Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Yin And Yang ...

Ah, life. Ah, Einstein. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The past few days, I have felt like absolute crap.

I don't get sick very often. I am very much like my mother that way. She is a big believer in mind over matter, and she refuses to get sick. Sure, it doesn't always work, but it works a lot better than giving in to the sniffles. So last week, despite feeling crummy, I acted as though nothing were wrong. It is a tactic that has worked in the past.

Last week, not so much.

I started to lose my voice Friday night. Leaving the restaurant after celebrating my mom's birthday, I was starting to get high-pitched and squeaky. Those of you who know my voice know it is anything but high-pitched and squeaky. Many have told me I have the perfect voice for phone sex.

By Saturday morning, I was down for the count, as I mentioned a couple blog entries ago. And I spent the weekend on the couch or in bed.

Alas, the work week arrived yestserday, and with it, actual work. Feeling somewhat better, I do what I always do in those situations: I operated as though I were better. Silly girl. About 3 p.m., I hit a brick wall, my body saying, "Uh, Beth? You're still sick. Lay down."

So I did. I read. I talked on the phone but my throat started protesting, so I stopped talking on the phone.

Crap.

I hate being sick. I like the sick lifestyle - loafing on the couch, eating comforting foods, snuggling under warm blankets and comforters - but I don't like that I have no real control over feeling crappy, that I will get better on my body's timetable, not my mind's.

So I woke up this morning and didn't slam the day into 5th gear. I started out gingerly, easing into the day, picking up momentum as the day wore on, testing the waters of well-being and wading in a little further.

And I had one of the best days I've had in a long time. I was hugely productive. I did really good work for work. I did things around the house. I talked on the phone without setting my throat on fire. I was still working at 8:30 tonight. Momentum indeed.

Of course, I think we can ascribe much of my enhanced state to the fact that I'll be seeing G tomorrow. During an IM conversation this afternoon, my friend Marc suggested that some of my posts should come with a warning and a reading on the glycemic index. But, he announced in his next thought bubble, they're really rather sweet.

Yes, they are. And yes, I know that I've just opened myself up to the snide Anonymous comment.

Whatever.

Bring it on.

Today is one of those days that no one can spoil.

James Frey ...

Doreen is surprised that I haven't used this space to rant about James Frey, he of "A Million Little Pieces," the man who lied in his memoir, the man who took his lumps on Oprah's couch.

She's surprised because I used this space, months ago, to give Mitch Albom what for when he was found out in his fabrications. I was livid then.

I'm not livid now.

"Lying is lying," Doreen said this morning in an IM.

And that is true.

But it's different.

Lying in your memoirs may be wrong. It may be stupid. It may be misleading. But it's personal. James Frey lied about himself.

Mitch Albom lied about other people. Lied about where they were, lied about what they wore. Lied about where he was, too.

I used to work for newspapers, still write for some from time to time. I still think what Mitch did was reprehensible, and can't believe he didn't get more than a slap on the wrist.

As for James Frey, his reputation is now shit. He says he won't write a book to capitalize on his shameful unmasking. How noble. As if another publisher will want to take him on. But I say, "Write it. If it will help you, write it. If a publisher will buy it, sell it. If a reader will buy it, let them. And then donate the money to Oprah's Angel Network or some other charity. A literacy group or an organization that helps kids get off drugs."

But then, remember Jayson Blair? He wrote "Burning Down My Master's House" and nobody read it. Because once you lie to your audience, why would they every believe another thing you have to say?

Monday, January 30, 2006

G ...

I get the greatest uptick in the number of visits to my blog when I write about G.

Why is that? Do visitiors have some sort of alert set to let them know when I blog about him? Is it a sixth sense? Do the regular readers tell their friends about G posts and the friends visit?

I didn't see him this weekend. I had hoped to. There was talk about him celebrating my mom's birthday with all of us on Friday and meeting the family. But for a variety of reasons, that didn't pan out, which is just as well, because I started losing my voice Friday night and by the time I woke up on Saturday, I felt as though I'd be run down by a very large truck.

(An aside: I truly noticed this weekend that my DVD-buying habits are way too intense. When you're sick, you want to watch fluffiness, not "Monster's Ball" or "One-Hour Photo" or "The Hours." Even my VHS collection, dusty as it is, is similarly dour. Clearly, I need to buy more from the "mindless DVDs" tab at Amazon ...)

His mother will be visiting from Germany in a few days, which will curtail my G time over the next couple of weeks, and this weekend was logically the last time we'd be able to spend uninterrupted time together. But no: I was lying on the couch for nearly 48 hours, getting sick of canned chicken soup, strangely craving grapefruit, watching movies and DVDs of TV shows I've been meaning to see, and dozing. And all the while coughing as though I were trying to expel a lung. Ah, bronchitis.

So, my friends who check in for G updates, I haven't a G update to share. He has offered several "Poor Beths," which I appreciate (even upgrading me to the emphatic "POOR BETH" on several occasions), but he's wisely kept his distance. On Saturday, he IMed to ask if he could do anything for me. "You could bring me chicken soup," I said. "But I think I'm outside of your delivery radius."

No chicken soup. No cards. No flowers. No G.

: o )

Poor Beth.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

'March of the Penguins' ...

I never saw this film when it was in theaters, which is a shame, because it's so breathtakingly beautiful, it would have been a joy to see on the big screen instead of on my 27-inch Sony.

But I'm glad to have seen it at last. It is truly amazing, as Roger Ebert said. I marveled at the footage the filmmakers shot, partly because of their proximity to the penguins, and partly because of the conditions. How does anything - man or camera - function in weather that's 80 degrees below 0, not counting the windchill created by 100-mile-per-hour winds?

I was amused, though, at one key point of Morgan Freeman's outstanding narration. You'll remember that many Christian organizations sang the praises of the film for its family theme. Penguin monogamy and all that?

Here, then, a quote from ChristianAnswers.net's review of the film:

"OBJECTIONABLE: The male and female penguins select a mate and are monogamous to each other for that season only. Morgan Freeman says, 'All bets are off' referring to the next season when they will choose a different mate. It seemed inappropriate and out of place in relation to the rest of the movie."

"Inappropriate and out of place"? Because it's the truth? Because it punches a hole in the monogamy story they want the penguins to convey? And keep in mind: Morgan Freeman was reading a script written by someone else.

Sorry, folks. The penguins hook up for a season. They get it on, they care for the egg and the eventual chick, and then, when summer comes, they part ways, and next season, they hook up with new penguins.

Which emulates many humans' behavior, after all. Just not in the way the Christian movement wants to acknowledge.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Swimwear Is A Sin ...


I swear I am not making this up.

Click on the title of the post to see for yourself.

Patty sent a link to me this morning for WholsomeWear, the introduction page for which reads:

"WholesomeWear is a modest line of clothing for 'wherever.' Our WaterWear is the first to be introduced because the need for modesty in swimwear is greatest and the supply is almost non-existent. Swimwear that 'highlights the face, rather than the body' includes an undergarment with bright colors at the neck and shoulders to draw the eye to the face. The spandex undergarment fits like a body suit, while the loose fitting Taslan outer garment limits cling and adds modesty and style."

Unfortunately, there is no "About Us" link on the site to shed a little light on the folks who see the great need for modesty in swimwear. Some might agree that thong bikinis are a tad bit too revealing, but isn't this a bit too much of a throwback to the turn of the previous century?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Things That Make Me Go 'Hmm' ...

Elida, a long-time friend from my days at the Tribune (who has since wisely move on, as well), produces television these days, and as such, I get some e-mails with some crazy timestamps on them. This came through at 4:53 a.m. (and she was writing from the east coast).

"You're doing a lot of writing in your blog about things (writing) you did a long time ago. The Algren entry made me think of that. Go back and look and you'll see I'm right.

What are you writing TODAY (except for the blog)?

Are you writing TODAY (except for the blog)?"

What good questions.

And the truthful answer is: not much. On both counts.

I try to post to the blog everyday, but outside of that, I'm not committed to a writing project the way I should be. I write the occasional story for a client. I jot down a scene or two for the screenplay when an idea moves me. But unlike L.A. Dave, who regularly returns to a book idea he's been working on for a couple years, I don't have anything larger in the works.

After reading Elida's note, I started to wonder why. I'm a writer, and writers write. So what's my deal?

It's kind of a chicken-and-egg thing. I work best where I have a deadline, but I won't have a deadline unless I sell something, but I haven't sold anything because I haven't been writing.

Sure, I can have self-imposed deadlines, but I'm not that disciplined. At least, I haven't been yet.

Or maybe it's just that I haven't really struck on the right idea. I know that I'd love to write a book. Non-fiction. About some aspect of my life. That's as far as I've gotten.

