Dec 30, 2010

Love Is All Around

I wake to the sound of something weird happening.  Again, I don't think, wow, maybe it's an earthquake, because I never wake up thinking that maybe it's an earthquake. And I say again, because this very thing happened, here, in Chicago, just a couple years ago - and the whole thing was lost on me that time, too.  And, really, when did we start regularly having earthquakes in Chicago--because it's becoming a thing.

No. I think that my neighbors are very rude with all of their noise at the crack of dawn.  And that my cats, who are certainly party to this noise (as they are milling around inconsolably mewing - as though something were amiss) are spoiled rotten, and, when you get right down to it, do not give a damn about me or my sleep.  

That it's all about the cat chow and the petting of them and the cooing at them. The never ending gifts of toys and me sneaking them pieces of cheese and liverwurst. And never the other way around.

I think a lot of things that puts blame on my cats and other people "out there".  And, seriously, I'm so tired of all of the people "out there". That is, people I both don't know very well but also live quite near-by. Then, a few hours later I am informed that there was an earthquake. Again. 

Will I ever learn to enjoy these earthquakes we now have in Chicago as they are happening? In real-time? And, probably more importantly, will I ever see that people around me are not that bad? I feel so righteous in my hatred in such times, too. I am right. They are wrong. It feels good at least to have identified all parties involved as being right or wrong. With me being right.  

Lesson learned. You'd think. But not seven and one quarter hours later I hear my (admittedly) overflowing bin of recycling making a lot of racket in the wind. This, the recycling that hasn't quite made it to the recycling receptacle. No problem. Except that the thing has gotten full to the point where - on this sort of unusually warm, windy, earthquake-y late December day - a few (beer) cans are now rolling around the concrete landing of what is my back stoop, where the bin of recycling is situated.

Not the prettiest sound in the world, I agree. And certainly not acceptable in these parts. No, the hollow, sad beer can rolling around sound, NOT okay, especially right in the middle of the holidays. And, honestly, it took me nearly an hour to realize that I was the culprit. Suffice it to day that I'm certainly not invited to be part of their book clubs, now.

Then, I hear a someone putting these very cans (my cans) from my back stoop into a bag - to dispose of them "properly" once and for all, because someone had to do it. I could imagine all the calls back and forth. The snide, bitchy jokes. I even felt okay with it - at least they have someone to laugh at - why not me? And, really, what do I care?  They have nothing else.  

Then I see it.  Really see it.  Squarely, for the first time. Oh, how they have had to "deal" with me. It must have been the biggest pain, dealing with me. And then, of course, I become incredulous. Crazy bitches. You can't just come over here and "help" me, like that. My god. 
So, I go through the gamut of snark. Then, suddenly tough as nails, I go outside to confront this helpful person. And her army, Oh, yeah? You're going to help me? Okay: Help me to my face, then, lady, lets go.

This is that part where it would be so funny and explained so many things if it had just been my mother, who lives thirty feet away, who was doing this. But it was actually a cat scrounging around this bin, the putting everything into a plastic bag sound - an actual plastic bag in the bin that this cat was dealing with in her search for food. So, I gave her some food. That's when I realized that this cat was actually a wolf or a raccoon or something. That's when I went back inside. 

Dec 22, 2010

White Elephant, Real Elephant: It's Your Call

So, I started using a Mac laptop recently.  It was a Christmas gift from my sister-in-law from last year. Actually, it was a white elephant, and I was as surprised as anyone when I unwrapped it.  What with the refrigerator magnets, oven mitts and non-operative metal wind up toys that everyone else seemed to be receiving that night, I was sure that what was in this rather extremely bubble wrapped parcel, was probably a cast iron skillet. This due to the heft, size and shape of the thing.

And the bubble wrap, which was certainly a ruse, didn't deter my notions.  And, believe me, I was thrilled at the prospect of receiving a cast iron skillet. I even hoped that it was still seasoned. The idea seemed more practical than icky. Making it a sort of an on-going pan with function that, despite all it's travels via FedEx, was somehow still in progress. Why, I could use it as early as the very next morning.

