Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The World According To K-Fed ...

I am an Entertainment Weekly junkie. It's always good. But sometimes, it's great.

In the latest issue (with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett on the cover), The EW Pop Culture Personality Test hooks up with everybody's favorite babydaddy, Mr. Britney Spears. You can read the whole scintillating interview here, but to whet your appetite, a K-Fed amuse bouche:

Finish this sentence: If your life was a drinking game, everyone would do a shot when...
My name comes out of their mouths.

In high school, I was...
A short-term student. I wound up going to get my GED and stuff. I didn't really do the whole high school thing.

Diaper Genie or Diaper Champ?
What's the difference? I don't know which one we have, all it says is ''Genie'' on top.

The most underrated performer in my field is...
[He pauses for 12 seconds.] Me. Because... I don't know.

Girl Scouts Crackdown ...

Is there a merit badge for litigation?

From The Times (of Northwest Indiana):

"Girl Scouts deliver cookies, lawyers deliver lawsuit
Drifting Dunes Council hopes to collect $8,000 in delinquent cookie sales

BY BILL DOLAN

Girl Scouts will begin bringing cookies to local doorsteps this week about the same time lawyers will be delivering lawsuits to delinquent Scout families.

The Drifting Dunes Girl Scout Council is trying to collect more than $8,000 in delinquent 2004 and 2005 cookie sales from dozens of Scout parents and guardians.

'We want to send a strong message that this is money being taken from girls,' Melissa Thompson, communications director for the Scout council, said Monday.

The lawsuits were being filed in Lake and Porter counties against families whose children placed and delivered cookie orders and failed to forward the money to their troop leaders.

'It's hurting the troops because they receive a percentage of the sales and then the rest of the money goes to pay for the programs and facilities, including our camps,' Thompson said.

The Cookie Day sales this year is generating gross revenues of $1.4 million. She said the council currently oversees 4,400 Girl Scouts between the ages of 5 to 17 in Lake, Porter, Newton and Jasper counties.

Thompson said the Drifting Dunes Council sent letters to the delinquent families after each annual cookie sale, and additional collection letters were sent this summer by the council's attorney.

Any missing money that is collected will be divided up among the troops that raised the money and the administration of Girl Scout programs in general."

'Nacho Libre' ...

Rare is the time when I stop watching a movie halfway through.

"Nacho Libre" holds just such a place in my life.

I adored "Napoleon Dynamite." Maybe I could relate the misfitiness. Maybe it was just the right combination of absurdities. Maybe I was hooked by Napoleon's opening sigh of disgust, entranced by the minimalism of it. Maybe it was the Tater Tots and Uncle Rico throwing a steak. There is a place in my life for simple comedies.

But "Nacho Libre" wasn't one of them. I've just been perusing the reviews of it on Netflix. It's a polarizing film. Most people in my sampling either gave it five stars and said it's the funniest thing they've ever seen or gave it one star and said it was one of the only movies they've ever walked out of. (Or, as in my case, popped out of the DVD player and sent back to Netflix.) Clearly, I am in the one-star camp.

So I checked rottentomatoes.com for the movie's score: 37. Higher than I thought it would be, actually. My only laugh having anything to do with this film came when I read Sean Burns' quote from Philadelphia Weekly: "Slightly less funny than cancer." Wow. Like I said, people loved this movie or they hated it.

It's not like I only watch art films. I loved Jack Black in "School of Rock." I thought his performance was very solid in "King Kong." And I thought he was fabulous in "High Fidelity." And the conceit of "Nacho Libre" is amusing, so Jared Hess gets points for creativity. But when a film relies on smearing feces on someone's face and midget wrestlers who look like Thing 1 and Thing 2 for humor, well, we're not in Idaho anymore, Napoleon.

You know what would have made "Nacho" better? A freakin' 12-gauge.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Halloween ...

The days around Halloween are a dangerous time. Candy in the house?! Luckily, a steady stream of kids will darken my door tomorrow and I'll be able to dump it all in plastic pumpkin buckets and pillowcases.

I don't go to Halloween parties. I haven't worn a costume since, what?, eighth grade? I've never been a fan of scary things. Not that Halloween is scary anymore. How scary can such crass commercialism be? But haunted houses and haunted hay rides and haunted corn mazes? I keep my distance. Which is weird, because I'm fascinated by the paranormal. My mother and I are convinced that a spirit dwells in her house, and that doesn't bother me at all, to hear it walking around. But if someone makes me watch a scary movie, I spend the whole time peering through my fingers. I am, in a word, a wuss.

This year, though, for the first time in I can't even remember how long, I carved a pumpkin. Well, I pierced a pumpkin. I impaled it over and over and over with an awl and an apple corer. I figure, this way, its life is extended beyond tomorrow night. A jack-o-lantern is out of place in November, but an artfully punched pumpkin can carry me through the remainder of fall. Or until it starts to collapse, whichever comes first.

I tried taking a picture of it tonight, but I need more exposure to capture it well. As it stands, the picture is pretty much black with a line of glowing holes in the middle of it. Not much to look at.

When I was little, my brothers always made me pull out the pumpkin guts. I never minded. And today, I was struck by how ungoopy the guts were. And later, once I'd created my design, I took the time to separate the seeds from the strings, washed them off, tossed them with a bit of melted butter and sea salt and roasted those little babies. My house smelled like I was roasting a turkey. (Clearly, that smell is more about the butter than the turkey.) Ah, crispy, seedy goodness. And, as my mother said, "Fiber!"

As I stabbed my pumpkin (apologetically), I listened to the soundtrack from "The Nightmare Before Christmas," and tonight, I had the movie on in the background while I did other things. It's so sweet. And Tim Burton is a freakin' genius.

The candy assortment consists of Snickers, Almond Joys, KitKats, Whoppers, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Mr. Goodbars, and Dots. Dots might be the 8th Wonder of the World. Fresh Dots, that is, fruity and chewy. Stale Dots can be used as emergency ammo, I'm sure. Though the lemon Dot tastes exactly the way Lemon Pledge smells. That can't be good.

And so I leave you with this Halloween treat, just about the cutest flippin' thing I've ever seen. This shot was snapped in Tokyo, as part of a pet parade. What could be cuter than a little dog dressed as a pumpkin, with the pumpkin head jauntily askew, I ask you? You can't think of anything, can you? Neither can I.

Have a Pagan good time.

Whither Republicans? ...

I had a genuine "Hmmm ..." moment this morning.

I was reading my daily blogs and ran across this post by Henry, a man with whom I went to school. He's a Republican (but I like him anyway! - insert rim shot here) and is involved in Illinois politics, not as a day job but as a concerned citizen. And good for him. Too many people don't care enough to go to the polls, let alone roll up their sleeves and get involved in the more daily grind.

So though he's talking about the race for Illinois governor, not the elections that will reshape the national political landscape, I found it fascinating that, more than a week before the election, he's writing about what should have been done differently, conceding defeat before the finish line is even in sight.

I find it interesting not in a gleeful "They're giving up!" way, but because in this ever-cynical political age we live in, I wonder if it's some form of psychological manipulation. I read an interesting story in the Washington Post this morning about Karl Rove and his legacy, depending on the outcome of the mid-term election.

"... it is a mark of the particular place Rove holds in the Washington psyche that even the most exuberant Democrats are wondering why he seems so confident.

There are two questions. Is Rove just acting cocky as a way of lifting GOP morale, or does he really believe it? And, if the latter, is he deluding himself, or does he once again know something that Democrats do not?" writes Michael Abramowitz, wondering if the administration has Osama bin Laden in a freezer and will trot him out the day before the election.

In a perfect world, campaigns would be up-front affairs, about issues and not about personal attacks, and we the people would feel that politicians were really striving to make the world a better place and not engaging in psychological warfare. The fact that I question Henry's motives in his latest post somewhat saddens me, that the gaping political divide has left even friends leery of each others' motives.

And it also saddens me that in eight days, no matter which party controls all or part of Congress, that no one will really have won. If the Democrats wrest control away from the Republicans, I do believe they'll stall as much of Bush's agenda as possible. And if the Republicans manage to hold on to control, the devisiveness in this country will only continue to grow. Not that a Democratic Congress will instantly heal all the wounds that have festered while the Republicans had a stranglehold on the government. The country isn't going to gather around a national campfire and sing "Kumbaya." Democrats, I'm sure, will gloat.

We as a country face enormous problems, and yet, all I see on TV are snarky commercials that aren't far removed from schoolyard taunts, millions of ad dollars being spent on electronic raspberries that could be put to much, much better use.

I hope I'm not altogether naive in hoping that someone, on at least one side of the aisle, will offer an olive branch and get this country back on track.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Clipped Past ...

The ink on my hands is more than 10 years old.

This morning, I started out sorting through books, thinning my shelves, making room for what I want to read. But that made me remember that I had more books stashed behind the doors at the base of my bookshelves. So I started to pull those out and pile them on the coffee table. And then I thought I should pull everything out and vacuum. Grouped the games together. Hauled out the handle bag full of boxes of matches that I doctored up as a handout for a conference presentation that was aborted long ago.

And then I came upon my bag of clips.

Back when I worked for the Tribune, I saved the sections in which my words appeared. I don't rightly know why I'm keeping them. (Not that I've really thought about them since I stuffed them in the cabinet when I moved into the house.) They're really of no use to me now. But it's evidence of something I've done in my life and it feels strange to relegate those years to my recycle bin. I've decided to keep select clips, and truly clip them. I don't need the entire section, just my bit of ink and pulp.