I don't think I have a novelist in me. I've tried writing fiction. And my writing friends say kind things, but it just doesn't feel right.

I don't want to be a reporter, covering events. I've written things for newspapers. Those never felt right, either.

Still, the answers are found in action. So I write here. I feel accountable to the people who stop by every day, that I should have something new for them to read. So I write. And it's not in vain. Maybe I'll see a theme in this blog someday that I hadn't considered before. Maybe someone's comment will make me think of something in a new way.

In the meantime, yes, I know: Just do it.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Chutzpah, Where Art Thou? ...

When I was a junior in college, I had a writing class. One of many writing classes. But this writing class, in the end, was like no other.

It was a non-fiction class taught by a man whom I thought was terribly difficult at the time. Today, I think he simply expected the best of us when we didn't necessarily demand it of ourselves.

During the course of the quarter, we were expected to write several small papers, all of which would feed into one large article at the end of the class. I had an idea. Well, I thought I had an idea. It never really panned out. So in Week 7 of the 10-week quarter, I met my professor during his office hours and explained my plight. Could I arrange for an incomplete?, I asked.

No.

No?

No. I don't want you to think you can slack off for the rest of the quarter.

Shit. Three weeks to do 10 weeks worth of work? Shit. Fuck.

Linda, my first non-fiction writing teacher in college (and friend to this day) suggested I do a paper on Nelson Algren.

Nelson who?

Nelson Algren, noted Chicago writer. Noted to everyone but me, apparently.

OK, I figured. Sure. Nelson Algren. I went to the library to look him up. His books weren't on the shelf. Huh. Weird. Well, OK. I went to a bookstore. His books weren't on the shelf there, either. I asked a clerk why. He had no idea. But his computer told him that Algren's books were out of print. He suggested a used bookstore.

Eventually, I got my hands on a used copy of "The Man With The Golden Arm." And I thought I hatched a new idea.

And then, the night before the paper was due, I realized I was wrong.

I had written two pages - two good pages - earlier in the week, but the night before the paper was due, I sat in my dorm's laundry room with my typewriter and tried to write 10 more good pages.

I wrote four. And they were crap.

Later, in class, everyone passed their papers to David. (Yes, another David in my long, long history of Davids.) He didn't notice that mine was not among them. And after class, I returned to his office, dropped my backpack, laden with notes and notecards and Xeroxes and books, in the middle of his office floor and said, "It's not done. Do I fail?"

"Do you have anything?" he asked.

"I have six pages," I said.

"Let me see them."

So I handed them to him, and he read the first two, and said, "I like what you're doing here. I'll give you an incomplete."

Incompletes were required to be completed before the end of the next quarter in residence, so technically, I had until December, as I wasn't taking classes during the summer term. But David wanted the paper before I returned in the fall (when, it turned out, I'd have him for another class). Fair enough.

I quickly realized that with another three months to write this article, this article had better be nothing short of sensational.

My obsession with Algren grew, and I seemed to be part of a Nelson Algren renaissance. His books were being reissued by a small press. A biography was in the works. People were talking about him again.

My initial idea dealt with Algren peripherally. I wanted to map the locations in "Never Come Morning" to the present-day Division Street. My evolved idea focused on Algren himself. And as a writer who obsesses over ledes, I thought a lot about how to open the telling of my Algren tale.

I decided that I would open the story at his graveside.

He is buried on Long Island, in Sag Harbor, New York.

I told my parents of my plan.

My mother thought I was insane.

"No," I said. "You don't understand."

"No," she said. "You don't understand. You're nineteen. You're not going to New York to visit the grave of a man you never knew."

Parents.

"Besides," she said. "You're too young to rent a car."

At work at the Chicago Sun-Times the next day, I told my officemate of my brick wall.

"You should interview someone in New York," she said. "That way, the trip is about the interview, not about visiting the grave."

Ooh, that was good. But who to talk to in New York?

At home that night, I picked up my copy of "Never Come Morning." I read the foreword, dateline Sagaponak, New York. I got out the road atlas. Sag Harbor, Sagaponak, about 10 miles apart.

Bingo.

The author of the foreword?

Kurt Vonnegut.

I'd never gotten in touch with a writer before. I had no idea how to go about it. So I made a few bumbling phone calls and finally got the name and number of his agent and gave him a call. Explained who I was and what I hoped to do. And a couple days later, he called me back.

"Do you have a pen?" he asked. "Write down this number."

And he gave me Kurt Vonnegut's home phone. "Call him," the agent said. "He'd like to talk to you about this."

Feeling as though I would surely hurl, I went into my boss's office, closed the door, sat down at his desk and shook. Practically convulsed. Call? Kurt Vonnegut? Holy crap.

So I called. He asked me when I was planning on coming out.

"Well," I said. "That's kind of up to you. I'll work around your schedule."

"Call me when you're making travel plans," he said.

So I did. And we picked a day and time.

And my father and I flew first to Detroit and then to New York and when we landed, I pressed my forehead against my window and thought, "I'm in New York. What the hell am I doing in New York?"

In the car on the way to the hotel, something in the conversation made me ask my father, "Dad? Do you even know who it is I'm going to see?"

"Well, Phil says he's a writer," he said. Phil, his friend on a barstool, knew the name Vonnegut.

"Well," I said. "He's one of the pre-eminent authors of the 20th Century, but yeah, he's a writer."

At the hotel, I called Kurt, as instructed, for directions. And an hour later, I was knocking on his front door.

His wife let me in, showed me to the sunroom. Kurt came in from the pool, no shoes, white shorts, turquoise polo shirt, a pack of Pall Malls in hand. We sat and talked, he signed a poster for Linda (framed and in her office 'til this day), he offered to call another friend of Nelson's for me who lived nearby, but she wasn't home.

I did indeed visit Nelson's grave. Began my paper the way I'd always intended. Turned it in the day before the fall quarter convened.

David gave me an A-. I thought his comments were pissy. "You're interviews are impressive," he wrote. "But you could have done more with them in each case. Describe, for example, the interior of Vonnegut's house."

I cut my own work from 22 pages down to 17. He wanted 12 to 15. "You want to know what the interior of Vonnegut's house looks like?" I raved to Linda as if she were David. "Buy the book someday."

Linda talked me down. "Take the A," she said. She was right. It was not a fight worth fighting.

Last December, I talked to her class. The Vonnegut story, of course, came up.

She had her students write thank-you notes to me, which she promptly popped in the mail, and which were not-so-promptly returned to her because she forgot to use stamps.

The packet arrived the other day. I smiled as I read them, and laughed out loud when I got to Melissa's: "The Vonnegut story was fantastic - a reminder of the potential power of a little naivté."

No kidding. I've often wondered where I got the chutzpah, as a 19-year-old, to call Kurt Vonnegut and ask him for an interview for a college paper. I wish I could bottle it.

I could use a swig every now and then.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Kaye Gibbons ...

Yesterday, I met the most amazing woman.

My cousin Patty is a director of marketing for Harcourt Publishing in New York and was in town for a reading at Barbara's Bookstore in Oak Park.

Kaye Gibbons is the author on tour. I had the privilege of meeting her. (Patty is amazing, too. But I already knew her last night. Kaye was unknown to me.)

She is a wonderfully accomplished writer with legions of fans and many award-winning books to her name.

Whenever I'm around a "real" writer, I feel inadequate calling myself the same. I am a writer, true. I'm not as accomplished as "known" authors, but that doesn't inherently lessen my talent. They're just further along the writing spectrum than I am, right?

I hope so.

But Kaye is so terrifically real, so engaging, so "unfiltered," as Patty put it. If you've ever gone to a book reading for anyone of note, you may have gotten the feeling that their schtick was just that: rehearsed anecdotes, carefully chosen, spoken again and again, city after city.

Not so with Kaye. She interrupted her own reading with observations and confessions. ("I'm very menopausal," she said. "I can feel the hot flash coming on. This sweater was a bad idea. I once very nearly climbed in the ice chest at a service station.") She is a wisp of a woman, reminding me of Kyra Sedgwick. Her jacket photo is beautiful. As she was reading, she seemed to see it for the first time. And she seemed startled. "This is an elegant woman," she said. Clearly, the woman at the podium did not feel elegant, her spring-green sweater's sleeves pushed up past her elbows, her hair twisted up and held off her neck thanks to a fan who offered her a hair clip, her lipstick-rouged lips an abrupt line on an otherwise fair face.

There was a terrific turnout for a Tuesday night in January. She had the entire crowd laughing, even Patty, who clearly was hearing the rants and raves for the first time this tour. Every night with Kaye promises to be different, I guess.

