Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Once, I was a master at recycling leftovers. Now I cultivate the art of simmering memories." - Jean-Dominique Bauby

Gah. Today’s been one of those days where I never actually woke up, like that internal mechanism that tells you you’re awake, and need to function as so, never clicked. It could be the erratic weather (is it spring? Or winter? Or some weird hybrid conjured up by the parka and flip flop people?), or the fact that I’ve finally started getting to those 5:30 a.m. spin classes I vowed to attend back in January. Whatever it is, I’m hoping it wears off. Can’t keep running into walls much longer.

While we’re all sitting around, waiting for spring to unleash its torrent of bunnies, perennials and vitamin D, here are a few book recommendations. I’ve been on a roll lately as far as finding good reading material goes. Of the four books I’ve read in 2011 (do with that information what you will), I’d only give one – "The White Album" by Joan Didion – less than two thumbs up. But I love Joan Didion, so I’d give it one thumb up and one thumb to thumb through the book to find the essays truly worth reading.

But here, in chronological order, are the books I’d recommend. I’ll spare you the lengthy reviews (and leave that to my more literate half), but just rest assured that I think they’re good. Really, that’s all you need to know.

"Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street" by Michael Davis
If you’re into Muppets and the early days of public television, this is for you. You really have to be interested in children’s television too though, because the first third of the book goes into some serious detail about Howdy Doody and Bob Keeshan and the like. Riddled with fun facts and poignant remembrances.

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death" by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Having watched the film adaptation of Bauby’s memoir (very) soon after my dad died, I kind of locked this away for a while, dreading whatever effect it may have. But my sister thoughtfully gave me the book for my birthday, and I figured it was time to give it a go. It’s super short, and I couldn’t put it down (which is weird for me, since once I know the “story,” as it were, I’m less inclined to read on). Anyway, you will probably laugh, most likely cry – and inevitably be moved by this book. Seriously, if you’re not moved, you are made of stone, and I want nothing to do with you. You soulless freak.

"The Good Wife" by Stewart O’Nan

During my heady, spendthrift days in Chicago, I used to frequent the bargain book section at Unabridged in Lakeview. One of my finds was a little hardcover edition of "Last Night at the Lobster" by Stewart O’Nan. I didn’t know anything about the author, but I liked eating at Red Lobster and figured I could spend $3 on something I may never read. Ended up loving the book. At the same time, a few hundred miles away, Matt bought, read and loved the book too, and proceeded to purchase O’Nan’s other works. "The Good Wife" is only the second one I’ve read, but it’s even better. An endearing, enduring testament to the lengths (in distance and in time) people will go to for love.

[Sidenote: Matt recently wrote a great review, which you can find here.]

So there you go! Get reading while the sky is still gray and you can stay inside. Because those bunnies bring sunshine, and sunshine brings guilt.

On a totally unrelated note, because I don’t blog regularly (we all know it – it’s time someone said it), I didn’t say anything about Japan last week, and instead decided to focus on incredibly trivial things like my hair. So now, very, very belatedly, I’d like to mention that my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan as they pick up the pieces of all they’ve lost. I don’t know why, but I’ve always felt a particularly strong pull toward the elderly, and that’s one of the hardest things for me to fathom about this disaster. Twenty percent of Japan’s population is over the age of 65 – a figure that jumps to more than 35% in rural areas (with many people in their 80s and 90s). Those that were spry enough to survive the earthquake and tsunami are homeless and residing in emergency shelters, less likely than their younger counterparts to ask for things they need, like blankets and food. Anyway, I’m not sure where I’m going with this. If you’re looking for a worthy place to send a donation, ShelterBox is an amazing organization.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy St. Pat's!

An awesome picture of my dad. Today seems like a good day to post it.

This isn't the most festive song, but it's so beautiful. If you watch "Boardwalk Empire," you've probably heard Loudon Wainwright's version, which isn't available anywhere (except for a few YouTube clips dubbed in Russian). So Jim McCann it is.

Enjoy the day! Per Monahan family tradition, I'm going to see Lady Gaga this evening. Just kidding... about the tradition. But I am actually going to Lady Gaga. I'm anxious to see what she wears. Where Irish meets Gaga, I'm sure there are corned beef dresses and shirtless leprechauns.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bangs: A cost-benefit analysis.

Around mid-day Friday, I decided that I needed my bangs trimmed. Desperately. Immediately. And from that moment on, they felt annoyingly long and hideous. Every time I looked in the mirror, I saw the eyeless lovechild of David Cassidy and that serial killer Charlize Theron played in Monster.