Though, the idea that it might be a piece of slate for arranging my (certainly) diverse array of cheeses on - you know, like in the magazines - wasn't out of the question, and was sort of in-the-air that night as people speculated out loud what might be going on with each other's gifts. Being that this Christmas party was comprised of eight or ten adults and one teenager - the unwrapping of the gifts went quietly, save for some nearly whispered narration from the sidelines.   

Yes. It made sense that it might be a slate cheese tray.  

It's the way other people with other lives like to arrange their cheeses on nice pieces slate on those wine, cheese and money filled afternoons that sometimes happen. Usually without warning. On Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Around 3 pm. And though you are supposed to be at work, you find yourself being pulled away, jumping in to a cab and scooting off to some unlikely address.  

And it's something you "just can't get out of" and, for some reason, everybody understands. Even your boss.  And, when you get there, the music, people and cheese seem to  already be in progress, as though this little gathering has been going on forever.

And you realize just how many people out there don't need to be at work in the middle of the day.  That is, that there are many people who exist purely to enjoy themselves.  Because all of those people are this party, and they are all having cheese.

Oh, hello! Try this wine!  

Subtle over-notes of wild mushrooms, amirite?

Yup. No.. wait, wait. I'm getting.. rotting wood? Subtle.. compost heap?  

Oh my god, exactly! 

Everyone is standing casually around a table where, if you bother to look, there is, amongst other things, a big shard of slate with an array of cheese arranged upon it. And as cheeses go, it's a thoughtful selection.

There's a hard cheese.  A runny cheese.  An angry cheese.  A terrible cheese.   A moldy diamond encrusted cheese.  Why, there's even a cheese that requires it's own votive warming apparatus to keep it just-so.    

It's all there.  Cheeses arranged with love and an unflinching eye for composition.  And the afternoon light, somewhat diffuse on this overcast day, has never looked better around any tray of cheese.  

Any crumbles that have fallen away from the dryer varietals - now even lovelier for their very varied-ness.  Such crumbling speaking volumes about cheese.    

As well, the foil wrap from the just recently opened champagne (that lies with it's faithful wire-cage and wayward cork companions), that is just in the foreground of this crumbly cheese platter idle, only attests to the fact that this little wine and cheese celebration is actually happening - in case anyone wasn't totally convinced.

We're really great, aren't we? I mean as people.

Yeah, we are -- have you tried this?

No, what is it?

It's champagne jelly! 

That's freaking genius.

I'm telling you..  

Wires. Foils. Crumbles.  Lipstick marks on crystal glasses.  The aftermath of our consumption. Proof that we once consumed.  

Bring me opera.  Bring me a headache accompanied by deep dark stringed instrumentals.  Bring me the full ashtray with the crushed out Dunhills stained with Yves St. Laurent rouge feu.

Bring me my coat.  So that I can hop in a checkered cab and be transported back home where there are warm perfect baths, blankets and tins of chocolate cookies. 

Where I can sit high atop my bed as I dial up steaks and tossed salad from Ruths Chris and watch never ending movies on command.  

Home - to every super shiny thing.  Then bring me shopping tomorrow where I can get new, bigger cell phones to replace the old, smaller ones - and smaller computers, the size of cell phones, and special holders for everything else I already have. 

Oh, and maybe an irregular piece of slate.


Having switched to coffee, I opened my gift. It was a backpack.  
A really heavy backpack.  

I loved it!  

But, no.  There was more.  I was encouraged to look further.  So, I unzipped the backpack and felt the unmistakably cold smooth surface of a mac laptop.  My sister-in-law's old laptop.   

My laptop.

I turned it on. A graphic of a simply shaped white apple against a pale gray background appeared for a moment.  As short, understated animations go, it was strangely compelling. I felt relaxed. Reassured. And this alone was enough for me.    

Even days later, it felt right.  So clean and compact. This without opening it or so much as turning on the power. From there I progressed to playing chess on it. Sometimes I merely watched the computer play against itself.  And that's where things pretty much stayed for the following eleven months. I have no idea why.

I should mention that I realized even then - in that crazy moment of opening my gift and all the subsequent yelling and clinking of glasses and iphones suddenly being pointed at me - that I can never top this gift.  So, yesterday, after some deliberation, I packed up the several odd, out-scale components of the 1999 Dell computer I had been using all my life, and sent it all to my sister-in-law.  