In the SUV on the way back to The Drake, we talked about screenplays. Kaye has a screenwriter friend who was just paid an obscene amount of money for six days' work. " 'Just do it', he tells me," she said. " 'Write a romantic comedy,' " she scoffed. "How about a romantic tragedy?"

We talked about how difficult it is to tell an entire story through dialogue. She piped up with a line that was simply brilliant in its absurdity, which I told her she must include in a work of hers someday. I won't reveal it here, partly because it belongs to her, and partly because I can't remember it perfectly, and I won't do her the injustice of a paraphrase.

She inspired me, even as she drank too many Diet Cokes and puffed away.

But what's a writer without a vice?

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Next Everyday ...

Saturday, continued.

Home later, we embarked on the ongoing picture-hanging project, begun the week earlier at Home Depot (well, actually, begun long before that), only to discover we needed more wall anchors.

There are Ace Hardwares in Chicago in the oddest places. The one that was still open and reasonably near G's place is at 680 N. Lake Shore Drive. So over we walked, just as it was closing (the Web site gives incorrect hours; the cashier didn't seem to care). We got what we needed, though, and headed off in search of dinner, which took us to an Armenian restaurant I hadn't been to in years and years.

The food was edible, nothing more. "Well, there's another place I just can't wait to go back to," G said when we left. Smartass.

Back home (since I didn't feel like going out for live music anywhere and since it was too late to start drilling in the wall), we picked a movie. I've seen most of the ones he has DVRd, so he picked "Godsend" because I couldn't remember a thing about it. Until the opening credits rolled. Right. There was a reason I didn't see it. But OK, let's see just how bad it is.

Oh, it's pretty bad. Not unwatchable, but really, what the hell was Robert DeNiro thinking when he took that role? Roger Ebert (who gave the flick 2 stars) wrote, "... as for De Niro, there are times when he seems positively embarrassed to be seen as that character, saying those things. His final conversation with Kinnear must be the most absurd scene he has ever been asked to play seriously." Here, here, Rog.

The next morning, I woke up with a headache. Don't you hate that? I went in the living room to drink lots of water and finish reading, "A Girl Named Zippy." Later, G sat down next to me, clearly still sleepy, and asked why I was up.

"I have a headache," I said.

"Poor Beth." Usually, "Poor Beth" is said sarcastically, but sometimes he actually means it. "Do you want coffee?"

"No thanks."

"Coffee is good for a headache," he said.

"I know. Caffeine," I said, leaning against him.

He got up and made me coffee, added just the right amount of coffee goo, and brought it back to me on the couch.

I told him he should go back to bed. So he did.

Later, I went back in the bedroom and he was propped up on his elbows.

"That's not a good position for sleeping," I said.

We planned the day, which included him going to get his hair cut with JD, my hair guy, then stopping at Whole Foods to pick up stuff for brunch. I got ready while he was out, and we cooked together when he got home.

I made an omelette. He made French toast out of the bread I bake, which I've never used for French toast, which is a damn shame, because it's fantastic.

He thought a nap might be a good idea. With all those carbs coursing through his system? You betcha.

Later later, he tried drilling, and met with great resistance. Something metal. Best not to go on. So we put our heads together and started devising an alternate picture-mounting plan.

"Want to go for a walk?" he asked, which turned into a couple of hours of walking to many stores as the plan evolved.

But with everything in hand, we went home, made dinner, and proceeded to start building our brilliant idea.

We had to move my car out of the lot it was in, to a meter, and as we walked to said lot, I was way too cold, so G fell behind and wrapped his arms around me as we walked, which worked surprisingly well.

After we found the meter, as we started to walk back to his place, I whined, sarcastically, "I'm cold!" He put his arms around me again. "Don't I get a 'Poor Beth'?" I asked.

"Not for that. Maybe you get a Slightly Poor Beth," he said.

And I started cracking up. I mean, I couldn't stop. As in, I was laughing so hard, I couldn't walk. And G started laughing, not because what he said was funny, but because I was just so ridiculous. And it was like that the whole way back to his place. I'd regain my composure, walk a few steps, and be wracked with gales of laughter all over again. Waiting for the elevator, I was stricken with another fit. We got on with another couple, who got off somewhere in the 30s, and G said, "They were anti-social," and I said, "They probably think I'm insane."

We continued on with the picture project. Sometime after 11 p.m., I commented that his downstairs neighbor probably wasn't a fan of the hammering at that hour. So we stopped.

This morning, after the alarm went off but before either of us had any inclination to move, I chuckled. A "Slightly Poor Beth" aftershock, as it were.

He got ready for work and headed out the door. Something came up as he was leaving, a Poor Beth moment, and I stuck my head out the door and called down the hallway, "Oh, come on, say it."

He didn't turn. He just kept walking. "No."

I shut the door and started laughing anyway.

The Everyday And More ...

Saturday, after not seeing G for nearly a week, I picked him up at his building. His car was in the shop, and I was in charge of driving. We went to his mechanic so he could get his parking sensor thing out of his car so I could park in his garage this weekend.

Well, turns out, his car was going to ready that day, unexpectedly. But not until later.

So we headed up to Julius Meinl, the Austrian coffeehouse on the northside which he loves, and had brunch/lunch there, and Jay met us to show us pictures from his recent trip to Europe.

Later, G and I ran some errands. I dropped him off at the Ace on Clark south of Belmont and went and parked the car (the lot was packed). Then, since the car was at a meter, we decided to walk the rest of the errands, which was really just to go to Best Buy so he could do research on a media PC, his latest fascination.

We left Best Buy (with me buying a CD and him buying nothing) and started to head back toward the car when he pulled me in the other direction, jaywalking across the street.

What's up?, you're wondering?

He took me to a jewelry store.

NO, not for the reason you're thinking.

"You said you were looking for a new pair of earrings," he said. Which I did say, at some point. Last week? The week before? Earlier? The stuff that this boy remembers that comes out of my mouth astonishes me. I thought men never paid attention.

So we were both looking around (it was a very sweet store, lovely things) and I noticed that the woman who owns/runs it had a few things on a velvet tray for me. Things G picked out. And the main pair that he liked were indeed very pretty, and very me, but also very similar to the earrings I was wearing, so it seemed silly to buy them. But I tried them on and they do look really lovely on me. If I do say so. Which I do.

I, meanwhile, saw a very different pair, silver and somehow shiny (not marcasite, but similar), smaller than the ones he picked out for me, but I tried those on, too. (Actually, I tried on a lot of earrings there. Mostly for him, so he could see.)

He asked if I liked any of them.

"Yes," I said. "The silver ones today."

He nodded.

"I'm buying them," I said, knowing what he was thinking.

He shook his head no.

Oh. My. God.

So the woman rings them up, he gets out his credit card, buys them for me, she puts them in a bag with tissue, all girly-like. (He asked if we needed the bag, thinking I could just put the box in my purse. I said, "Yes," and he asked, "Why?" and I said, "Because girls like tissue paper and stuff." The woman smiled.)

So we walk out of the store, I turn him to me and kiss him and thank him and say, "Honey, what's the occasion?" and he said, "Well, I might not see you for Valentine's Day" (which I already knew) and made some comment about men and feeling guilty.

I almost started crying. Not because we might not see each other for Valentine's Day, but because in my 36 years on this planet, he is the first man to ever buy me jewelry.

I'm not a big jewelry person. I don't own a lot. I don't wear a lot. But I don't have to tell you how enormously special these earrings are.

He confessed that he never would have picked them out for me. Which I know, and which is fine. Because the first pair he picked out for me were something I would have picked out, too. So we're still in sync.

We stopped in another storefront on the way back the car, beautiful furniture and art and accessories and such, and while we couldn't stay long (he called his mechanic to see about picking up the car and found out that they were already closed but waiting for him), I really loved it. On the way to the car, he asked if I liked that store.

"Yep," I said.

"I didn't," he said.

"I know," I said. "It looks nothing like your house. But it looks everything like my house."

So, if it ever comes to that, perhaps we'll have a bit of a challenge buying housey things together, but Saturday, my boyfriend bought me jewelry.

Spontaneous jewelry.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Breaking Out ...

One of my daily blog must-reads (and thousands of others would agree) is Opinionistas.com.

Until this Wednesday, she was an anonymous blogger, writing about life inside a New York City law firm.

Now, she is known to the world as Melissa Lafsky, a pretty, 27-year-old writer with a boyfriend so handsome he's almost a cliché.

In her latest post, "Tear Down the Walls," she writes: "It’s fascinating how the rules completely change once you announce you’re leaving a law firm to do something entirely unrelated. The Trojan walls between professionalism and humanity temporarily fall, and suddenly your superiors are regarding you with puzzled bemusement. Sure, there are those who deliver the verbal equivalent of a pat on the head with a condescending 'Oh how cute, you’re going off to try and be a writer' tossed in. But the remainder approach with curiously delighted expressions, ready to relate to you on an entirely new plane."

