30 September 2010

5 the very fine art of "taste preferences"

i love the darjeeling ltd.
a love that apparently translates into the following "taste preferences":

exhibit a:

exhibit b.


which brings us to the possibility o"steamy documentaries starring owen wilson."
which is hilarious.

2 september: a revue



"isn't september always The Month That Oline Is Not Home?"

"your child is looking like a child in recent photos rather than like a baby. i do not approve of this."

"chatroulette is very reality like. you have to meet plenty of wanking dudes to find someone special."

"nobody ever got to sweden by lying in the bed."

"danish pants are questionable at best."

"nuts and mints can suck it!"

"bob dylan’s page, however, was just a bunch of pictures of… bob dylan. so fame does not equal graphic artistic brilliance."

"at least i have myriad cute outfits so that should make up for anything i've left behind."

"what time do the american murders start?"

"i feel like you aren't really in denmark. you're actually just at ikea buying milk."

"this day was a total waste of makeup."

"i’m barely old enough to have a baby, right? i’m certainly not old enough to have a 'young boy.'"

"translucent people rarely work well on TV."

"i do resent you girls for having babies that show how rapidly we are all aging. it didn't seem so rapid until the Younger Generation came along."

"it seemed important to delete him in as many venues as may be. it was also DEEPLY rewarding to filter him into a folder named 'delete' and erase the hell out of that thing too."

"i got a lot of christmas gifts from secondary characters. likes rudolph and blitzen."

"i just need someone to hate with me."

"there are an odd lot of fake boobs here. canada, who knew?!"

"what makes google think that its main users would care about celine dion?"
"i like your assumption that we are google's most important constituency."

"i come from a long line of queasy people."

"oh, i can DO boobs."

"can we talk about swedish condoms?"

"old hollywood has ruined my expectations of men."

29 September 2010

0 a streetcar named disaster

i'm not going to lie. for the briefest of brief glimmers there, i thought i might actually fail canada. not as in let the country down, but just as in failing to do anything interesting while there and instead curling up in my hotel room in the hinterlands because i was tired and hadn't been sleeping tremendously well and the prospect of taking two buses, a train and a streetcar seemed prohibitively hellish.

buses and trains, i can do. streetcars? really, that's a bit much.

staying in would have been the easy way out. because- and this is an ugly admission coming up here- when left to my own devices, i would much much rather do nothing at all. especially when i'm by myself. even in exotic lands, i'd rather read in bed.

yes, i had paid money of my own (kind of sort of not really, but we won't get into that) to be in toronto for an extra day, but i have to say, it wasn't the prospect of wasting a hundred bucks that made me drag my ass out of the doubletree onto myriad forms of transit. no, no. i was the fact that if i returned from toronto with no pictures, everyone would know i'd done nothing but slob. and that was a mortification too great to bear.

ultimately, i did you people proud. i got up. i got out. i harangued a bus driver for directions of such precision that throughout the remainder of the 40-minute ride every 5 minutes he asked how i was doing.

and i made it downtown, where, fueled by surprisingly little caffeine (because fresh air is better), i wandered around for 5 hours. by myself. with no music or reading material.

me. a camera. a city. which is sometimes as it needs to be.

this past new year's, when i was throwing my troubles into that barbecue pit in west garfield, i decided one thing. this year, i was going to make a contentious effort to actually do the things i said i was going to do. because it's frightful how often people don't. how often i don't.

and i understand why that is. because even when you've paid, even when you're there, even when you've brought extra film, it can still be a bloody hell of hard work to gear up and get out the door. but, in the end, it's worth it. because you really never know.

it might rain the next three days solid. that might've been your only chance.


28 September 2010

0 yore

since our high school reunion last fall, there haven't been too many reminders of just how very old we are. so leave it to my mum, in a conversation about how my younger cousins have never not had email, to turn to me and offer the biggest reminder in the world by asking, do you remember how we used to go rent a VCR from blockbuster because VCRs were prohibitively expensive to own?

3 #9

vanilla.
my market bakery.
toronto, ontario.

27 September 2010

0 EVERYTHING.

August 25, 1997


[trans.
... Mummy and I bonded tonight.
we talked about EVERYTHING.
It was fun.
Then we watched a confusing episode of 7th Heaven.
F.C.]

25 September 2010

2 picture mail

in a pithy recap of my summer conversational topics, 
3 friends sent me the following pictures. 
the fact that they arrived within minutes of one another was just awesome.




3 dear jordan catalano, aspiring young model

what on earth?







[via]

24 September 2010

0 pretty


2 commitment issues


i first tried to read the new yorker in 1997. i was 16, so it didn't go well. this was back when partner and i were purchasing any and all publications featuring princess diana and i bought the new yorker solely because it featured a cover memorializing her. given that our hoarding was primarily motivated by The Pictures, the new yorker was an oddly inappropriate choice, and i subsequently complained to partner about all the money i'd wasted on this over-priced magazine with too much text and nonsensical cartoons.