The box containing the monitor alone, which was as big as a Volks Wagon, would certainly make her curious.  Maybe even a little worried.  But that's the point of Christmas.  Especially when a white elephant rule has been put into effect.  

I, too, wanted to wrap everything up in bubble wrap.  When it became clear that I hadn't enough, I switched to using old tarps, remnants of fabric, unfinished knitting projects and, finally, some bacon.  You know, just to throw her off.  

I should also mention that, for her convenience, I didn't remove any files or downloads I had accrued on that computer over the years.  I think that that is actually the real the gift, right there.  Not just the machine, but the ghost in the machine.  I get chills just typing it.   

And - and this is the part of the story when so many twists and turns and layers of mysteries all come to a conclusion even I never imagined: the arrival of these boxes will explain the cleverly cryptic text I sent her yesterday as I was leaving UPS.  That was my password.  Imagine her ah-ha moment when she realizes this. 

Yep.  It's going to be so great. 

Nov 12, 2010


This whole thing would have been okay if it had all worked out neatly like a television plot:

The getting of the design job with me leaving the waitressing job meant that all the time I spent in school, all the time I had been sleep deprived (and all the added, unnecessary drama I'd welcomed into my life at the time) had paid off.

Ding, Character A Makes Good:

The getting of the better apartment was, then, symbolic of moving forward, even if it was literally only steps away from where I had been. The losing of the design job and moving here would then be okay, too. If I then (despite it being office work that I never wanted to do) grown (surrounded by designers doing what I wanted to do) and had left this house and gotten a well deserved raise and learned, at least, that I was quite flexible, here in this most unforgivingly inflexible world.

It would have been even more neat and tidy if, while here (the last place I ever wanted to be) I had finally quit smoking forever. Had finally lost the weight I gained while attempting to quit smoking forever. And had learned how to be a human being.

In all, I've broken even. I'm am exactly where I was last summer. I did finally learn how to make an omelet in less than three minutes, though. And a chicken stock that actually tastes like chicken. And I acquired quite a few computer skills. Right now, the house smells like something is cooking. Tom is in the kitchen and the smell of onions and peppers is distracting. Yes, something is cooking. But what?

In the next episode I want a tidy change that allows for the fact that I want to work, that I work hard, and that I adjust to adversity--not right away, not without a fight, not without making a fool out of myself--but ultimately.

I want a good job. One where I make a salary that reflects the work I've actually done. In real time. Not anymore jobs that say things like,"We can't pay you properly right now, but we love you, and a pay increase is definitely on the table". Followed by, "We have to let go of 60% of the employees this morning, but we love you. We'll definitely write you a nice letter of recommendation."

Because, I am in my forties. I really am. It wasn't just a dream. And, more than that, I'm somewhat educated. And, when you look at all of it it on paper, I've already paid my dues.

So, if life is at all like tv is, then things must change at this juncture, here on this my silly little tv show. 

It could go one of two ways, of course. I'm aware of this. And, as formula-schtick, it's far more entertaining to see me wind up on the street. Who doesn't want to see Character A lose her mind and maybe all of her teeth? Who doesn't want to see her turn into a monster, maybe even a swamp monster--for added effect?

It sure is more fun to hate Character A than to identify with her. I cite Gossip Girl.

Just watch all the head-bands finally go flying. They fall one by one. Just as crowns fall one by one. But then the fallen pull themselves back up, mostly behind the scenes. And, look out, here she comes. Again. And, just like that, she's back. Even though she died two seasons ago. Even though she got life in jail. She's back. And she's, she's ...much nicer this time.

Nov 5, 2010


I waitressed at the same night club for eleven years, once.

It was just the once. But it was long enough to notice a definite time-warp that seemed to occur within the boundaries of that job - be they the physical boundaries of building itself, or involving something less tangible.

No one who worked there ever left the night club. Even the few that tried to leave came right back. Sometimes days later. Sometimes years later. After a disappointing stint at an accounting firm, or low-security prison, say.

It didn't matter. Such employees were always brought right back into the fold like nothing had happened. And really, nothing had.

