'm not sure what the scent is. The other one was missing today. Possibly stolen, or possibly relocated to stalls 1, 2 or 3. I'm almost certain they do not belong to anyone I work with, but there's a psychiatrist's office down the hall, so they probably belong to someone who works there or a patient. I'm assuming the latter.

3. I have peed on myself countless times in this this particular stall, leading me to believe it is haunted.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sometimes I see really great illustrations and hear really humorous humor and wish I'd spent a little more time with those Creightonian cartoons, instead of eeking them out five minutes before deadline. One in ten was passable, and the rest were certifiably lame. Such is life. Not to slip into a moment of Carrie Bradshaw Cosmopolitan Fancy Shoes Zen, but I think I'm doomed to recognize opportunity only long after it has passed.

Goal moving forward: To... not... do that.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Promise me smoking monkeys...

And I am putty in your hands.

I was talking recently with a friend from home, that friend specifically being Annie. And even more specifically being Annie R., since I've been strangely blessed with approximately 472 friends named Annie. Annie and I have a long and storied friendship that dates back to the zygote stage and has essentially retained the same dynamic ever since.

I am a huge nerd.
She is much cooler.
I am fairly reserved.
She likes to get wasted and verbally abuse strangers.
I am easily bribed.
She is, hands down, the best briber ever.

When we were little, it was often hard for her to get me to hang out. Mostly because I was too busy eating dandelions and watching Square One TV in my underwear to throw eggs at the neighbor's fence or whatever it was she wanted me to do. In this recent conversation, she informed me that one time, having exhausted all other avenues of prying me from the grips of my introversion, she broke out the big guns. I imagine the conversation went something like this:

"Want to come over and paint the patio with Drano?"
"No thanks."
"I have that National Geographic with the smoking monkey."
"Goddamn it. Ok."

Even at six years old, she knew me well enough to know that National Geographic was my downfall, and the issue with the smoking monkey was my favorite. It was actually a five-page spread of chimpanzees in various states of human-inflicted emotional duress. The Russian one was wearing a tuxedo and serving champagne. The Appalachian one was wearing roller skates and living under someone's back porch. And one of them was smoking a cigarette. I guess our subscription had lapsed because for some reason, my family didn't have that one at home. I would visit it at my aunt's house on a weekly basis, but the days in between were long and empty. And Annie knew that I would do anything to fill the void. At that point, I imagine I readily agreed to her offer, put down the Canadian dollar I was about to add to my collection and proceeded to engage in some form of vandalism. And I'm almost positive it was worth it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Crystal Spritzer(TM)

I sometimes forget that my youngest brother has spent the past few years engaged in massive amounts of quality time with my parents, sans any buffer siblings (Joe's cavorting around Boston, Mary Clare's sucking the life out of Omaha and I'm still stuck in that long, airless tunnel between the Blue line and the Red line in Chicago). I'm reminded of this fact, however, when he drops unsolicited pieces of insight about their daily lives. Some of it I'm familiar with, but other things come as a surprise. Case in point: Paul remarked that on a fruitless trip to retrieve a jar of salsa from my mom's basement stockpile of food, he'd noticed three orphaned cans of warm Budweiser tossed among jars of peanut butter and boxes of brownie mix. This was followed by the requisite reference to my mom's penchant for drinking half a can of beer (most likely leftover from Mary Clare's '04 high school graduation) and putting the other half back in the refrigerator, gently capped with a small piece of tinfoil. But then, to my pleasant surprise, Paul added, "Mom makes the funniest cocktails in the summertime." What? I've known her to drink an occasional July 4th Bloody Mary, but this foray into bartending intrigued me. What kind of cocktails?

"White wine and Crystal Light."

After this, I died for three minutes before we launched into a speculative tirade on how these came to be and what exactly constituted a Crystal Spritzer, as we lovingly dubbed it in the kitchen of my aunt's house on Easter.

And now, for your mixing pleasure, the exclusive recipe - created by my mother, transcribed by me, (hopefully) enjoyed by drinkers everywhere.

Crystal Spritzer(TM):
- 1/2 cup Sutter Home Chardonnay or White Zinfandel (based on personal preference)
- 2/3 cup Raspberry Ice Crystal Light
- 2 ice cubes

Open liter bottle of chosen wine to serve guests at holiday gathering of your choice. Leave in refrigerator with cork not entirely intact for two months (cheese-like scent will indicate readiness). Mix pitcher of Crystal Light (doubling suggested water-to-powder ratio). Leave in refrigerator (in open pitcher) for one week. Pour Crystal Light into Styrofoam cup. Add wine and ice cubes. Sip leisurely (best when paired with a copy of Parade Magazine and the burnt edges of a pan of brownies). Leftover contents can be stored for up to three weeks.

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