28 June 2007

12 one guess:

who thinks that by standing amongst the luggage,
there's a chance she'll be taken along?

27 June 2007

10 under construction

three things.

(1) i am a lady.
(2) i wear skirts.
(3) i work near a construction site.

as a lady who wears skirts and works near a construction site, every day i take a noontime walk to sit on my bench by the river. because this walk leads me past the construction site, i have become bizarrely desensitized to cat calls and long lusty gazes and the phrase "i'd like to get me a piece of that"- which as a lady, makes me feel rather less like a lady and more like an antiquated cadillac part.

this is the stereotypical construction worker culture. it is a tacit social agreement that the people who build our buildings have a right to look at us rather more closely and comment rather more freely than we might like.

but there's something fascinating happening here. simply being in close proximity to a construction site has the capacity to infect passersby with these same mores. the very presence of construction- maybe it's the dirt, the grime, the dust blowing about in the air and swooshing in to cloud people's brains or maybe it's the rather sexual aspect of creating something ginormous from something exceedingly small- whatever it is, it creates a bubble of permissibility. a temporary environment in which things that aren't acceptable are. it's much like the "we're on vacation" mentality. suddenly it's: "we're in a construction zone, baby. i'll say what i want."

it's a phenomenon that today led one standard, non-construction working chicago dude, standing in the construction zone, to brazenly check me out from head to heel, rendering me so uncomfortable that i prematurely crossed the street to escape the construction zone and his gaze- only to have him resurface at my side with the line, "hey, sexy. can we just talk for awhile?"

as though in that long, lusty glance he had diagnosed me as so starved for conversation that i would be willing to speak with a stranger who used the greeting "hey, sexy." that's what construction sites do to people. they fog the senses, dull your perception. he should've looked closer. because i'm a girl with a reading plan- i ain't got time for talking.

26 June 2007

6 june: a (premature, abbreviated) revue

(in no particular order & uttered by various citizens of the Oline in the City world)

"why are we all forever 21 now that we're 26?"

"clearly, i don't want to be t.s. eliot because he was impotent and unfeeling, but it is reassuring to have one's current career lot thrown in with the likes of good old thomas stearns."

"well i don't want to be his friend really. i know i said i would, but it's not like i meant it."

"car places are douches."

"it was terribly romantic though. we were by the river just standing and talking for hours and kind of necking- or whatever it is you do just prior to initiating a first kiss that is going to take three hours to not happen."

"our nins are not glass vases."

"i am a tool fool."

"of course, the vieve would look good in a brown paper bag."

"you could retire at 40, but you'd have to explain to Jesus."

"i've gone so low i've had to leave."

"she told her all about it. and i was amazed to know how dead on she was in describing the thing. i've talked marriage with people who wouldn't know where to begin."

"i am one smoking hussy."

"his presence is not your entire world, but it is a happy little occurrence."

"i am a heavily obese person in disguise."

"apparently, in my sleep, i am very unchristian."

"it's the only gay thing i've done in a long while."

"aw. you have dandruff and i'd never even touch you but that's so sweet."

"that is why these cakes are so special. they are from costco, which I do not attend."

"aren't you glad you were single on sunday morning?"

"the cake ended up being a lesson in forgiveness."

"i feel like I have to prove that I'm not little and afraid even though i am."

"it's like a season finale!"

"everything is frodo's fault."

23 June 2007

19 fault lines

like the whole entire rest of humanity, i have many many flaws. but the one i'm struggling with in this very minute is my capacity to take the most inconsequentially stupid teeny tiny thing and make it the absolute end of the world in my silly little head.

darling meggie's wedding is forthcoming. t-minus six days. and- aside from some residual paranoia that my as-yet-to-be-tried-on bridesmaid dress won't fit (a fear entirely too fearsome to actually begin to fear)- what has me completely panic stricken?

trip reading.

because oh my God what if in the midst of a 56-hour trip to see practically everyone i know i run out of things to read?!

it should be so simple. oh, to be one of those people for whom trip reading is a casual affair. a brief dalliance at an airport newsstand and a fling with the latest grisham. but no. i am so far from being one of those people that i probably couldn't even be friends with those people.

