Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Not bitter – just wiser.

Any real excitement in my life has ground to a halt (case in point: I just spent five minutes attempting to eat Lean Cuisine sauce with my fingers while avoiding the confused and pitiful gazes of coworkers). So when my brother, Joe, announced that he would be making a visit to Chicago this past weekend, I attempted to prepare by putting Jeopardy on mute and drinking half a sugar-free Red Bull. Joe returned from his semester abroad in Chile on Wednesday, and it just so happened that his girlfriend, Meg, would be in Chicago for the weekend. I found out a few days before said visit that it all centered around a 21st birthday celebration… one that I was told I could attend (insert same level of sauce-licking pity here). I coolly expressed indifference, spouting vague “maybe I will, maybe I won’t” excuses as I fought my fears/exhaustion and worked on convincing myself that 26 is only five years older than 21, and five years is nothing… unless you’re a five-year-old or a carton of milk.

As we meandered back from a bar near my house so Joe and Meg could drop off their belongings and touch base with friends, I spotted my roommate Kayla, already somewhat tipsy from dinner and therefore vulnerable and maybe, just maybe, open to an evening of bad decision making. I was in luck, and having found a similarly ancient companion, surrendered to the invitation. Twenty minutes later, we were out of the cab and staring into the steaming mess of drunk that was McGee’s.

It’s at this point that I slipped into observer mode, conducting myself not as a Gap-wearing fish out of water, but as a sociologist of sorts. And I stared unashamedly. At conversations that went from formalities to full-on make outs in just seconds, at girls who’d given up on trying to make their eyes focus hours ago, at Harry Potter lookalikes downing shots of shitty tequila and trying with all their might to exude machismo. When the DJ played “Back That Ass Up,” a staple of my high school years, I wondered what it meant to this crowd. Is it like the “Ice Ice Baby” of my set? Fun and danceable but always listened to with an underlying sense of irony? I never thought I’d feel so strangely possessive of anything performed by Juvenile.

I was brought back to reality when the Doogie Howser of DePaul called Kayla “ma’am,” at which point it was mutually decided that we would call it a night, while Joe and company forged ahead to a four-o’clock bar. A quick Godspeed in their direction, and we were on our way home, tired, drunk and no longer sure of our place in the circle of life.

What I do know is this: I may not be old, but the space between 21 and 26 is a chasm. In it you’ll find lessons learned, a lot of hangovers, a few harsh realities, not as many successes as you’d expect, but not as many mistakes or failures either. Something in it renders you slightly more self-conscious of your own existence, but slightly less concerned with the opinions and reactions of others. Not the girl in the leggings puking in time to a Michael Jackson medley, not the choch in the bowtie whose deck shoes are stuck to the floor, and certainly not Doogie Howser.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Please say it's Breakstone...

Right now I’m really into reading online reviews of the food I eat… while I’m eating it. Which is sort of stupid and counterintuitive, and more often than not, it dictates my own opinion. It makes sense to read a review before buying a product in the first place. But the other day, as I was about to mosey into the kitchen to heat up a Healthy Choice frozen meal, I decided to humor myself by reading the popular opinion first. The reactions I found were so strongly worded, so impassioned regarding the inedibility of this particular meal, so detailed in their disgust (I think someone compared the flavor to a Glade candle), that I threw it away and ate paper clips.

I just caught myself Googling “best cottage cheese,” hoping to God I’d find that everyone loved the cottage cheese I was already in the process of eating. Thinking somehow that just because I think it tastes like Wite-Out and sand, that someone else will think it’s amazing, causing me to reevaluate my opinion.
No such luck.

(Spoons out last bite of cottage cheese and chases it with a piece of gum.)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Everyone loves a parade (or) Pride and Screwdrivers

Living in Boystown provides ample opportunity for visits to the lakefront, feasting on noodles and getting downtown without much time or fuss. On the flipside, our neighborhood is just far enough east that sometimes it feels like we’ve broken off and drifted into Lake Michigan, an island of small dogs and Asian food. We don’t have many festivals, novel bars and restaurants or flagship stores to bring in outsiders… except for one weekend a year, when our little Northside island becomes the center of the universe.

We moved to our apartment last year in May, about a month before Pride, and my trial by fire put be in bed by 3:00 in the afternoon with a hangover that woke me up at midnight (the festival is pretty equal opportunity, in that drag queens and straight girls fresh from Nebraska can both drink themselves senseless). This year, I knew what to expect. My mom and brother had been in town earlier in the weekend for a family wedding, and it was an unspoken agreement that she would be on her way home early Sunday morning, before the parade started to roll and her soul started to wilt.

I’d promised Lauren pancakes and vodka as early-morning prep for the afternoon’s festivities. Not wanting to brave the grocery store, I stopped into Walgreens after spinning class and bought the dustiest box of pancake mix I could find. By 10:30, we were downing flapjacks and flat champagne, and by noon, we’d positioned ourselves along the parade route, just feet from my front door.

For the next three hours, we collected a wasteful assortment of beads, stickers and pins. A neighbor with a wagon and a cooler refilled our glasses, and slowly, as my skin continued to bake in an unhealthy (and later painful) fashion, the floats started to blend together. Pat Quinn, school children, a gay rugby team and some guy in a van with airbrushed kittens on the side… they could’ve all been in the back of a flatbed truck together; I’m not entirely sure.

As things began to wind down and the last float passed by, we refilled our red plastic cups and took to the parade route, mixing in with stragglers and spectators. It is at this point that my memory gets even hazier. There were high fives and Mexican food and a final pit stop at Friar Tucks, a bar that looks more or less like a Six Flags concession stand. It was here that I drank expensive beer and cut a sloppy rug on a dance floor the size of a handicapped stall. And then I went home. I bought a horrible movie that may or may not star Annette Benning. I threw up. I went to sleep. And I woke up surprisingly hangover free thanks to the aquarium’s worth of water I’d chugged hours before.

Lauren remarked yesterday that she wishes we could do this every Sunday. I’m not so sure, as I like the peace and quiet of the antique stores and noodles. But before my memory started to turn on me, some of those floats - the ones with families and parents and friends brimming with, well, pride - made me get that lump in my throat that will turn to tears if you don’t wash it down with vodka. Every day in Lakeview East is pretty beautiful, but this one in particular takes the cake.

HERB & DOROTHY Trailer from Herb & Dorothy on Vimeo.

"HERB & DOROTHY tells the extraordinary story of Herbert Vogel, a postal clerk, and Dorothy Vogel, a librarian, who managed to build one of the most important contemporary art collections in history with very modest means. In the early 1960s, when very little attention was paid to Minimalist and Conceptual Art, Herb and Dorothy Vogel quietly began purchasing the works of unknown artists. Devoting all of Herb's salary to purchase art they liked, and living on Dorothy's paycheck alone, they continued collecting artworks guided by two rules: the piece had to be affordable, and it had to be small enough to fit in their one-bedroom Manhattan apartment."


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