But in flipping through all the sections - and there were a lot of them - I took a wayback trip to that time in my life when I worked in those hallowed halls. (The fact that those halls are on the block continues to stun me. The Tribune? Sold? I never thought I'd see the day. I'm sure those who still work there never did, either.)

A lot of the clips, though, weren't mine. I kept a lot of the stories written by Rick Kogan. I've always admired his talent as a writer. Rick and I were friends, back in the day. I logged a lot of hours at the Billy Goat with him. My tolerance for alcohol was never as high as it was when Rick and I hung out. He's the reason I drink my vodka on the rocks. Mixers had no place in Kogan's world. I suspect that's still true.

I ran across a Tribune magazine with Mancow on the cover. Rick and I were at the Goat one day while he was working on that story. He went to use the pay phone to call him (I worked at the Trib when cell phones weren't pervasive) and returned to the table and gave me his number. "You should call him," Rick said. I should call Mancow? Why? Rick seemed to think we'd get along well. Like on a date? Yep.

Today, Mancow's married with kids. I missed my chance to vie for the title of Mrs. Mancow. Alas. Though I always wondered what made Rick think that we'd be a good match. Not that Mancow the man is the same as Mancow. I've seen him on TV locally and some surprisingly thoughtful things have come out of his mouth. Surprising, I say, because I've never had high expectations for a man whose sidekick is named Turd.

But back to the clips: One December day in 1995, right before Christmas, Rick and I had lunch. From there, he was going to go shopping. I had to go back to work. I had the day's paper with me, and I was reading it as I walked back to the Tower. Rick had a story on the front page that day about outdoor Christmas decorations. Reading while walking probably isn't the smartest of activities (when I worked in the newsroom, one of the copy boys would distribute dummies without ever looking up from his book; I marveled at that) but I read two words - two little words - in Rick's piece and I literally stopped in my tracks. I just ran across that section. " ... seasonal Cezanne" were the words that brought me to a halt. I still think they're pretty fabulous together.

And I still write for newspapers from time to time, but I never see the actual printed sections. Content That Works, the client I write for, sells stories and sections to newspapers across North America, so my name pops up in unexpected places (somewhere in Canada, Hawaii) but the only reason I know that is because of Google.

Some days, I miss the daily deadlines of a newspaper. But mostly, I miss the Goat.

Amusingly, Rick's just published a book, "A Chicago Tavern: a Goat, a Curse, and the American Dream." I guess I'll have to pick up a copy and add it to my newly created shelf of books to read. And, for kicks, maybe head to his book reading and signing on Saturday.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

'Fat Pig' ...

I went to see this Neil LaBute play Thursday night. It was a disgusting night to be out. Cold and rainy. Traffic was snarled. Hassles all around. But tickets were waiting at will call. I went with Doreen.

I made a New Year's resolution to see more live theater this year, and I am. Not as much as I'd like, but certainly more than in years past, and I'm pleased about that. The Profiles Theater is very small. I was amused, thinking that the actors could break the third and fourth walls, as there's seating on opposite sides of the acting area. It's not a stage in the traditional sense. The audiece faces each other across the central set. And if the theater seats 50 patrons, I'd be surprised. To quote Dudley Moore as "Arthur": I'm talking small.

So we arrived, despite our parking travails, and the audience was lined up, waiting to enter the theater proper. There aren't assigned seats for such a small space. It's more like going to the movies. The play is an hour and 40 minutes with no intermission. And if you leave during the performance, you're not allowed back in. Translation: Go the bathroom now.

Settled in, Kleenex in hand (because Doreen and I know ourselves, and we like to be prepared in the event of any blubbering), we watched the lead actress who was on set when we filed in, standing at a table eating a slice of pizza, drinking a Coke, and reading the biography of Katherine Graham.

This went on for some time. I started to wonder if it was less of a play and more of a performance piece. Perhaps she was just going to stand there and eat and read for 100 minutes? But no. Soon, another cast member joined her - her boyfriend-to-be. Her chaacter's name is Helen. His name is Tom.

Tom works with Carter and Jeannie. Carter is a typical smarmy man. When he meets Helen, not realizing she's Tom's girl, the insults start flying out of his mouth the moment she excuses herself to the restroom. Tom, not ready to 'fess up that he's on a date (Carter thinks it's a business meeting), plays along, and feels awful for it.

Jeannie, Tom's on-again/off-again ex, is thin and pretty. And a bitch. Helen is everything Jeannie isn't, except thin.

The performances are very strong. Tom summons a great amount of emotion in the last scene.

Walking back to my car, I said, "Well, THAT wasn't much of a surprise."

"Is that how you thought it would end?" Doreen asked.

"Yup."

"Then why do we even bother?"

"Because," I said, "ostensibly, all men aren't like that."

I don't think I'm giving away a big secret to reveal that in the end, Tom breaks up with Helen because of her size. Mind you, Helen isn't grossly obese, but by today's image-obsessed standards, yes, she's fat. Even by "the average woman is a size 14" standards, she's fat. But Tom is happy when they're together. The problem is, they don't exist on a desert island, as he wishes they did. They live in the world, where fat people are judged for their size.

I'm one of those "the average woman is a size 14" women. I'm also 6'3", so a 14 is somewhat proportional for me. I'm always striving to be thinner, but I recognize that I will never be a size 6. At my height, I simply can't be. I'd look like a swizzle stick, and then there's the matter of, oh, my skeletal system. "Big boned" is a stupid euphemism, but people who are 6'3" do literally have bigger bones than people who are 5'2". So there's only so small I can ever really be.

Granted, I'm not there yet. And I look forward to the day. I saw a photo of Hilary Swank in Vanity Fair the year she was nominated (and won) for "Million Dollar Baby." She was clad in a sports bra and shorts, running on a beach. It was a motion shot, and I was taken with her fitness. I thought, "I wonder what it's like to live in a body like that." Well, there's only one way to find out.

Of course, I can't afford a personal trainer and 4-hour workouts every day, and it's too easy to succumb to fast food when I don't feel like cooking, so the road to wellness is longer for me. But I can get there. We all can. If we want to. But not everyone does. Some people are content with who they are.

I'm not one of them. I don't need to be anorexically thin, but I know I can be healthier. L.A. Dave is forever jumping on my comments when I say things about losing weight, telling me I look fine, but I don't look fine in my own eyes.

Now, I agree that our sizist society has gotten out of hand. Unexpectedly, I've gotten into watching "America's Next Top Model" this season. I'm fascinated by what these girls go through (models are actors much more than I ever considered) and the personality clashes make for good TV. But this past week, Anchal, a STUNNING Indian woman, was told my the president of Elite Model Management that she doesn't have a "runway" body. I almost threw a shoe through my television. Anchal is stunning, and has a gorgeous body, and she's thinner than 95 percent of the women in the world, but she's not thin enough? No, compared to some of the other girls on the show, who have pipe cleaners for arms, she's not. And she spends a fair amount of time on the show talking about "her size" and "her weight" and I think, "My God, what are we doing?!" We're devaluing a woman for being a size 4? Because she should be a size 0?

It's like the NutriSystem commericial with Zora Andrich: "I was a size 10, now I'm a size 4!" My mother is a size 10. She looks fabulous. She'd look sickly as a 4. What's going on?

But getting back to the conceit of the play, Tom isn't brave enough to endure the scrutiny and ridicule of his peers for dating a heavy woman. He caves into societal pressure. He feels like a heel for doing it - he admits that he's weak - but in the end, it's over.

I've been written off by men for not being thin enough, most notably Roy, who's been mentioned in this blog before. He was the one who made me wonder if men are really looking for partners or trophies. Because I'm tall, I'm pretty, I'm smart, I'm kind, I'm a great cook, I have a voice that could make me a mint at phone sex, I sing, my house could be photographed for a magazine, I write, all these good things. But for some men, they're all canceled out by the fact that I don't have the body of a Victoria's Secret model.

I don't expect society to change, sad as it is to say. Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty is a nice nod to "real" women, but at the end of the day, those aren't the women in the magazines. The standard of beauty in this country is absurd and grossly misshapen. And I do wonder about what we're doing to the psyches of all these young girls. My niece has been spouting for years, "Carbs are evil," which is something my sister-in-law says. My niece is 9.

I know that there are men and boys who suffer from eating disorders, too, but it is way more socially acceptable for a man to be heavy. Television is full of Jim Belushis married to Courtney Thorne-Smiths, and Kevin Jameses married to Leah Reminis. But when Leah Remini gained weight, people were buzzing. Nobody was talking about the fact that her co-star was always fat.

So television is teaching that a fat guy can get a skinny, hot chick. But have you ever seen a fat woman on TV with a hot young stud? No, you haven't. And you never will.

"Fat Pig" has been extended through December 17th (its run was originally scheduled to end tomorrow). It's the best $25 for theater you'll ever spend.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I'm Honored ...

I have a metal box.

In it, I keep important papers and things: Passport, birth certificate, safety deposit box key.

It is also where I keep an envelope addressed to Sydney and Alex, a copy of the letter I wrote to them after their dad died. Charles. I've written about him before. Inside that envelope, I also keep the copy of his obituary (it ran with the most fabulous photo of him) as well as the note his sister Becky sent to me, thanking me for the letter to Sydney and Alex (with another fabulous photo of Charles on the front - he was damn photogenic). And I keep the last Christmas card and photo he sent to me, the envelope addressed in his strange hand. Charles had an artful way of printing. His signature, well, that was a Hollywood scrawl.

He's been gone nearly three and a half years already. But I think about him often. I was just thinking about him earlier tonight. He pops into my head, his Archie Bunker-esque "Oh, shut up" that was always his response whenever I'd say anything remotely mushy. Charles didn't do mush. Not overtly. But secretly, I think he liked it.