i am the girl who has spent the last 36 hours, sustained only by cheese sandwiches and diet coke, tearing through the 497 pages of tina brown's diana chronicles, for the sole, perfectly sane reason that this will then allow four weekdays in which to pull a quickie with a 250-page jackie bio so that the trip might finally bring about the end of an intermittent six-months-long emotional entanglement with the memoirs of le duc de saint-simon, volume 1.

as though this fact were of some great import to humanity. as though my ability to blaze through these three books and offer royal gossip, kennedy insight, and a derivative sliver of seventeenth century lavatorial humor in the midst of meggie's matrimony is going to have a life-changing impact.

maybe it's the the lack of substantive nutrition talking or perhaps its just the 36 hours of tina brown's stultifying prose, but i think i've maybe kind of sort of seen the light. clearly, a carry-on bag of books is the only way to go.

21 June 2007

2 i'd be happy to be jackie

people are truly a mystery. you can know someone for fifteen years. know every single available facet of their character. things they've said, things said about them, things said to them. things they did that they didn't know you'd ever know. you can parse their writing, their favorite poems, their favorite lyrics, and their family albums. you can look at hundreds upon hundreds of photographs and ask everyone you know their opinion of this person. these fragments are then compiled into a whole. these are the pieces that make all of us who we are to other people. and yet, what are these pieces really worth? you can know someone for fifteen years and you can do all of this and you can even write a book about the pieces of the someone you've known. and yet even then, after all of that, you're left staring at a stranger in a fur coat, thinking: jackie, what the hell?

20 June 2007

15 tits out!

i've become mildly obsessed with cleavage lately. not that of others or even my own, but more the culture of cleavage. the bizarrely contradictory level of social acceptability surrounding the whole bosom business.

ironically, this can be traced to the last man man show (an exceptionally testosteroney venue for breast awareness, i'll grant you). when K and i sat atop a radiator amid a crowd who weren't even born when we were entering the sixth grade. it was a crowd in which we were the only ones going even remotely tits out. and this is me we're talking about, so it was pretty remote. nonetheless, it's an odd context- one in which i am considered to be giving a peep show.

for those of you who don't know, cleavage is a very very strange thing. we gals have little control over it. mine made its accidental debut at junior prom, where even The Dear Gay One was left stammering and speechless. since then, there's been many an unfortunate slip. many a time where things have not stayed where they were supposed to be. and i'm not alone in this. lindear, at least, is with me.

but the thing that i've noticed, the thing that amuses me to no end and has me thinking about this now, is that if you are buxom, you can do whatever the hell you want. you can let it all hang out and somehow it's not pornographic. it's accepted. because it's there and where the hell else are you going to put it.

but, if you're less than buxom, it's a whole other world. because there's this prevailing sense that any cleavage has been created. that it's artificial and deliberate, and, therefore, it's in appallingly bad taste. it's shameful. it's very very wrong. which is not at all right. because, though there may be less of it, what the rest of us have happens to be there as well, and we also have nowhere else to put it.

i'd been noticing this strange dichotomy for awhile, but it was only today that it really hit home. today, when a woman with what can only be described as knockers leaned over, revealing a broad, uncovered breasty expanse as she told me, her brow furrowed, her tone stern, dear, please cover up.

19 June 2007

7 that's it

i want to marry this man. or at the very least- become his disciple.

17 June 2007

0 trash book: the triology

one of the greatest advantages of being a girl is the ability to read chick lit (or "feminine literature" as lindear and i prefer to call it) with only moderate social derision. because chick lit is kind of awesome. it's so greek tragedy. and i'm quite sure were euripides and aristophanes and all the boys alive today, this is what they would be scribbling away on- chick lit.

you may remember trash book. well, i've recently discovered it's long lost triplets. THE SPOILS OF TIME TRILOGY. a title so stupidly pretentious that it demands capitalization. i was initially drawn in by the deceptively classy covers. just slap a norman parkinson photo on the trashiest of trash and i'm so there. but then, there's something more.