Reading that post took me back to my life at the Chicago Tribune, those two weeks I lived between tendering my resignation and walking out the doors for the last time as an employee.

Unlike Melissa, I didn't leave to pursue a dream. I left one newspaper company for another. It was very lateral. But in the eyes of the management of the Chicago Tribune, once you've secured an ID to walk the hallowed halls of what I admit is a truly beautiful building, you've arrived. And it's unfathomable to them why you'd ever want to leave.

But after nearly five years, fearful that I'd painted myself into a professional corner (when I left, I was a job grade 12; the guy they hired to replace me stepped into the same position, but as a 17), I took advantage of an opportunity that was too serendipitous to ignore.

What amazed me, though, amused me and saddened me, were the comments I received from my colleagues, many of them in my goodbye card. The theme, overwhelmingly, was one of congratulations on a great escape.

"Good for you! You're going over the wall!" one of them wrote.

"You're breaking out of here!" wrote another.

From the outside looking in, people presume that a life in the media is glamourous. Ha! Glamourous, shmamorous. Admittedly, my latter years at the Tribune were better than my former. My former were filled with working nights and weekends and holidays. Ah, yes, there was nowhere I'd rather be at 4 a.m. or on Thanksgiving than in the Tribune newsroom. My sister-in-law was baffled the first time I told her I had to work on Thanksgiving. "What do you mean you have to work? It's Thanksgiving!"

"Do you want a newspaper tomorrow?"

"Yeah."

"Then I have to work on Thanksgiving."

But once I moved into features, my final stop on my Tribune career path, the nights and holidays and weekends schedule vanished. I just took on many more jobs, outside of what I was hired to do. Some more willingly than others.

It was always postioned as "opportunity." Like when I was asked to start writing for KidNews, the then-weekly section designed to nab kids early and hook them on the newspaper drug. When I dared to ask, essentially, "What in it for me?" the reply was, "Well, in a couple of years, you could be a reporter."

"No," I said. "If I take this assignment, I'll be a reporter now. You just won't be paying me to be one."

That didn't go over so well. The Tribune doesn't seem to like it when you hold up a mirror.

In the months leading up to my final days, I did have a couple fun moments. I went out to Pasadena during press tour and hung out with one of my PR friends (not as a Tribune employee, mind you; that would have been in violation of the ethics policy) and I did end up being the sole Tribune representative at the TV Land upfront. I got to sit with Garry Marshall and behind me, at the next table, was Barry Williams. I was practically rubbing elbows with Greg Brady. At the end of the event, we found ourselves standing next to each other.

I don't know what came over me, but I turned to him and said, "I'm sorry, I really never do this ..." as I handed him my invitation.

"Oh, geez, don't apologize!", he said. "What's your name?"

"Beth."

And a moment later, he handed my invite back to me, signed, "To Beth, Keep On Groovin', Barry Williams."

I wonder how many times he's written that in his lifetime?

But I digress. If hangin' with Garry Marshall and Barry Williams is your idea of glamour, then yes, I lived the glamorous life. For one day, anyway.

Every other day, though, I felt like I was spinning my wheels. So when the opportunity came along that would be the push I needed to get out of the rut I was in, I took it.

And I'm glad.

There were days, working for the new company, that I'd question my decision. Had I been rash? Had I been so eager to stick it to Mother Tribune that I did something stupid? When you want something and you say you're from the Chicago Tribune, people can't take care of you fast enough. When I would call from the new company, I'd get, "Who?"

But I don't believe there are wrong choices. I believe you're always where you're supposed to be, that every experience is a necessary piece of the life puzzle.

And life is better on the outside.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Beyond Belief ...

I arrived home with too many things in my hands, so I grabbed the mail out of my mailbox and balanced it among the other stuff into my office. Bills. Swell.

Just now, I noticed a non-bill. A card from Doreen. Doreen is very good about sending cards for no special reason, or thank-you notes, or clippings she thinks I'd like to see.

Today's missive is a bit of each, but it is mostly a massive dose of encouragement.

I'm overwhelmed.

Why do others often believe in us more than we believe in ourselves?

Doreen, since I've known her, has gently been prodding me to pursue my baking full-time. (She was one of the recipients of cookies last month during my holiday cookie giveaway to friends.) Today's mail is yet another nudge. "This is a thank-you note and ode to a kvell-worthy cookie assortment. I think your cookies need to be pictured in a cookbook next to their recipes. Each and every cookie is perfectly shaped and photo-shoot worthy. ... If you had a bakery you could name it 'Kvellworthy Cookies' and market to the Jews," she wrote. "They would 'get it.' "

Enclosed was a clipping from January's O Magazine. "I came across this article in Lychelle's O magazine," she wrote. "I read this woman's story and looked at her cookies ... I know if you wanted to you would be more successful than she is. Her cookies are UGLY!!"

And she proceeded to suggest how I should go about securing funding for my business venture, even offering to do the bookkeeping for me ... in exchange for cookies.

: o )

I'm so touched by her support and encouragement. Part of me mulls the idea of becoming a full-fledged Cookie Queen. Part of me wonders what holds me back. Doreen can be my bookkeeper. G has an MBA; he can offer business advice. I don't fancy myself a numbers person. Some months it's all I can do to get my checkbook to balance.

But the pieces are in place. I could do this. Why don't I? Does my oft-cited assertion hold any water, that if I spent 10 hours a day in the kitchen, I'd lose my love for it? Maybe. Is it an issue of surrendering some control? Sure. I've always figured I could never own a restaurant because I'd want to do everything. Food is an extension of the person who prepares it, and I don't trust anyone to bake with the same love and attention to detail that I give my food. Is it possible to maintain my high standard in mass production? Hmm. Maybe.

Food for thought.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Spinster, I Presume? ...

Yesterday, I was at my mom's house for a few minutes.

I was wearing workout clothes and no makeup with my hair pulled back in an impromptu twist. I wasn't planning on seeing anyone; didn't care how I looked.

"I have a friend coming over," mom said.

Oh. OK.

I was on their computer when the friend arrived. Mom came in to the room. "I'd like you to meet Sandra," she said.

"I'm not really presentable," I said.

Not a good-enough answer.

So I walked into the kitchen and said, "Please forgive the way I look," as I shook her hand.

"Oh, you got the height," Sandra observed. Yes, yes I did. There are many tall people in my family, and I am one of them.

And within seconds, she said, "Hmm, I don't know anyone your height." It wasn't an observation. It was a presumption.

I smiled politely. "I'm with someone."

"Oh," she said. Then added, "I like that. 'I'm with someone.' "

Granted, there was a picture on the counter that my mom had shown her, and in it, my brothers are standing with their wives and I have my arms around my nephew Natanael. But that picture is four years old.

So what's with the instant judgment? 1) She presumed I was alone. 2) She instantly felt like she should be fixing me up. 3) She thought she should be fixing me up with a guy. And she'd known me for about 15 seconds.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

If I Were A Pimp ...

On my cousin Patty's suggestion, I plugged G's name into a few name-generator sites.

His Gansta name would be: Played Out Crab Whacka

My Gansta name would be: Phat Crack Smoka

His Pimp name would be: Silicon Slick G. Dogg

My Pimp name would be: Devious Honey B. Fresh

His Pirate name would be: Pirate Ferdinand the Cash-Strapped

My Pirate name would be: Cap'n Calla Fancypants

Monday, January 16, 2006

'Are Men Necessary?' ...

Last month, as I was shopping for dad for mom (he was in the hospital, she was deserving of Christmas presents, I was the one to shop), I participated in a bit of what my cousin Patty and I like to call "Merry Christmas to me!"

At Barnes & Noble, I treated myself to a couple of books, one of which was Maureen Dowd's "Are Men Necessary?", which was excerpted in the New York Times magazine a couple months ago and which caused quite a stir. I blogged about it myself.

I noticed, though, that some of the pages had dark edges along the top. Picture pages? Nope. Pages on which the registration was off. Pages which were inserted into the book upside down. In reverse order.

Huh. I have a book that has some of the pages out of order, but I've never run across a book with such a glaring binding mistake. Not wanting a book that I'd have to read standing on my head in a Middle Eastern country, I asked Patty, since she's in the publishing biz, if I should keep it as a collectible or return it to the store. She suggested returning it, saying that the publisher would want to know of the gaffe.

So that's what I did. (And while I was there, picked up a very cool calendar featuring black and white shots of Paris, not that I'm a huge fan of France, but the pictures are pretty, and through a bit of computing weirdness - which even the manager was aware of, as she was handling my exchange - the calendar cost me a whopping 34 cents. Oddly enough, I did not have exact change.)