I thought about him in New York when I was shopping. He's still very much a part of my life.

In June, I wrote a long post about my relationship with him, such as it was, and how deeply I was affected by his death.

A friend of his found the post a couple months later, having Googled his name. I was glad to hear from him.

Tonight, from another, I received this:

"I was with Charles on that fateful vacation. I still think of him often as well. Thus, the search of his name on Google and finding this blog.

Your writing brought him back.
Thanks. "

While I'm slightly shaken to have heard from someone who was with Charles in Mexico three years ago May (and I invite that person to e-mail me; my address is in my profile), I'm warmed by the words, "Your writing brought him back."

For the longest time, I didn't consider writing one of my talents. It's just something I do. And I do without effort. Words just flow from me. I rarely stop to think about how to write. Writing just happens. And it's because of that ease that I never considered that my writing might be worthwhile. Something so easy can't have value, right? We don't pat ourselves on the back for breathing.

I write because it's what I do. I don't think about why I was given this gift.

But I am unspeakably grateful for it.

And tonight, just this moment, I am also overwhelmed. "Your writing brought him back."

I'm so honored to have known him, and so honored to have the ability to write my small story, and that those who read it are reminded of him.

But I realize that my words don't bring him back, because he lives in all of our hearts. He is always with us. That someone from his circle is searching for his name tonight proves that. None of us have let him go. We never will. He's part of who we are. His memory lives large in our lives.

On the front of the card from Becky, underneath the picture of Charles, who is standing in the desert, looking uncharacteristically casual in a white T-shirt and open-front flannel (or maybe it's just plaid), is a quote from Jacqueline Kennedy:

"Now, I think that I should have known he was magic all along. I did know it - but I should have guessed that it would be too much to ask to grow old with him and see our children grow up together.

So, now, he is a legend when he would have preferred to be a man."

Update: I, myself, haven't Googled Charles' name of late. Until tonight. And I found this, a brief biography of Charles, written by his daughter Alex, along with a bevy of photos I'd never seen before. I said he was photogenic. Now you can see for yourself.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Like An Atmosphere Without Oxygen ...

How's that for dramatic?

Blogging etiquette suggests that if you don't have anything to write about, you simply shouldn't write. People don't care about why you haven't written, the reasoning goes.

And maybe that makes sense for some bloggers. People who blog about video games or cats or soccer.

But it's a very weird feeling for a writer to feel as though she has nothing to write about. And sometimes, the best thing to do is to write something - anything - just to be writing. In the same way that exercising gives you energy, the act of writing - typing, longhand, whatever - seems to wrench the writer in us back into action. Spray a little WD-40 on me and I should be good to go.

When I was a junior in high school, I spent the first semester with English Teacher Dave (who I've written about before, and who is a good friend to this day). I spent the second semester with a woman whose grasp on reality was slipping. That's not me being mean, it's the truth.

She was in charge of the school literary journal. (I went to high school at a time when there was actually money in the budget for things like a literary journal; these days, schools seem to be lucky if there's money for football.)

One day, we spent our class period collating. She had laid out the pages on our desks, and we walked up and down the aisles, picking pages and putting journals together.

That semester, I got a B. I was furious. I went to see Dave. "How did I get a B in collating? Weren't the pages in the right order?!"

My grade didn't change, I remember that. But I do remember this:

One of my classmates once wrote (and read aloud to the class) an essay on creativity, and the line that has stuck with me to this day is, "You can't be creative on cue." Kevin Frommer wrote that, and it couldn't be more true.

When your job relies on creativity though, that's a problem. Steel workers can continue to make steel. Accountants can do whatever accountants do. But a writer who finds she has nothing to say? Uh oh.

Having a blog means writing. Nothing irks me more than blogs that go unupdated for weeks at a time. I feel a connection with my readers, and it's rude to leave them with nothing to read if they take the time to visit. Otherwise, it's as though they've dropped by for coffee and I have nothing to serve them. How inhospitable.

But now it's time to start my work day. Happily, inspiration often strikes at the most unexpected moments. Being able to break from my job to write is one of the perks of working from home.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Visualization ...

In the wake of my Clooney hyperventilation earlier in the day, during which I said that I want a date with him for my birthday, Doreen replied, "Start visualizing."

"Oh, I'm visualizing, all right," I replied, but it always helps to have instructions, I guess, so she sent this to me:

"I took the liberty of Doctoring this up a bit for you ..........

Wednesday, October 25, 2006
DESIRE OF GEORGE CLOONEY IS THE STARTING POINT FOR SUCCESS

The first thing that will contribute to reaching your goal
is that you simply want to reach GEORGE CLOONEY badly enough.
You must learn how to desire with sufficient intensity to be successful.

If you have the desire you have the power to attain success.
You can really have GEORGE CLOONEY if you go after him.
But you have to want him.

As a drowning soul desires air,
as a shipwrecked person craves fresh water,
so must you feel that intense, eager, insistent, demanding,
ravenous desire for your success.

Your desire for success must be so strong within you
that it becomes the very breath of your life.
It must be your first thought when you wake up,
and your last thought when you go to bed at night.

You can have anything you want if you go after it with intensity."

: o )

Oh, Holy Mother Of God ...

I've written about George Clooney before. I think he's a terrific actor and a terrific director, but more importantly, I think he's a terrific humanitarian. He's one of the celebrities who uses his station in life to help others.

Sure, he lives a good life. But he's also outspoken about issues of the day, and lends his name and face to try to affect change.

But his face is the purpose of this post.

This is an outtake from the Vanity Fair shoot he did recently, about which I ask, "How is this possibly an outtake?" This is one of the most stunning photographs of him I've ever seen.

How is any human being this attractive?

Doreen just asked who the woman is in the car, to which I replied, "Who cares? Who's looking at her?!"

You can see the rest of the outtakes here.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Notes On NYC ...

Well, I'm home now.

As I wrote to some friends this morning, "New York was fab. Surprisingly, I started thinking about moving there. Usually, I'm happy to leave New York after a few days. This time, it drew me in. ... We'll see."

Not that I plan on packing up a U-Haul tomorrow and setting my sights east, but I can envision New York as a part of my life someday. Who knows.

I didn't take a camera with me, as I've been to New York many times and don't feel the need to take pictures. But John brought his with, as he always does, so we have our annual shot. And I'm happy to be back in touch with his daughter, well, one of his daughters. It had been three years since we'd seen each other.

And I said I'd post the photo, so here it is: Miye, me, and my annual October rendezvous.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Notes from NYC III ...

Tonight, I had one of the best meals of my life.

I've been cleaving to the vegetarian fold, but lately, my body has been asking for protein, and on this trip, I've answered the call.

Tonight's dinner began with a cabernet sauvignon paired with a pate with country mustard, prunes, and cornichon. Lovely. I continued with a vegetarian-friendly roasted beet salad. The plate was napped with a goat cheese sauce and topped with the beets (sweet perfection) and watercress for bite.

Speaking of bite, the entree was duck confit with navy bean cassoulet with bacon. The beans were creamy with just a bit of toothsomeness, infused with the smokiness of the bacon, and a hint of caramelized carrot for sweetness. The duck - and for the record, I've seldom eaten duck - was velvet. Velvet wrapped in silky, diaphanous fat, topped with perfectly crisped skin. Together, a symphony of flavors, the memory of which lingers on my palate.

Dessert was a chocolate caramel pot de creme with an espresso.

The rest of the day, you ask? It was lovely. Low-key. Once Patty and I wrested ourselves out of the comfort of her couch and made ourselves presentable, we wandered about her neighborhood, slipping in and out of shops. Cog and Pearl, Patty's favorite go-to gift spot, lived up to its reputation. I wasn't planning on starting my Christmas shopping today, but I did. Then again, when it comes to giving gifts, I can never wait. So the odds are good that the recipient will receive said gift in short order, for no reason in particular, other than the reason of the perfection of the pairing of the gift and the recipient. Ah, I love to give presents.

We poked through an outdoor market - of the flea variety, I suppose - in which Patty considered a magenta faux-fur coat. The consideration didn't last. For the best. It was far too big for her, and she would have looked like a Muppet. We stopped in Sweet Melissa for cookies that left me cold. Research, Patty had suggested. Research, indeed. I can do much better.

We walked past the first apartment she and Barry shared in Park Slope, down the block from the jaw-dropping home of Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly. "Subtle," I said, as we rounded the corner. But beautiful. I applaud them for living in such a "real" place.

We stopped for a glass of wine in a newly opened bar, the walls lined with books, comfy leather chairs. Seeing it the other night, I hoped it would smell of pipe tobacco, with patrons chatting in hushed tones over glasses of tawny port. But no. There's a bocce court in the back, and Johnny and June Carter Cash blared above our heads. We moved to a somewhat quieter spot and sipped slowly. A lovely way to warm up on a crisp fall afternoon after crunching through Brooklyn leaves.

Then dinner happened, and here we are. I head to the airport in the morning. Patty spied a shop with H&H bagels, so I scored a couple for us for the morning. I had commented earlier today that I somehow forgot to include H&H in my plan. But the bagel is covered. Or it will be. Tomorrow. With butter.

Notes From NYC II...

I do like not working.

