Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Just Say "NO"

Well it took awhile, but the Obamas, both Barack and Michelle, have finally pissed me off. As most of you are aware, the decision regarding the hosting City for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games will be handed down this Friday morning. Chicago's chances seem to be rather strong, and I have no doubt that a firm last minute push from the glamourous First Couple of the United States makes a compelling inducement. Michelle Obama is in Copenhagen as I write, smooching the behinds of the IOC:

I will lay my cards on the table. I am 100% against the Chicago Olympic bid, not the least because it is a ram-it-down-our-throats attempt by the corrupt King Daley to secure his legacy as the Best Mayor Ever. That certainly does not help matters, but I have what I believe are other solid reasons for withholding my personal support:

1. Chicago's infrastructure: roads, bridges, the CTA - in large part decrepit, and certainly not able to welcome millions of international travelers.

2. The economy is still sluggish and the City is nearly bankrupt. They do not have the funds to fix #1.

3. The City's plan, I mean "Chicago 2016's" plan (a activist group of which King Daley is an honorary chairman) to secure private and Federal funding, without a local increase in taxes to pay for the Games, basically consists of a wish, a hope and a prayer.

4. When questioned about #3, Chicago 2016 representatives get defensive and try to limit inquiry by using the same sort of dissenters-as-unpatriotic rhetoric that would make Dick Cheney proud. How do I know this? Because I attended one of the organization's community meetings and saw it myself.

5. The answer to the anticipated traffic congestion upswing is to shut off parking downtown and double the capacity of the CTA, not with more environmentally friendly trains, but with carbon monoxide burping buses.

6. The "eminent domain" displacement of many South Side residents in order to make way for Olympic village structures. The City "guarantees" this will not happen. However, I interviewed a women from Housing Bronzeville a few weeks back who has already been "unofficially" approached about relocating.

7. Finally, the most selfish reason of all: Chicago is a spectacular City, a place with a relatively affordable cost of living, a somewhat hidden gem behind the flashier New York City and L.A. The crowds, congestion, fame and waste of the Games will change all that forever.

My friend Tim argued last night that the benefit to Chicago, with respect to short- to medium- term job creation and economic stimulus, outweighs all the negatives. I am not sure of that. I have wanted and needed people in charge to convince me we are not just mortgaging our future to pay for a little bit of televised glory. I have seen and heard the City's financial proposals. They are weak, and I am more than slightly afraid they will ultimately hit City residents where it hurts: in their homes and wallets.

I know there are strong feelings and disparate viewpoints on this charged topic. Please share.

Monday, September 28, 2009

9 to 5

I promised you guys that if I managed to succeed in landing the job this time, I would provide the full details about the position I interviewed for last week. Well I am happy to report that after just a few days on pins and needles, I met with success!

You are reading words written by a brand new Field Researcher for the Chicago Department of Tourism. It is a a mostly full-time, contract opportunity, which suits me just fine. I am used to having space in my week for the gym, freelancing writing projects and domestic chores. With just a little more hustle, I won't have to sacrifice any of that in my new line of work. I also like the idea of easing my toes back into the day job pool slowly, without a long term commitment. Because you never know when Entertainment Weekly might come calling for me, having read my reviews for the Edge, with a plum slot as one of their stable of critics - right? Am I right?

Anyway, I will have ample opportunity to entertain these and other daydreams as I traverse my way throughout this beloved City in my new assignment. If I tried to paraphrase the specifications of my work, you are liable to accuse me of making things up. Therefore, I will post the job description pulled right from the HR listing. You may begin to understand why I initially though this was too good to be true:

Field Researcher
(3-6 month temporary contract)

Purpose: Participate in a large-scale mapping project to build an inventory of Chicago’s tourism programs and services, historical/tourist attractions and notable commercial businesses or other organizations, for all of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods.

Responsibilities include: Onsite research of cultural venues, attractions and businesses, such as museums, galleries, local chambers of commerce, theaters, restaurants and retail shops; attends city-wide events i.e. festivals, parades, neighborhood civic meetings, markets, art fairs, tours, etc.; meets with community and cultural leaders; conducts research gathering interviews by using provided questionnaire; reports information to Project Manager and/or Project Coordinator via written reports and/or data entry; prepares files for archiving once data has been completed.

Hours: Approximately 25-40 hours per week

Location: Office located in Chicago’s loop, but position will mostly consist of travel and extensive fieldwork in all 77 neighborhoods.

Come on! I will be given a free 30-day CTA pass at the start of each month. My job is to then spend days wandering in a particular neighborhood: trying new foods, seeing new places and venues, then write up the details, report them to my bosses, and have them published on a fabulous web site. In return for this "work" I will be paid. Hell yeah!

My hands were shaking as I sent in my resume, and thanks to a little networking via my good friend Mark, who works downtown at the Cultural Center with the Tourism folks, I knew about the opening early. He allowed me to name drop him as well when submitting my application. So the rumors we have heard turn out to be true in my case: the only way to land a decent job in 2009 is to know somebody. Thanks MB!