There were weird things. Like how no one got any older or changed.

And there was a ghost. Specifically, a ghost that hung around the northeast corner of the room, better known as Section 6 & 7.

People spoke quite a lot of this ghost when I first started working there. It was always in one of those phony, louder than normal conversations - the ones where you know without a doubt that what is being shouted a mite too pointedly in your direction is actually for your ears.

My even louder, mock response being:

A ghost? Oh my, maybe I should QUIT?

Of course, I wasn't worried. This ghost was pretty great.

For one thing, he was industrious. He might do things for you like clear your tables or put money around for you to find accidentally. This especially when a customer had failed to leave you a tip.

Or, he might straighten out your chairs and leave chocolates kisses hidden here and there, just to be playful. One time it was a Monte Christo sandwich. I had really wanted a Reuben, but being that that would have been too messy, the ghost came up with an alternative.

A Monte Christo? That's genius!

We were friends, the ghost and me. Not that the ghost didn't have his drawbacks. He did make it a bit cooler in Section 6 & 7. And there was a constant blowing wind because of the ghost that never could be resolved (as it's source could never be located). Which was bad for ones carefully placed cocktail napkins. The hard and fast rules pertaining to cocktail napkins having been clearly outlined in the waitressing handbook.

Yes. I had signed the paper stating that I understood the cocktail napkin policy. And, yes, they whisked that document away before I could ask any of my many follow up questions. So the loss of controll over the cocktail napkins in my section did present a bit of a problem.

Yet, there was no doubt in my mind that it was in spite of himself that the ghost created this kind of havok. I simply asked the customers to hold down their cocktail napkins at all times in exactly the place where I had originally positioned them. And wouldn't you know it, nobody minded!

The ghost more than made up for all of this with money and candy, of course.

Obviously, I took the job.

It was like an agreement had been made, that, for whatever reason, I could only remember bits and pieces of the negotiations.

It was something about how - as long as you worked there you would make lots of money, never age and enjoy the benefits of a helpful ghost but, you could never, ever, leave. Not under any circumstances.

They said,

It's up to you. Go ahead and think it through for a few moments.

Then, seeing the look on my face,

Would you like something - a crab salad served in half an avocado, perhaps? Because we could simply bring you a vodka? It's no problem.

And, finally, as I sat there chewing on my pencil,

Okay. We'll be right over here. You take your time.

So, my rent being due, I signed the contract:

I will hereby spend the rest of my extended adolescence here (bla, bla, bla)

Great! Here is your name badge, your five-inch-platform heels, your waitress handbook, your complimentary box of altoids--!

But that happy moment of knowing I was again employed, that is to say, safe money-wise, was immediately (upon punching-in, that first day) replaced with a relentless, never ending dread of losing that job.

And it never let up. Even as years passed, even as they promoted me to head waitress and put me in charge of the VIP room, I worried.

Even as they told me I was the only person in the world whom they trusted and handed me the keys, I worried.

So, the fact that I walked away from that position (as opposed to being torn away, screaming) astounded quite a few. All those forever-young faces looking at me incredulously as I left.

You can't leave!

The above issued plainly, as a statement of fact.

And it was true. No one could leave.


I got a design job.

I was overjoyed. All I really wanted in the whole world was to work during the day. And have a weekend at the end of my work week, each and every week. I imagined sweater sets and lunches all packed up in Tupperware.

The normality of such a job meant as much to me as the design element did. And, apparently, much more than even the money element did. I did not get right away, that, with a salary there would be no more incredible, life altering tips that could change everything, just like that.

I got thrown into the job. Literally thrown into a still sticky douglas fir, a few birds nests still intact. It was very heady, very fragrant, very prickly time.

My arms, cut to shreds, were not bleeding only for the sap that had dried over all of the wounds. And I learned that skin covered in sap mixed with blood held things like lint and debris. Even pairs of scissors.

And such sap did not wash off.

I smelled of pine trees. All the time. Understandably, this was mistaken for gin & tonic more than once. And, it's true that when people have decided that you have been drinking, almost everything you do or say in protest will support the notion that you are drunk.