It was so pleasant, spending Friday in the city, making my way to the Maritime Hotel to meet John in the lobby (swanky place, that; I'm told Jagger stays there when he's in town). John always amuses me with his outfits. Sometimes, he's impossibly dapper. Yesterday, he was Friday casual: white button-down shirt, blue v-neck sweater, and paint-smeared jeans, which he wears when he works on his faux finishes in his Pennsylvania basement. We caught up for a few minutes before hopping a cab and heading to B Bar in the Bowery where his daughter was waiting for us. She's a manager at Matsuri, a sushi hotspot in the Maritime, but we met at B instead, another restaurant in part of the hospitality collection of one of Maritime's partners.

We had a lovely, leisurely lunch, we three, which was generously comped by the manager. Our server, Melisssa, was delightful. We left her a $40 tip. As the afternoon waned and we readied ourselves to go, John mentioned the photographs in the bathroom. I mentioned one in the ladies' room of Andy Warhol. John, of course, has an Andy Warhol story. Back in the day, John knew everyone, even if tangentially. John had a company called The Film Factory. Andy, of course, was The Factory. Andy wasn't pleased with John's company's moniker. John didn't care.

Miye had to get to work. John had to head for home. He and I shared a cab uptown a ways. I hopped out to head to Fishs Eddy and ABC Carpet & Home. ABC is amazing. The prices are amazing, too. I fell in love with a lamp, but I don't need it. I wouldn't need it even if it wasn't $550 on sale, which isn't a lot of money for a lamp, really. But when you don't need a lamp, it's too much to lay down.

But Patty told me that I needed to hit all the floors, so I did. I've been looking for bedding for my guest-room bed. I have a very particular idea in mind of what the fabric should be. To date, I haven't been able to find it. Must I design my own textiles, people? But then, about to leave the textile floor, I saw a throw pillow in a pattern that's very close to what I've been envisioning. The color scheme was wrong, and I want a larger print, but it's nice to know someone else is on the same wavelength. I made my way to the packaged sheets and pillowcases. Turned one over and smiled sadly. Elizabeth Allen.

One day, I asked my dear, now-departed friend Charles what I should use as a stage name if I ever become famous. His response was immediate: Elizabeth Allen.

I find reminders of him everywhere. Even in the heart of New York City.

I made my way to Patty's office and we wandered over to an auction preview. We both found things we'd be inclined to bid on, but here I am, the next day, not at the auction, so I guess I won't be bidding after all.

Her brother, also my cousin, Barry, was going to meet us for dinner, but he was having cocktails with a colleague, so Patty and I ended up at Enoteca for some lovely glasses of wine.

Dinner was at Blue Smoke, down the block. The most amazing mac and cheese. Very much like my mac and cheese, actually, just slightly sharper. I'm guessing there's some white cheddar involved.

Barry, under the influence of many martinis, demanded to know when I'm moving to New York. "You're so New York, Beth," he said. And the funny thing is, on this trip more than any other trip to New York, I feel the city. I can see myself here. I'm not sure why.

We cabbed home, we three, parted ways on the street in front of Patty's building. We readied ourselves for bed, neither of us slept very well (way too full from dinner to be comfortable), but eventually got some sleep. This morning, we watched and ridiculed the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," our own MST3K.

Now, finally hungry, we're about to have some parsnip soup, and then, if we stick to the loosely defined plan, we'll wander about Brooklyn. It's sunny outside, windy as all get out.

More to come. And a posting of the picture John sent of the three of us yesterday at lunch. His daughter is stunning, and he's a doll.

Friday, October 20, 2006

No. No, No, No ...

Diddy is on the "Today" show, performing a song with both the bass line and chorus of "Every Breath You Take"!

Nuh uh. Some songs are sacred to me. This is one of them.

Notes From NYC ...

This trip is a year overdue.

I was supposed to come to New York last year - I come to New York every year - to see my friend John. We met on the phone when I interviewed him for a story for the Tribune, and we've been friends ever since. Is this the year he turned 80? I can't remember. Perhaps he's 81. But when it comes to John, age is irrelevant. He is the most fascinating, charming man - ageless.

Yesterday was my first flight in the post-London, no-liquids-well-OK-some-liquids world, and while I don't normally like to check my luggage, especially when I have just one small piece, not all of my liquids met the TSA's requirements, so I resigned myself to checking my bag, hoping that it would meet me in New York.

O'Hare now has a nifty service for people parking in Lot E: You can check your bag there, before you get on the tram to the terminals. It costs $5 per bag, but I thought I'd give it a whirl. I must say, it was nice to dump it off early and have only my purse to tote.

With my boarding pass in hand (I had checked in online the day before, and the luggage lady gave me one, as well), I went right to security. One of the security folks suggested I go to the other security area, where there was no line. You betcha! Having packed my few purse liquids in a quart-size Ziploc bag, I zipped right through security with no issues.

At the gate, I asked the agent if I could switch my seat to an exit row. "There's a $34 fee," she said. Oh, for the love of God. Most gate agents take one look at me - one look up at me, as I'm always taller than them - and give me one, or put me on a list, but every once in a while, the agent gets all official and wants me to pay for it, because it's an Economy Plus seat.

I had heard her tell the person before me that the flight checked in full, anyway, so I told her I'd just keep my seat. Once I was on the plane and the door was closed and we pushed back, I looked up and noticed that of the 12 exit-row seats, 6 were occupied. Grr. What would it have mattered, if she gave me one of those seats? They were available. I've been a United customer my entire life. I've literally flown on other airlines on fewer than 10 flights. I flew the Friendly Skies while it navigated bankruptcy. I'm loyal. Not that she knows that, but really, $34? Does the airline need the money that bad?

Ah well. We landed early, and my luggage and I were happily reunited. I made my way to Grand Central and then walked to my cousin's office. We made our way to her fab new pad in Brooklyn (she has a new apartment, built on the top of a building, and a deck, from which can see the Statue of Liberty; she looks small, from this distance, but there she is; we can also see parts of Manhattan's skyline; it's fab; we sat outside last night and had wine and chatted before heading out for dinner) and then headed back down her four flights of stairs (yup, it's a 5th-floor walk-up!) to poke around the 'hood (Park Slope) and check out menus in windows.

We ended up at Cafe Moutarde, the most charming French bistro, for a lovely meal, clearly an excellent choice. I had a glass of Champagne with dinner, and why not? As Patty pointed out, I'm on a mini-holiday.

At home, later, we watched "Grey's Anatomy" (a must-see) and flipped back and forth between "Six Degrees" and "ER." John Stamos is playing doctor on TV these days, the latest attempt to put a pretty boy in a white coat to lure the ladies? I guess so.

This morning, I'm puttering around. Patty's off to work. I'll get ready and meet John at the oh-so-hip Maritime Hotel, where his daughter is a manager at Matsuri, which, John tells me, has fanstastic sushi. But we're going to Bowery Bar, where his daughter's squeeze is wanting to revamp the menu, and John, who loves it when I write about food, wants me offer input. Sweet.

I love New York for these little jaunts. It's a fabulous city, but I can only manage measured doses. And then I'm happy to return to Chicago, which has everything New York has to offer, just on a more manageable scale.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

In The Name Of Children ...

I was just out for a walk, noticing the yard signs, noticing the sign for my current Representative, when my mind took me back to the summer of 2001, when my brother and then-sister-in-law were embroiled in a battle to protect her son, who was in danger of being abducted by her ex-husband.

She had appealed to everyone she could think of, and was consistently met with a perfunctory shoulder shrug. Apparently, the logic behind child abductions is that until a child is abducted, no proof exists that the child is in danger of being abducted.

In order to call more attention to her plight, I took it upon myself to write a letter on her behalf, and mailed it to every member of the Founding Members of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus. I just pulled that file: Yes, in fact, I did send a letter to Mark Foley.

Several Representatives replied to me. I don't remeber hearing from Foley. Not that it would have mattered. They all said the same thing, that they were referring my letter to the Representative of my district. Of course, he was the same person who had done nothing for my sister-in-law up until that point, but I thought he might be prodded into action after receiving countless copies of the same letter. I mailed 150 copies, 149 to members of the House and one to Laura Bush. I thought it made sense to appeal directly the First Lady, to appeal directly a mother who had the ear of the President.

Unfortuntately, I mailed the letters on September 9, 2001. Two days later, all hell broke loose. And in the weeks after that, an anthrax scare interrupted mail service on Capitol Hill. It's a credit to those Representatives who replied that their office eventually took the time to respond.

This is an excerpt from my letter, slightly edited to remove names.

I am writing to you on behalf of my sister-in-law .... She is currently waging the battle of her life to protect her son from international abduction by his Algerian father, who currently lives in France.

Attached is a letter, written by her, that has been sent to all of Indiana’s state and federal legislators. In every case their response has been, in one form or another, 'There’s nothing we can do to help you.' The 'reasoning' seems to be: Until a parent actually abducts a child, no proof exists that the abduction will take place.

And yet, once a child is abducted, there is little the United States seems willing or able to do to aid the left-behind parents in reclaiming their children.

I simply will not accept that our only course of action in this matter, as individuals and as a nation, is to sit idly by while our children are stolen.

My sister-in-law finds herself in the insanity-inducing position of knowing that her son is in imminent danger while she is told, everywhere she turns, there is nothing to be done. But steps must be taken. President Clinton signed H.R. 3378, the 'International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act of 1993. This legislation underscores the seriousness with which the United States regards international child abduction. It makes this crime, for the first time, a Federal felony offense.'

It is widely known that most children who are abducted to another country never return. And while I am grateful that any legislation is in place in response to this omnipresent threat, can it be possible that parents must wait until their children are gone until they can hope to plead their case? Is there no way to prevent these abductions before they happen?