I start next Monday. That means this is my last week of semi-unemployed sloth, at least for the next 3-6 months. I have two reviews to write for the Edge, and some work to do on a couple other freelance projects, but I also plan to stop and smell the early Fall roses too.

The first seven months of 2009 were a 13-car pileup, a cluster of misery of the worst variety. But things are on the upswing for me and mine heading toward the end of the year. I am so thankful.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Boop's Fall Must (and Must Not) See TV

On an unexpected leave from my usual anal retentive sensibility, I have been a horrible procrastinator this week. In fact, I ought to be writing a review for the play I saw Tuesday night, Fake, at the Steppenwolf, this very moment. For a variety of reasons, like maybe the continuous grey skies that make my eyelids heavy, I haven't been feeling it.

In this indolent state of mind, it's is just my luck that the Fall TV season is in full swing. Most years, I take a shine to a new show or two. Sometimes they get cancelled (Samantha Who?, Eli Stone) and I am indifferent. But this time around, it has been a pleasant surprise to discover that of the five new network programs I have sampled (a high count to begin with), I actually care a lot about four of them, and absolutely adore two. If any of these were cancelled, I may even be tempted to join one of those online letter writing campaigns I have always mocked.

For those of you that have spouses, mates and children to talk to on the weeknights, thus precluding you from spending three hours in front of the idiot box - I both envy and pity you - but that's another post for another time. But if you have seen any of these programs, weigh in and tell me what you think.

Can't Miss

1. Modern Family - This is a true comedic gem, and what makes the show the more endearing is its utter plausibility. Familes in 2009 are diverse and complicated and finally, I see a primetime clan that looks like my own. The Pritchett family includes a longterm gay couple that has recently adopted a Vietnamese girl; an older patriarch who marries a thirtysomething hottie Latina, and gains a sensitive 11 year-old stepson; late-30s spouses married for 16 years - Mom is a former girl gone wild and Dad mistakenly thinks he is as hip and relevant as ever. The realism is great, but that is not what makes this show an utter gut buster. To prove my point, check out the following clip:

2. Glee - Confession time: Boop was a member of the Chicago Children's Choir from 1994-1996, which makes the appeal of this show about an outcast high school Glee club particularly personal. But even if you think you hate "musicals," this program is more than worth your time. Jane Lynch, scene stealer in The 40 Year-Old Virgin, is perfection as relentless cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester. And the production numbers are flawless. Here's one that gave me goosebumps:

If You Have Time

1. Cougar Town - God I hope I age as well as Courtney Cox. Much has been made of the actress's "warts and all" approach to portraying a middle-aged, newly single divorcee, but I would flash my robe open on the first episode too if I had her body. Beyond the superficial though, there is a reason this woman has been in the television business since she played Alex's girlfriend Lauren on Family Ties. She is cute, accessible and an accomplished physical comedienne. I am hoping the show lasts long enough for the inevitable hookups between lead character Jules and ex-husband Bobby, or neighbor Grayson. Nobody knows how to do hot grown men like ABC, I'll say that (Desperate Housewives or Lost anyone?).

2. Community - I nearly put this on the "Can't Miss" list but I didn't want you folks to think I wasn't discriminating. This winking meta-sitcom revels in its likeness to great 80s film The Breakfast Club. The show, ostensibly about a souless lawyer who must go back and earn the Bachelor's degree he faked, puts Joel McHale with a bizarre and believably quirky cast of characters that includes Chevy Chase as eccentric billionaire oil tycoon Pierce.

I have never liked The Soup on the E! Network, with McHale. My friend Diane will want to throw tomatoes at me, but I just never got over former hosts Hal Sparks and Jon Henson (bet you thought I was going to say Greg Kinnear - not so). However, Community, has turned me into a huge Joel fan. He strikes just the right balance between cool and calculating with a touch of humanity. And this show is far and away the best thing Chevy Chase has done since National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Need proof? Check out Pierce and Jeff's "F" grade earning Spanish skit at the end of last night's episode. Sidesplitting.

Run Like Your Hair Is On Fire

1. Melrose Place - In a word, awful. It's one of those shows where I find myself wondering: when the powers that be watched back the taped episodes they had to air, how did they greenlight them? Someone should have spoken up, if only for the desecration heaped upon the great 1990s original. The only compliments I can pay are to Thomas Calabro and Laura Leighton, as returning gruesome twosome Michael and Sydney. They are every bit as dangerous and sexy in their 40s as they were in their early 30s. Of the new characters, who are nearly a universal waste, only Katie Cassidy as nouveau corporate bitch Ella has any potential.

Supposedly, in a strange case of deja vu, Heather Locklear is set to return to save the show from itself. I verily believe this piece of garbage might get cancelled before Amanda Woodward has a chance to work it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Back in Love Again

Ever since the start of the Brown Line reconstruction project a few years back, I have turned into a Metra snob. I live equidistant, more or less, between the Damen Ravenswood Line stop on the CTA, and the Ravenswood Metra platform of the Union Pacific North Line. I deemed the el necessary for some destinations, but wherever the Metra/Chicago Water Taxi option was available, I was doing it, particularly during rush hour. The Metra offerred a cleaner, smoother, less riff raff filled journey downtown, and I was in no mood for anything else.

