31 December 2008
"nothing says 'I love you' like a reindeer with diarrhea."
"i can't imagine anything more hilarious than carrie bradshaw in st. louis."
"i am really rocking the area of the beautiful uselessnesses."
"i was thinking turkey sandwich meat and green beans and a glass of wine."
"that sounds so single."
"well, there's always pasta-roni."
"that sounds so single parent."
"i've been in love. but i've never been rich. i would like to try that."
"he was single and then he was in a relationship and here i can't even commit to 'it's complicated.'"
"do we get snow days in the corporate world?"
"it's right by the transients home on clark."
"there's a transients home on clark?"
"yeah, right by where that bakery where you and your parents got the bad service used to be."
"oh, i always wondered why the transients were always there."
"yeah, it's no wonder no business can thrive there. transients are not ideal for fine dining."
"we've never taken my daughter to church and the other day she asked 'who's jesus?' so i guess the time has come."
"meanwhile, i'm really pissed off because he just changed into long johns when i was waiting to tell him off."
"it was a real, grown-up party, where people introduced themselves and shook your hand before getting really really wasted."
"it is your responsibility as a girl to find unexplained delight in random, tiny things."
"all of the belgians are sluts. you don't learn how to make waffles like that unless you're a slut."
"it doesn't need an editor. it needs an exorcism."
28 December 2008
we need to talk about grandparents for a moment.
a few years ago- just before christmas, on my grandfather's birthday- my grandmother fell and broke her hip and early on in the long year of the doctors putting her back together, she and i shared this nightmarish night alone together in a hospital in tupelo, mississippi. everyone else was exhausted and they all went home. so it was me and her alone at such a late hour our manners prevented us from summoning everyone back for help.
so we sat in her room just looking at each other, waiting.
it was the only time i've heard my grandmother say the word "porno."
we were both of us convinced she was going to die.
there are moments, random tiny fleeting glances during the hour or two we have together every three or four months now, when she catches my eye with a look that i can only feebly describe as quiet pride and unmitigated grit. i don't know what it means. only that it has something to do with the night she didn't die. something to do with me having been there.
she's a tough one. friday night, my grandfather sat in bed- tears shining in his eyes, spilling down his cheeks, falling onto his bandaged hand that was holding mine- his voice cracking as he talked about how proud he was of her.
their victories are precious. coming off calcium shots. good blood pressure readings. no fluid in the lungs.
it's funny how the world contracts when you get older. how everything is suddenly pared down to the essentials, the fundamental level of individual failing body parts.
i worry about what i'm going to do with my life. how i'm going to get to the same place as the boy i love. how i'm going to convince him to let me have four dogs.
right now, my grandparents whole world- where they're going to be in three months, what they're going to be doing tomorrow- hinges upon a heart.
they've been married for eleven hundred years and it's impossible to believe there was ever a time they weren't together, because you don't think about joe without burvil. gran without pawpaw.
she's a tough cookie, he said, but the women in my family aren't always as tough as they look.
in the wee hours of friday morning, when he was hospitalized for the side-effects of a heart attack he didn't know he had suffered three weeks before, my grandmother pulled herself up to her full 4 feet, 9 inches and pulled everything together. she grabbed his toothbrush, his wallet, the phone charger, the roller-board of medicines and the neatly typed list of all their names. she rode in the ambulance. she filled out all the forms. she made it look very easy.
only later did she admit she'd forgotten to put on any underwear.
19 December 2008
15 December 2008
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.
14 December 2008
11 December 2008
10 December 2008
09 December 2008
08 December 2008
despite the fact that i am not from new york, do not live in new york, and do not particularly love new york, it matters very greatly to me that caroline kennedy become the senator from new york.
i was trying to explain this to OK last night. how the election of barack obama was great and all and a huge step for racial reconciliation and hypo-allergenic dogs, but this was different. this was cataclysmic.
if caroline kennedy were put in a senate seat, we would officially have attained heaven on earth.
there are some obvious reasons for my enthusiasm here.
we share a name. generally, i root for all carolines and this would be big win for the team.
a huge fan of socialist monarchy, i also harbor a fervent belief that, put simply, this is the kennedy family seat. rfk carpetbagged his way into it. jfk, jr. was going to snag it if hillary hadn't run and he hadn't died. it seems somehow fitting that it fall into caroline's lap now.
and it seems somehow fitting that this outlandishly intelligent woman whose political role, until this past summer, has been confined to being the family delegate at state funerals of dead presidents, should finally- please, God!- leap into the fray.
