30 April 2006
there's no cable in my life, but an informant told me that teddy kennedy (wearing an incongruous bright gold godfatheresque chain bracelet) was on the daily show last week. now that he's broken into the world of late night tv, it's time we reconsider teddy. not the stern, bloated teddy of today, but teddy circa 1945-1981. charismatic, charming, carefree but troubled teddy. the teddy who knew how to party and cheated on his harvard exam. the teddy who was HOT.
(NOTE: in contemplating this teddy, we will be glossing over the teddy who drank entirely too much, cheated on his wife, gained jowls and contributed in some inscrutable way to the death of mary jo kopechne.)
it goes without saying that americans are obsessed with the kennedys (and let's do try to ignore how ironic it is for me of all people to be saying that). every time an anniversary rolls around, newscasters ask: what would have happened if joe/kick/JFK/RFK/JFK jr./jackie had lived longer? as if that's a question we might someday actually be able to definitively answer. the living kennedys provide an ongoing soap opera of sorts, but most of the attention is fixated upon those who have died and the posthumous revelations regarding them. in reality though, it is teddy who is the greatest of the family's tragedies, and i think, after looking at him for so long people forget that. he's always out there- grimacing and shouting. all white-haired, red-faced and resolute. his simple survival has led him to be overlooked.
it's easy to forget that he was a bad student who cheated on an exam so he wouldn't be branded a disappointment. that he married a beautiful woman whom he couldn't love enough and who couldn't stop drinking. that he was swept into politics by an overbearing father, who was then brutally incapacitated by a stroke and spent ten years wasting away. that, at the age of 32, he nearly lost his own life in the plane crash that broke his back and killed his friend. that he inherited the thirteen children of his two brothers, whose crushing legacy he could never live up to. then he committed a fatal error, dashing the presidential dreams that had been thrust upon him. that he gave away his fatherless neice at her wedding the same day doctors amputated the cancerous leg of his eldest son. he has spent the last twenty years passing legislation and burying the younger generation, but ultimately, in the public consciousness, teddy is remembered for two things: for not being his brothers and for whatever it was that happened at chappaquiddick. a sad reduction of a life that has lasted nearly seventy-five years.
everybody has a teddy. that person who can be so charming and charismatic and has the potential to do so much, and yet either lacks the fiber to fulfill it or is crippled by a fear of real, grown-up life and escapes into a series of personal disasters, ie. chappaquiddick, the sex-on-a-boat soiree, bar hopping with willie smith. (the polar opposite would be the joan- the insecure, overly sensitive person who becomes haplessly tangled with the charismatic charmer and can't fight his/her way out of the emotional fray without falling into a similar but opposed series of personal disasters.)
teddys are good people, but they're heartbreaking to watch. instead of taking calculated risks (a' la JFK, RFK, and mcnamara), they haplessly wander into risky situations and then respond with the improvisations of befuddlement. michael kennedy was a teddy. a non-teddy would realize that neither sexual involvement with a baby-sitter nor football on skis in a blizzard is a particularly good idea. but while a non-teddy sees the potential end of a risk and either accepts or declines it based on that end, a teddy blindly falls into risky situations- not for the thrill that results, but because it's where they've wound up. they take the risk because it's there. they're go-with-the-flow people who don't make plans.
this makes the comparative success and longevity of teddy kennedy all the more admirable. after RFK's death, he told a friend, "i can't let go. if i let go, ethel will let go, my mother will let go, and all my sisters." one of JFK's mistresses said, "the old man would push joe, joe would push jack, jack would push bobby, bobby would push teddy, and teddy would fall on his ass." though he's fallen on his ass time and time again, teddy has been very un-teddy. he has not let go. he's held up all the women and has been crushed by all the men, but he's still here. kind of like cher.
it's hard to imagine america without teddy kennedy. it's even harder to imagine the funeral of teddy kennedy, though the country has been bracing for it since june of 1968. i like to think he'll gradually fade away like 104-year-old rose. and the family will throw grand picnics for all of his birthdays, and put him up in a posh suite in the compound where he can perpetually screen home movies from the good old days. he's been holding tight for so long. i hope he gets to let go. to just be teddy.