But recently a funny thing has happened. My August trip to London, where I fell in love with the Tube (Underground), left me with a new appetite for the el upon my return home. This, and the awareness of a waning summer that will quickly turn into cold weather, renewed my desire to stand in the open air of the elevated train platforms and absorb the wind, re-embrace the local color and activities aboard the CTA, rediscover my roots. Time was, in the 90s, when I knew my way around the whole of Chicago on every single line. Now they have new entitites, like the Pink Line, and my former autopilot ability to change trains to get where I needed to be has gone rusty.

So in the last few weeks, I have taken the Brown, Red or both lines to Pilates class, theater performances for the Edge, job interviews, bikini waxes, and happy hours with Little C. My old Metra 10-ride pass is crinkling in my wallet with unuse, but for the moment I can't see myself going back. I will admit my rediscovered adoration of the public train has been buoyed by the fact that I have not had to take it during rush hour. I am suspicious that the standing room only crowd, the B.O. of some of my less than fresh commuters, and the constant stops, jerks and delays might break the spell.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Where did I go wrong?

I often make the joke that its a good thing that my kids are cute, otherwise I would get rid of them for some of the antics they pull. Isn't that, after all, why newborns come into the world all soft and snugly and warm? Because, honestly, no one would wake up 5 times every night to feed and soothe a smelly, rough-as-sandpaper, distant, grump. But today Rosebud said something that left me speechless and wondering "Where did I go wrong?"

The setup: Went out to breakfast with a friend. Rosebud is my constant companion on my mid-morning outings, so anyone who wants face time must accept that it comes with an unpredictable toddler. To my pleasant surprise, she was well behaved at the breakfast establishment - other than the initial fear of the man in the beard sitting across from me (she said later, in the car on the way home, "I don't like Ryan", but I digress...)

As most two year-old are prone to do, she reached her limit of sitting in the booth like a good girl and decided it might be amusing to crawl up into the window sill. That was fine when she was dangling her legs below, but when she got all the way up and attempted an escape to the booth behind me, I had to put my foot down. I sternly asked her to get down to which she replied just as stern "No! Drink your coffee!". That was accompanied by a finger point to my mug as well. Wow.

I took the not-so-subtle cue to leave before it resulted in a shame spiral to the car, all the while trying to piece together where she may have overheard that kind of talk. I am the likely suspect, as usual, when it comes to her ill-chosen language. Even my breakfast date was stunned and, of course, slightly amused. He commended me on my patience as I strapped Rosebud in the car seat and we parted ways. That's when she told me she didn't like Ryan. Isn't she sweet?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday: Surgery, a Job Interview and the Goodman Theater

I haven't had a regular day job in more than four months. I think this often gives folks the erroneous impression (often encouraged by me) that I am a slacker who has nothing but free time on her hands. Not so. I will not bore you with the mundane details of a typical day but between my causes, freelancing, household chores, family business management and job seeking, Eddie would be the first to report that I appear to be stretched thinner now than when I "worked."

But by any standards, today is a doozy that will require a plethora of mental and physical strength.

The morning began at 6 AM when I got up to straighten the house, and myself, prior to wrestling Snuggy back over the vet. I use my choice of words purposely. You would not think a near toothless old cat, with a jaw infection and an absence of front claws would be able to put up much of a fight about anything. You would be wrong. I became seriously afraid that I might accidentally break Snuggy's neck while shoving him back in the cat carrier. He was apparently onto my ruse that we were just going out for a nice, early morning mother and son walk. Gratefully, my back seat remained free of pee on the short drive to the animal clinic. I should be able to see Snuggy again after 3 PM this afternoon.

Before that time, I have to shower, dress up like I am trying to impress somebody (have almost forgotten what this is like in my unemployment uniform of t-shirt and sweats), and head downtown for a job interview. As Boop has crashed and burned several times this summer in a high profile way, she chooses to release minimal details on this opportunity. All I will mention is that it's just about perfect for my current needs, and I will be happy to tell everyone all about it should I meet with success.

After I get off the el, I will have to get back over to Uptown Animal Hospital and bring the patient home. I should have just about enough time to wolf down a snack before hopping the el back downtown. I have to see a play for the Edge called Stoop at the Goodman Theater tonight - 7 PM. Shows at the Goodman are almost always high quality, but truth be told, I feel a little guilty that Snuggy will be home alone tonight. This is one instance of about 10 million when I wish my husband were not always on the road. I will be running from the theater faster than usual.

I hope whatever you are doing on this cloudy and humid Monday morning, whatever hoops you are jumping though, whatever annoyances you are coping with, you know it's all worth it.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Update: Snugs Cleared for Surgery!