05 December 2008
i'm a big fan of euthanasia. i should qualify that. it does not mean i am consistently hovering over hospital beds with cyanide-laced bryer's slow churned. just that when something is clearly going to die, i think, in most instances, (particularly with important things like pets and fashions) it is inhumane not to make that process a teeny bit easier. to turn off the machines. to stop the pain.
in 1963, my grandfather paid $149.50 for what has become Our Family Piano. it's an old upright. a reformed player whose most notable characteristic is that every third key is chipped from the day that a now-legendary naughty neighbor boy came over and attacked our ivories with a drum stick. as in an actual drum stick- not a fried chicken leg.
so this is how i learned to play. measuring the distance and feel of the notes by the jagged razor at the end of every third key. foreign pianos always seemed so strange. pianos with all their pieces that hadn't withstood the inexplicable aggression of passing naughty 1960s youths.
there was a time when i played this old beat up thing every day. for hours. back in the days before books and boyfriends and dr. quinn, when all my love and excitement could be funneled, unadulterated, into an upright and a dog.
i swore i would be faithful. that i would never abandon what i, with horrid pretension, called "my gift."
(in addition to being in favor of assisted death, i also believe teachers should never encourage children in anything vaguely artistic. it only results in the entertainment of lofty impossibilities and belatedly mortifying pompousness.)
as a kid, i used to harangue my mother- often a mere beat after the final note of tchaikovsky in her bi-annual run-through of sleeping beauty for beginners- about how she never played the piano any more and how i was different and music was such a huge part of my life that when i grew up, you wouldn't see me not playing a piano for months and months.
i am grown up.
i have not played the piano in years and years.
that's not entirely true, but it's pretty damn close.
last weekend, in what i am certain was sheer torture to my parents, i played for the first time since july. for two hours, i slogged through the same six-page sonatina over and over again to little avail. by dinner, my father had choreographed an appropriately halting and jerky interpretive dance. trust me, it is nothing like riding a bike.
people always say you'll never look as good as you do in your twenties. no one ever said i'd never play as well as i did at seventeen.
speaking of euthanasia...
the piano- our piano, my piano- has fallen apart. it is dying. the keys are loose, the pedals are floppy, and the sound is akin to a kazoo swallowed by a whale with its head stuck in a bucket. it has been tuned once in seven years. this is no way to live.
but how does a piano die?
instruments seem immortal. you see that violin from 1222 sold by sotheby's for millions and you never stop to think of all the violins of its graduating class that gave their lives along the way.
for years, i've fantasized a lovely reunion scene where Our Family Piano comes pulling up to my house and is plopped in the bay window of the music room and i play all the live long day, the four collies curled around the bench.
there are many impossibilities in that sentence, the greatest being that piano living to see the day that i could afford a home.
the piano has to die, but you can’t put a piano down. i've killed a sofa. i've cut up dresses into shirts. i am capable of creative thought, but here, i am stumped. i just can't.
it requires a hardness of the soul that i do not possess.
at least i didn't think i did, until croftie and i went to macy's and, thanks to our current financial crisis- which is apparently not conducive to the buying of huge, overpriced musical instruments- the basement was stuffed with pianos. one was an ivory baby grand.
love at first sight.
now i am haunted by the thought i'll be saddled with this damn Family Piano for years and years and years. that i will never have something prettier because it will never let go. it will never die. my soul has completely, utterly hardened. but then maybe this is what growing up is. toughening up. letting go.
when Our Family Piano was last tuned, way back in 2002, my mum inquired about its fate. whether it should be internally overhauled. whether there was any hope.
the piano man, whom i always took for a romantic because he would whip out a viennese waltz at a moment's notice, reached out, ran a ginger glissando up those battered, broken keys i love and said this, when you get right down to it, i know ya love it, but let's be realistic here, it's just noise in a box.
he said that and my jaw hit the floor. but now i can’t help but think he might’ve been right. maybe it is just noise in a box. and maybe you can put a piano down.