28 April 2006
select ESLAs are taking lessons of a nature that cannot be revealed at this time. suffice it to say- we're dancing. last night was our third of six lessons and we just got good. up to this point, we've had fun, but not smashing, unable-to-form-a-complete-sentence-afterwards fun. not Big Fun.
my first partner- The Tall Guy- introduced himself by cracking an udder joke. the sheer horror that is the word udder didn't exactly make me eager to hold his hand. the first week was all about moves that were vaguely akin to aerobics steps so we clumsily struggled to keep our As, Bs, and Cs from morphing into grapevines.
the second week, the girls far outnumbered the boys so we partnered exclusively with instructors. a little awkward due to the expanse of downtime spent against the wall watching couples cha-cha and feeling like the homely girls at prom. but then the instructor- who evidently considers his job an onerous chore and looks impossibly bored most of the time (and who in the first lesson thoroughly undermined his credibility by doing the gayest ever impression- that has been seared onto our brains- of dancing in a grocery aisle)- stands in the middle of the floor, puts out a hand and nods in our direction- much like the king selecting a partner at versailles- indicating he will now deign to dance with us.
it's tricky because for the woman to be at all good requires the man to be an excellent leader. and, or course, men who are just learning to dance have a pretty difficult time leading steps they don't know themselves. this is how i spent an hour stumbling about the floor with The Tall Guy as i passively led, repeating- "and now you move your left foot forward." this is how L wound up trapped in a series of windows last week, making baleful eyes as her partner- The Guy Whose Name Begins with an A- yo-yoed her back and forth for a solid three and a half minutes because he didn't know how to conclude the step.
a classroom situation where your face is less than a foot away from someone elses makes for plenty of comedy. in the first lesson, Black T-Shirt Guy started off making crazy raise the roof hands, which, much to our dismay, resurfaced last night. L was partnered with The Close Dancer who kept asking if she was "comfortable" (an inquiry that made her ever more uncomfortable). The Tall Guy's waterfall went awry and smacked me in the face. Les danced with The Bald Guy, who made grunting sex faces the entire time. we've all danced with The Little Guy Who Takes Littler Steps, whose hips jump with such a frenzy it appears he's about to dance out of his pants. added to that is the pressure of avoiding The Fast Dancing Couple, who have nearly run over us all.
fortunately, the men are getting good. The Little Guy Who Takes Littler Steps (and so helpfully pointed out that my ginormo steps looked like lunges in comparison) was completely out of my league but The Guy Whose Name Begins with an A made me feel somewhat competent. yes, it took us twenty-three straight tries to do the window/twist/turn move, which left me dizzy and incoherent for hours after, but we got it on our own. and when i looked in the mirror and saw us all red-faced yet clearly dancing for real and felt the snap of my arm and swirl of my skirt as he led me into another window/twist/turn (because the window/twist/turn was the only move we knew), i almost could have danced all night.
27 April 2006
* which is primitive and oddly LP sized because i'm a slow self-learner.
26 April 2006
at crafting, the conversation turned to the recent influx of mass message daters- a friendster phenomenon to which myspace is seemingly impervious. i'm all for meeting people but surely this isn't the way. the breakdown of the educational system has clearly contributed to stunning shifts within courtship culture, as evidenced in the texts below.
wsup lookn beauitfull one question who do u
model for? if you dont mind mind me askn. I
just move here to chicago i m going to to NIU
in dekalb this fall for my masters. If your down with
it maybe we can get to know each other better.
talk to u
Was goin thru some profiles and came across ur
pic. Once i saw ur pic...i was like...I have to tell
this girl how beautifull she is. i dont know whether u got
this from any1 else or not, but i think u have nice
eyebrows. I know flattery doesnt get a
guy anywhere and I am not tryin to hit on
u or anythin nor that i have any intention to stalk u,
just thought it wuld be interestin to get to know u.
from these messages, six conclusions can be drawn:
- the period is obsolete.
- spelling is optional.
- spelling like prince is preferred.
- i am "beautifull."
- writing a self-professed english-head using psychotically bad grammar is ironically hip.
- friendster has out-sourced to asia, where the employees are whiling away the workday sending out crazy lame illiterate messages to american women in order to methodically destroy the image of the american male.
24 April 2006
"The anaconda [plan] was required to hug a circumference of about five thousand miles, two-fifths dry land and rivers and the remaining three-fifths shoreline. This 3000-mile coastal portion, belly and crotch of the continent, bisected by the phallic droop of the Florida peninsula, was doubled along much of its length, both in the Atlantic and the Gulf..."
Shelby Foote, The Civil War, Vol. I, 1958
and here sit i, a former resident of the abdomen, intestine, and urinary tract, now writing in the continent's bosom. ah- they just don't make them metaphors like they used to.