Before I returned the book, I read up to page 81. If I had to wager, I'd say Dowd will deliver us to the end of the book and confess that she fully believes that men are necessary, that she was just trying to be provocative with the title. Not that authors always come up with their own titles, but I suspect she did.

So, as soon as I finish "A Girl Named Zippy," I'll return to Dowd's dissection of the necessity of men. I'll let you know how it goes.

Personally, I'd vote to keep 'em around. Who else is going to make my coffee and bring it to me in the bathroom while I put on my makeup?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The iPod Nation ...

I am a new resident of the iPod nation.

No wonder there were 14 million of these puppies sold in 2005.

As I IMed to G earlier, "This iPod thing, it's life-changing."

"You got the virus now, too ...", he wrote. "Hehehe."

"Oh yeah," I replied. "I'm infected."

I am falling over, realizing that I'm holding more than 3,000 songs in my hand. I've already watched the "Lazy Sunday" SNL video on it three times, just because I can.

Anything I want to listen to, at any time, is just the lightest swipe of my finger away.

E.S. Posthumous one moment, Franz Ferdinand the next.

Oh, and speaking of music, G turned me on to Ezio, a British guitar duo, big in Germany and nowhere else, apparently. But if you can get your hands on "Black Boots on Latin Feet," you'll want to buy it. Trust me. Don't be swayed or disuaded by the name of the album: Latin it's not.

I've Got The Music In Me ...

Truly, I'm fascinated with the link between music and memory.

Earlier, I put in a Billy Joel CD. (Yes, I bought one. Two, actually. It's a set. I like Billy Joel, and I don't have most of his earlier stuff, so "The Essential Billy Joel" seemed like a good idea.)

Remember "We Didn't Start The Fire"? Cool video. Groundbreaking song, or so it was to me, anyway. The litany of nouns standing in for the usual lyrics. Well, when's the last time I heard that song? Ten years ago? More?

And yet, I was able to rattle off every word of that song like I've been singing it every day of my life. Music is an amazing trigger. It's not like smelling chocolate chip cookies and thinking back to when you used to bake them with your mom. It's like a key that unlocks the part of your brain in which you'd stored the lyrics to "We Didn't Start The Fire," an area of your brain that you haven't accessed for years because there's been no call for it. But you hear the music and wham!, that little chunk of information is immediately accessed and the words, out they come.

The mind truly is a terrible thing to waste. Good thing I've filled mine up with Billy Joel lyrics.

Cleaning House ...

While I truly do need to put Swiffer to floor and toss in a few loads of laundry, this post is not about actual housecleaning but rather a collection of thoughts, comments, and observations from the past 22 hours (or whenever it was that I posted last).

1) "Munich."
Oh my. So difficult to watch. Another Spielberg experience that leaves you emotionally drained. Indeed, G's mood took a noticeable turn toward sullen after we got home from the theater last night. A friend of mine is in it and I'm enormously proud of his performance. He's a remarkable actor no matter the role, but being part of a Spielberg ensemble seems an especially big achievement and honor and he was simply terrific. It was the first movie G and I saw in a theater (as opposed to the projected experience in his apartment) and it certainly wasn't a "date" movie. But it's very, very powerful.

2) RAM and Tiger
My iMac is newly souped up with an additional 512 MB of RAM (thanks for installing it, honey!) and I upgraded my OS to 10.4.3. I don't know how I've lived without Tiger, and I've only been running it for an hour or so. Apple continues to blow my mind. Steve Jobs and the whole Cupertino clan are brilliant. And I don't care how much you love your PC, Apples simply kick PC ass on every level.

3) iPod
Mom and Dad gave me a lovely video iPod for Christmas, but alas, I needed at least 10.3.9 to run it, and I was still in the iMac dark ages of 10.2.8. So I needed to ugrade my OS to use the iPod, but I needed to upgrade my RAM in order to upgrade my OS. And the first RAM module I bought wasn't recognized by my machine, so I got another and I am currently charging/uploading my pod (song 406 of 3018). Later, I will take my iPod for a walk.

4) Photo Op
Now that my machine is all up to date, I'm gonna try linking a photo to this post to see if my machine will allow it. In the past, Safari would crash if I tried to attach a photo to a post, but I'm optimistic that those days are behind me, too. As Steve Martin says in "The Jerk" when he spies his name in the phonebook, "Things are going to start happening for me *now.*" Of course, he finds himself dodging a hail of sniper fire. But I'm sure the new computing wonderfulness will mean good things moving forward. Let's try posting a picture, shall we? Hmm. How about a shot of me drinking wine at my birthday lunch a couple months ago? Hey! It works! Life is good.

5) G
It wasn't an intentional plan, but G and I ended up, essentially, spending the entire week together. I can only speak for myself, of course, but it felt entirely normal.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

'Like, Ohmigod!', The Next Generation ...

So there I was, against my better judgment, on the corner of Michigan and Pearson, having just exited Water Tower Place. Michigan Avenue on a Saturday is a ridiculous place to be. But the wind did in G's mini-umbrella yesterday, and since I was the one to borrow it, I should be the one to replace it (and dispose of its crippled umbrella carcass).

Umbrella purchase made, I detoured through jewelry in a vain attempt to find new everyday earrings. Fed up, I made my way outside.

There, at the corner, waiting for the light to change, was a group of girls, all of 19, maybe? Young, cute, smiling too big for a picture one of them was taking (if I can see your molars when you smile, you're smiling too big) with the actual water tower in the background, and then one of them pointed to it and said something about the water tower, one of the few structures, as everyone knows, to survive the great Chicago fire.

And then I heard one of the young and the perky say, "Well, of course it survived the fire, cuz it's like, water. Obvi! OB-vi!"

Did I do that? When I was younger, did I utter annoying little phrases and half-words in an attempt to appear cute or edgy or whatever it is Ms. Obvi was going for?

I smirked to myself. I seem to smirk a lot lately. And I crossed the street, thinking, "Obvi? But, like, duh! What she said is like *so* going to be a blog entry!"

The Marrying Kind? ...

Twice in one day.

Twice, yesterday, I was mistaken for the wife of the man I was with.

With the first, a friend, I was amused. It's happened before.

With the second, G, I was more surprised, though I should have been less surprised with G, and more surprised with the friend. But the friend and I have been friends for a long time, and there's a familiarity between us that my other friends comment on all the time.

But with G, given that we haven't been together that long, I was caught a bit more off guard.

We were at Home Depot, G and I, Home Depot on a Friday night. It's the essence of romance, isn't it?

He had come home from work to find me in the kitchen, chopping vegetables for soup. It was spectacularly disgusting in Chicago yesterday: rain mixed with snow, the city living up to its windy name. If ever there was a day for soup, yesterday was it. So I found a recipe on Epicurious.com and made a list and went to the grocery store around the corner and bought what we needed, then came home (or "back here" or "to G's place") and got the soup underway.

G, who worked at his office, not his client's site, yesterday, was home earlier than usual. So as I continued with the soup preparation, he asked when we would eat. I gave him the soup timeline.

"Because I was thinking of going to Home Depot, to try and execute the picture-hanging idea," he said.

"Go," I said. "This won't be ready for a while."

He gave me two options. "One, I can go alone, or two, I can wait until this is ready to be on the stove, and we can go togehter."

Noted. "OK, I'll go with you."

So we went. In the car on the way, I was uncharacteristically punchy. Almost everyting was funny. So when G's answer to a question (which eludes me at this moment) was "Abso-fucking-lutely," I almost died. It's not that it was the funniest thing I'd ever heard, but it was so out of character for him.

We must have spent at least 90 minutes at Home Depot, yet somehow, we only managed to buy a few things, though he did buy, aside from his picture-hanging supplies, a very nice new plant for his living room and a bulb-changing extension pole for me, since I've been meaning to get one. I had money on me, but as I've mentioned before, when I'm with him, my money is no good.

So we got in line, the only manned checkout line in the place. (There are many self-checkout areas at Home Depot; as a matter of principle, I am against self-checkouts. I'm already paying a ridiculous markup by buying retail, and now I'm expected to do all the work myself? No.) There were two customers ahead of us, the first of which was buying sheetrock and PVC and 2x4s and other supplies. I suspect he's roughing in a bathroom. Suffice it to say, it was taking a while for the cashier to tally his order. G and I waited, chatting, joking, trading the occasional glance.

Later, when we were about to leave, we had to pause at the security guy who checked our receipt.

I helped G with his beautiful leather jacket, which I had been carrying, and the security guy said something to G that I couldn't hear. I caught the tail end, which was, "You guys look good together."

"That was nice," I said as we walked outside.

"You didn't hear all of it," he said.