I called the place where I get my hair cut to see if they could fit me in that evening, but the earliest opening was Monday, and Monday was too far away. I called the place I used to go, and they could fit me in at 10:15 the next morning. I called the place I used to go before the place I used go and booked an appointment for 5:00 that evening, but then called back and canceled because really, I didn’t want to get involved in the politics of salon hopping. In the end, I settled for the 10:15 Saturday morning with a girl who’d never cut my hair before. The result is too short and a bit lop-sided, but the deed is done. I can breathe easier and blink without scratching my corneas.

It would be one thing if this occurrence was a rarity – the frenzied phone calls and last-minute appointments. But it’s not. Instead, I repeat it over and over, month after month. It provokes a lot of anxiety, and it costs a lot of money… well, kind of. $10 a month for a trim (bangs only). It’s like having a Showtime subscription on my forehead.

All of this is to say, I’m seriously considering letting it all go, er, grow. It will require patience and barrettes, but I don’t know if I have the attentiveness and expendable income bangs require. I’m not even sure why I started down this path in the first place. So, like I do when choosing between colleges, jobs, sandwiches and gas stations on opposite sides of a busy intersection, I’ve made a short pros and cons list.


1. Cover a wonky hairline and a widow’s peak Eddie Munster can’t hold a candle to.
2. Trick people into thinking you look like people you don’t actually look like. I’ve gotten a few Zooeys and Feists, whereas before I only got Eddie Munster (see pro #1).

1. That whole regular trim requirement, plus the cost of dry shampoo to keep them from looking like old French fries.
2. And… really that’s it, so maybe they’re not that bad, if I could just have the foresight to schedule the trims or the courage to cut them myself.

A win for the pro/con list. I’ll have the turkey club. I’ll brave the left turn to get to the Love's Travel Stop. I’ll keep the bangs, for now.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

A lost art

The list of things that are wrong with me is long and includes everything from my inability to keep clothes anywhere besides a basket in the middle of the hallway, to hands that are so inhumanly icy that happy babies cry when I touch them. But this thing in particular is relatively imperceptible, and you would never know unless I told you. Or spit on you.

My head and neck are disproportionately small (disproportionate being the key word here), so it was easy to notice the lump just below my jaw line. It’s actually been there for a few years (cue gasps from the diehard hypochondriacs – I get you because I’m like you, except I rely on the internet for both diagnosis and treatment). I ignored it like the financially challenged are wont to do, and got along fine. Until recently, when I discovered that that lump in my neck, when pressed, can now trigger a projectile stream of spit that leaps out of my mouth in a fountain-like arc. Sometimes it doesn’t even need triggering; it happens on its own. Which is worse. Especially if you are around people you don’t know. Or people you do know, for that matter. Because it is weird either way.

I guess this is what the kids call gleeking, only it is a mutant form of Olympic gleeking that must be stopped before it gets worse. Also, sometimes my neck hurts.

The ENT recommended a type of x-ray only done by one radiologist in Omaha. “How cutting edge!” That’s what you’re probably thinking right now. No. It’s only done by one radiologist in Omaha because everyone else has moved on to more advanced procedures, like CT scans and leaches. Said procedure is called a sialogram, and I expected something involving a dull razor… maybe eye of newt. Definitely spells. I was sort of nervous.

And it didn’t help that, when I got to the hospital this morning for said procedure, the techs, and even the radiologist himself, were waiting, grinning, tapping their fingers against the cold metal x-ray table in baffling anticipation.

"I haven't done one of these in years," one of the nurses said as she slipped a heavy, red flak jacket over her head. At that point, I considered running away. I could live with the lump in my neck, and I bet the gleeking would help me gain inroads with the show-and-tell set.

But I stayed. And after a dozen x-rays and a mouth full of saccharin dye, it was over. I'm still not sure what all of the fuss was about. My only guess is that rarity, and even more so the threat of extinction, can make anything fascinating - Western Lowland Gorillas, Eames loungers, tan M&Ms, even sialograms.

Friday, March 04, 2011


Something more substantial to come tomorrow...ish, but in the meantime, dwelling places! While the me of real life craves cozy, enclosed spaces -- the smallest bedroom in the apartment, the landing on a staircase, the two-foot space between the sink and toilet in a half-bath -- the me in my mind lives in pictures of modernist homes -- sparse, minimalist, sleak furniture and floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over a toadstool-covered forest floor. So, while I'll go for warm and fuzzy every time, I can't help imagine what it'd be like to live here. Or in any of these homes Miss Moss posted yesterday. Don't you just want to drive a Ferrari through that window?

Now, to the Moon! No, not the real moon. The bar version.


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