(incidentally, what is it with teenage girls and magazines? [and, yes, i ask this as a girl who is still very much into magazines and often quite teenageresque] perhaps this was peculiar to us, but it went so far that in the dead of that august night, when we sat huddled before cnn on the telephone waiting for princess diana to die, partner whispered, "imagine the magazines!" a sentiment i had feverishly entertained myself but not voiced, and would, thus, subsequently tease her about for years and years.)

it wasn't until k.lo and i were in new york last march that i attempted the new yorker again, but even then it was mostly out of guilt for using the magazine as a prop in a staged facebook profile pic i ultimately never used (but have hereby used above so woo!). guilt being the motivator that it is, i forked over the $5.99 plus tax and read the damn thing the whole way home. because if i was going to pay for all those words, i sure as hell was going to read every single one.

this is probably where everything went horribly wrong. this idea that the new yorker was such an extravagant commodity that it had to be enjoyed to the fullest extent. to an extent that said enjoyment was diluted with grief and self-reproach.

because if i did not read the new yorker from cover to cover- a process that took, on average, a solid month and came at the expense of all other things i might be wanting to read- then i might miss Wondrous Things. like the brilliantly scathing review of the bounty hunter. or the story about the boy whose mother was a mexican porn star. or the feature on the arctic aeroballooners. perish the thought!

there is nothing i abhor more than missing out.

what i discovered from this experience of reading the new yorker was that i kind of loved reading the new yorker. a revelation i interpreted as a sign that i was fast approaching my twilight years, as what hip, tabloid-reading young lady loves the new yorker? in my mind, it was intended for middle aged men with elbow patches and crows feet. the new yorker was undoubtedly not meant for me.

and so i played hard to get, refusing to fork over money of my own and instead using the incidentals allowance from work travel- intended for such necessities as food and water- to buy an occasional copy. while it would've made a great heap of sense to subscribe, i could not bring myself do it. an hour of us weekly was taxing enough. i could tie myself to nothing more.

upon stating something along these lines to croftie last summer, her admission confirmed all my worst fears. she had once subscribed to the new yorker, a leap of faith rewarded with mountains of unread magazines. i found this unacceptable. my home needed no judgmental piles.

but i do like goals. and so in those heady days just before turning 29, i made some, one of which was that i would read 12 issues of the new yorker in my 29th year.

and with the wisdom that comes from turning 29, i realized there is a time when one must face facts. when one must accept the destiny that is so clearly coming.

after literally months of subscription contemplation and in light of the philosopher's articulate, oft-repeated point that in accomplishing my goal of reading 12 issues of the new yorker during the age of 29, i would, in fact, be spending $34.29 more in acquiring those 12 issues at the newstand than if i were receiving 47 issues in my home (a convenience rendered slightly less convenient by the inconvenient presence of the judgmental piles, but alas), i made the leap and chained myself to the new yorker for a whole entire year.

a seemingly huge yet embarrassingly small commitment over which i expended months of thought and hours of furrowed brow, only to solidify it in a tiny split second with the insouciant throw of a 3x5 60lb stock postcard into a mailbox and a triumphant toss of the hair.

23 September 2010

2 otom


the other night, a fellow only child and i gathered to talk about girls and boys and family closets and sugary cereals. but all you really need to know about any of this is that i ate green tea smoked octopus while sitting in an orange plastic lawn chair. people, i've come so far.

22 September 2010

0 dear man who honked at me in traffic,

thank you.

how else would a girl know her skirt's lining had ridden up so that her arse was visible from the road?

0 on a clear day you can cough forever

much like we only eat KFC at funerals, my family only ate chinese when it rained or when someone was ill.

the lone instance in which this was not the case happened to also be the infamous one time my grandmother stuck her pinkie in the hot mustard and tried it "just to see." an uncharacteristically bold move that left her coughing for days.

this resulted in a family-wide embargo on all asian mustards that, even now, i enforce by instantly throwing away the million packets that inevitably come with take-away lest they burn the esophageal tubes of someone i love.

it's probably not surprising that, based on this complex belief system regarding the function of chinese food in american weather patterns and public health, well into my teens i thought there was an intimate connection between egg drop soup, precipitation and puking. it wasn't until i got to college, where people ate chinese food simply because they wanted to eat chinese food, that i realized lemon chicken could function beyond the medicinal and that egg rolls did not have to be eaten on cloudy days.

i know this now, but still there is this impulse, even when k.clen and i've feasted on fried rice and sour soup on the sunny day just before. when the rain comes, nothing will do but chinese, because on drizzly gray days nothing tastes more like home. which makes absolutely no sense. and yet, kind of almost does.

21 September 2010

0 #8

strawberry milkshake.
tee & cakes.
boulder, colorado.


20 September 2010

0 oh young oline, little do you know you will one day love cigars

September 3, 1996


[trans.: George Burns died today. FINALLY.
He seemed to be one of those people who just lives eternally
even though you really could care less.
I had always sort of wished that he'd get lung cancer.]

19 September 2010

2 close up

my dad got his web camera the other day. the one he ordered so my mum could skype him while in denmark. yeah, not so much. but now at last, after near-daily reports on the webcam's progress from the amazon shipment center to mailbox #2762, it is here. so, of course, we had to test it.

as destiny would dictate, we tested it on one of the first truly cool nights of this chicago fall approximately twenty minutes after the discovery that i had flung the window open with such wild abandon in june that it was irreparably stuck come september, thus creating a living room climate inhospitably frigid and tornadic.

but because this was just my parents- one of whom had seen me less than a week prior and would, therefore, not interpret my present eccentricity as a long-term moral/mental slide- i concluded there was no need to keep up appearances. and so i sat comfy before the camera, swaddled in a leopard print blanket, sipping from a bottle of diet root bear.

i don't know what it says about my parents' perception of me that a solid ten minutes of small talk passed before my father looked deeply, earnestly into his camera and said, beeb, that beer is making your mother uncomfortable. and why on earth are you dressed like thor?