Dr. Whisler called yesterday morning and declared my old man pretty darned fit for a 15.5 year old with two slightly failing organs. So the surgery proceeds at 8:30 AM Monday morning. After he starts healing, his quality of life should greatly improve, buying Eddie and I another couple years with Snuggy. I won't like having to drag him back to Uptown Animal Hospital, but I like seeing him in the pain he's been in even less.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My Life Partner

When I was six and Jen was four years old, our parents bought a house on the Northwest Side of the City. After we moved in and got settled, my parents decided that it was time for Jen and I to learn the joys and responsibilities of our first real pet. Enter Snuggles, formerly known as Inky, a smallish black and white cat with energy and personality to spare. Jen had changed the cat's name as an homage to her favorite entertainer at the time - the Snuggle fabric softener bear from the TV commercials.

We had a lot of good years with Snuggy. However, when I was 14, my father made the careless error of leaving the front door open. Somehow Snuggy slipped out, and though this had happened before and ended with his safe return, it was not to be this time. Jen and I were heartbroken. I can still go back to my journals at that time and read the girlish renderings of life without my favorite little guy.

By the Fall of my junior year of high school, my parents had separated. I stayed living with my father in that house on the Northwest Side. By now it had been two years since I had last cuddled Snuggy. It was a warm, autumn day in 1994 and I was leaving the house to go out. I have forgotten where. As I was walking toward the street, I turned around to face the hedges, and out from underneath them, at that very moment, crawled Snuggy's doppelganger.

He walked right up to me and started rubbing his face on my hands. I was stunned into silence. It looked just like Snuggy! This cat was acting just like him too. To complete the test of my gut instinct, I opened the front door to the house again. Snuggy walked right in and made himself comfortable. But this didn't make sense. Snuggy had been gone for two years. This cat looked like him and behaved like him in everyway, but by then Snuggy the first would have been 8 years old. This creature didn't look middle aged at all.

Not long afterward, a visit to the vet confirmed that this could not be the same cat. For one, he had front claws and Snuggy the first did not. But secondly, and this stopped my blood cold again, this cat was only 9 months old. Guess how old Snuggy the first was when we first got him? Right. I am not a very superstitious person by nature, but how else to explain a cat that looked and acted identical to Snuggy the first, who crawled out of thin air from my bushes at the same age as his predecessor, came inside the house and acted like he had always known my father and I? I couldn't fight it anymore, and this new pet was forever known as Snuggy II. In time, he was just Snuggy, and as I grew older, the two Snuggys sort of became conflated in my mind into one adorable being.

15 years later, I am 31 years old, and Snuggy is still with me. We lived apart my freshman year at U of I, because pets were forbidden from living in dorm rooms. But as soon as I was able, I got myself an apartment and Snugs came to live with me. He moved back with me to Chicago after graduation. He has been with me through countless boyfriends, heartaches, grad school, marriage, and an ill-fated year of suburban living.

A couple days ago, my friend Gary was over. He and Snuggy go a long way back, and Gary was giving my man some affection when he noticed a small brown spot under Snuggy's chin. One of my cat's many quirks is that he is a habitual vomiter - always has been. I wiped him off thinking it was remnants of his last heaving spell and went about my business.

Yesterday, I woke up earlier than my alarm, which was great. I thought I would get a good start on the morning. But as I was feeding my cats (I have two, including 5 year-old Jordan), I noticed that Snuggy, my 15 1/2 year old baby, was eating out of the side of his mouth. I went in for a closer look, and after checking him out, noticed that he was drooling and letting his mouth hang open. Looking down further, I noticed a small open sore along the jawline. I tried to get a hold of Eddie but he left his cell charger at home this week and wasn't at his desk in SC - not that there was anything he could have done anyway.

I rushed Snuggy to the vet where he was diagnosed with a rotten canine tooth that had swelled his whole jaw. I felt so bad for not noticing earlier, but he was doing everything normal - eating, sleeping, no crying to let me know he was in pain. A few more days and he would have had a blood infection - maybe died. The vet gave him a 48 hour shot of antibiotics and sent me home with a 7 day course to give him starting Saturday.

He needs an oral surgery to extract the tooth and treat his gums, but here's the complication. At his advanced age, and since he was already in the early stages of kidney and liver failure two years ago, the vet is not certain he would survive the surgery. Blood and urine work coming in this morning will decide. If he can take it, the surgery will take place on Monday morning. If not, he'll finish the antibiotics and the doctor will try to extract the tooth with local anesthetic.

Either way, I am seriously having to confront Snuggy's mortality. He has been my life partner in every way that counts. How many times did I cry childish tears on Snuggy's back while he squirmed underneath me? How many times during a cold winter did I let him crawl under my covers so we could share body heat? How many years now have I been giving him a weekly bath with Johnson's Baby Shampoo because he has gotten too lazy to clean himself? How many piles of vomit have I wiped up that shot from my virtually toothless lion king (Snuggy has had extractions before).

Snuggy has had a good, long life. But I am the one who needs your prayers. I do not know how to live in a world without him. It's been too long. Even more frightening and dispiriting is that I know somehow that after this Snuggy, there will never be another.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Millennial Misogyny

I was going to create a lark of a post today. Yesterday afternoon while walking down Lincoln Avenue near Belmont, a man stopped in his car at a red light gave me a smile. He was unselfconsciously listening to great 80s movie theme song "St Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)" For all the people under 27 who have no idea what I am talking about, this ditty was sung by one-hit wonder John Parr, to go along with a most excellent, cheesy Brat Pack film by the same name - minus the "Man in Motion" part.