Within a week, however, I found my way out of the maze of branches and, having added pale colors and candles and soft glitter, I created both a tree and mantle in a set that whispered, Christmastime:

A few bells rang barely audibly in the distance, their clarity undeterred by time. No, there would be a goose that year. And all the trimmings. Even if we had to spend our birthday-dollars...


I was all in.

But then it was spring.

Then fall, again.

Then it was the next year. Then the year after that. Then it was the election. Then, one night, out of nowhere, Tom made beef stroganoff.

Then, the following weekend, I went on and on about how much I loved my job.

And I think that that might have been my undoing.

Because the very next day, a Monday, the lay-offs began.

Despite the economy, I didn't see it coming. Maybe I felt safe because I was at the bottom, salary-wise. Maybe it was that this simply couldn't be happening to me.

Whatever it was, I learned I was wrong about the inner workings of life. And that my little eleven years as a trusted, valued waitress did not translate into the real world.

I cried into my sleeve for thirty-five minutes during the entire lay-off meeting (even as every part of me did not want to cry) and, of course, there was not a kleenex to be found anywhere.

To this day I wonder how my boss could sit there and not run out to grab me a paper towel or something.

I made no noise as I cried, mind you. It was tears running out of one's eyes independent of one's intentions. And without the slightest grimace.

I said my goodbyes.

I was sad not only for the job loss, but the people-loss. We were friends. We had gotten each other out of jams and had, on a daily basis, made useless, ugly merchandise look good employing every trick imaginable.

We laughed. We played jokes on each other. We came to each other's family funerals and Easter parties.

And now some of us were suddenly being scattered into a cold January world.

A place without design! A place without paychecks!

Three of us that were laid off that day.

Other, totally non-layed off people cried as we three came back to the design office, stunned and sort of automatically emptying our desks into boxes - boxes kept on hand just for such situations. Like so many terrible things, these boxes stood by, stoically, awaiting duty:

The worst will happen. Be ready. Buy boxes.

One of the other designers who had been layed-off insisted I take with me one of her faux-abstract paintings she'd mocked up for the studio. I had used this painting in nearly every one of my shots. It had that quality of never looking the same twice yet expressing something authentically modern with as little effort as possible. And it never struck me as a mock-up. It looked real.

So I left. With all of the contents of my desk (really just many cans of soup) and this huge painting. Not that it was hers to give me, exactly (even if she had painted it) but, just that no one was going to argue about the things we were now taking out of the building with us, seeing as our lives were going down in flames right there, right then - before their very eyes.

Actually, I have two such items from that job. The painting and a very long, beautiful pink scarf. I got the scarf when were were giving away part of our prop clothes to charity. Even though it was understood that the employees could take whatever they wanted, I never felt good about taking that scarf.

It was because I had been in charge of preparing the clothes for charity that I had first access to the give-away clothes. And, seeing that this was a scarf, I knew very well that I wasn't making any real room by removing it. So, it's reasonable to assume that this scarf wasn't what my boss was had in mind when he asked me to make room in our clothes storage.

Maybe as an item, it was too small and too nice to give away, let alone let employees take home.

Maybe it was bad karma that I then simply kept it for myself.

So, it isn't strange, I guess, that I never got around to wearing it.

Until now, that is. I wore the pink scarf last week for the first time ever. I have no idea why.

I wore it to my job. The job I found after nearly a year of being unemployed. The job I've had for the past ten months.

The job where, not ten minutes after I walked in the door on Friday, I was complimented on this, my wonderful, long pink scarf. And then (in practically the very same breath) layed-off.


In the nicest possible way.

Oct 28, 2010

A Million Shinning Microcosm Worlds

I was thrilled.

I had been hand chosen by my supervisor to purchase an emergency travel pass for someone at work.

The address they gave me was a far away, albeit official location for such transactions. Never mind that such things can be bought anywhere. Certainly anywhere within fifty feet of the building where I work. Not to mention, online.

They had handed me the Big, Official location.

All due to googling, no doubt.

I thought to say something. In fact, I started to say the very thing I thought to say (even as I grabbed my coat, my scarf, my bag, my umbrella) the words still sort of spilling out of my mouth even as I got onto the elevator.

I don't think they caught any of this, though.