17 September 2010

1 l'ennemi public


the other evening- because the joaquin phoenix documentary got such bad reviews that our months-long desire to see it was killed- dananator and i saw mesrine: killer instinct. and while i don't usually love seeing husbands shove guns down their wives throats or people being tortured in prison by means of having the lights shut off mere seconds after they have received a letter that is now rendered unreadable because it is dark, i kind of loved this movie. because there's something terribly elegant about french gangsters and there are certain tuesday nights where even girls just want to sit in the dark and see shit blow up.

16 September 2010

4 today, on this day, last year in oline history

i smoked my first cigar.
in an alley. in wicker park. with the girls from bible study.
and smoking never looked so cool.





15 September 2010

0 leftovers

denmark by diana:









the five things i wrote down in the massive notebook i brought for all the writing down i thought i might do in denmark but ultimately didn't:

1. we are sitting in cafe bilcher over the biggest burger either of us have ever known when we discover we are in the home of the largest stationary elvis museum outside the u.s.

2. there are events that, even as they're happening, you know will probably be with you forever. i catch myself in one of those moments when, listening to coeur de pirate, i lie, curled up under an eiderdown in a tiny twin bed by a window watching the sun rise in the city where my mother was born.

3. we keep farmers hours, rising before dawn to tend to livestock we do not have.

4. she has the perpetually shocked expression of the over-botoxed.

5. i brought you all the way here so you would have a greater appreciation of your grandparents. my mother says this as we sit on a blanket on the floor of our hotel room eating caviar from a tin with a plastic spoon we've treasured since chicago because it is the only piece of cutlery that we have.


and a brief explanation of the historical/literary dorktasticness
of "my mother is a danish"
(the greatest allusion i've ever made that no one ever got):

1. "my mother is a fish": faulkner, william. as i lay dying. (new york: vintage, 1990), 84.
2. "i am a jelly doughnut": kennedy, john fitzgerald. ich bin ein berliner speech, 26 june 1963.

et fin.

14 September 2010

0 family time


i returned from denmark with a million dirty clothes, a heap of right-wing british political magazines, the world's largest lollipop, and a slew of jackie-related voice messages.

three of them do not count as they were from my father, who deployed the family caroline kennedy voice in a series of comical weeeeeeeeeeelcooooooooomes and plaudits for my dediiiiiiiiicaaaaaaaaaaaaatioooooon and sprawling pleas that i meet him in the liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiibraaaaaaaaaaaaary.

(yes, we have a family caroline kennedy voice and the family caroline kennedy voice is based solely on a speech caroline kennedy gave in 1979 welcoming people to the dedication of the JFK library wherein the only thing she said was, welcome to the dedication of this library. thus, the family caroline kennedy voice is strictly limited to topics surrounding libraries, dedications and welcomes- topics that, when one's family has a family caroline kennedy voice, come up with surprisingly greater frequency than one would ever imagine.)

the remaining messages, however, were from actual jackie-related people. impeccably mannered with such sprawling WASPy vowels that every time this happens, every time i hear them, i almost want to cry. because people talk like that no longer. those voices, these accents, they are a dying breed.

the manners are of a different age as well. even when they are unwilling to speak to me, still they call, their messages acknowledging receipt of my letters and asking that i, kindly, leave them alone. a display of such politesse that it has on more than one occasion prompted my grandmother, a life-long republican, to commend the grand etiquette of "those dread kennedy people."

what we learn from these messages is that most people are, apparently, willing to speak to me. people who actually knew jackie. people for whom she was not a tabloid construct or a character played by roma touched by an angel downey in a made-for-tv movie in 1992.

i assume they think i'm about 54. i imagine my youth will surprise them and that i will need to go easy on the eyeliner when we meet.

because, by this point, i'm pretty sure we are destined to meet. so, you can see, it's absolutely ideal that at this same point- thanks to an infelicitous rereading of janet malcolm's the silent woman- the prospect of talking to these people would suddenly be totally revolting to me.

i should be more clear. it's not so much the prospect of talking to them, as i've done that several times without a hitch so far. it's more the prospect of groveling at their feet, begging for scraps of information. above all, it is the prospect of hurting their feelings.

admittedly, in the face of janet malcolm's distaste for any biographical endeavor that prizes an investigation of the dead over the emotions of the living, it would be challenging for anyone with an inquiring mind and a soul and a desire to wrench the family treasures from jackie's loved one's hands not to feel a world-weary sense of moral decay. but still.

it's a terrible time to develop a biographical conscience.

the world famous biographess has her booths, but they are all safely dead and senseless. presumably, their friends are too. there is no need for approval. no relatives to rise up with pitchforks, incensed. no lingering sensation of impending familial fury, as though each and every sentence put on the page were a step forward into literary leprosy, a future forever constricted by kennedy condemnation.

there is no one with whom i can discuss this. the delicacy of not pissing off jackie's college roommate. the least offensive means of approaching caroline kennedy and abasing myself for the family treasures. i know no one who knows how to do this, and so i bumble along. and so i will keep bumbling along until it's done and done well.

because it is jackie. because there has always been jackie. and because, i know, for whatever reason- the feelings of everyone else be damned- i must not disappoint this dead woman i never knew.