03 December 2008
between the release of the new britney and monday night's preview for next week's gossip girl, in which bart bass is clearly going to die and lily slaps chuck for reasons we do not yet know, there is not enough day for all the copy room conversations that need to be had.
30 November 2008
"they are probably the healthiest members of the fry kingdom."
"i think the word 'relationship' is being used a little too liberally here."
"well if it's on facebook, it has to be true."
"oh, it was just zoe. i thought it was pearl doing a face-plant in the candy dish."
"sometimes parents can become clueless old people sooner than we expect."
"this is a pivotal visit! the first time you've seen him since you've voted for a winning president."
"never in my life have i been so excited about girlie drinkie drinks."
"they might be bunking in a manger but at least they'll be bunked."
"i just suck sometimes."
"if it makes you feel any better, i'm a selfish bitch who orchestrates her life to be as big an inconvenience as possible for everyone around me."
"yeah, well that's just speculation. i'm proven to suck."
"hopefully he will die and this will never become an issue."
"and i totally understand if you don't want to talk about your mom's uterus anymore."
"it's like a shower of awesomes over here."
"the snow makes me so happy. i could just write a book about it."
"i didn't rob the cradle, but it was still rocking."
"today is the day linda will not be a Team Player."
28 November 2008
27 November 2008
25 November 2008
well, it wasn't so much a cut as the dislodgement of a small chunk of fingermeat. a bringing out into the light of day that tender skin God tucks delicately beneath each nail when we're in the womb under the proviso we will keep it there.
if it were possible for the integumentary system to scream, mine did when the vieve- admittedly justified in her attack after twenty minutes of tickling- sunk her knife-tooth into the nailbed i had brought to the brink of blood a mere five hours before.
but i'm a tough girl. i wiped away a tear, put on a bandaid, whined to eF and promptly forgot about it.
until yesterday, when, during a free moment, i thoroughly inspected the fingertip i could no longer flex to type.
for all my affectations of "i sit around in satin and high heels drinking champagne all day" glamour, the 12-year-old in me harbors a morbid fascination for the many ways in which our bodies go violently wrong.
so what did i do upon realizing that despite three days of bandages and neosporin, the cleft alongside my nailbed looked more like a hearty slice of raw bacon than healed?
stabbed it, of course.
inevitably, it was a disappointment. the stream of blood that shot out and landed on the counter, the color of a pacific sea nettle and the shape of a nuclear bomb, was unconvincing. poetic, yes, but unconvincing. more oliver stone than abraham zapruder. and nowhere near worth the whole hell of pain that shoots through that damn finger with every keystroke now.
24 November 2008
(1) a woman in our office got this new hairstyle. a hairstyle so over-processed and suspiciously synthetic, i came this close to complimenting her on the new wig.
(2) today i wore a garnished headband that has variously been called a "hairpiece" and a "bow." seriously, people. it is clearly a dimonique-studded teal satin ribbon rosette.
21 November 2008
20 November 2008
but somewhere in the midst of such utilitarianism, in the collective u of c mind, the midway became the arbitrary point that separated the university from the explosive ghetto in its coddled, faux-ivy backyard. an invivisble fence that kept the rapists and murderers and hoodlums at bay. you could go anywhere on campus, but beyond the midway, you were on your own and anarchy was king.
there is a whole world of racism wrapped within this perception.
DON'T GO BEYOND THE MIDWAY. that is what we were told when we lived in hyde park.
never mind that i was egged twice there in a single night, hyde park was safe. whatever lay beyond was hell on earth.
this was the belief with which we were indoctrinated from day one. from the prospective weekend the april before we even enrolled. it quite possibly appeared in the application's fine print. great minds come here, but they DON'T GO BEYOND THE MIDWAY!
from the outside, the midway appears totally harmless. there are no gun-toting thugs patrolling the border. no pickpockets limbering up their hands. now and again, one would emerge from the shadows of the quadrangles and cast a furtive glance toward this lush sunny green expanse that looked less like harlem and more like a fairy-filled enchanted wood. but they said, DON'T GO BEYOND THE MIDWAY, and we did as told.