21 April 2006
i'm an english major through and through (quirky, quiet, decently-read and with a fondness for anything that has elbow patches). i am also working "in my field," which is the impossible dream of every english major. added to that i'm working from home in a beloved other city. and for this i am eternally grateful, and should never complain when weekend work is required to meet the deadlines that we never make or when clients do crazy senseless things. there are, after all, only so many jobs where you get paid a nearly liveable wage for reading books, drawing pictures, and playing with words, and there are a bazillion other english majors clawing to get into them. but...
usually, i feel like this:
or like this:
yesterday, work made me feel like this:
if ever there was a messed up industry, it's publishing. L and i agree on this and have had many a convo in recent months pondering the craziness of our line of work. hence, L's profound observation of last night: "from what i've discovered about our industry, we are in a very annoying profession."
any business sector built upon deadlines and bringing together writers (who fight for the beauty of words, are full of ideas and care little for money), artists (who fight for the beauty of images, apparently are unable to read and care little for money) and salespeople (who fight for money, won't read and care little for beauty) is going to make for a madhouse. it's not a coincidence, then, that there's a long and noble tradition of industry-bashing literature: bridget jones' diary, the devil wears prada, and the entire catalogue of the red dress ink imprint. gawker has built an empire upon skewering manhattan media upwards of thirty times a day.
the boss (a salesman) says that publishing is difficult because writers and designers (aka artists, aka me) have such "harsh personalities." but there's more to it. publishing is uniquely troubled by a proponderance of complicated communicators. will openly admit i'm chief among these. am a total moron on the phone and require at least ten minutes to process an entire conversation- which means the boss' "well, say something" neediness is seldom met to his satisfaction.
i've never been a fan of group work (it so often turns lord of the flies) but in publishing, four or five people work on the same project without ever speaking. even i recognize the stupidity in this. in the past week, L has been taught four entirely different ways to route a manuscript. we both have sent manuscripts to designers only to have them returned with half the corrections made and the other errors unchanged. are we being ignored or are they being dense? either way it's bizarrely pick-and-choose.
clients only exacerbate the complicated communication. at the moment, we're dealing with representatives from a scarily disorganized educational institution. the client is the sweetest woman that ever was but she has no filter whatsoever. the boss, myself, JD (the favorite writer), and our administrative assistant have all been regaled with her tale of bureaucratic woe. there is no clearly professionalism left. the phrase "i should be in therapy" surfaces entirely too often.
all of this leads to the three greatest lessons i've learned as an employed wordsmith:
- "well, say something" is the biggest convo killer that ever was.
- the statement "i should really be in therapy," is a pretty accurate indicator that you really should be.
- my personality is not harsh. it's nuanced.
19 April 2006
18 April 2006
..................................................................retentiveness," but alas others must try. thus, surreal. but nice. i think.
* to clarify- it was never my intent to become an archivist of HPULs. it has simply evolved into an intriguing sideline.
16 April 2006
in other exciting family news, during the visit to the gp's in mantachie, mississippi, a painting i had apparently made of a bird i've never seen was unearthed (all of which is terribly ironic given my avian loathing). note the stupified "i made this?!" expression.
for 24 years, my art has been variations on this theme:
and then out of nowhere- audubon:
13 April 2006
the other day i took the red line into town for a bit of quality h&m time. i really love the trains. buses confuse me endlessly- they're usually late, you can never hear the stops and there's way too much togetherness with people who don't bathe regularly. the buses feel very 8th grade. but oh the trains! so fast. so timely. so comprehendable. comparatively, so much cleaner.
the primary downside to the trains would be subway performers ("sperfs"). there's something very unkind about having music forced upon you while waiting for urban transit. maybe if yanni or john tesh or norah jones set up shop, i could take that. gentle, soothing keyboards would be tolerated and obviously yanni or tesh would make for a good laugh. the subway is one place where elevator music just might not be so bad. but in enclosed spaces, a horned instrument is never welcome- much less a trio of them. the boombox is even worse. in the past 10 years, very few people have ever cut a record deal when a boombox was present. the boombox itself (doesn't the name just make you laugh?!) is an anachronism. it's so milli vanilli. it's so not loud enough to warrant microphoned vocals.
do harried record execs really troll the subways at 4 p.m. scouting for talent? even more to the point, is this the best talent we've got? because, people, i think we can do better. at washington, a girl was belting out "tomorrow" from annie (and i won't even begin to pass judgement on that choice). she looked like a "peanuts" character, with her head thrown back as the words screeched forth from her. as one, the crowd awaiting the train moved a good five feet away.
the sperf is part american idol dropout, part dictator. they so want us to give them our vote of approval- to stop and listen. they are the neediest of musicians. yet, there's something terrifically presumptuous in the simple act of imposing your musical stylings upon a crowd who are heading home at the end of a long workday and, thus, are too tired to voice the opinion that you aren't very good. i admit it takes guts to whip out your boombox and belt a song to complete strangers. but at the same time, the cruelty of inflicting your "talent" in an underground tunnel is boggling.
i generally try to imagine that sperfs aren't there- which might mean i'm missing out on one of the city's greatest cultural experiences but alas, most everyone else is too. i don't like being sung to. and while the sperfs aren't singing directly to me, the venue is small enough and their neediness so glaringly apparent that it's still unsettling. they want so much- attention, listeners, a record deal. i can't handle it. so i turn up the nada surf, stare straight ahead, do the brisk city walk, and dream of h&m. ah! h&m!
as an extra special treat- because when looking for elvisy stuff, you inevitably find something beyond your wildest dreams- i give you the three (southern?!) kings...