13 September 2010

2 "ghastly" doesn't begin to convey the horror that was my driver's license photo, 1997-2003


[trans: Tuesday, 11:15
15 July 1997

Braves were pounded (8-1). Gianni Versace was killed this morning, shot in the head. It's really quite sad. I passed the driver's test. I had the most antisocial woman imaginable. She made me wait for an hour. By then my hostility had consumed my fear so I was no longer intimidated by her. My picture on my liscense is ghastly. I was biting my lip so I look as though I have some horrid facial deformity. I have decided that I've had enough of these Rites of Passage. I shall not participate in them again!]

12 September 2010

0 i'm leaving town, baby, i'm leaving town for sure (12.04.07)


during maph, a girl in one of my editing groups got to bitching about the south. she used the term "backward." she was talking about alexandria, virginia.

i wanted to slap her and say, honey, you'd think mississippi was the third world, but the tall guy who never turned in his work quickly lept in to defend the charms of louisiana and the conversation turned elsewhere.

that happened three years ago and i've not forgot. maybe i never will. maybe because i kind of sort of think it's true- an admission that is akin to standing amidst the daughters of the confederacy and bursting into a rousing chorus of "while we were marching through georgia."

maybe this is the curse of the southern immigrant- one must endlessly defend the south while also harboring an extreme awareness of its inadequacies.

i adore memphis. at least i always did and even though i ran from it, i think i kind of still do. it's my homeland, but not my home. and that's a really bizarre thing.

i can't begin to explain this city to people.

it's a politically incorrect, charismatic, strangely generous guy with a raunchy sense of humor and mismatched socks. you want to introduce him to your other friends, but you're pretty sure the minute he opened his mouth, they'd know he's bad news.

aristotle onassis, but without the business sense or the millions- just the barstools.

that's not an explanation though. it's just a string of faulty metaphors.

to me, memphis is the most restless of cities. there's a rhythm to the streets- as though the current of the river were shaking the bluffs and elvis was just humming along. while i've always loved this quality, it's like dating someone who's entirely too like you, so you just wind up driving each other mad.

memphis and i are too similar. we're too tightly wound. and that makes me want to run.

and yet there are these moments and there's that river.

i called croftie once in the middle of a memphis moment, blubbering that i was driving down beale with the river ahead. i probably sounded drunk. because that means nothing to you if you're not from memphis. if you are from memphis, it means the world.

because in the end, it all comes down to music and muddy water.

11 September 2010

0 are we too sexy for our shirts? (17.09.08)


we're in the midst of a burlesque craze around here.

i know. you're all reeling in horror, fluttering and fanning yourselves, thinking, gasp! how can the oline we all said in high school would read books during sex be burlesquing?!?! shocking! scandalous! swoon!

my mum had pretty much the same initial reaction and ever since has prefaced every discussion of my tuesday evening activities with the line, dripping with the same dread and concern exhibited by the mothers of strippers the world over, you know, cupcake, this is a fun diversion but it's not something nice young ladies pursue... professionally... as though show were something i could apply for. like a secretarial job or the peace corps.

it's more like the national honor society. by invite only.

so we're burlesquing. croftie and i (albeit i'm way back in kindergarten while she's wielding props and robes). with michelle l'amour, whose ass goes pow.

this'll sound très self-involved (a self-involvement i'm clearly aiming to leaven with the insertion of gratuitous french from my vast frenchy vocabulary of vingt et un), but burlesque has taught me many, many things about myself. great sprawling ideological discoveries that can be condensed to a pithy list of trois.

un (aaaaaaaaaand... i'm done), i cannot shimmy. i can shake my ass. i can convulse my shoulders. i can point my boobs here and there like wonder woman in a bullet-shooting bra. and i can pseudo-shimmy for about 3.2 seconds before i think, OH MY GOD, I'M SO CLOSE TO SHIMMYING!, completely lose my concentration and go back to shaking my shoulders and looking like a pre-orgasmic skeleton hung from the rafters, suspended on strings.

this is not attractive.

so now, because vivian velvet says the shimmy is hard and practice makes perfect, i shimmy at home. the vieve is discreet. she won't be gossiping to her sewing circle about how her crazy oline has suddenly taken to slinking about the house, shoulders spasming, arms flailing about with all the grace and elegance of an epileptic ethel mertz.

which brings us to my next self-involved point. the amazing power of context (second only to the scary power of hair). i'm 27. i've spent a decade doing yoga, eating my vegetables, believing cupcakes a necessity, and frowning at women who look like lollipops. i finally feel comfortable in my own skin. and then i face michelle l'amour's mirrors.

michelle l'amour's mirrors are mean bitches. because, as croftie and i have both discovered, when surrounded by voluptuous women in boob tops, we are skin and bones. in front of michelle l'amour's (elongating? trick? funhouse? devil?) mirrors, i am all leggings and lace. a pasty white slip of a ghost. lara flynn boyle after two and a half cheeseburgers.

this is horrifying.