Sigh. Ok, the Brat Pack consists of people like Rumer Willis's mom and the guy who played Victory's boyfriend on "Lipstick Jungle." Kids today.

Anyway, the idea I was working on is that everyone has their own "pump it up" jam, that song that uniquely seems to get you going when you need an internal shot of adrenaline. This dude, as Paula Abdul might have said before she left AI, showed those of us on Lincoln his "heart" when he belted out "And I'm coming alive!" toward the end of the song's bridge - windows open, warbly, offkey voice booming. Marvelous. For my own part, my "pump it up" jams vary from Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger," to Kevin Rudolph's "Let it Rock." There are others, but we'll save that for another time.

I was just sitting on my couch catching a few minutes of CNN before I sat down to write this. I was quite pleased with myself on having located a relatable slice of life piece to share, rather than the usual details of my personal muck, or my lefty political rants. I was about to put out my stick of burning incense and retreat to the office, when the following story rolled across the screen:

Cops: Woman gang raped in Hofstra U. dorm
18-year-old student allegedly forced into room, assaulted by five men

And this is right on the heels of:

Yale student murder: police investigate lab technician
Investigators of Annie Le murder focus on wounded lab technician who failed polygraph test

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 52 % of all rape/sexual assault victims are females younger than 25. Maybe the recent spate of high profile and gruesome stories makes the situation seem more like a dire epidemic than day to day reality reflects, but clearly we have a problem on our hands. And why? How did this happen?

Haven't some of us complacently lulled ourselves into believing we are more progressive as a nation? Isn't the Millennial Generation supposed to bring us hope in terms of thoughtful open mindedness toward the treatment of ethnic, sexual and religious groups? I know I have been guilty of seeing only what I want to see at times. And I believe a growing number of our nation's youth ARE learning to coexist peacefully, though you need look no further than the disappointing displays of racism disguised as "disagreement" with our President, to know we have a long way to go.

But a scary number of our young people show a callous, sinister disregard for any human lives but their own. It is time to address it in a serious way. Some will blame indulgent, lax parenting as the problem, and it may certainly be a catalyst toward the criminal irresponsibility of these young men. But we're talking about more than simply morals and values here. Something is broken within our social code, and I have watched it degenerate palpably in my own relatively young lifetime. Women may have more power in the workplace, marketplace and at the ballot box than they ever have. Unfortunately, one of the dire consequences of that growth is an intensifying, seething anger on the part of a fringe segment of our young men. Now I am no psychologist, but it would seem this fringe feels somehow emasculated, even at the "privileged" levels of the social hierarchy. They are dealing with those feelings of powerlessness by attacking and mutilating, reasserting their own physical authority.

I don't know where to start. Violence against women is unfortunately an issue as old as humanity itself. But I hope that America's institutions of higher learning get together and start coming up with some ideas. I want to hear them. I do not want anymore promising young women cut down, scarred and abused when they should be studying hard and finding their own youthful "pump it up" jams.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lost and Found

It was an eventful weekend, within my own circle of acquaintance, as well as on the public stage. The weather in Chicago was gorgeous and sunny, enough to infuse one with a profound sense of pending loss, as we expect those leaves to start turning color and falling any day now. Maybe it was this mood of happy urgency that rendered these weekend oddities just a bit funnier:

Becky Boop

Lost: One regulation size Gaiam yoga mat. I hopped on the Brown Line at Damen on Friday morning, on my way to my downtown Pilates class, packed like the proverbial rat. Six pounds of dumbbells, two novels and my journal in my bag, yoga mat tucked under my arm. I became engrossed in my book, as I often do, so much so that I nearly forgot to get off at the Chicago Red Line station. In my haste to leave before the doors closed, I neglected something critical: my mat. I realized my mistake and turned around in slo-mo just as the electronic entrance slammed shut, and the train began to move again.

Found: I had exactly 15 minutes to get a new mat before class started. The staff at Nike Town are unhelpful slags. At the front door, they assured me they sold yoga gear. Three flights of stairs and a conversation with the floor manager later, all I had to show for myself was the loss of a precious 8 minutes. Likewise, Macy's and Walgreens are not fitness inclined. It was at Border's I finally found a new mat - and it was way cushier than my old one. I will chalk this up as a karmic plot to secure me new exercise equipment, rather than as evidence of my senility.

Sid Beaverhousen - aka my old pal Brandon

Lost: One pair of fierce red platform shoes. On Saturday afternoon, Eddie and I met Brandon at his new apartment in order to walk together to our friend Jeremy's 35th birthday party in Andersonville. Brandon is a creative guy with a funkly, artistic sensibility. He strapped on these shoes that were a work of art - three inch platforms that kind of made Brandon look like a white, blond Shaft as he strutted down Clark Street. We were just a few blocks from the bar when I looked behind me and saw Brandon come to a screeching halt. This is when Eddie and I saw it. The sole of his right shoe had completely slipped off. Brandon prides himself on being unflappable, but he could not cover his annoyance and embarassment fast enough to escape my notice. The broken footwear was hilarious enough on a crowded street in broad daylight, but what really put me over the edge was the following plaintive wail: "What am I going to do now?!"