I believe there is, and I believe the answer is ludicrously simple: education. In many instances, children are abducted because an uninformed judge grants the non-custodial parent unsupervised visitation. The word 'abduction' conjures images of children being spirited away under cover of night, and yet, many are abductions are easily perpetrated because the non-custodial parent has been given legal permission to be alone with the child. In one recent case, a child who had been abducted and recovered, miraculously, was abducted a second time after a judge granted unsupervised visitation.

Most of these cases are frighteningly similar. Patterns have emerged. My sister-in-law clearly recognizes that she is on the same path followed by so many parents before her. And the consequences are tragic.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 350,000 children are abducted every year. Nearly 1,000 children every day. That not all of these abductions are international is irrelevant: It is unthinkable that children, citizens of the United States of America, are living in a country where they are so largely unprotected.

I had no concept of the scope of this problem until my sister-in-law became a part of my family and I started witnessing this nightmare alongside her. It is not enough for me to lend a sympathetic ear to her daily, mounting frustrations. It is not enough to hope that someone else, somewhere, will address this problem in time to save her son. The threat of her son’s abduction has become our shared reality. She is grateful for every day that she is able to spend with him, yet at the same time, she has come to believe that her efforts to protect him will prove futile.

We do not wonder if her son will be abducted. His abduction is certain. Unless we, collectively, act to prevent it."

So much has been made of Foley's membership on this caucus, the irony (though it's not really irony), that he was charged with protecting children and was allegedly exploiting them instead. But the importance of the work of the caucus cannot be overstated.

Today, driving on the expressway, I saw an Amber Alert for a Kentucky plate, 675 DRV, a white 2001 Daewoo, I believe. I hope the child is found safely and soon.

If you'd like to learn more about the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, click here.

Fall Hair ...

With the change in the weather comes the change in my hair color. Blondey blonde doesn't work in the fall. The sun-kissed look seems artificial when the daylight wanes.

And with a trip to New York looming, I needed to pay a visit to J-D.

So today was the day. He put two colors on in foils, then spritzed some strange, gold-colored stuff in places, the glopped on color on the hair that was outside the foils, the glopped on another color on other hair that was outside the foils.

That's right, boys and girls, I have five colors on my head. At one point, late in the coloring game, I looked at myself in the mirror and burst out laughing. It is just simply insane, what women go through. J-D gives me a great rate, but I still pay a rather ridiculous sum for the privilege of letting him glop chemicals on my head.

When the color goo did what J-D wanted it to do, he led me to the sink where he pulled out all the foils and had me lean back, and proceeded to smoosh all my hair together. I told him that it seemed illogical, to spend so much time putting color in very specific places on my head, only to take the smooshing step. It's like, I told him, putting your dinner in neat little piles on your plate, and then, right before digging in, mixing it all into one big glop.

He warned me, as I was getting up to go back to his chair, that this particular color looks darker when it's wet. "So I don't freak out if my hair looks black?" I asked. I told him not to worry, that after all these years, I trust him, unequivocally. But it didn't look black. It looked rich. I really liked the color, wet. And I like it dry, too.

When he was first finished styling, I didn't think I did. When I went to pick up Dave after, I said, "I think this is the first time I don't like what he's done."

"Oh," Dave said, in a tone that meant, "Now, don't say that. I like it."

And now that I'm home and I'm seeing it in my light, I like it, too. It just took a few moments to get used to. It's been so blonde for so long, it seems a little strange to have a somewhat-dark-haired woman staring back from the mirror.

But I'll look fabulous outside, raking leaves.

OK, L.A. Dave has weighed in and thinks that I need to smile more in these pictures. It always feels weird, smiling when taking pictures of myself, but his point is well-taken. The other shot looks a little stiff. So I mussed up my hair a bit and said cheese. L.A. Dave, this one's for you, darlin'!

B.A.P.E.: Where Oh Where Edition ...

Anonymous posted a comment, inquiring as to the whereabouts of Pat. Anonymous might be one of my friendly commenters, wondering in good faith, or Anonymous might be one of my snarky commenters, waiting to pounce. It's hard to know with Anonymous.

But if I'm out here in cyberspace, sharing my goings-on, most everything is fair game, and I introduced Pat into the storyline here, so a Pat update is a reasonable request, no matter the motive.

And the answer is that I don't know. I mean, I think I know. After our Lear experience, we chatted on the phone a few times, though I noted that our conversations had dramatically decreased in volume. I mentioned that to him one night, and he said, "I know. I'm not talking about my problems, and that cuts our conversations down from three hours to about 10 minutes." He ended that phone call saying, "We should do something next week." To which I said, "OK."

And then I didn't hear from him. For more than two weeks.

One night, he popped up in my e-mail box. It was brief, and self-deprecating. He seemed to be bracing for a berating.

I didn't bitch. Why should I? We had two dates. He doesn't owe me anything. I said as much. But he felt he owed me an explanation, which he offered, and which I accepted. He asked if I wanted to do something this week. I mentioned that I'm heading out of town on Thursday, as if to indicate that anything we did would have to be Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday.

And I haven't heard from him since.

So, I guess it's safe to say that the Pat situation is nowhere. I didn't think it was going somewhere special. Pat is considerably older than me, he has several children, and he doesn't want more. But we thought we could be friends, hang out.

He still reads this blog, as far as I know, and this might be a weird way to convey information to him, but if he's not going to call, I'll say it here: I get the sense that Pat has spent his life expecting people to be disappointed in him, or expecting to be disappointed by others. And I'm sorry for that. I have no intention of being one of them. But the ball is in his court, and he doesn't seem like he's willing to play.

So, that's the state of B.A.P.E.

This, I suspect, will be the last entry on the subject.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Know Your Blogger ...

The other day, my friend Cheryl sent me one of those get-to-know-your-friends e-mails, the kind that you're supposed to copy into a new e-mail and send back to the sender as well as send to a new crop of people who will fill in their answers and the world will be a millionth of a degree warmer and fuzzier because we know each other a little bit better.

Cheryl tagged me as the person least likely to respond. Well! Turns out, I had already decided to fill out this go-'round of questions before I got to her pessimism. But I thought this would be a fine medium in which to share my answers, to share a bit of what makes Beth Beth with my lovely readers, in case you've ever read my profile and thought, "But I want to know MORE!" Not that any of you have. But I like some of my answers, and it's my blog, so here you have it:

1. FIRST NAME
Everyone calls me Beth. Except for English Teacher Dave, who sometimes calls me Betty Ku.

2. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
Nope. If my parents had girls when they had my brothers, my mom wanted to name one of them Karen, but my dad didn't like the name. By the time I came around, my dad agreed to Karen but mom didn't like it anymore. She was going to name me Ellen, but thought, "No one's just named Ellen" (except for people named Ellen, apparently), so she tacked Beth on the front of it. I don't have a middle name.

3. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY?
Two days ago.

What happened to 4? Or is that a trick question?

5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT?
I'm a vegetarian now. I like hummus with veggies.

6. DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
Nope, but hope to, someday. Give birth to one, if I'm able, and adopt one.

7. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
For sure!

8. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL?
Not on paper. I think of my blog as my journal these days. It's pretty personal.

9. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT?
Sarcasm is one of my food groups.

10. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?
Yup, and I've always been pissed that I was deprived of my extra allotment of Jell-O and ice cream.

11. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
I would *want* to bungee jump, but I'd stand on the edge of the bridge or whatever, debating for hours, and eventually the bungee-jump people would take off my harness and pack up and go home.

12. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
Depends on the shoes. I never tie or untie my "white-girl shoes" (white canvas sneakers, so dubbed by English Teacher Dave because, as he says, "Do you ever see black girls wearing them?") cuz they slip on and off pretty easily.

13. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
Emotionally or physically? I can be stronger for other people than I can be for myself. Physically, I'm pretty average.

14. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR?
Vanilla, though I've decided I like ice cream with "stuff" in it, so I need to mix stuff in.

15. SHOE SIZE?
12

16. RED OR PINK?
Really? Those are my choices? Um, pink, I guess. But I'm not particularly happy about it. Though I bought a pink-ish shirt to wear for the breast-cancer walk. But it's not cloying baby pink.

17. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
My lack of willpower and my inability to confront people.

18. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
Someone who's not gone, but who I can't always see.

19. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU?
Well, duh.

20. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES YOU ARE WEARING?
Grey yoga pants and magenta slippers. Hey, I work from home. And it's 8:15 in the morning.

21. WHAT IS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?
A black cherry-almond CLIF bar and a bottle of water.

22. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
"Speed of Sound" by Coldplay, part of a CD I've made.

24. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?
I always liked the blue-green crayon, or the green-blue crayon. I forget which. But these days, it would be some mossy shade of green.

25. FAVORITE SMELL?
The smell of fireplaces burning when you walk outside on a fall evening. Or burned sugar. Burning things, apparently!

26. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED WITH ON THE PHONE?
L.A. Dave

27. THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE YOU MEET?
Their eyes.

28. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU?
Yup! Miss her, too!

29. FAVORITE DRINK?
Like alcohol? Or any liquid beverage? Alcohol: Vodka rocks or scotch neat. Any beverage? I drink water like a camel.

30. FAVORITE SPORT?
To watch or participate in? Really, people, Editor Beth needs some specificity here!

32. EYE COLOR?
Sage green

33. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
Yup, but I have my overpriced Armani glasses on at the moment. The guy at LensCrafters was a good salesman. He talked me into them.

34. FAVORITE FOOD?
Mom's lasagne, always.

35. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDING?
Happy endings, but interesting happy endings, not happy endings I can see coming in the first two minutes.

36. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
Hmm. I watched a few minutes of "Munich" last night. But the last full movie I watched was "Thank You for Smoking."

37. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING?
Sage green sweatshirt. It's flippin' cold outside!

38. SUMMER OR WINTER?
Fall. Fall, fall, fall. But since that's not a choice: Winter.

39. HUGS OR KISSES?
Hugs from some people, kisses from others.

40. FAVORITE DESSERT?
Panna cotta

41. WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND THE QUICKEST?
L.A. Dave (Note: I was totally wrong about this. Mike replied first, and L.A. Dave didn't respond at all.)

42. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND?
Hmm. Not sure about that. Haven't entirely decided who to send this to yet.

43. WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING?
"The Emperor's Children" and "The Happiness Hypothesis." I just finished "The Corrections." Good God, what self-congratulatory bloat.

44. WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
Um, a trumpet. It's from the Publicity Club of Chicago and it gives out Golden Trumpet awards. It's pretty dirty and disgusting. I think it's time to buy a new mouse pad.

45. FAVORITE SOUNDS?
Children laughing; I know it's as sappy as a bad Hallmark, but it's true.

47. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES?
Ooh, the Beatles.

48. THE FURTHEST YOU'VE BEEN FROM HOME?
London


49. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?
I bake the best brownies on the planet.

50. WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
November 13, Chicago IL

The Ultimate '60s Podcast ...

I was born in 1969. November, 1969.

I don't know why I dig that I was born in the '60s. It's not like I grew up during that decade. My memories begin in the early '70s. But I was born in the '60s, just under the wire.

Dave was born in 1953. The '60s were a very formative time for him. They were a very formative time for many, but more so for Dave because of his love of music. He had his first band when he was 15. But like all kids his age, he was already immersed in the music of the day.

These days (and for the past few years), Dave's been the lead singer and keyboardist for The New Invaders, a '60s cover band with an awesome repertoire of songs from the British Invasion through Woodstock. There's a link to their site under Links, to the right. It's been there since I created this blog, as a matter of fact. (This photo was taken by his daughter during a gig in Andersonville.)

But to call them a cover band isn't entirely accurate, because they've started writing and recording original material, too, which is a trip. The tunes sound great, but it's trippy to hear original songs, written in 2006, that sound like they were written in the '60s.

The summer, as you might guess, is the band's busy season. The summer months are crazed, 15 gigs a month or more. They play a few gigs a month during the fall, winter, and spring, but their face time wanes. To stay in touch, Dave's created a podcast. He sent me the link this morning, a preview before it went live.

I tuned in and was amused that the first voice I heard was Bill Kurtis'. Dave is Bill's composer, and they've been friends for years. It's very amusing to hear Bill say, "It's groovy, baby!" during the intro.

The podcast, the first of what I'm sure will be many, has all the great production values I've come to expect from anything Dave touches. He's meticulous that way.

He also has the most mellifluous voice. I love his voice. Singing, speaking, I could listen to him forever.

The band has a couple dates coming up this weekend. And a few more between now and the end of the year, when they'll play the same New Year's Eve date they played last year that Dave totally loved.

I don't usually go out on New Year's Eve, but this year, perhaps I'll make an exception. In the meantime, I'll subscribe to the 'cast.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

In Summary ...

Total credit to Steff for making me aware of this. She found it on another site, but I credit her site cuz that's where I found it.

This is the perfect graphical encapsulation of my life! I'm especially fond of 1 p.m. and "linger."

Noteworthy ...

♪ Driving home the other day, I found myself at a four-way stop. The vehicle at the other side of the intersection had the right-of-way. It was turning left, and therefore, in front of my car. It was an ambulance. As it turned and I saw the side of it, I noted that the name of the ambulance company is ... wait for it ... Prompt.

♪ From time to time, I see a cat sitting in my backyard. My neighbor is the local zookeeper in that she feeds all the animals that find their way into her pristinely planted and manicured yard - birdseed for the birds, squirrel corn for the squirrels, peanut butter cookies for the raccoons (I swear to God) and cat food for the stray cats. Given my proximity to my neighbor, it's no wonder that the cats sometimes wander into my yard to hang. Yesterday, though, I saw four of them - clearly a cat family - sitting in a rough circle, as though there were having a cat board meeting. One cat, though, was leaping around oddly. "Cat ballet?" I wondered, looking out my dining room window and munching a piece of toast. The cat looked rather less-evolved than his cat brethren, who were sitting around looking rather regal. But then I noticed that the leaping cat seemed to be grasping something in its front paws and tossing it about. A mouse, no doubt. Which means the cat's name must be Lenny. (Note: I ran a spellcheck on this before posting and the Blogger folks, unable to recognize "zookeeper," suggested "gooseberry.")

♪ I watched a few movies recently. "X-Men 3: The Last Stand" (cool effects, and that's really why we watch these flicks; but beyond that, the whole "the government wants to 'cure' the mutants" storyline was unsettling, given the current political climate; and Hugh Jackman reminds me of my cousin Lora's husband, Don); "Jakob the Liar" (because I love Robin Williams; Holocaust dramas always astonish me as I watch them and remember that those events actually happened to people; I can't fathom how any human being could treat another human so inhumanely); "Thank You for Smoking" (I liked it, but I don't have a whole lot to say about it; the opening titles were inspired); and "Titus" (a recommendation from L.A. Dave who has a very good track record with recommending movies to me; I'm returning this one to Netflix without finishing it, but that's not a reflection on Dave; after seeing the whacked-out "King Lear" a few weeks ago, I just can't handle another crazy Shakespeare adaptation until I recover from the last one; that might take a long time).

♪ I learned how to use some sound-editing software this week (well, I'm starting to learn it; there's plenty more to know, I'm sure) and I'm completely geeked about it, but I wonder if it's the best thing for a perfectionist like me. Because now, instead of *just* creating playlists, I'm listening to the transitions between songs and realizing I can cull a second or two of dead air, or I can alter a too-long song intro by lopping off some time and applying a fade in. But as a toy, I'm digging it.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Cookies! ...

Yesterday, there was snow. Snow and sun and wind and leaves blowing all around. Fall and winter, duking it out. Fall won. Today, it's in the low 50s and sunny. Golden leaves are raining down in my backyard, much more appropriate than yesterday's fluffy white flakes.

Snow. In October. Harumph.

But, as Doreen said, "Start defrosting the butter! Cookie season is here!"

Ah, yes, my annual holiday baking insanity is nigh. But this year, I started the madness in July, baking for a photo shoot that I did on August 1, which turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year. Nothing says holiday spirit like a sunburn.

The cookie shoot went well. William Zbaren is a fantastic photographer. I wrote about the experience here.

My editor shared a copy of the photo with me a couple days later. I loved it, but I couldn't share it then. It wasn't mine to share. Until it was published, it wasn't fair game.

Well, guess what? I did a search for the story today, "Anatomy of a Cookie Plate," and Spokane.net has the story online, so now I feel entirely comfortable with posting it here. And if you'd like to see the whole two-page spread, complete with tips and recipes, you can check out the PDF of the section by Content That Works, the fine folks who pay me to bake cookies.

I haven't quite started this year's cookie planning. I mean, I'm always thinking about it, passively, when I run across cookie recipes that might be good candidates. But this year's collection has yet to be determined. Soon, though. Once Halloween arrives, Christmas is right around the proverbial snow-covered corner.

In the meantime, though, I wanted to introduce my cookie baby to the world.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Fidelity ...

"Grey's Anatomy" and "Six Degrees" are on tonight's television menu, and the evening's special is hotdish.

I know about hotdish because I used to have friends who lived in Minnesota, which is apparently the hotdish epicenter of the universe.

On "Grey's," Meredith is trying to choose between Fin and McDreamy, Addison is grappling with what she did to McDreamy when she hooked up with McSteamy. On "Six Degrees," Whitney is about to get married to Roy, but Roy is getting busy with Eliza and coming on to Laura at the engagement party.

Roy. Nice guy, Roy.

I dated a guy named Roy once. And I mean once. One date. It was a good date. Actually, it was a great date. In my history of dating, brief as it may be, my date with Roy ranks very high. I'm trying to think of a date that was better, and none are coming to mind. That's how good it was. And dates like that are hard to come by.

There was a lot of build up to it, hours on the phone, night after night. Charming e-mails. Roy told me that the first thing he was going to do when he finally saw me was kiss me. And he did. And when I hugged him, all I could think was, "My God, he feels good." We just fit together.

We met in a hotel bar. He was in town on business. He left me to take his luggage to his room. I returned to my Perrier and lime. And then a guy came over. He started chatting me up - Where should he go for a good steak? Where might he catch some jazz? I was trying to be polite yet disinterested. No, not disinterested. Just not encouraging. He was wearing a sweatshirt. It's hard to take a guy trying to pick you up in a swanky hotel bar seriously when he's wearing a sweatshirt. I caught Roy out of the corner of my eye, coming toward us. Sweatshirt kept chatting. I knew what was coming. Roy walked up - did I tell you Roy's 6'9"? - and stood beside me. "Oh, hey man!" said Sweatshirt, hopping off his stool and shaking his hand.

Roy shook his hand, turned and planted a kiss on me.

"I leave you alone for two minutes," Roy said, shaking his head and smiling.

We went to a French country restaurant and had the most amazing dinner. I'm not prone to public displays of affection, but shortly after we sat down, Roy asked if he could sit next to me, and that was all he wrote. The kissing, the holding hands, the gazing into each other's eyes. I didn't care who was watching. I was heady with the wine and the electricity.

It was the best date of my life.