these are atrocious books. ridiculously far-fetched, poorly written and riddled with more typos than i've ever seen in my life. and yet... i cannot put them down. because, at the conclusion of volume two, this is where we are:

barty, the poor child taken in by wealthy publishing maven celia lytton (whose life was inadvertently saved when barty fell ill and forced her to miss the sailing of the titanic and who has now become heavily involved in the "britons for hitler!" campaign), who is married to oliver (whom she tricked into marriage by getting pregnant and against whom she had an affair with the children's book writer sebastian brooke, which resulted in her getting pregnant and the birth of kit and whose wife pandora died giving birth to their child isabella, whom sebastian refused to acknowledge for seven years) in volume 1, fell madly head over heels in love and lost her virginity to laurence elliot (who was incredibly sexy but also the sworn enemy of the new york lyttons- maud and robert- because robert married laurence's mom and laurence's mom died giving birth to another baby and laurence has hated them ever since and then because he made a fortune in the stock market crash, maud hated him in return with the fire of a thousand suns), with whom barty is staying because she fled england after giles lytton (celia's son who is madly in love with barty and yet married to a bossy boots woman named helana, whom he doesn't love and with whom he has very unsatisfactory sex that has, nonetheless, produced two children) professed his undying love for her and after she discovered the unfortunately named husband of venetia lytton (one of celia's beautifully vapid twin daughters who always picked on barty as the poor child but have now wandered into unhappy marriages of their own by having sex and getting pregnant and making the boys marry them), boy warwick, was having an affair with her beloved friend abbie, whom celia then engaged to give venetia's four children piano lessons because their aunt adele was unavailable because she had gone to paris to have an affair with a married, jewish man. turns out, adele's married, jewish man returned to his wife, who thought she was pregnant, so adele fled france with her illegitimate children on the eve of war and returned to england only to discover that her married, jewish man had died in the holocaust, for which she holds her mother, celia, personally responsible. wicked laurence elliott, who married a woman he didn't love to spite barty, returns to england to seduce barty, who is working in the military and has become engaged to a boring soldier, who makes her miss laurence's wickedness all the more and conveniently dies. laurence and barty have three pages of sex and laurence promptly dies and barty is promptly pregnant. sebastian and celia's son, kit- who believes he is celia and oliver's son- is blinded in the war and falls madly in love with sebastian and pandora's daughter, isabella. after many an incestuous make out scene, the pair are thwarted in their attempt to elope and the ugly truth is revealed.

how can you not love that? how can that fail to be anything less than riveting? 1,400 pages bringing us three central truths: (1) sex usually results in babies, (2) sex with married men always results in babies, and (3) blind men should not make out with the children of close family friends.

15 June 2007

2 j-e-l-l-o

i've never understood those people who get all wishy-washy nostalgic when the ephemera of their youth comes back in vogue. why cry over platform wedgies? why lament the return of gaucho pants as a sign of your own mortality? (aside from the fact that gaucho pants are heinous and should not be worn by anyone under seven feet tall.) though i am a fan of most all things frivolous, this sentimentality has always seemed a bit too gauche- even for me.*

then i had an epiphany, courtesy of jell-o pudding. i'm a big friend of puddings, and have been since the cheerleader moved out in the spring of 2001 and i inherited my own mini-fridge that could be stocked with puddings galore. it promptly was. and at one time or another, every refrigerator i've had since has played host to the standard jell-o fat free pudding snacks chocolate vanilla artificial flavor swirls.

the other day, i stocked up at the market and began putting the puddings in their designated fridge space as i always do. i cracked open the cardboard container as i always do and was shocked to find my jell-o pudding snacks in their vintage best. this was not the jell-o pudding lid of last week, but the jell-o pudding lid of 2001.

there is a small possibility that my recently purchased jell-o pudding snacks are indeed from 2001. however, this is largely discredited by the fact that i have partaken of said jell-o pudding snacks and have yet to die. presumably the ingestion of a six-year-old dairy product would be fatal, unless those artificial flavor swirls hold more power than we assume.

but i have to admit, once the shock had passed, i couldn't help but pause in front of the open refrigerator. the frigidaire breeze whipping my hair as i recalled that unusually hot mississippi spring, when i brazenly wore black bras under white shirts nearly every single day, did edgar allen poe impressions in holocaust class, and first had a fridge all my own. i was almost, dare i say it, moved.

then i remembered that this nostalgic moment had been brought to me by a jell-o pudding cup and shut the refrigerator door in shame.