And so I proceeded to the far away location. Not in a cab but on foot.

This might take hours!

Did I mention how much I love to walk around semi-aimlessly and get paid for it? Even if it was cold out today, and I was dressed not for winter so much as for whatever it was last week, which was pretty great weather-wise, I was okay. Except at the bridge.
It was pretty bad at the bridge.

No matter.

I made my way to the Headquarters. Of this Particular Place. And great things happened along the way.

For one thing, the sky was just right today.

And I was alarmed by the way neighborhood of my destination had changed. How different it looked at ground level than, say, from the windows of the west bound train.

How brand-new it all appeared. Re-paved. Spotless. As though that entire ward had been put through a dish-washing cycle.

I mean, wasn't I here just a few weeks ago when the combination stench of arson and shrimp baskets was the stuff of local poetry? Where the entirety of it's cracked windows provided a weirdly pleasing multi-faceted, diamond-y effect?

As one skated by, seamlessly via bullet proof train.

Was it the ghetto?

Thermos of reassuring peppermint tea in hand.

Or was it diamonds?


But none of that mattered anymore.

And that's the thing. Now it smelled not like burning buildings and lack of hope so much as crisp one hundred dollar bills. And a little bit like Mrs. Meyers laundry detergent.


I don't have a dish-washer anymore.

That the break from all other activity that washing the dishes currently imposes upon my life, despite the colossal waste of water and feeling that I could just as well be painting and re-painting the same wall over and over again, is one that I've come to terms with. That is to say, utilize in the name of "me-time."

You know, for thinking, worrying, plotting - it could be anything.

I should further mention that the wind at the bridge was not simply bad, today, but flash-freezing bad. As well as veritable hair-do assassination bad (not to be confused with character assassination bad, though there was some of that in there, too).

But did I care?

I mean, some of the Christmas lights that were going up were actually lit. Which created a subtle air of anticipation. A sparkly pre-Halloween, yet, not-exactly-Christmas feeling that I can't quite put my finger on.

Is it raining?

Is it snowing?

Is it day?

Is it night?

Is it raindrops on the windshield?

Raindrops on the windshield reflecting a million shinning, up-side-down microcosm worlds? As seen from in here, the snug interior of this cashmere colored car?

As we oh-so quietly wait for what's next?

And what did those raindrops reflect? Was it something better? Because it seemed like it was something better.

Or is it just another slow, dark day at the photo studio with Miles Davis and oh-so many unruly bath towels to style?

Or is it pumpkins and detectives, again?

All dried blood and alleyways?

All mangled fingers and ubiquitous gifts of money?

Because, as gray as it was today, such lights were better for the contrast.

it's morning. It's dusk.

It's dissonant! It's mildly confusing!

Furthermore, after all of my epic online searches, it was without fanfare that I simply happened upon a mom-and-pop grocery store, here, in the Loop.

Such was the nature of my travels, today.

Just thirty blocks away from work, Bernstein's couldn't be more convenient. And this grocery store had not just a salad bar, but a sandwich bar, as well.

I dropped everything.

This was unprecedented and required all of my focus. I needed to decide.

It was tough, but in the end it was (simply) two thick slices of toasted, whole wheat Italian garlic bread prepared with an herb-infused, homemade mayonnaise, two different kinds of mustard, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, and cold, rare sliced roast beef --with a mere finial of imported Greek olives placed stylishly on top.

And then, out of sheer panic, some smoked turkey.

And it was spectacular.

Of course, I could have gone any number of ways. But the above seemed rational if not just as a sandwich. And, seeing as I was a new-comer at Bernstein's, and rightly sensed that I was being eyed as an interloper (that reckless, last minute smoked turkey being the culprit) I thought it best to play down my sandwich choices for the time being.

It was then that I quite casually, in keeping with my guise of blending in at the grocery store, took a bottle of Joy off the shelf and placed it in my basket. You know, for later. For figuring things out.

Oct 23, 2010

Goodnight, Loop

It was late. I couldn't leave work until I'd finished something so that my boss could travel this week. And the big important meeting, which had gone on all day, was still in progress.