And I never saw him again. I won't go into the details, but I knew things couldn't work between us because I couldn't say his name. My mouth just doesn't want to form that sound. I mean, I can say it, but I think it sounds funny when I do. Beyond my linguistic challenge, however, I knew things wouldn't work because, after the great date, suffice it to say, Roy behaved, in a word, like a dick.

So maybe it's something about the name, because on "Six Degrees," Roy is a son of a bitch. Whitney just kneed him and threw her engagement ring at him as he writhed on the floor.

GO, Whitney!

But I don't watch "Six Degrees" for Roy. Oh, no. I watched a few minutes of the premiere and I wasn't drawn in, but then Dave mentioned that he really likes the show, and Dave has very good taste in television, so I decided to give it another try.

Roy, Schmoy. Gimme Steven. Campbell Scott with salt-and-pepper hair. Holy mother of God. Holy. Mother. Of. God. And this isn't even a great picture of him. There are just way too many good-looking men on television this season. Hugh Laurie on "House," Josh Holloway on "Lost," Campbell Scott on "Six Degrees," Eric Dane on "Grey's Anatomy," oh, hell, let's give Isaiah Washington and Patrick Dempsey a nod, too. And the list goes on ...

Clearly, a girl needs TiVo.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I Had To Change This Title ...

I was just watching an episode of "Sex and the City" which I've seen before, because there were only six seasons of "SATC" and they weren't full, broadcast-type seasons, so in syndication, every episode comes up pretty often.

Tonight's episode was about Carrie's first date with Mr. Big. First of all, allow me to pause for just a moment to say: Chris Noth. Woof. OK, back to the topic at hand. No, wait. A few more words on Noth/Big. Aside from the whole tall, dark, and handsome thing, the appeal of Big (and why Carrie had to end up with him at the end of the series, lest an enormous angry mob of 30- and 40-something women descend on HBO's Manhattan offices and drag Darren Star through the city streets) lies not only in his looks and charm and car and driver and money and worldy lifestyle but in his honesty and frailty.

Women dig honesty. I suppose men do, too. But women are so used to getting jerked around that a guy who shoots straight scores huge points. And many bonus points if the guy makes her laugh. Big loved Carrie. He always did. It just took him a long time to commit to her. And Carrie went through plenty of trials in her waiting and wanting, enduring the scorn of her friends who thought she was wrong to revisit the relationship time after heart-breaking time, but when you know, you know. And maybe it doesn't seem logical to anyone else on the planet, but when your heart connects with another, there's little you can do about it.

The thing about love is, it's rarely convenient. But then, true love (if you believe in it, and I do) is so exquisitely rare, what are the odds that on this planet of billions of people that two intended souls will find each other and connect? And what if you find someone, but they're not available? Does that mean that they're not the one for you after all? Or does that mean that love isn't tidy?

Nicolas Cage delivered one of the best-ever movie soliloquies in "Moonstruck": "Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn't know this either, but love don't make things nice - it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die. The storybooks are bullshit."

We are here to ruin ourselves and break our hearts and love the wrong people. But Loretta wasn't wrong for Ronny. They were entirely right for each other. But she was engaged to his brother, though not for love. For security. For the sake of "someone."

Is finding your unavailable heart's desire a test of perseverance? Will you do anything to overcome life's obstacles and realize your love? Or will you retreat? Or is finding your unavailable heart's desire a test of our adherence to social mores? Will you pursue happiness if it means injuring others along the way? Or will you quell your feelings?

In the end, I believe everything happens the way it's meant to happen. That sounds passive, but it's not. It's just the order of the universe. Everyone has had experiences in which you lost something dear to you only to understand it later in life in a larger context of necessity. "If that hadn't happened, I would have never met X ..." and you wouldn't be where you are today.

And you're always where you're supposed to be.

This post wasn't going to be about the ideal of love. It was going to be about first date behavior. But then, when I wrote it, I realized it was something else entirely. Funny how writing will take you to places you hadn't intended to go.

(I just went to Chris Noth's page on IMDb to grab a photo of him, and realized that we share the same birthday. Day. Not year.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Is Enough Enough? ...

It's late. I really should be in bed. At the very least, I should be reading or listening to soothing music and trying to drift off to sleep. But instead, I'm going to write, because I'm pissed off.

From today's headlines:

Student fires gun in Mo. middle school

JOPLIN, Mo. - Fascinated by the Columbine bloodbath, a 13-year-old boy in a dark green trenchcoat and mask carried an assault rifle into his school Monday, pointed it at students and fired a shot into a ceiling before the weapon jammed, authorities said. No one was hurt.

- snip -

The seventh-grader, whose name was not immediately released, pointed the gun at two students inside Joplin Memorial Middle School but was confronted by an administrator who tried to talk him into putting the gun down, Jones said.

- snip -

Officers arrested the teen behind a nearby building. Police described his weapon as a Mac-90, a replica of an AK-47 assault rifle.

- snip -

Jones said the gun belonged to the boy's parents, who kept the weapon in a safe at home. The parents told police their son apparently knew the combination to the gun safe. Farmer said it is not uncommon for people in the area to own assault weapons.


As I wrote to L.A. Dave earlier, when the story first broke and the details were sketchier, "HOW THE FUCK DOES A 13-YEAR-OLD GET HIS HANDS ON AN AK-47?! Yeah, who needs gun control? Not us!"

Of course, based on the story excerpt above, we've now learned that "the gun belonged to the boy's parents, who kept the weapon in a safe at home. The parents told police their son apparently knew the combination to the gun safe. Farmer said it is not uncommon for people in the area to own assault weapons."

Um, WHY?!

You know who needs an AK-47? Somebody who wants to kill a lot of people in a very short amount of time. Which is apparently what the 13-year-old had in mind. So it's a good thing the gun jammed. But it would have been better, if, oh, HE DIDN'T HAVE IT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

My follow-on message to L.A. Dave this morning said this: "Yup, this is the fucking poster issue for gun control. In a month that's seen three school shootings (four if you count this one), and it's only October fucking 9th, the NRA has to get its collective head out of its collective ass and stop whining that we're trying to trample their Constitutional rights. Fuck that. The government says you have to drive 65 miles per hour on certain roads (not that anyone abides by that), but it doesn't say that you just can't drive. There can be LIMITS to things. For the love of God."

So this is me, being Robert Conrad with a battery on my shoulder, and fuck yeah, I'm daring all the NRA-loving, gun-toting members of society to even try to knock it off where this story is concerned. Because there is NO reason a 13-year-old should have access to a replica of an AK-47. EVER. And if you're going to cite the Second Amendment here, listen: The Constitution was written at a time when people needed guns to defend there homesteads. The Constitution needs to be interpreted for the times in which we live. Our Founding Fathers didn't have crystal balls. They couldn't predict what life would be like 230 years later. You can't take every letter of the Constitution to mean the same thing today as it meant then. That's why we have judges to interpret cases. You might argue that people still feel the need to own a gun to defend their homes. Fine. But they don't need AK-47s. Or maybe they like to hunt (shooting animals dead for fun!), but I don't think there'd be much sport involved in hunting with an AK-47.

Part of the story today revealed that 7th-grader (that is, the kid in SEVENTH GRADE) said, "Please don't make me do this." So I'm going to put on my psychiatrist hat and say, "Gee, sounds like a cry for help." He could have walked into school and started blowing away anyone in his path, but he fired a shot into the ceiling instead. I don't think he really wanted to hurt anyone. I think he wanted to be stopped.

But God help us if he was truly of the same mind as his heroes Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. To a degree, he was. He had a grander plan.

This time, we got lucky. This time, everyone got out of the situation alive.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Columbus Day Connection ...

I am not Italian. I'm half Serbian, and the other half is mostly Polish with a smidge of German. The closest I come to having anything to do with Columbus Day is that I live in the country that Columbus and his amigos discovered, quite by accident.

Men just won't ask for directions, will they? But hey, the world was mostly uncharted in those days so I'll cut them some medieval slack.

My sister-in-law is half Italian. And my mom makes legendary lasagne. And I use a lot of olive oil. So I'll count those as my ties.

Taking a break from yard work today, I sat down in front of the TV to once again remark to myself that daytime television sucks. But aside from the usual glut of courtroom shows and soap operas, today WGN was televising the Columbus Day Parade. It's a perfect October day for a parade: warm and sunny. The crowd for the parade looked anemic at best, but the notable thing about the parade wasn't the weather or the attendance or the parade entries themselves. No, the thing that amused me about the Columbus Day parade was the co-anchor, Dominic DiFrisco.

Dom is a bit of an Italian-American legend in Chicago. He knows everyone. Knowledge which he displayed during his commentary of the parade, rattling off every name of every Italian politician, restauranteur, police officer, you name it.

And while I'm sure he'd have no recollection, Dom knows me, too, despite my lack of Italian heritage.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I worked, as you likely know by now, for the Chicago Tribune. One of my many ancillary jobs was writing the weekly wedding and engagements column.

Now, the Chicago Tribune's wedding and engagements column isn't a big deal compared to the New York Times', which is a who's who of the New York social scene. The Trib's column is much more egalitarian (at least it's supposed to be; and I say that not even knowing if the Trib still runs wedding and engagement announcements; I don't read the Trib anymore). Everyday folks submitted their notices and every week, I reached into the filing cabinet and pulled three or four. Now, granted, there was some selection that went on based on the completeness of the supplied information. The less digging I had to do to fill in blanks, the better. And when it came to picking the lead announcement, photo quality played a role. Some people submitted rather blurry, candid 3x5 prints. Hmm, not good for reproduction. One couple submitted a photo that couldn't have been much larger than a postage stamp. Hmm, not good for enlargement. So people who submitted a good photo and a reasonably complete announcement were contenders for the top spot, the only one which ran with a photo.