12 April 2006
"And number ten in the Top Ten Reasons to Dump Tamara- You know what this one's gotta be..."
"Can't ride the Reference Train," Tad said.
"Can't ..... ride......Train," I wrote, underlined three times.
Riding the Reference Train was a term of Tad's invention. It meant that if he started in on a riff, you had to follow, lead, or get out of the way.
(Cad, pg. 51)
10 April 2006
since the assembled ESLAs were office workers with considerable downtime and endless internet access, it seemed inevitable for the talk to turn to katie (and, yes, we're on a first name basis) and the silent birth. we, of course, all agree the logic behind a silent birth is bunk. but for a glimmer of a moment we were able to imagine the appeal. the relief of blaming everything wrong or bad in your life on the circumstances of your birth. it's obviously taken a load off tommy cruise's shoulders.
are you a light sleeper? a drunk? a nail biter? lactose intolerant? immature? aggressive? abusive? grossed out by certain words? colorblind? too shy? too loud? a philanderer? a gambler? a pimp? no worries- you just had one hell of a noisy birth.
08 April 2006
gogol bordello just Rocked My World. and the only way i can think of conveying that (without repeating stupified surfer expressions like "wow" and "awesome") is this:
2. u2- boston, may 24, 2005
3. gogol bordello- chicago, apr. 8, 2006
4. u2- new york, nov. 21, 2005
5. u2- atlanta, mar. 31, 2001
that said- get $16, get a map, get in your car, and go see gogol bordello.
07 April 2006
in chicago, everyone hugs. ESLA is especially huggy and i love that. we hug hello and goodbye and over random other moments in between. yesterday, L made a fabulously relatable remark and i caught myself squealing: "let's hug!" even as the hug itself was unfolding, i couldn't help thinking, "we're so chicago right now." and this friendly, sincere hugging is delightful. it's the more ambiguous social gestures from people who are not bosom friends that make me fumble.
am reading nancy mitford's madame de pompadour, and there was a section on the complexities of court etiquette. people could betray themselves as social idiots by leaping from their carriage to bow to the king (the proper thing was to rise but remain in the carriage). hugging and other casual displays of affection- so foreign in my little corner of the south and so prevalent here- are very similar. when do you hug? no one seems to know.
P hugs everyone in the group but me and am on tenterhooks as he works his way down the line in case it should happen until it doesn't happen then am enormously (probably, embarrasssingly, visibly) relieved because the awkwardness would be unbearable. but then as i'm thrilling over that, HH out of nowhere throws in a big kiss on the cheek. i don't begin to know how to play the kiss on the cheek. sometimes it's one cheek. sometimes two. sometimes sound effects are involved. one craft night, a girl i had known for half an hour went the route of two cheeks with sound. i was mystified. we were nowhere near that close.
the kiss on the cheek people must have no inner monologue whatsoever, because there's no way they could pull it off plagued by the thoughts churning in my head: will this be one cheek or two? will there be sound? will the sound make me laugh thus, throwing off the timing of the turn of the head for the second peck so we end up kissing (horror!) on the mouth? the kiss on the cheek is a very bold move. it could go wrong in entirely too many ways.
my mum and i have this bit where we fake kiss on the cheek, maintaining an untraditionally safe distance, and say "kiss, kiss." it's a much more lighthearted, hygenic way of doing things. and i wonder what would happen if i were to bust out a "kiss, kiss" in company. in my head it's something i totally rock but in reality, i could probably never get brave enough outside my head to actually pull it off. i'd sit in the corner table at ESLA h.q., biting my nails, plotting for up to an hour prior to farewell- orchestrating how i'd give Les (because if an inaugural "kiss, kiss" were to be casually whipped out, Les would be the most obviously receptive) a light hug and brightly exclaim "kiss, kiss!" and dissolve into jolly giggles. then it would come time to leave, we'd pack up, do the standard hug and i'd return home, comforted by the thought that i now have a plan (and i'm so much better with a plan) and maybe next time i'll be ready for a "kiss, kiss."