when an audience member at a doc screening of 28 days later loudly deadpanned, "so that's what it's like Beyond The Midway," it seemed a reasonable assessment and it was an assessment the university did nothing to dispel.
until they bought land Beyond the Midway.
i don't know whose idea that was. probably someone who is no longer a university of chicago employee, because if the barrage of It's Beautiful Beyond the Midway! propaganda was any indication, it was not a popular plan.
in the aftermath, a bombardment of letters began, all along the lines of "dear oline, have you been Beyond the Midway yet?! just forget how three months ago, we told you to pack a gun! today, the greatest u of c minds are Beyond the Midway! thinking big thoughts! and talking big ideas! so you'd better get your ass over there quick! it's all happening Beyond The Midway!"
yesterday, out of necessity, i wound up going Beyond the Midway.
i lived to tell the tale. and here's a revelation: life Beyond the Midway is not scary. it's populated by museum parking and university buildings where great u of c minds are thinking big thoughts and talking big ideas.
it's kind of nice Beyond the Midway, calmer, hushed. beautiful, even.
which leads me to the conviction that there is no institution more effective at brainwashing than the u of c.
18 November 2008
eF cooks these amazing meals. pastas with fancy french names and homemade bbq sauce and cole slaw. i listen to the nightly recitation, enraptured by this victual porn. the memory of devouring leftover canned peas from a recycled butter tub fills me with intense shame.
girls living alone in the city do not eat well. or at least this one doesn't. i loathe cooking for myself. cupcakes, cookies, pancakes, and pies, yes. i am baking's biggest fan. and fruits and vegetables, big yay. but meals featuring any variety of protein or sauce, no.
i rationalize that i would be more gung-ho to gormandize if there were a dining room in my life. or a table. or kitchen knives. for now, i'm lucky to be in possession of plates and pasta-roni.
but there comes a time when you not only have to be a grown-up, you have to eat like one too. this point arrived last monday as i sat curled up on the couch eating a dinner comprised of cheerios and wine.
after the intial bout of "oh my god, i am bridget jones" horror, i turned to the obvious direction that anyone would turn- fish.
i hate fish. the reality that one's food was once living and had blood vessels and hair is an unnecessary vulgarity to be avoided at all costs and there is no animal more determined in its insistence to remind you it was once not dead. look at the shape of a standard fillet. it appears prepared to resurrect and return to the sea. to say nothing of the lingering, unsloughed scales.
but i'm a big girl. i can overcome aesthetic discomforts.
it's the notion i am eating ariel that i cannot escape.
17 November 2008
16 November 2008
i'm a bit of an authority on this, having run to the window every five minutes for the past two days to check on a blizzard that has apparently stood me up.
once it starts it isn't going to stop and i'm a girl with leaky boots, so i shouldn't complain. i could use a week to prepare. i am not yet winterized.
but still... winter's coming! a fairly obvious and expected thing given that it invariably happens about this time every single year. and yet, my irrational excitement knows no bounds.
i am, like, seriously EXCITED.
to the extent that tonight, for a brief moment just long enough to be embarrassing, i smelled someone's fire and closed my eyes and got all nostalgic about the long winter nights of yore when i practiced long division curled up on a collie by the hearth.
then i opened my eyes and realized i am a sentimental fool. this was not the old familiar, comforting smell of smoke and cinder. it was a neighbor cooking barbecue chicken.
14 November 2008
today, due to unprecedented thriftiness and a steadfast determination to wait out a demin defecit until the post-christmas sales, i am wearing jeans from 2001.
let's dwell on that a moment.
in 2001, i was 20. i had boy hair. it was brown.
9/11 had happened the month before. the ipod, the xbox and windows xp were released the month after. britney spears and jTim were dating. dakota fanning was 7.
we were at war with no one when i bought these jeans.
so on the one hand, these jeans make me feel outrageously old. but then, they also raise the question: do i seriously still have the body of a 20-year-old?!