Found: Once I managed to pick myself off the pavement (yes, there has long been a warm spot in hell waiting for Boop), Brandon, now walking along in just his socks, began to realize he couldn't enter a bar barefoot. The options were to turn around and go home, not beloved as we had walked a long way by then, or stop and buy a new pair of shoes. I am happy to report this story ends happily, with Brandon sporting a new pair of white Steve Maddens that cost a mere $40. The incident also provided me with a story to retell ad nauseum for the evening.

The Bears

Lost: The great hope that Jay Cutler was going to serve the team any better than Rex Grossman or Brian Griese, at least after game one. Four turnovers - wow.

Found: The all-too sensible perspective that it's going to take more than a marquee quarterback to give Da Bears a golden season. Like, for example, how about some competent wide receivers?

Kanye West

Lost: His mind, his respect for fellow artists and his read of the collective public opinion that it is not OK to humiliate teenage girls onstage, no matter how rich and famous they might be.

Found: After the crap display of Congressman Joe Wilson last week, and this Kanye incident, America rises up and decides its had its fill of public boorishness and rudeness. I would not like to be the third public figure to try this overbearing garbage. The climate is finally intolerant to something we can all agree is no good for our culture - arrogrant hysteria.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Water in South Carolina

Eddie has been traveling to this Southern State for most of the year, part of the deal that comes with his landing a solid, full-time job with the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Association. I have gone along with him on two of these weekly business trips since July, and have written a bit about how I enjoyed the quiet and relaxation I had found in the small town of Blythewood to do my work (both freelance writing, and on my tan).

So yes, South Carolina has necessarily been on my radar this year. But even if my husband's career hadn't led him toward an intimate relationship with this land of 4.5 million people, it would be hard to ignore the continuing stream of news oddities that have been vomited from the overheated Red state in 2009. This latest bit, the by-now infamous conduct of Congressman Joe Wilson, who screamed "You lie!" like a classless red neck whooping it up at a monster truck rally at President Obama, during a nationally televised address, only served to remind me that this is the fourth time in a very short period that something shady in SC has mounted the national stage.

1. June 22, 2009 - Governor Mark Sanford Goes "Hiking"

I believe we all know by now that the early summer "vacation" of the Gov was instead a jaunt down to Argentina to get a blowjob from his mistress. This continues to be a major pickle, and I had assumed (wrongly) that the GOP would like to shove this business under the rug so they could get back to the important work of scaring senior citizens to death about health care reform. But no! They are the ones who continue to call for Sanford's ouster, as recently as this week. There's nothing that makes me smile brighter than right wing cannibalism.

2. July 6, 2009 - Police say suspect in South Carolina serial killings is dead

If you blinked in early July, or were out enjoying summer fun rather than stuck indoors watching TV with your overseas in-laws, you may have missed this. It is for the best that this miscreant did himself in. Patrick Tracy Burris' five victims were completely random in terms of age, class and relation to the murderer (i.e. none). An unreadable killer is the most dangerous of all.

3. August 19, 2009 - Record Setting PowerBall Jackpot Winner From South Carolina

It took Solomon Jackson Jr. WEEKS to claim his 259 million dollar prize. And as of today, he has yet to make a decision as to how he'd like to be paid (cash or annuity). Glad he doesn't need the money that badly. Eddie and I had tickets for this particular drawing, so I took this indecision personally.

4. September 9, 2009 - 'You Lie:' Joe Wilson outburst sets bad example for kids

It would be amoral of me, as a responsible blogger, not to admit that I have had to restrain myself this week from writing Congressman Wilson a thank you letter: not because I support his childish display of petulant rudeness. No, I thank him because he has changed the subject of the health care reform debate from prophesies of dead grandmas, to an examination of just how partisan and disrespectful Capitol Hill practices have gotten. Obama and Co. are savvily riding the PR and sympthy wave, handing out gracious and forgiving soundbites, and leaving uncommitted independents wondering if the Republicans can find their own asses much less develop an adult piece of beneficial legislation.

So it's been a busy few months for a State that comprises a mere 1.5% of the nation's total population. I think they had better drum up some media attention for something other than slutty/crazy politicians, murder and careless millionaires on the double. Thanks to the Blago/Roland Burris fiasco, I informally awarded Illinois the 2008 Goat of the Union Award. Looks like SC is a serious contender for '09.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obama Speech Roundup

Our president has been all over the place in recent days, trying to rustle up support for the critical health care overhaul, as fear and madness have begun to take over, and Obama's poll numbers have sagged. I was starting to wonder myself where our leader was in all this. It began to seem as though he was taking punches and retreating to the corner to lick his wounds. I, like so many other left leaning, progressive people, have not given up on reform. It is vital, it is humane, it is economically necessary - no matter what scare tactics the naysayers try to use. So it is with great pride that I have watched my elected leader come out swinging again in the last week.