*and yes, that's a bit of a baldfaced lie, but a writer's got to have a hook.

13 June 2007

5 the aftermath

i hate math.

because math has right answers and right answers are so not real life. real life is about gray areas and what ifs and near misses. it's about free will and guesses and rewrites.

i began hating math in the third grade, when multiplication proved to be a skill entirely beyond the reaches of my mental capacities. i finally caught on when the tables were taught to me in songs (no, i will not perform them), but that first introduction left a bitter memory.

however, somehow i always tested well in the stupid subject. probably because the TCAPs used questions like "2+2+2" to determine whether one were capable of taking 8th grade algebra. as a result, i would spend the entire year struggling to keep my grades afloat.

on more than one occasion a teacher took me into the hall and said, oline, you've earned a C, but because you're trying so hard, i'm going to give you a B. just this once though, so try harder. the great lesson i took away from these hallway confabs was that it pays to look like you're trying hard- especially if you don't have a clue.

because i didn't have a clue. because math has right answers and i don't operate in a world of right answers. my brain won't do that. it won't be boxed in. that half has shut down.

as an english major, you can propel through an entire academic career without delivering a single right answer. because right answers are obsolete. they have no value in a literary world. it's the thought-process and the digressions and the ideas that emerge along the road to a maybe kind of sort of plausible answer that you're probably never going to reach. that is what we value. that is why we write.

and yet, i now do math. everyday. that's not to say that i understand it or enjoy it or that it hasn't been a whole hell of a world of mental pain to pry open those dusty corridors of my silly brain. i don't and it has.

but then, each day, as i stick the numbers in and make them come out right, i'm a little more appreciative of the wrong answers, the guesses, the near misses, the what ifs. because sometimes you have to be wandering in a dictatorship to appreciate the beauty and freedom of your own land. you have to stand in the cellar to truly see the meadow. you have to use cliched metaphors to make a deepish point. and other times- other times you just have to shut up and do the damn math.

11 June 2007

24 hit man

24 of my 26 years have been spent in the south. and yet, today, for the first time, a legitimate hick hit on me.

a class act in overalls, he stood next to me at a corner stoplight in the heart of my city.

he turned to me and he said this: hey, farm girl. wanna ride my plow?

09 June 2007

0 a word, please

in the category of random, intense things written quite some time ago...

whether you write me once a month, every day, or five times every hour. whether we've spoken on the phone only once in the past year, last night or never at all. whether you can even remember the sound of my voice. you're here. and you know me in some small way because you are.

and that's rather scary. because these are just words. all my little words. my silly, tarted up, worn out words. they're not your's and yet you can do with them whatever you will. because words are selfish sluts. clever gymnasts. they'll run about with whomever comes along and cartwheel into the pocket of whomever lends them an ear. they are inconstant and chameleonic. to me, they are polka dotted and plaid. to you, they may be purple. they may make you see red.

there is imperfection inherent here. we are all of us flawed. we are none of us perfect and our words fail us accordingly. no matter how we work them over or line them up or string them out, they let us down.

that's a hell of a hard thing to contend with and it seeps into every little piece of who we are- how you look at me, how i stare blankly back at you, how she laughed at your joke, how you furrowed your brow, how i didn't say what i wanted to say when you didn't hold my hand. it all comes back to these inadequate words that we are left with.

these words that say so little. nothing, really. a clumsy excruciatingly orchestrated jumble of disconnected consonants and dissonance that we are each left alone to parse for meaning or logic as though they were the remnants of some glorious civilization lost. as though they weren't just stupid words.

words that might say it all and still mean absolutely nothing.