*i'm also crazy longwinded and footnotey this week so all apologies!
05 April 2006
i realized the other day that windpants* are the official pant of chicago. and, of course, once you notice something, it's EVERYWHERE. walking to lunch on sunday, L and i encountered three windpanted couples in two blocks and had to continuously thread our way through windpanted crowds. is this a chicago thing? an urban phenomenon? the windpant was flagrantly absent from sex and the city.
windpants are justifiable under three conditions- if you are a high school athlete at a game, if you are a professional athlete at a game, and if you are participating in the olympics. if you are not an athlete and are not in a game, you should have the wherewithal not to wear anything that derives its name from the noise it makes.
windpants are essentially the shy cousin of bicycle shorts and the louder sibling of sweat pants (which ironically tumbled in the heirarchy of workout chic to become representative of sloth and an inability to fit into one's other clothes). in my mind, windpants are very closely linked to hypercolor t-shirts as one of those kooky trends of the early 90s. in middle school the hallways literally echoed as windpanters swished their way to class. of course, that was the age of the wind suit. apparently someone decided along the way that an entire suit was excessive and from that point forward, windpants went it alone.
this all comes down to the cold hard truth that workout clothes simply should not be worn by people who are not exercising at that very moment. there's a window of windpant permissabiliy- before 10 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.- when the wearer could conceiveably be headed to the gym. but windpants at 1 p.m., paired with a pink cable knit sweater, dress shoes and a clutch bag? there is no excuse.
when did this become socially acceptable? being entirely sexist, i can see that windpants would hold a certain jock appeal for guys. but girls? come on. in graduate school i was scolded for wearing dress pants to a meet & greet. in academia, i was told, ladies wear skirts. in real life, they apparently wear workout clothes. the windpant phenomenon makes even less sense because the windpant girls generally look aesthetically attuned. they have ooh la la hair, flawless eye makeup, designer bags and victoria's secret perfumes. it's as though they slaved to create a look and then took a detour and thought: "wow. windpants will really pull this together."
D was horrified in the dead of last summer when everyone rolled up their jeans to fashion makeshift capris. the city was a parade of hairy legs. maybe wind pants are a similar seasonal phenomenon. a freakish lapse in judgement for the sake of comfort in eratic weather. my fingers are crossed. down with the windpants. we'll take the hairy legs.
*and in the phrase "wind pants," i'm including the sorority girl black pants since their meshy material is clearly in the wind pant family. just because a pant comes in pretty pastel colors doesn't mean it's not windy.
03 April 2006
1. stand on the observation deck of a REALLY tall building at night
2. climb a mayan ruin
3. take a class on a completely useless subject
4. speak a foreign language in a foreign country without being laughed at
5. see elvis impersonators in at least 5 different countries
6. publish a book
7. gain entry to the graceland wardrobe archives
8. ride the paris metro without getting completely lost
9. paint regularly, even if it's only copying other peoples' paintings
10. tour every presidential library in the country
11. take my mum to paris
12. throw another penny in the trevi fountain
13. finish the silly yo-yo quilt
14. make a documentary, even if it's only 3 minutes with a digital camera
15. grow a banana tree
16. learn to sew (as in well enough to make clothes)
17. ride in a sleigh on PEI
18. write one really good, un-angtsy poem
19. dress up inappropriately fancy for a casual event
20. leave a $100 tip
21. say "i think not" very loudly in the midst of a heated argument
22. participate in invisible theater
23. tend a garden
24. speak publically at an audible volume
25. write a chapter (at the very least) of decent, semi-intelligent chick lit
26. be interviewed as an "expert" on something
27. sleep past noon on a weekday
28. participate in a pageant (christmas, easter, beauty or otherwise)
29. take dancing lessons
30. make a candle
31. run an antique store
32. take my soccer-playing cousin to a hipster concert
33. visit gettysburg
34. stop lipsynching happy birthday and sing it like i mean it
35. have breakfast near tiffany's
36. stand on the grassy knoll
37. take a civil war battlefield road trip
38. tour the imperial palaces of russia
39. be on jon stewart with l. for jb's body
40. learn poker
41. hook a fish
42. take a train cross-country
43. cut down a christmas tree
44. teach pilates
45. stop biting my nails
46. write another book
47. pronounce diversy correctly in conversation
48. similarly, remember to say "hobby lobby" instead of "hobbity lobbity"
49. spend an entire day at the met (walking briskly)
50. have a collie named knightly
51. have a cat named bingley
52. wear a big, red 1950s floppy hat for an entire day, indoors and out
53. buy a designer dress that isn't on sale and costs more than $50
54. write the jackie at the sorbonne book in paris