"Yeah? What'd I miss?"

"Well, he thinks we're married. He named you as my wife."

"We're married? Did I miss it? Why don't have I have a diamond on this hand?" I asked, holding up my left hand for him to see.

"Maybe I'm too cheap to buy you one," he said.

"Or maybe I'm making you save up to buy me the one I want."

His face registered that comment and returned a look of "Uh oh."

"Oh, now," I said. "Have you ever known me to be demanding?"

We headed toward the next stop, and he commented about the romance of going to Home Depot on a Friday night.

"I like doing everyday things with you," I said. He looked at me. "I'm being serious."

He kissed my hand.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Key of G ...

He gave me his second set of keys.

They're not for me to keep, mind you. But it makes more sense for me to have a set while I'm here. No need to coordinate our comings and goings.

The other day, he made a crack about how I've already had the chance to get the keys duplicated. I told him I had a purse full of copies.

But giving someone a key to your home is a very big gesture. It's one thing when I have family staying with me from New York, say. Of course I give them a key. But in a relationship context, the tone is different.

G reads this blog (Hi, honey!), and I'm not quite sure what he'll make of this whole key discussion. Maybe guys don't think it's meaningful. Girls are always assigning meaning to everyday things, after all. But guys are also pretty territorial and their space is sacred to them, whether showplace or sty.

So that one little piece of metal seems to strongly reinforce what we're involved in here.

I don't call him my "boyfriend," because I'm 36 years old, and boyfriend sounds like I should be wearing his class ring. So I've been referring to him as "the man I'm dating," but that doesn't quite ring true, either. Dating sounds like we occasionally go to the movies.

Is there a word for what we are? Conversational shorthand?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Playing House ...

So, I stayed.

As if there were really any doubt that I would? As if the prospect of returning to my own empty bed would somehow win out over spending another night under my new down blanket?

: o )

Of course it's not about the blanket. It's about the boy.

G called in the afternoon yesterday, wondering if I was on my way home or if I had decided to stay.

"Well, I'm in your living room," I said. "I'm going to stay. Is that OK?"

"Sure," he said. He had a farewell dinner for a colleague, but he wasn't sure if he was going to go.

"Well, don't not go on my account," I said. "Don't change your plans for me. I'm not going anywhere."

He said he'd call me later and let me know what he was up to, which he did. And we decided that he'd go for a drink with the colleagues and then come home and we'd have a late dinner.

Of course, that required deciding what to do about dinner.

After some deliberation, I allowed that I had gone to Whole Foods earlier in the day.

"Oh!" he seemed to say with some excitement. "Did you get anything we can use for dinner?"

Actually, I did. I selfishly bought a pork tenderloin, in the event that he'd be kind enough to make his pork with sherry pepper cream sauce. I also bought mixed greens for salad and some blue cheese, because blue cheese is always a good idea, and a wedge of Wesleydale cheese, the kind eaten by Wallace of "Wallce and Gromit," because I had said to G that morning, as he put cheese on his toast, "You really are Wallace," and he said, "No, I'm not, because I've never had Wesleydale cheese," so when I saw it at Whole Paycheck, I had to buy it.

I put the salads together and got the pork underway, with his instructions. When he got home, I said, "I bought something for you today," and showed him the label on the cheese.

He read it and a huge smile crossed his face.

"How cute am I?" I asked, rhetorically.

He answered me with a kiss.

Dinner was lovely, as ever. Candlelight, wine, U2. No wonder I dream about Bono. The pork was napped with a Gorgonzola sauce, though. A spur-of-the-moment G creation.

He said that he had some work to do, about a half hour's worth.

"Take your wine," I said. "Go work. I'll clean up."

He shook his head. "I'll help you."

"Why? You have work to do. I can take care of this."

So I did. He hunkered down in front of his computer in the bedroom and I busied myself in the kitchen, and I was struck by how much I liked the everydayness of it.

The kitchen squared away, I got ready for bed. Contacts out, glasses on. Teeth brushed, hair brushed, PJs. Got in bed under the new blanket with my book while he continued to clack away.

He got ready for bed later, donning his long-sleeve T-shirt and sweats-like pants. Climbed in next to me and I turned out the light.

I worked at home today but I'll be heading back there tomorrow for a couple days. I have work to do near his place, and it makes sense for me to stay.

And, sense aside, I want to be there.

Making up for lost time.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Return of G ...

His flight was scheduled to come in at 5:08 p.m. I got to O'Hare yesterday in record time. Well, we'll pretend it was record time. It's not like I actually keep records. Early, in any event. Scored a fab parking spot right near the entrance to the terminal. Got out of my car and noticed a dime on the ground. Picked it up and said, "This means his flight will come in 10 minutes early."

Wandered inside and checked the arrival monitors. His flight was now due in at 4:58 p.m. So I was right about the dime on the ground. Weird. Found a seat and started reading "A Girl Named Zippy." (Great book, but most of the world already seems to know about it as it was a Today show selection. Still, if you haven't read it, read it. It's laugh-out-loud funny.)

Eventually, time moved and I walked over to the area where guests could meet the passengers. G is easy to spot, as he's at least a head taller than everyone else. We saw each other from far away. He smiled. I smiled. I expected him to have more luggage. He walked up to me and kissed me and hugged me. "It's so good to have you back," I said.

"You're very easy to spot," he said as we made our way through the terminal. I'm sure he meant because of my height, too, but I'll also think that he saw the glow of my even-blonder hair. (JD outdid himself yet again last week.)

We loaded his stuff into my car and as I reached for the parking ticket tucked in my visor, he reached for his wallet. "You're not paying for parking," I said. I already had my wallet out and at the ready. But when we pulled up to the cashier, he thrust his arm in front of me to give the man the money. Sheesh. The boy is back in my life for 10 minutes and already my money's no good again.

He noted, from the receipt, that I was at the airport for almost two hours, and that I shouldn't have worried about picking him up.

"I told you," I said. "I like hanging out at airports."

Traffic was delightfully light and we were parking the car in his building's garage in no time. "I'm so fascinated by travel," I said as we made our way up the levels. "You woke up in a completely different part of the world today."

So he gathered all of his things out of the back seat and I gathered all of my things out of the trunk (my overnight bag and two bags of food, one groceries - because he'd been gone for two weeks, so I picked up a few things for the morning - and one dinner, because I didn't think he'd feel like going out, and I hadn't made dinner for him yet anyway) and we made our way to his apartment.

Don't you love that feeling of coming home after a long trip? Walking through the door is like a big sigh.

G, the picture of German industriousness, almost immediately set about unpacking.

My first souvenir? A bottle of wine. Riesling. G doesn't like the Riesling you can buy in this country. He told me that Germany exports the crappy Riesling and keeps the good stuff for itself. So I have a bottle of the good stuff.

He also brought me two kinds of hazelnut chocolate, a giant Gummi bear (very cute; I never want to eat him; he was a bit askew in his box, however, so later, G was banging him against the counter to center him; "You're manhandling my Gummi bear!" I said, but G didn't like that his ear was being squished; Mr. Giant Red Gummi Bear is now front and center), a book on German baking (he says it's for me, but who are we kidding, he wants to be the recipient of the results), and a little Swiss Army knife.

I used to have one. English Teacher Dave gave it to me years ago. It was confiscated in San Francisco in the post-9/11 fervor about taking anything remotely weapon-like on a plane, because, sure, I'd be able to take down a 747 with an inch-long blade.

When I opened the box, I said, "Did I tell you what happened to the one I had?" vaguely remembering that I had.

"Yes," he said, as he continued unpacking. He walked out of the bedroom to do something. I followed him. Kissed him. "That was very thoughtful," I said. Huh. Look at that. A guy who actually listens *and* actually remembers. Wow.

He also tossed an enormous bag of Gummi bears at me. "We can share those," he said. Well, sure, because it's 2.2 pounds of Gummis. "No," he said. "They're Gummi-bear couples."

Oh. My. God. They are! Two Gummi bears, joined at their little Gummi paws. Our Gummi bears are holding hands! How frickin' cute is that?! (We tried a couple this morning. Odd flavors for Gummis: peach, pear, apricot, banana, cherry, raspberry - yeah, banana-flavored Gummi bears; kinda strange.) But the even-cuter part is that he can put one Gummi in his mouth, and then I bite off the other half. He pointed to the bag when he was done chewing. "That's a lot of kisses," he said.

And he also bought a cookbook of German breads, in German. "We can use that together," he said. Yup, cuz my German sucks, and if I was left to my own baking devices with that book, I might end up baking adobe bricks or something.