This all-day meeting had gone, as one might imagine, through several phases:

At 8 am it was coffee. With people all-business-like and just bathed. Smelling of focus, determination and something pleasantly synthetic -- was it dryer sheets? Listerine?

At noon it was sandwiches, with people folding up their sleeves, tossing off their shoes and earrings and getting comfortably serious.

But, by 2 pm, people began running in and out of the room with panic on their faces (needing things, PDFs, better pens, for me to text them at certain junctures just so they could leave the room).

At 4 pm there was a lull. Which was punctuated by yelling about twenty minutes later. Where the mood of the meeting pretty much remained until about
7 pm (when, finally, someone laughed, and, then, everybody laughed). At which point drinks and Chinese take-out arrived immediately to the conference room, literally, out of thin air.

And, just like that, the whole place became littered by a million boxes and bottles.

Then, finally, at 8 pm, some people filed out.

Personal calls were made.

And, I guess everything was going to be okay.

Except for me.

Me, at my desk the entire time. Going through the well documented stages of crisis. Imagining, at times, simply abandoning my job and being so happy not to worry about these flight itineraries anymore (a convoluted, headache-inducing travel plan that took several people to three cities in two days, then briefly back here, then off, again, to two other cities).

When I finished my work and left the building (the meeting still going on, though by then securely in it's "wrapping-up" phase), it was late. I was exhausted. But I was happily surprised to walk out into balmy weather. It was warmer than it had been that morning. And this was October.

And, the Loop, as busy as it normally was, was weirdly empty after business hours.

It was nighttime.

I looked up and noticed something spooky quietly unfolding above the University situated at Jackson and State. At eye level, looking east, this intersection is a bookstore, a bus stop, the mouth of the subway, a man with a microphone talking about Our Inevitable Damnation, cars, and people -- with some el tracks tucked behind everything else.

But, by now, it was deserted. And the eerie cloud-thing going on in the upper right corner of my field of vision couldn't be ignored.

Weirdly unfolding clouds, lit by some yet unidentified light, were doing arabesques in an otherwise ink-black night sky.

I thought these clouds might be lit by a spot light or an up-light, but it turned out to be moonlight. The moon in the Loop, normally being an afterthought of a pale speck in the sky (if one notices it), was currently the biggest moon I'd ever seen.

I mean terrifyingly big. The way the moon is idealized in travel photographs of places along the equator.

And then, if this could be any more dramatic, there, a-top the eighteen or twenty stories of the university, amid the moon and the continually disappearing and reappearing veils of clouds, I saw a turret.

How did I ever miss such a detail on this building, before?

It was the northwestern-most facing turret of the building, that, in all it's century old green-copper-conical architectural relentless-ness, stood against this, most creepiest of scenes.
So, an unsettling spectacle of absinthe colored clouds was gathering and re-gathering under a huge October moon, with an old batty turret in the foreground. And, here, I hadn't smoked anything.

I half expected Sherlock Holmes to sweep in
all a-sparkle, brimming with literary magic, merely to inquire if wouldn't join him on an adventure that could only be embarked upon through the Wonders of Reading.

(with him only ever looking at me through that big, psychologically distancing magnifying glass of his).

No. I went home.

At long last. On the west-bound train. Watching as this particular scene shrank away while the moon, itself, remained constant.

And life was, once again, just so.

Oct 20, 2010

I Never Promised You Cookies or a Rose Garden or Anything

Imagine that you want to make cookies for someone. You bake them and wait for them to cool on a special cooling rack. Yes, you've thought that far ahead. Things like cooling racks are now a part of your paltry kitchen vernacular.

You're not a baker. And waiting for the cookies to cool falls somewhere between okay-boring and a full on crisis of your super-ego.

But then the fun part finally starts, and it's better than you could have ever imagined. And was probably the whole reason you made the cookies in the first place.

And it turns out that you really like decorating cookies.

Preparing the icing does require every bowl in the house. But that's okay. Mixing up hundreds of gooey-paints to frost one's cookies with just might be the best thing in the whole world.

Besides, you want the colors to be just so. It's a whole cookie-situation that you see so clearly in your mind. And, if you're honest, it's a whole cookie-situation that got you out of bed this morning. Perhaps every morning.