maybe it's the dance clothes. maybe if we wore dresses with beads and fringe, we'd have more curves. more to work with. more to shake. my classmates twigged onto this early. they trotted out their rhinestone necklaces and red patent heels weeks ago. i didn't make my first hesitant move towards urchin-hooker chic until last night. a move that climaxed with a strut down several highly trafficked chicago streets in ripped leggings, a green ass-clinging tank top, a plaid button-down from the sear's boys department, and boots.

hot.

this is depaul undergrad fashion at its apex and, because i am a judgmental elitist, it is an outfit i have made fun of many a time. but such hypocrisy seems negligible after burlesque. maybe it's just the flashdance glamor of having danced! [insert jazz hands here], but in the afterglow, my judgie-wudgie qualms re: slubbing downtown in lindsay lohan's best are entirely erased.

i said i was leading up to something but, really, i'm not. all i've got is these three things. and from them, collectively, one would think we would be able to glean a fundamental, earth-shattering truth, but i haven't been able to glean anything except maybe that one should not judge- which seems like it should have been evident enough before.

but that is what i am left with. that one should not judge. because in the harshness of michelle l'amour's mirrors, we're all just an ill-clad, skin and bones, shimmying mess. which, maybe- just maybe- is kinda fucking sexy.

10 September 2010

0 ruthless (28.09.08)



my father's mother died 9 years ago tomorrow.

i've spent the past 9 years waiting for her to call me back.

grandma ruth. my first memories aren't so much of her but of the huge cardboard boxes she would send. boxes polluted by the cigarette smoke that hung in the air of her two-room trailer like the heat trapped in a parked car. they had to be detonated, opened and aired out on our door step. smoking cauldrons from whence homemade treasures and barbie dreamhouses would later emerge.

things like that didn't happen at gran and paw-paw's, where we ate watermelons, played croquet, and held hands when we prayed. even then, it was so obvious. grandma ruth's world was worlds away.

she was loud and colorful and divorced. she had been to greece. she said things you weren't supposed to say and she said them with sweeping, dramatic hand gestures. whenever she blew into town in aqua capri pants and a blaze of marlboro smoke, life seemed more exotic. birthday cakes melted. my hair was braided. we ate chinese.

to me, she was a celebrity. except she was from binghampton, new york. binghampton. hollywood. both places so far away to my little kid mind that they might almost be neighbors. like on a flat map, how russia couldn't seem further from alaska's back yard...

i saw her maybe seven or eight times that i remember. the longest stretch being the summer before she died, when i camped out on her pull-out sofa over 4th of july, cramming on russian verbs. we went to denny's four times in two days, because in binghampton, denny's was what you did.

she had given up smoking by then and as we sat in plastic lawn chairs drinking tea, she gestured with a fake, styrofoam cigarette, waving it about for emphasis. i remember being struck by the fact that it was the first time i had really seen her. without the smoke, there was no need to squint.

then i graduated and went to college and didn't call her nearly enough and suddenly, a month later, she was gone.

which is something i have still yet to fully grasp. in my head she's up in binghampton, in the same trailer, going to denny's and smoking up a storm. how could she not be?

in drop dead gorgeous, the neighbor loretta reminds me of her and i always think, i should really call grandma ruth. i don't. but i always think it.

when i was a kid, my family had this dog. the Greatest Dog of All Time. arthur. say his name all these years later and it's like we're instantly transported to that moment where we sat on the garage steps on a dark february night and came to the unanimous family consensus that we had to let arthur die. it's pretty much just assumed now that for the rest of our lives we will be in deep mourning for that dog.

i've done a dangerous thing here. i've set up a contrast between my grandmother and a dog.

but here's the (other) thing that makes me a bad person. i didn't feel that way about grandma ruth. i tried but i didn't. for me, there was no mourning. her death lacked immediacy. probably because The Call came far before any of us had begun to prepare to expect it.

she never seemed fragile. she never fell apart. we've been locked into a who knows how many years-long deathwatch for my gran and paw-paw since 1995, but grandma ruth was tough. she could take it. she was too alive to die. and then she did.

the only time i really felt her absence was at her memorial service the following summer, and only then because i knew she would be pissed we were having a party without her.

i was in mississippi when she died, beginning one of the not greatest years of my life and already well on my way to a D in chemistry. suddenly everything was different but nothing had changed.

the raspy voice on the other end of the phone had gone silent.

my parents went to new york without me.

our cat died.

things fall apart.

my mum and i have only talked about this time once. years later. at the intersection of hacks cross and poplar pike, while we waited for a train to pass, out of the blue she asked if i was ok about grandma ruth. i said yes. it seemed a little late to say no.

it's not that i didn't love her. that i don't love her still. that i don't miss her. no. it's like she isn't gone. like i said something she has yet to forgive me for and she won't call me back.

at concerts, i'll catch a whiff of marlboro smoke and turn around to look for her. as though a gogol bordello show were a likely venue for grandmotherly resurrection.

waiting for graduation at the u of c, as the bagpipes started and croftie said her pithy thing, a flash of fury ran through me that my grandmother didn't even think to show up. then i remembered why she wasn't there.

when i think about it, when i really really think about it, i can't stand the silence. but then, i shouldn't expect anything.

she wrote me a letter the day before she died. it came the friday after.

she had the last word.