But the piece de resistance of G kindness came out of his big piece of luggage: A new down blanket for me. The ones he has on his bed (if I haven't mentioned before, in Germany, you don't use one big comforter on a bed for two people, you use two, individual down blankets) are *so* warm. Too warm. For me, anyway. He's perfectly happy under his, but I almost die under mine. So he bought a lighter-weight one for me. I told him I'm like Goldilocks. He wasn't familiar with the tale. So I told it to him and then said, "So the first blanket was too warm, the second blanket (we tried another one a few weeks ago; I was too cold) was too cold, so this one should be just right." (I tried it out last night. It's perfect.)

Now, it might be a very "girl" thing to get so excited about a blanket, but it's very thoughtful of him to be so mindful of my comfort, and it's not like these things are cheap, so I appreciate the gesture and the expenditure on my behalf.

I put dinner in the oven and we puttered around in the kitchen. He made dressing, I composed the salads. We had dinner. I passed muster on the dinner front.

This morning, he was up early. I shuffled into the kitchen, squinting. "Are you on German time?" I asked.

"Yep," he said, and kissed me on the forehead, and hugged me, and turned me around and shoved me back toward the bedroom.

But I got up shortly thereafter, and he made me coffee and he had toast from the bread I baked and brought. (I can't eat first thing when I get up. Don't know why.) He got ready for work. He kissed me goodbye. "Will you be here when I get back?" he asked. (I have keys for the day.)

"I don't know," I said. "When will you be back?"

He said if I was going to be here, he'd plan around me. "And if not?" I asked.

"I'd probably have dinner with colleagues," he said.

"Have dinner," I said. "You don't have to plan around me."

So here I am, at his desk, on my computer, ready to do some work and then meet a friend for lunch and then come back here to do some work.

And maybe I'll be here when he gets back.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Where Did That Come From? ...

OK, dreaming weirdness. What the heck?

So, I was in the backyard of the house I grew up in. It was nighttime. I had helped this young girl make a kite, and we were flying it using a large spool of curling ribbon as the tether.

Later, Greg Kinnear was there, and turns out, we were dating. But the kite, up in the night, caught fire (it was made of butcher paper) and disintegrated in the sky.

But then later later, I was in my kitchen, here, in my house today, and Bono was sitting at the counter. Just hangin' with me. I was fixing us lunch. He was opting for lasagne, but he also wanted salad and cantaloupe, so I made salad dressing and then put the cantaloupe, lettuce, and tomatoes in one bowl. An odd combination, with roasted garlic dressing. As we were chatting, though, I told him I was dating G (which didn't stand for Greg at that point), and "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" came on my stereo and when the lyric "You're the reason why the opera's in me" came up, I teared up and Bono asked why.

But then later later later, I realized I hadn't asked Bono to sign the "autograph" book Greg Kinnear had given to me (and signed, to me, about us starting to date), so I went to this HUGE installation in the middle of an ocean where the band was before leaving for their next gig. HUGE, as in there was this chute along the right-hand side of it, kind of an on-ramp into the ocean, and the cruise ship I was on (because I had to go home to get the autograph book and my camera) was dwarfed by this hulking concrete thing in the middle of the ocean, and the water in the chute was very rough, and the captain of the ship steered us right through it, even though waves were crossing the bow.

As I was leaving on the ship, I noticed Bono standing outside, sipping out of a Subway cup.

So I finally get back to the huge installation thing, but I'm walking through this massive parking lot and it's dark outside. And there are all these people, most in various states of dishevelment, and I finally get to the doors and go inside and it's like I'm in a casino: plush carpeting, wide stairways. And I see Larry walking down the stairs with some woman and I think, "Good, Bono's still here." And I go up the stairs but end up in this rather grungy place, faux wood paneling, wiring tacked to the walls, ancient upholstered furniture. And I go through a doorway and realize I've tripped a silent alarm, so the next door I go through brings me face to face with a security guard with his gun drawn, pointing at me. I tell him what happened, and he picks up a phone and says, "I'm trying to make sergant downtown. Would you tell her what happened?" And he gives me the phone, but the cord is bad and the connection drops. So he calls again, and all I'm thinking is, "I'm going to miss Bono!"

I finally tell the woman what happened and find my autograph book (I guess I didn't bring it with me after all) and have to leave this space to get back to the casino part, but first I have to shut off all the lights, and I can't find all the light switches and there are lots of rooms. I finally spy a woman at a desk and say, "Oh, you're still working. Then I guess I shouldn't turn off all the lights," and flee out of this smaller-than-normal door and she's calling after me, but she's not calling my real name.

I go racing through the casino part, down stairs, and get to a landing where I see a bi-plane taking off. I'm dejected for a moment, then realize the whole band can't be on a two-seat plane, so I keep looking, and I find Bono and someone who works with him, this very pretty, very tall black woman. She's talking about spotting talent, and mentions a woman she saw when she was at my house (though I never saw her in that part of the dream) and she thinks she could really teach that girl to dance. Bono says, "Huh," as in "I don't agree, but I won't tell you you're wrong." And then he looks at me and says, "You sing, right?"

OHMYGOD.

I don't have a CD on me, just a DVD for some reason, but when I try to cue up my song, it won't work. I finally get to the footage of me, but it's like a documentary of a recording session, intercut with interviews with me, and I can't get to my song before he has to leave.

Really. What the hell goes on in my head?!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Peter Brady Returns ...

Late-night/early-morning television is a wasteland.

Up at 4 a.m. today, I was flipping channels and was very nearly dismayed when a far-too-perky woman with a freakishly big smile started raving about the Ab Lounge and introduced, as her very special guest, Christopher Knight, TV's own Peter Brady.

I kept flipping. It was too sad to watch. Peter Brady hawking Ab Lounges?

But later, my flipping having come full-circle, I saw Peter demonstrating his wares. And I gotta hand it to him: He's got good abs. He's got a nice body in general.

So good for him.

But while I'm on the subject of Ab Lounges (and this can be applied to all infomercial fitness products that are touted to be the best and easiest thing since breathing): Can they take themselves a little less seriously? Far-Too-Perky Woman actually uttered the words (I may be paraphrashing): "Lifeguards love the Ab Lounge, and they go to work wearing nothing but a swimsuit! If ever there was someone who knew the importance of great abs ..."

Oh, for the love of God! She didn't seem to intone that lifeguards need good core strength to haul a drowning person out of the ocean. Her "... wearing nothing but a swimsuit" crack set up the importance of looking good in trunks.

Right. Because if I'm ever flailing about, waiting to be rescued in a large body of water, the first thing I'm gonna do when help arrives is check out the guy's abs and say, with a backhanded smack to his stomach, "Whoa! Buddy! Looks like you need an Ab Lounge!"

You can look like Fat Bastard for all I care, just save my life.

Friday, January 06, 2006

'Real Simple' On TV ...

Well, thank God I found out about this in time so I can be sure not to watch it: Real Simple, the magazine, has spawned Real Simple, the TV show on PBS.

I've thumbed through a copy or two of the magazine. I don't subscribe because I already subscribe to too many mags, but the feature that stands out in my memory was about the best white towels for the money. Now, I love a good towel. Who doesn't? But you know what I do when I want to pick a towel? I go to the store and I feel them up. Or, if I have a particularly pleasant towel experience at someone's home, I note the brand of towel that brought on my terry-cloth rapture. Never in my life, when I've been in the market for a towel, have I wished there was a magazine to point me in the right direction.

But now comes "Real Simple" on PBS, debuting tomorrow, January 7 (so says its Web site). I watched a clip. How much fuller is my life now? Apparently, wine that comes in a little plastic bottle "tastes like wine." Good to know. If I want to save time in the kitchen when making a rustic peach tart, I should use pre-fab pie crust. Who could have ever thought of that on their own? And kids and adults alike at the Chicago Children's Museum like to stack up red, plastic Solo cups, "and, of course, the fun part is knocking them down!"

Yup, it's real simple all right ...

I'm A Doer ...

Where does motivation come from? Why does it elude me most of the time?

Today has been one of those insanely, inexplicably productive days. To wit, it's 9:20 Friday night and I'm at my computer. Why?, you ask? I dunno. I probably stepped into my office to check e-mail and then decided that I'd transfer those zillion work files over to my laptop that I've beem meaning to get out of my in box, and while I was at it, now seemed like the perfect time to delete a few hundred messages that I no longer needed. My Trash has 1,270 messages in it when I emptied it just now.

Clearly, I live on this machine.

Today I did actual work things. (One of my anonymous comment-posters left a comment a couple weeks ago ripping me for taking time to drink coffee and enjoy the serenity outside my dining-room window, intoning that I don't have a job, to which I say, "HELLO! I'm a WRITER! I WORK from HOME.") But I also ran errands and cooked and organized my office and bought new shoes. (New year, New Balance - maybe I should go into advertising after all ...)