1. Obama's Labor Day Address at the AFL-CIO Picnic

Alright, in fairness, this was a friendly crowd. No one seems to love Obama more than organized labor, and that comfort level was reflected in his casual-Friday like speech. But like a football coach boosting his losing team with a halftime, locker room pep talk, I think this message was needed. Don't give up yet. The time is now. I for one felt "fired up" and "ready to go" after watching this energetic address! We're still in the game.

2. The President's Message to School Children

This speech was a detour from a full court press of the President's ideology, in an attempt to bolster the nation's youngest citizens. American students are woefully behind many other countries in critical, 21st century areas like math and science. Obama sought to inspire the children with the story of his own unlikely rise, and teach them the necessity of owning their path. How wonderful.

Naturally, the response from the right was a measured dose of...condemnation. WTF? Seriously? Obama was disingenously accused of indoctrination by certain conservative crazies. As Tom Friedman said on last Sunday's edition of Meet the Press: sometimes it's on us to stand up and point out when something is "stupid," to scream when partisan bickering has crossed the line of sanity. What could be more ridiculous than finding a first day of school address to our youngest Americans controversial? Is it just me or are some of Obama's critics really grasping at straws?

3. Tonight's Address to Congress

Are you ready to rumble??!!! The interesting thing about tonight's speech is that Obama has to try and verbally slap members of both parties on the Hill. No fault of his own of course, but Obama pledged a decrease in partisan politics when he ran for office. This health care debate has instead brought out the absolute extremes in party posturing. Dems like Nancy Pelosi have been every bit as dogmatic, power hungry and unreasonable as some of their Republican counterparts. Tonight is the night when Obama has to smack some bitches up on both sides of the aisle and make it clear we need to get things done. Enough talk.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Rest Ye Laborers

I am having a fairly lowkey holiday weekend. On Friday and Sunday, I caught up with Little C and Phil at their place. I drank wine and flipped through their cross country drive photos. On Saturday, Eddie and I drove out to the 'burbs to see Jen, her hubby and Rosebud. Last night I met with a very dear friend of mine that I have known for 17 years at one of my favorite Italian restuarants in Andersonville. I could stand for it to be warmer, but otherwise, things feel pretty good. Eddie is not traveling this week, which is rare and wonderful and I have a lot of exciting work coming my way in the next few days.

I hope whatever it is that you folks are doing today, it is peaceful, entertaining and/or relaxing. 2009 has banged us all up pretty good and we deserve a day now and then to

Friday, September 4, 2009

Rachel Zoe and Jesika?

It has been nearly four and a half months since Jesika passed away. I need not tell you that the first month or so was just awful, but sometimes, even when you don't see how it could, life goes on. You learn to compartmentalize, to put your grief somewhere safe so you can go about the business of living. Your loved one is never forgotten, but if the acute feelings of longing went on unchecked, we'd never be able to deal with the day to day. However, that grief is always lurking somewhere, ready to be unleashed, often in the most unexpected of ways.

Yesterday I got a text message from Jen, as I was singing along to my iTunes catalog while cleaning house. It read as follows:

"You're going to think I'm crazy but I think I just saw Jesika in the background of an episode of the Rachel Zoe Project."

This particular episode was filmed in the Fall of 2008, during New York Fashion Week. Jesika was a former resident of the Big Apple and a dedicated fashionista. Both Jen and I remembered that Jesika had attended Fashion Week at some point, but couldn't be sure of the year. I picked up the phone to call Kevin, the only source I figured might be able to clear up the mystery.

I rambled quickly though the voicemail I left him, urgently and quickly relating the information I needed. Was Jesika at Fashion Week last year at this time or not? It was like all of the sudden I was a woman who had gone without water for weeks. I needed that drink of Jesika. If she had gone to Fashion Week, and had been in the background of that stupid reality show, then maybe, maybe I could see her again. Jesika would live forever on Hulu or something.

Once I realized I'd have to wait for an answer from Kevin and after trading a few more texts with Jen on the subject, I sat down....and cried like a little baby. Because I realized that I wouldn't be satisfied once I knew the truth. If it wasn't Jesika that Jen saw, than my glimmer of hope of getting another peek at her was extinguished. But even if it was, the first thing I want to do is call Jesika and taunt her for being on such a tired program (I giggle when Perez Hilton calls Zoe "Raisinface," I admit it). I can't do that.

The reality suddenly hit me in the chest, as it does from time to time. Jesika is gone. I can't call her to good naturedly poke fun at her, as we both did over the years. I can't call her for anything. Will that ever stop hurting?

I don't have the answer. I have to move to another compartment now.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I'm baaaaack!!!

As hope increases that Rosebud is completely cured of what ailed her for the better part of the year, I feel compelled to jump back on board this blog that I started (hard to believe, I know) and have a little fun. Not much of that in my life this year.

I have no shame in admitting that the thing I know most about is the Hollywood scene. Sad as that may be, most of my day revolves around music and gossip. All in a day's work, what can I say. One particular item on the various celeb-themed sites I read really got me going. Its from none other than Spencer Pratt (who, as a side note, also plans to change his name legally to King Spencer Pratt. Sadly, that's not the worst idea he's come up with this week. Just wait). Spencer was asked his thoughts on a potential for Speidi offspring. Read his response, compose yourself, and return to read my thoughts...