09 September 2010

2 four things

1.


knowing nothing about this except that my calling it "cake ball" made my mother blush and that it was sold in a 1 kg format apparently intended to feed an entire danish family for a week, i decided to give the miniature version a go. i didn't know what it was then and, having eaten it, i'm still not quite sure except that it's a mousse-like, cake-like vaguely cocoa-flavored thing covered in the barest membrane of dark chocolate, rolled in rainbow sprinkles with flecks of what may or may not be almonds and with what appears to be half a raisin at the center. and that it is the greatest baked good ever made.

2.

sweden, clouds, hamlet's castle
[more]

3.

there are three solid hours of american crime dramas on danish tv every night. television we would deem beneath us at home but that is somehow made irresistible by the derth of english-language channels and a hotel room bed. i had not realized how important a part of our day this had become until my mother bolted upright from a nap and asked, worry creasing her brow, did i miss the american murders?

4.
for lindear, swedish rubbers.


0 passportation (02.03.09)


i hate audrey hepburn. because audrey hepburn always looked like audrey hepburn. even in her passport photograph.

i do not look like audrey hepburn in my passport photograph.

and yes, the bulk of the reason behind this (ignoring the fact that the swiss seem to allow one to look moodily away into the far-off distance and i would look better if they let me look moodily away) may be that i am not, in fact, audrey hepburn (which is probably for the best because that would make me a painfully thin, dead film star who had- most likely- made love to [the man who in my family lexicon is known as {and this just goes to show how i terrorized my parents with television biographies to such an extent that we have a family nickname for audrey hepburn's lover}] robbie wolders, lover of the stars).

it is my goal to never make love to robbie wolders, lover of the stars.

but i would like to have a good passport photograph. because you need a passport to go to places like paris and florence and dubrovnik and rome and when going to a glamorous place like paris or florence or dubrovnik or rome, what woman wants to whip out a passport that makes the aesthetic statement: i am sexually confused young man?

it isn't such a great demand. to want a photograph that captures the spirit of all the glamorous travel one will presumably be doing in the glamorous decade of passported persondom to come. a photograph where i do not look like a sexual predator or a pale, frightened red-haired boy.

as my passport came up for renewal this month, i thought this would be my chance. i don't know why i pinned all my hopes for a kick-ass photograph upon a lunch break spent beneath the harsh fluorescent glow (soft lighting, wherefore art thou?) of the walgreen's photo counter. stupid, really.

thus, the dream has been deferred.

but- to be ever positive- if i someday have need to pass as a shy russian lass forced into international travel on the way to inevitable poverty and a sex slave doom, i think we have just the shot.

08 September 2010

0 odense + københavn

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0 just like US (21.05.09)


i can no longer afford tabloids. yes, at long last, the economic downturn has hit home.

mind you, this does not imply that my financial fortunes, meager though they may be, have changed. just that magazine wholesalers have gone the way of the dinosaurs and the us weekly subscription that was once two years for $12 is now a preposterous $79.99 for one.

thus, an experiment upon which i embarked years ago comes to an end. you see, back in my naive, dorktastic youth, i had the noble idea of subscribing to various gossip magazines for the specific purpose of charting the development of characters, plots, archetypes, etc. over the course of several years and across different publications. i did this in the name of Research, knowing full well that i would enjoy it very much.

because tabloids, they are of the devil.

i knew this. i'd read irving schulman. i'd interviewed readers. i knew what i was getting myself into and i did it nonetheless.

i sensed there was trouble brewing sometime in early December 2006, when the InTouch screaming "NICK & JESS BUST UP!" landed at my door two days after i was dumped and the article on how jessica simpson was drowning her sorrows in six-packs of zima hit entirely too close to home.

it is never good when the advice of a "medical expert who has never treated her but is familiar with her case" resonates.

so as a rational person, i know it's not an entirely bad thing that the tabloids are leaving my life. it's probably even for the best. i should not relate to jessica simpson. i should not know jennifer aniston's hair-dresser's name. nor should i know the precise age of everyone in the public eye. but how to prepare for this life-change?

because it is a life-change. 6 years of tabloids. 312 weeks. sure, there were a couple dry spells here and there. lapsed subscriptions. issues that got stuck at the post office and were delivered five weeks late. but still. tabloids are what thursday is for.

so i steeled myself for that first thursday when us weekly would not come.

that thursday came this past thursday, when i opened my mailbox and was greeted by emptiness. it was sad, but i totally took it like a man. i even boasted to friends that i'd survived my first week without us weekly, like this was a triumph on par with brokering world peace.

stupid girl, i flattered myself that, in a mere week, i had totally kicked tabloid addiction's ass.

the next day, my mailbox yielded what proclaimed itself to be the LAST ISSUE. the official final us weekly, with the "we'll miss you" and everything.

and my first thought, my only thought was-- much like when rose jumped out of the lifeboat and ran into jack's arms-- oh, thank God. i wasn't ready to let you go.