12 November 2008
it's great to read a story like that, put together all the coordinates and realize it was set on the street where you live.
last night on the train, during violent tales story time, LM and i talked about this. we pieced together that this story had been passed to us both as something that had happened to a friend of a friend. we quickly dismissed it as an urban legend.
a girl across the car quickly chimed in it wasn't. she had heard this too. she also lived on that street. and like pretty much everyone alive of a certain age and income bracket in chicago, she often stayed out too late and walked home alone rather than pay for cabs. we had all heard it, she said, so it had to be true.
i don't know if this actually happened. it probably did, but what are we supposed to do with it? a barrage of emails from friends who were apparently also friends of this friend's friends hit my inbox warning me to leave my leopard print bag at home. the concern was touching, but that isn't really an option. a day's worth of snacks will not fit in a clutch.
in a token nod to personal safety, this morning i tossed the good old mace into my ginormous bag, but since i'm not entirely sure how to operate it this was more about giving myself the appearance of having worried about my safety rather than an indicator of actual worry.
because it's lincoln park, not cabrini green. and that's a cop-out, i know, but this is where we live and you can't truly live if you spend every minute freaking out about spooks in the dark.
that girl on the train said she was now afraid to leave her apartment after 5 p.m. it was 5:22 when she said this. walking home, i saw her. she was running down the street like a banshee, looking over her shoulder, deathly afraid.
11 November 2008
i like to believe they have always worked out because i'm this incredible, independent, pulled-together person with impossibly good luck, but i'm not stupid. i know it was the result of considerable stress and sacrifice and effort on my parents' part. just as the magic of the theater is produced by stagehands darting about in the dark, moving things so the actors won't stumble, so they won't fuck up.
my parents and i are in the midst of this grandiose, week-long fight. a civil war of sorts over my right to fuck up. an obscure freedom, i admit, but a liberty nonetheless.
in a particularly low moment in their efforts to disuade me from trying for something that, in reality, is so far outside the realm of possibility it's as probable as me backstroking to the moon, but which they nonetheless perceive as a colassal mistake- my mum delivered her advice from the perspective of what she would feel if she were a man.
for future reference, arguing from the perspective of a gender that you are not by imagining how you would feel if you were of that gender is not the way to go.
we are women. we will never be men.
my parents raised me well. they let me do things that if i had any sense at all i probably would've been too afraid to attempt. they brought me back to chicago. they sent me to cornell. they made me think it was unspeakably cool to go dateless to junior prom.
i never felt like i had to be married by 27 and have a doctor husband and twenty kids, twelve dogs, and a parakeet and live in some sprawling white picketed place in des plaines with an american flag on the front porch and an SUV in the garage. i was an english major. the prospect of life with a boy in a hovel brimming with books was always infinitely more appealing.
and i've never before felt like i was held back because i was a girl. if i didn't raise my hand in class and didn't play soccer, that was because, even then, i was overly self-aware and i athletically sucked. not because someone wouldn't let me. not because someone said, nice girls don't do that.
there are, apparently, a lot of things nice girls don't do.
and in the end, the lesson we learn here is this: i am not a nice girl.
05 November 2008
"i feel we are walking towards our doom."
"yes, i want to be footnoted in history as the person who handed a drink to the son of someone who is a total non-entity in your book."
"i'm a little less in favor of obama now i know the scary angel mime guy from the park is on his side."
"i'm not sure this is an environment where you want to evoke guy faulk's day."
"this is the line? does it have an end?"
"i think people up there are moving."
"it's the movement of democracy."
"why don't they make buttons that say 'average, moderately good looking guys for obama'?"
"we've been here half an hour and already we've arrived at the subject of ass nipples."
"this is the line of democracy."
"part of me almost wants sarah palin to stick around so we can have more tina fey. i wonder if this is how people felt about hitler and charlie chaplin."
"it's the chicago fire department's clown car division."
"it would be so much less impactful to have been waiting in line here while history was happening right there."
"do you think they just said, 'well, we've got this building that looks like a vagina, might as well give it a clit'?"
"the portapotty of democracy. that light hits it as though it was..."
"i'm not all that reassured about our safety given the only security measure thus far was the water bottle confiscation squad."
"look at all those people in line for the hot cholocate of democracy."
"75,000 people just said, 'who the fuck is that?'"
"oh my god. we are that crowd on tv."
"it feels so much more real now that they're playing springsteen."
"you can pee anywhere you want. this is the greatest night of our lives."