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!

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 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.


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