The last few days of 2005 and the first few days of 2006 have been spent organizing and cleaning and generally getting my ducks in a row, which appears to be paying off, because I can't remember the last time I had so much inclination to do so much.

Of course, a good portion of my zeal could be stemming from the fact that G will be back in Chicago in fewer than 48 hours.

As Gretchen would say, I'm schmooped.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Dreamy ...

I wish I could stick leads to my head and record my dreams.

I would love to know what triggers them. All those electrical impulses firing in my brain. Why are certain things drawn on certain nights while other things stay tucked away?

Last night I dreamed, in part, about people I haven't seen since I was a child. They're relatives of my mom's best friend, so I guess their names can come up in conversation from time to time, but why did I dream about them last night? And why did I dream about them in a Christmas setting? And why was such a big part of the dream that Kimmy, the daughter, had gotten a puppy for Christmas, but the puppy was more like a 6-month-old dog, very lanky, more legs than anything else? Cute. Sweet. Let me hold her. The dog, not Kimmy. But what the heck?

Some parts of the dream, I understood. The scene where I was waiting in line at what seemed like a Pier 1, and it was taking forever for the cashier to check out the people ahead of me? That I get. I have an exquisite gift for picking the wrong line in a store. It always *seems* the shortest, but when I pay attention to the other payees in the other lines, they almost always make it to the cashier before I do. It's like a race, and I'm usually the losing team. Hmm. I feel like I should lie down on a couch when I write that. Paging Dr. Freud ...

But really, holidays, shopping, long lines, that's just present-day reality, so I understand where that part of the dream came from. But other parts baffled me.

Most of my friends say they can never remember their dreams. Some insist they don't dream. I insist back to them that they do. But I have pretty good dream recall. Some stay with me for an hour or two after I wake up. Some stay with me forever. When I was little and I'd have a fever, I always had the same two dreams. I remember those.

And I remember the dream I had about Dave when we were on a train and he gave me a little figure of Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz" and I said, "Is this to remind me that I always have everything I need, right inside me?" And he smiled.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Comfort And Oy ...

The title of this post will take you to a story in the New York Times about macaroni and cheese.

Julia Moskin, the writer, was reared by "food-forward" parents on a diet of fish stews and falafel. Not surprisingly, today she craves all the comfort food she was denied as a child.

And so she set out to find the best recipe for macaroni and cheese. One 20-year-old recipe by John Thorne ("Simple Cooking") calls for a pound of cheddar and a half pound of macaroni. Yes, you read that right. A 2:1 ratio of cheese to macaroni. Sure, the '80s were prone to excess, but I thought that was reserved for Wall Street and shoulder pads. A pound of cheese to a half-pound of macaroni? That's just madness.

Mr. Thorne does not hide his disdain for other mac and cheese preparations. Quoting: "A good dish of macaroni and cheese is hard to find these days. The recipes in most cookbooks are not to be trusted ... usually it is their vexatious infatuation with white sauce, a noxious paste of flour-thickened milk, for this dish flavored with a tiny grating of cheese. Contrary to popular belief, this is not macaroni and cheese but macaroni with cheese sauce. It is awful stuff and every cookbook in which it appears should be thrown out the window."

OK, Thorne, I gotta stop you right there (though, no doubt, he was stopped by his own mac and cheese recipe years ago; I wonder if Mr. Thorne is still with us ...): I was taught to make macaroni and "cheese sauce" years ago and I don't mind saying that my friends *rave* about it. "It's the texture," my friend Judy used to say. Because it was like velvet. Velvet cheese.

Mac and cheese made with cheddar is an oily, gloppy mess. Eww. But mac and cheese made with bechamel and Velveeta. Ahh. Velvet cheese heaven.

They don't call it Velveeta for nothing, you know.

Welcome, Henry ...

When I went to work for Thomson in 1997, I met Henry Miller.

He was my saving grace. I found myself, unexpectedly, the editor of a NASCAR publication, and this city girl knew nothing about the sport of good ol' boys.

That would change, quickly, but in the meantime, Henry was like my seeing-eye dog. If it weren't for him, I would have tripped over many curbs and walked into many lightpoles.

For a long time, we were phone friends. I his editor, he my writer, we'd talk all the time, but it wasn't until I went to my first race that we met. He picked me up at Hartsfield and we drove to Talladega. That was the first time I met the Henry that he writes about in his blog (linked through the title of this post, and also in my links to the right).

Today, he is in many ways a different person. Not just physically. He moved across the country for a new job and in the process, found a new life. He literally married the girl upstairs, and became an instant dad to her daughter, and then became a dad again to a very cute baby girl.

He is a terrific writer, and writing are what blogs are about. So I invite you to check out his site. He's a busy man - editor, entrepreneur, father, husband, student - but he says he'll try to post 2 to 3 times a week.

Henry, I've gotcha bookmarked. Start posting, my friend.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Best News I've Read All Morning ...

I took note of two news stories yesterday.

One was about a missing man in Utah, trapped in an avalanche while snowshoeing. It caught my attention because my friend Marc lives in Utah and likes to be outside whenever he can. I dropped a quick e-mail his way: "You're not buried in an avalanche, are you?"

His reply came a couple hours later. Nope, it wasn't him.

The other story was on TV, about the first baby born in 2006. It caught my attention because of the ubiquitous nature of some news. Everyone feels compelled to cover the same things year after year, usually with live remotes.

The first snow of the season ("It's snowing out here, Bob"), the day after Thanksgiving ("People lined up early looking for holiday bargains, Bob"), any time it rains more than an inch ("It's making for a soggy commute, but we need the rain, Bob," and invariably, such weather causes the graphics department to generate "Storm Watch" art to go with the story).

And holidays usually make for slow news days. The headlines on Yahoo! News this morning aren't very different than the headlines last night.

Except for this one:

"Inmates Skip Lunch to Feed Fellow Kenyans"

You can click on the title of this post to read the whole story, but here's the lede:

"By RODRIQUE NGOWI, Associated Press Writer

NAIROBI, Kenya - Thousands of prisoners skipped lunch Sunday to send food to fellow Kenyans affected by food shortages, a senior prison official said.

Most of Kenya's estimated 50,000 prisoners gave up their ration of beans and corn porridge on the day President Mwai Kibaki declared the food shortages caused by drought a national disaster in an effort to speed up relief efforts, officials said."

Now that's a story worth reporting.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A Faraway Voice ...

G just called.

We've traded e-mails while he's been home for the holidays, but I was surprised when the phone rang and I heard him say, "Hi." Today is a good day for a call, though: New Year's Day and the effective halfway point of his trip. He'll be home in a week.

His trip has been good so far, save for his grandmother's funeral, which he had written to say was sad but provided the opportunity for him to see relatives he hadn't seen since 1999.

He has this week plotted out. Monday will be for shopping ("I already did my food shopping," he said. "Chocolate, gummi bears ...") and the rest of the week will be spent seeing various family and friends.

He reports that his mother is still feeding him too much ("Isn't that what moms do?" he asked. "Our moms," I said. "Not all moms, though.") and that his brother was very happy to receive his iPod for Christmas, for which G uploaded the 1,400 songs on his own pod onto A's computer, of which A promptly deleted about 1,000.

"We have different taste in music," said G.

Apparently.

We chatted for nearly 30 minutes. He asked me what I wanted for a souvenir. He'd already reported in an e-mail that he'd picked up hazelnut chocolate for me. (For us, I presume. I'm sure he bought some for himself. We're both hazelnut fanatics.)

I laughed, saying I couldn't tell him what to bring me. "I mean, you're welcome to bring me something, but I don't know what. What's special about that region?"

(The last time I really bought souvenirs was the first time I was in London, so everyone received very British things: Kyle, the U.K. version of the second Harry Potter book; Nick, a game from the Tower of London; Gianna, a bear from Harrods, sporting a ribbon around his neck in the trademark green and gold; my mom, a linen handkerchief [because that's what she asked for, though linen is really more Irish]; my dad, a pint glass from a pub Patty and Barry told me to visit [because my father is almost impossible to buy for, but he likes beer]. The second time I went to London, Brian asked for something cheesy. I believe I hit the nail on the head with the Big Ben bottle opener. But I digress.)

We'll see. So far, G has proven his mettle when it comes to gift-giving.

Not that I expect things, mind you. But I'm always interested to receive gifts because they give me a glimpse of how others see me.

But, sappy as it sounds, seeing him again will be enough.

Ready, Set ...

At 11:59 p.m., December 31st, 2005, I closed my eyes and took three cleansing breaths, on the last one exhaling all the pain and anger of 2005 and inhaling all the possibilites of 2006.

I opened my eyes to 12 a.m., January 1st.

A new year.

A new start.

Go.