07 September 2010

0 the break-up (15.12.08)

my building has become melrose place. this is what comes of our proximity to depaul.

there was the kid who stood by my opened screen door discussing the intimate details of his girlfriend's abortion. then there was the guy who had a breakdown, set fire to his furniture and threw it out his window. and then there are, of course, the nights of well, FUCK you... no, fuck YOU.

but last night pretty much takes the cake as far as award-winning arlington place dramatic performances go.

in the dead of last night, from 12:02 a.m. to 12:37 a.m. and then again briefly from 1:13 a.m. to 1:19, a girl stood wailing in the street, screaming for scott, the boy that broke her heart, who either lived in my building or whose doorstep was close enough to benefit from the exceptional amplification powers of our courtyard.

acoustics that made it sound as though the woman scott had abandoned was now hovering over my bed, keening, in quite possibly the most visceral pain i have ever heard another human being be in.

i should be clear- we are not talking stanley kowalski. this was not STELLA! that was comparatively short. a shout in the night. it was something altogether else. you know kurt cobain's howl in the final 10 seconds of "where did you sleep last night"? imagine that- only it's a woman and it's dragged out over a collective 41 minutes and the lyrics are now i love you... you make me want to die.

maybe she was hammered. or in the midst of a psychotic break. because when we are in our right mind, no matter how much it hurts, we have our limits. we write poems/kiss our best friend/drink zima/watch dr. quinn. we have the mental and emotional wherewithal to step back from the brink and realize that, tempting as it may be, threatening suicide in the middle of a street in the middle of a sunday night may not be the way to win him back.

i'm rather ashamed to admit that while all this was going on, i did nothing. even the neighbor- after an especially shattering scream and the subsequent sound of a body making contact with a parked car- could be heard tiptoeing downstairs to make sure no one had died. but i remained in bed. partly because i could hear the voice of a sober, quieter friend chime in from time to time. and partly because i couldn't fathom coming face-to-face with someone in so much unleashed pain.

because as you move away from one relationship and into another, you kind of forget how badly breakups suck. you have to, otherwise no one would have another relationship ever again. these days, whenever someone is going through that, my less than honorable instinct is to recoil, to pull back. as though being in the vicinity of those emotions might somehow make them spill onto me. might remind me how big a risk we run every time we let someone in and set me roaming the streets, wailing grief for i know not what.

the thing that got me last night and haunted me all today is this: through the whole 41 minutes- in which the torment of this person i do not know was almost too much for me to bear- scott said nothing. maybe scott wasn't home. maybe scott had made a vow never to talk to her again. maybe she had given him a reason to ignore her. maybe she was at the wrong building.

or maybe scott was curled up in bed like me, paralyzed by the harrowing pain being unloosed on our sidewalk.

regardless, he said nothing.

she screamed into silence. she dropped her glove in the snow outside the gate she shook repeatedly. she went balls out crazy person on a night the wind-chill was 12 below.

scary, yes. crazy, probably. but seriously. how fucking romantic.

06 September 2010

2 two words

elvis museum.

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0 eyeliner equals power (12.09.06)


i'm not a fan of makeup. lotions, perfumes, polishes and powder puffs are divine. lipstick, not so much. ditto for most everything else.

so my war paint is limited to red or black nail lacquer, bonnie bell chapstick, and a whole hell of a lot of eyeliner. because eyeliner equals power.

if you're a girl and you wait tables, your income is directly proportional to the amount of eyeliner present. it's the "tip eyes phenomenon." plainoline earned pennies; eyelinedoline raked in the dough. astonished by this fact, i quickly took to being ever-eyelinedoline. not so people would toss money my way, but out of intrigue. it was too fascinating a plot twist not to pursue. it has become one of my very few vestiges of grownupness.

thanks in part to cleopatra, mata hari, and tammy faye baker, eyeliner is often considered risque. in modernity, i lay much of the blame for this on liz taylor, who steered her sexual tabaggon down a wayward slope, violet eyes flawlessly lined all the way. and really liz taylor provides a convenient metaphor. eyeliner: occasionally tacky but so damn sexy.

it's really all about timing. before noon, the eyelined beget blatant disapproval. riding the blue line at 7 a.m. on a sunday morning, the hamptons sweater, the converse, the pigtails and the penguin classic mattered not. seeing only the eyeliner, a woman who looked far naughtier than i literally picked herself up from the seat next to me and relocated. she thought i had been somewhere Scandalous and had participated in some Scandal. or was on the verge of Scandalosity at a Scandalously early hour. eyeliner in the morn? SCANDALOUS!

after the noon, it's somewhat more acceptable. the glances less frequent, the intolerance less overt. however, the double-takes and the lips of disapproval persist and there's a lingering sense of what has that girl been up to? couldn't have been anything good. as a good girl, this amuses me to no end.

ironically, after the hours of persecution, in the evening- when being a bad girl is socially condoned- eyeliner is suddenly enthusiastically applauded. and it actually seems to lure people in rather than send them running to the clear opposite end of the train.

always drawn to the narrative, i think it's because we're taught that our eyes tell our story. and it's a story made more arresting simply by being bound in kohl. a story with unimaginable, bewitching possibilities. a story not to be missed. and maybe, in reality, there's no story there- because empty hope in beautiful bottles is the beauty of makeup. but it makes you look and it makes you wonder. sometimes it makes you gawk. sometimes it makes you walk over and engage in really stupid dancing and buy drinks for a group of girls who aren't going to go home with you. and really that's not our fault. it's the eyeliner, baby. power, i say. power.