What what what??? I don't even know where to begin on this one. Perhaps the fact that the two of them are on completely opposite sides of the planet when it comes to parenting. Perhaps that's something that should have come up, say, prior to the wedding. To me, that's a deal breaker. But I am not a desperate fame whore who is nothing without the other (and even with they are barely "something") so who am I to judge why people do or not do what they do.

Next, I struggle to find which quote is more disturbing:

"I said, 'No, sucker — you'll be locked in. What do you mean?'" - always a reasonable response when your life partner asks to start a family with you


"If she's not down with the adoption, I think it's divorce." - um....okaaayy

Just when you think a douche can't get any douche-ier, he gets another tabloid mention after bashing Ryan Seacrest for saying if he could tase any reality celeb it would be Heidi. Really, Spence? Ryan can't tase your wife, but you can lock her in a closet and/or dump her ass on the curb if she dares do something so unforgiving as to bare your child??? What an intolerable bitch. Well, she is actually, but just not for that reason.

Random Acts of Kindness

I am in a better mood these days. I am still riding high from my London experiences, and have renewed my efforts to make a go of this freelance writing career while I look for a more permanent job. I picked up a copy of my third StreetWise cover yesterday, an article about Mercy Homes and organic gardens. It turned out well. I am now working on my fourth cover story and have stepped up my game a bit. I am writing a piece about a three -acre nature preserve and sanctuary, called Eden Place on the South Side. I am sort of turning myself into a local expert on urban agriculture, and am fine with that niche. It is booming and it's beneficial to develop expertise on the subject.

I went to Eden Place yesterday for the interview and to take photos (my first time doing that). Then in the afternoon, I spoke with the USDA's Under Secretary. He was in town for a press conference and tour of some of Chicago's urban food gardens, which is relevent to my piece. I know this isn't like interviewing the President or anything, but I was really nervous! I am going back to Eden Place for their farmer's market on Saturday. I think we all my research and time spent, this may be my best piece yet.

I am also back in the swing with the Edge and wrote a review of Arthur Miller's All My Sons, which I saw Monday night at the Greenhouse Theater Center on Lincoln. It was quite good, exploring relevant issues like corporate greed in times of war. The Edge is also sending me a book to read and review. And on the 15th, the new issue of Jettison Quarterly comes out, and with it the story I co-wrote with my friend Bryan on Weird Chicago Tours. So all of this is great and I have to stay positive, even if I am a little dispirited looking for a job with an actual income. The job market is still horrible. But I was reminded in London that I am doing what I am meant to be doing, even if I am no genius like Shakespeare or Austen.

Other areas of my life are looking up as well. Jen's little Rosebud finally seems to be getting better (please join me in a communal knock on wood). My marriage, which combusted ground zero style in July, seems to be on the mend, with a side order of hard work and counseling.

So anyway, I am inclined to look at everything a bit more positively these days. And yesterday appeared to be a time when fate, karma, what have you, saw fit to remind me that not everyone is mercenary, and if you just open your eyes, little pieces of evidence abound that most people do actually mean well.

Example #1: I parked my car as usual in the Whole Foods lot before meeting my trainer for our twice weekly sweat session. Normally, I use any spare time before the hour to warm up. But on this day, I chose to browse my local Gap store instead (I admit I may have been influenced by Confessions of a Shopaholic, which I am currently reading - great chick lit). I found a couple pieces I liked, one on sale, one not, and was considering which I ought to buy (I do have some spending scruples). When all of the sudden like a retail angel, a woman appears with a 20% off coupon on any full priced item. She had gotten it after taking as phone survey. She said that on this day she saw nothing she wanted to buy, so would I like to use it? Don't mind if I do! I realize this is small, but it certainly gave me a boost.

Example #2: I am scared of dogs - always have been. I could try to explain but I suppose the point of any deep rooted fear is that it is not rational. Typically, I can only admire cute pooches from afar. But my friends Quincy and DJ have an adorable English Boxer named Ursula, whom I have flirted with petting with for awhile now. Last night I met some of my pals at a bar to wish my friend Joe well as he moves back home with his parents. Ursula was there on the dog friendly patio. I was considering whether I were brave enough to go in for a cuddle, when she unceremoniously looked up and licked my face. I think that says it all. We are now famous friends.

Example #3: I have been thinking about certain family members I haven't spoken to lately, like my favorite cousin, Little C who has been on a post-layoff road trip with her husband Phil for the last three weeks. Or my A.D., my fellow writer and mentor. As luck would have it, I heard from both of these folks ysterday. As my friend Diane might say, it warmed the cockles of my heart.

So there you have it, nothing much at all. But I think we (I) ignore the little things to often in favor of big picture misery. What can I say? I am sort of a "glass is half empty" gal by nature. Well maybe not any longer. I just sort of got tired of feeling tired and angry this year, you know? It's time for a new attidtude. Thanks for the reminder Ms. Patti LaBelle!