Most people were genuinely thrilled to learn that they were being included when I'd call to gather any missing information. The Trib offered a paid announcement section, so if people wanted a guarantee that their announcement would get into print, they could pay for it. But most wanted to be in the "official" column, I suspect either because they liked the cache of being chosen for an actual editorial space within the Trib, or because they didn't want to ante up.

Some people, though, felt a very strong sense of entitlement, and would call to check on the "status" of their announcement. Mothers of the brides, cliche as it may seem, were the worst offenders. I pictured some North Shore, Chanel-suited woman named Bitsy who spent her days serving on boards and lunching with other like-Chanel-suited women, whose daughter, a member of the Junior League, surely, was about to get hitched in a lavish, six-figure affair, who just couldn't fathom why I hadn't run onto the production floor, waving her daughter's engagement announcement wildly over my head, screaming, "Stop the presses! For the love of God, stop the presses! Kymberly is getting married! Kymberly is getting MARRIED!"

And then there was Dom. (You thought I'd forgotten about him, didn't you?) Dom, knowing, as I said, everyone in Chicago's Italian-American community, fancied himself a mover and a shaker. I'm sure he still does, and I'm sure he is; after all, he was on TV today emceeing the parade. Clearly, he has connections. I'm sure the WGN producer doesn't randomly pick someone with an Italian surname out of the phone book to share parade-hosting duties. And so one day, Dom called to see if I'd received a certain engagement announcement for a certain daughter of a certain well-known Italian-American Chicago businessman, and to see if there was anything he could do to get that announcement into print.

No, I told him, as I told all people who asked, we couldn't guarantee publication, that our process didn't grant favor to anyone in particular, and that if he wanted to ensure the announcement made it into print, he was welcome to contact the advertising department and buy a spot.

Dom, as many people did, saw the crassness of paying for an announcement. Anything that could be so easily gotten wasn't worth the getting. No, it was the editorial space he was after.

In my fuzzy memory, I seem to remember him calling a couple times, to check the status as it were.

And then one day, Dom was there. The security guard on the floor called from reception (this was in the days before 9/11 when people could just walk into Tribune Tower and get on an elevator and go to any floor they pleased; these days, the security is much more militant) to let me know Dom was there to see me.

I walked out to reception to meet him. He was wearing a very natty suit. It was silver. It was shiny. It could have been sharkskin but it was probably silk. He wore a matching tie (this was in the days before "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire") and my imagination might be embellishing here, but I'm pretty sure I saw a pinky ring.

He handed me a fresh copy of the announcement. He was persistent, this one. Not subtle, but persistent. I suggested that he give me just a moment to read it over, in the event that there was any information missing. He'd gone through the trouble to come by. I figured the least I could do was let him think that I was buying into his effort.

In my peripheral vision, I could see him looking at me. "My God!, your eyes!" he said. Hmm. Yeah. I have nice eyes. They're an unusual shade of green. I suspect Dom has a fair amount of success with complimenting women as a means to an end, kinda like Joey Tribbiani's "How *you* doin'?"

I looked up, having finished my scan. "I'm going to take you to lunch," he announced.

"Oh, that's really not necessary," I said.

"No, I'm gonna take you to lunch."

"Thank you, but really, I'm not allowed to accept anything like that."

"They have to let you eat, don't they?"

Again, I demurred. A colleague of mine passed us on his way into the newsroom.

Dom left, and I returned to my desk.

Later, I received an e-mail from my colleague, noting the witnessed exchange. I wish to God I still had that e-mail so I could quote it, but the paraphrased version of it is something like this, "Dom is like the Pope. Once they take a liking to you, it's hard to shake 'em."

If memory serves, the announcement eventually got into the paper.

And we never did have lunch.

Dom update: Just saw this item on the Illinois General Aseembly's web site: "... Congratulates Mr. Dominic DiFrisco on being a recipient of the Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Humanitarian of the Year Award given by the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans." LIke I said, a mover and a shaker. Good for Dom.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Somebody Rocks, And I Think It's Me! ...

You know who rocks?

I rock!

Today has been a kick-ass creative day! Day of creativity. Say it however you want, I love, love, love when I get to flex these muscles.

Because my workaday life ain’t creative. Nosiree, Bob. My day job is editing for an IT consulting company, which is like, well, editing for an IT consulting company. Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful for the gainful employment. And the fact that my commute is from my bedroom to my office kicks ass. There aren’t even stairs involved. Nope, I just mosey out of bed and traipse into my office, boot up the computer, make my rounds opening curtains, put on a pot of coffee, then plunk my butt down in my wheely chair and edit. The fact that it’s an IT company pretty much tells you that I’m not editing comic strips or literary fiction. And so my creativity shrivels a bit during the week. IT consulting is like a cold swimming pool.

But then the weekend arrives and I get to cast my geek hat into the corner and focus on creative stuff that I so dearly love.

To wit: In my house, there is a wall. It is the first wall you see when you walk in my front door. (Unless you have a kink in your neck, but for the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that you don’t.) Over the years (and I have lived here more than six), I have had various ideas for art to go on that wall. None have panned out.

At first, I thought I wanted 10 16”-square frames. Four on the top row, then three, then two, then one, justified on the right. Why, you ask? Because that configuration would follow the descent of my stairs. Ooh, nifty. But I couldn’t find 16”-square frames for the longest time, and then when I did, they were 40 smakeroos apiece, and I had no intention of spending 400 bucks on frames. Next!

So then I thought that I would hang my big-ass Bernard Buffet piece on that wall. It currently hangs in my dining area. It’s big. It would fill the space over the stairs nicely. But I don’t like the Bernard Buffet there. I like it where it is. (That's it, below.) So: Next!




So then I thought I would hang 3 26”-square pieces horizontally. (Yeah, I have a thing for squares. Just look at my history of exes! Badump bump! Goodnight, everybody! I’m here all week! Try the veal!) My friend Jeff is a knock-out photographer, but we were never able to find the right combination of images and resolution and output. Sadly. Sigh. So: Next!

So a year or so ago, I was in an antique store and I saw some prints that I thought I should buy for my guest room. So I did. And I brought them home and I hung them up and I thought, “Hmm. Yep, I don’t like those in this room.” But they’ve hung on the wall in there ever since, because I had nothing else to put on that wall, and because I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with them.

Until just the other day. I decided that I wanted to frame them in much larger frames, gallery-style with mats. So the hunt was on for 16x20 frames. I found a 14x18 frame at Target, but that’s a stupid size. Also, the prints I was going to take out of the existing frames were shy of 8x10, so I’d have to cheat them in an 8x10 opening. Hmm. Messy. I don’t like things that are half-assed. The hunt continued. And today, we called off the dogs, mom and me. We went to Hobby Lobby, a stupid name for a store, but it’s not just for hobbies. It has a ton of crap: throw pillows and picture frames and clocks and all kinds of nifty housey stuff. It also has crazy sales. All the time. Like 50% off. Now, I know the mark-up in retail is insane, and that even at 50% off, retailers are still making a bundle, but hey, I don’t get to pay cost, so 50% off is okayfine with me.

And there they were, cue the singing angels and the ray of light: 16x20 black frames, with glass, $29.99. On sale. Bingo! I bought four. And then I came home and got one of the prints (because I figured I’d just find mats that had 8x10 openings, but oh no, you can’t find mats with 8x10 openings for 16x20 frames) and went back to The Lobby (as Dave would call it, because he adds “The” on to proper nouns to create a new proper nouns; it’s one of those quirky little Dave traits that I find so damn endearing) and had Mandy cut mats for me, the perfect size for the prints, and off-center. I wanted more space on the bottom, and that’s what I got. "Bottom-heavy," she called it. Righto.

So I brought home my mats and got busy with my Xacto knife, cutting off the backing paper of the existing pieces, and then got busy with my pliers, pulling out the bazillion staples holding in the backing cardboards, and got the prints off the backing mats and put together the prints with the new mats and frames and damn! They look go-ood. They look like I spent a whole lotta dollars on ‘em, but I didn’t. At the end of the day, the cost of the original framed prints plus the cost of my new framing supplies today set me back about 120 smackers. For four pieces of framed art. Which, most importantly to this story, aren’t pieces that I’m going to see anywhere else. Well, I might see them somewhere else, but they're not Target “art” or Wal-Mart “art” or J.C. Penney “art.” No, this art is nifty and different and special.

Like me!

So THEN, on a roll, I taped paper together into 19x23 rectangles to tape to the wall to start figuring out the placement. And once I was happy with that, I sat myself down with a pencil and a piece of paper and started figuring out all the measurements and where the nails will have to go to hang ‘em up all pretty like.

And with that done, I sat myself down in front of this here computer and started playing with a CD compilation I’ve been working on, and had a fab idea, but it involved editing an existing mp3, which I FIGURED OUT HOW TO DO! Ohmygosh! I’m SO clever! And I pulled more songs into the folder and threw out songs and shuffled songs around (because how songs end and how songs begin help you arrange them into an aurally pleasing progression) and I burned the collection to a disc and I hopped in my car and I drove around for a bit to listen (I like listening critically to things in the car) and damn, it’s really cool.

The past few months have been stressful. There have been some financial worries, and it’s amazing how those will suck the life right out of you. There ain’t no room in my brain for fun, creative stuff when I’m freaked out about how I’m going to pay my bills. But the financial situation is getting resolved - big sigh of relief - and my brain is once again free to think creative thoughts. Like it did today.

Woo hoo!