No. It's going so be so very funny. These cookies. And delicious. Of course, that, too.

So you do this in the spirit of: Fun and Happy Cookie Project. Like something out of Martha Stewart minus the perfection or like something your friend Beatrice would do, minus the expertise.

Beatrice, who bakes the kind of cookies that bring tears to peoples's eyes, that reviews are writen about, that are really tables of cookie at big events and weddings.

This will be more fun and less an operation than that. Because Bea, she's got a chef's hat, yes -- but rather than being puffy or cloud-like, it's one of those starched-high numbers (forbidding like an ivory tower or a religious principle that one must adopt for reasons that we won't go into here).

These aren't those cookies. These are lay-man's cookies.

Still, no matter how forgiving a stance you take, about twenty-four hours later, after the icing has set and you've slept and let your mind wander onto other things (and have paid some bills) you decide with fresh eyes that your cookies smack of outsider art.

They're insane.

How did this happen?

How could you have not noticed this before? Was it all the other things going on in your head? Was it the stress? The wine? That fistful of barbiturates rinsed down with a tumbler of vodka?

Actually, unfit. That's the word: The whole batch, all smiling sadly up at you from their stupid plate, are unfit as cookies.

But you need to send them out in the mail. Where, you imagine they will inevitably arrive as cookie-rubble, anyway. Do you have time to start all over again?

Wait --can't we walk away and think about this for a bit?

And on and on late into the night. Then, it's finally decided: you will make the cookies all over again this weekend. Applying all of the principles recently learned during the original (unfit) cookie making. Because we learned quite a lot during in the interim, didn't we?

And because, damn it, we care. About things like cookies. And so everything is better again. Just like that. Except for one thing: This is not the first time one has made and re-made such cookies. Let's be brutally honest, right now.

And it's not just cookies. It's everything.

So, now you might imagine one's whole life going like this. With nothing ever okay or ever simply passable. To the point that even (and perhaps especially) one's handwriting, which, yes, was bad to begin with, but became, later (unfairly) worse - after a few fingers were finally broken (in the most hateful of ways).

So that, ultimately, one only email others. Even when others are situated less than three feet away. Even when speaking to them is clearly an option, because even that might betray your bad handwriting.

So that swirly practice pages of:


might be found one day by one's boyfriend (quite by accident) while one's boyfriend goes looking for a scrap of paper. And then, predictably, all hell breaks loose:

Why do I keep finding these alphabets all over the house?!

as well as:

What the hell is up with you?

Meanwhile, numbers?

I have no problem with numbers.

I have no idea why.

Sep 17, 2010

phone numbers

What happens when you realize that you can't remember a phone number that you had for thirteen years?

You remember the prefix and those first three numbers and even the next two - and possibly the third. It's that last digit. It's either 1 or 2, but something nags at you that it might be 3. Really, it's probably just 1 or 2. But you aren't sure.

And that's the thing.

Then you remember how at some point the phone company did something strange. And how you started getting messages from people saying, "um, thanks for telling me your new number, asshole.."

And how that was ten years ago. Somewhat mid-way in the overall history of that phone number. That phone number that had suddenly changed without your knowledge. Back then.

I mean, when exactly was it that your number changed by just one digit? Because there is no record of this.

Was it a Thursday? A Tuesday? Had you on a skirt? Was it pants? Was it overcast? Because I think it was. I recall, for some reason, (in the very reaches of my mind) a leaf. This one leaf. Just one leaf fallen on the ground.

So, I ask (almost forensically), was it Autumn?

Because everything in my being says it was. Of course, no one really knows for sure. And all the court documents suggest that no one knows for sure. And I'm all out of ideas.

But, no matter what, one thing was for sure: the very last digit of your phone number was, without provocation, without any prior notice, changed by the phone company. For no reason whatsoever.

But, still, you got on with your life (as evidenced by many things, not the least of which is this blog post). Fact: The last digit of your phone number was (at some point) changed by the phone company. About ten years ago. For no reason whatsoever. And you never found out why. But you are, at this juncture, more concerned with what you might have been doing or wearing at the time more than anything else.

Which is not only okay, but completley predictable.

Do carry on.

No, really, do - do carry on.

No matter what.