06 June 2007

17 the condemned

i moved to chicago for grad school a few weeks after The Great Chicago Porch Collapse. some kids and their 80 closest friends were having a party on a precarious porch and it collapsed and they died. not all 80 of them, but a significant enough number.

this became my mum's greatest fear. not that i would take drugs or have wild sex with a politician or elope with an atheist or be hit by the #151. not that i would become a presbyterian or a partier or get pregnant. those are nothing when confronted with the prospect of death by a porch.

every time i did anything remotely party-on-a-porch-like (wine tastings, doc films, study groups, etc.), my mum would evoke "those poor people who lost their lives on THAT CHICAGO PORCH"- as though this single architectural feature were responsible for humanity's inevitable doom. as though chicago were the capital of collapsing porches.

the only time i came near anything even near the adjacent neighborhood of a party on a porch that year was a spring break festivity at jennyfair's. i vividly remember standing with pirate, schreider, and jennyfair on jennyfair's back porch. jennyfair gesturing frantically with her cigarette in that way she had in the days when she still smoked and our thesis loomed. and all i could think was this: I'M ON A PORCH! I'M ON A PORCH!

my mum never knew. as far as my mum knows, i haven't been on a porch in the past five years.

so it was with mixed feelings that i gained a porch of my own in the last move. and it was with horror that i went out on that porch this morning, 2 days before the parents impending arrival, and discovered this:

because that'll make her feel so much better.

05 June 2007

25 career girls

i love framing. and i have this habit of stacking things within picture frames. it happens out of laziness and a love of finding lost things later on. somehow, i tend to forget this and when switching out items i'm always amazed to find a trove of past treasures. that is how i came upon one particular frame. the contents? a drawing from 11th grade, a letter from partner on my 18th birthday, a photograph of mick jagger, an andy warhol print, and "our dating careers"-a little relic from labor day weekend of 1999, a time that i always look back upon and think, wow. things were so much simpler then.

04 June 2007

8 merry me

there are these days. long, harrowing, completely obnoxious, up to the other tower ten times, "i have a meeting planned for 80 people on wednesday and only 29 are coming and the hyatt dallas-ft. worth wants to ruin my life" days.

very very seldom do these days end on a perfectly in pitch, laugh-out-loud note. that is, unless you know the absolutely right person and you're going to be in her wedding in less than a month and her boy's in iraq or lousiana (same thing?) and she's just discovered text messaging and likes to share things.

in that case, those days end with the most awesome accidentally forwarded text message ever in the history of my little world:
night and day you are the one, only you beneath the moon and under the sun. will you marry me?

02 June 2007

17 and lo! we reuned.

our graduate school experience was very unique. or at least that's what we MAPHers tell ourselves. for nine months, we ran ammuck, dabbling through all the "humanities"- whatever the hell those really are. most graduate programs have 10 people. there were 100 MAPHers. there was The Core. there was always an open bar.

on friday night, the crofts and i ventured out into the pouring rain to the MAPH tenth anniversary reunion. we were soaked and we were none to thrilled. as we climbed the steps, croftie whispered, "i don't want to do this." "do what?" i asked. "what we're doing right now."

but did it we did. and thank God.

because had we not, i would never have balanced precariously atop tortoiseshell heels in the middle of the tasting room in a wet pink silk dress and had a most enlightening conversation with sensei.

nothing compares to the university of chicago alumni magazine. it's like an AARP mag edited by louis menand. i had mistakenly believed the highlight of the may/june issue to be the supplemental publication devoted to the "living legacy" of The Core curriculum- a legacy typified by the cover girls, who sit among the stacks of the reg staring at computer screens with what can only be described as expressions of utter oppression and apathetic doom.

i laughed and thought, that's a fan-freaking-tastic summation of u of c life, and went on with my day, not even bothering to check out the actual alumni magazine, CHICAGO, the cover of which was dominated by an unappealing ed asner clone hunched awkwardly over a hanging file. blithely i tossed it into the pile of tabloids and time outs.

because of this, i very nearly missed the tiny wonder that lay between pages 8 and 9. the tiny wonder that sensei- interior decorator of the mind extraordinaire- pointed out as i balanced precariously atop tortoiseshell heels in the middle of the tasting room in a wet pink silk dress. what tiny wonder, you may ask?

the temporary university of chicago alumni tattoo.