05 September 2010

0 photographers snip snap (10.11.06)

in which oline (to whom things happen that don't happen to most everyone else)
feebly attempts to convey an event so stupidly absurd
that its 100% trueness defies even oline's comprehension... and she was there


today, i gave my first autograph.

but let me begin at the beginning.

i hate umbrellas. almost as much as i hate birds.

but, no. i should go back further.

i should go back to my irrational fear of electrocution. yes, that's the beginning. i used to have this irrational fear of electrocution. every doorknob held the threat of a shocking death. static cling left me quaking in my zippered boots. a logical hysteric, i developed a slew of preventative measures to delay my inevitable death by doorknob shock.

at some point, i wised up and transfered the irrationality to the more obvious threat: umbrellas. because, by God, umbrellas are frightful. as does most everything else, this comes back to my loathing of eyeballs. umbrellas have spikes. eyeballs-on-spikes. horror.

because i hate umbrellas, i ventured out into the icky chicago blustery rain this afternoon bundled in the green coat, the yellow scarf and the blue hat, and wearing the HUGE sunglasses (because waterproof eyeliner has yet to be invented).

walking down clark street, i was innocently bopping to brian eno's "baby's on fire," savoring the dramatic irony that baby's firey plight was unfolding while i was being drenched, when suddenly a hand clasped my arm.

fearful of an umbrella encounter, i lept back, only to see a benign kid. a girl of maybe 15 or 16 (i'm old. ages blur. she could've easily been 22.). this girl, wearing those pants where you can tell- even from the front- that there's writing on the ass, stood there clutching my arm.

i looked for weaponry. because the sidewalk in front of The Weiner's Circle seemed as good a place as any to be assaulted by a teenybopper with HOTT STUFF written on her ass. but no. hott stuff brandished nothing but a pen.

hot stuff seemed short of breath. she seemed to have a desperate need to speak to me. i shut up the upod and looked at her quizically.

DAMN. NICK. hott stuff exclaimed, practically retching the words. as though she couldn't get them out fast enough. both syllables dripping with unmitigated hatred.

obviously, hott stuff had been electrocuted by the doorknob at The Weiner's Circle and what i was witnessing were the residual twitches of the electrical currents combined with a mild case of tourettes.

hott stuff reached to pull something out of her bag. an umbrella?! i wondered, with furrowed, fearful brow. a battered back issue of STAR emerged. my relief was visible.

still recovering from the stress of her recent electrical shock, hott stuff fumbled through the magazine, increasingly frantic as the raindrops dashed across the glossy pages. finally, she heaved a sigh of content and thrust the open page toward me, pointing at the headline, Jess To Nick: You're a Girlie Man!

hott stuff leaned closer. she offered me the pen, which i took for fear she might activate a button, upon which the harmless-looking pink sparkly writing utensil would explode into one of those umbrellas for cocktail drinks. eyeballs-on-balsa. ouch.

hott stuff thrust the magazine at me and leaned in, as though she were confessing a deep secret for which she had spent weeks ratchetting up the courage. hott stuff looked deep into my sunglasses.

she looked deep into my sunglasses and said, i just love your sister.

04 September 2010

3 milk


2 stephen the freshman (29.07.09)

old age must be setting in because last night, apropos of nothing, i remembered that there was this guy in college named stephen the freshman who kind of came on to me and whom i had completely forgotten about.

and we're talking completely. as in, totally obliterated from any memories of college, in no way factored into the schematic of my romantic life and not thought of in at least 9 years.

then there i was last night, sipping a vodka cranberry, reading the corrections and suddenly, out of nowhere: oh my God, stephen the freshman.

i met stephen the freshman at some sort of back to school bonfire or something. (somehow the whole beginning of sophomore year has become enmeshed with the james van der beek classic rules of attraction so it could have been a hoedown for all i know, but in my mind it is the End of the World Party.) all i remember is sitting on a hill west of the football stadium next to my cheerleader roommate whom i had yet to come to hate while this freshman, stephen the freshman, hit on us the friday before the start of class.

i had a boyfriend, a steven of my own, but somehow, i went home with stephen the freshman's phone number.

this was as/just after Steven The Steven had become gay (round 2), while CP was on the horizon, and right before i kind of made my half-hearted move on The Soup. i honestly do not know how long it went on or if it was before or after i went to The Soup's dorm room and read him The Poems and he subsequently tried to kiss me to no avail, but at some point in there, in that incredibly confusing september of 2000, when i was absolutely convinced i had made a man gay and therefore hung out with every guy i could find who would have me, there was stephen the freshman, whom i had completely forgotten until last night.

all in all stephen (steven? i don't even know) the freshman was only memorable in that he was the only guy who ever made a pass at me that i didn't date. (unless we count david finklestein, but really, when does david finklestein ever count?) this pass was, i think, if i remember correctly, maybe made during a tickle fight that took place approximately 60 minutes into our screening of the hurricane in stephen the freshman's dorm room.

he tickled me.

there was an awkward moment where we probably should've kissed.

i left.

i think i maybe went on a date with The Soup later that night.

i was supposed to come back for the other half of the movie some other evening. i was supposed to call him. but after he came closer to my lips than any other guy up to that point other than a gay one had come, i never did.

i never went back. he never called me. i never saw the end of the hurricane. and i never saw stephen the freshman again.

i have vague memories of trying to find him later on. maybe later that year. maybe the year after. but he was no longer in the university's stalker directory and i assumed he must've transferred. i'll admit there was an excessively vain part of me that assumed he'd transferred because he couldn't bear not being with me.

college is a funny, funny world, where people never have last names and are defined by their majors. it's ironic then that i have no memory of steven the freshman's major. i remember only three things:

he was from louisianna. he hated his roommate. he joined blockbuster for me.