Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Holidays Keep Me Busy

Well, it’s been that kind of holiday season and I’ve been busy doing all sorts of “real life” things that keep me away from my blog, such as:

-making lots of truffles that I could not eat alone
-buying and wrapping and also unwrapping gifts
-watching some opera at the opera (Porgy and Bess at the Lyric)
-watching some ballet on the TV (Nutcracker on PBS)
-breaking a car’s door
-subsequently crawling through the passenger side and over the console in order to drive said car
-driving to and from Ohio
-getting lots of cat hair on my clothing
-attending the somethingth annual G. family Christmas mass held both at the Vatican and on our living room TV
-seeing friends for half-hour periods
-searching in vain for a don pablos
-celebrating my mom’s birthday
-traveling to Kentucky (kind of)
-saving my boss five hundred bucks
-planning a New Year’s Eve party
-subsequently canceling said party due to winning a night to a hotel party downtown and room at said hotel

For now, I’m off to that hotel to check in and hopefully get ready for a fun evening. Happy New Year’s to you all!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Just another day in Chicago

Where snow and ice immobilize the city, da mayor sings rather than salts or plows, our governor is about to be impeached, rats and rodents make the top of the page, and children are allowed to lick fire hydrants in the suburbs. Yup. Seems about right.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Another Year

So today is my 24th birthday. (There, I dated myself. I may be younger or older than you thought, who knows.)

What I realized is especially great about your 24th birthday is that there are 24 hours in the day to celebrate turning 24. Of course, I realized this at 12:55 AM last night, so I had kind of a late start and didn't really have any concrete ideas of what to do with my discovery. John and I briefly toyed with the idea that I should take a picture of myself every hour of my 24th birthday, but I wanted to sleep well, so that idea was scrapped.

Instead, I've been thinking each hour about when I turned the age of the hour's number and what stands out most to me about that year in my life. Like at 9 AM I remembered how at age 9, I had my Niner Diner Birthday Party, sock hop and all. At 1 PM, (13:00 military time) I recalled the irony of being in a car accident on my 13th birthday, almost to the exact moment I was born (7:26 CDT, if you're keeping score at home.). I'm about to hit the 4 o'clock hour, which would be age 16. Immediately jumping to mind is the watercolor painting I was given in a park for my birthday, the mono I caught that year and then recovered from (only to be bogged down by scarlet fever a few days later), and the end of an era as 9/11 and other events changed my life forever.

Anyway, it's been an interesting experiment so far--a kind of This is Your Life, Brought to You By Yourself. And hopefully by the end of the night tonight, I'll have a fresh story for the start of age 24. :)

PICTURED: Post-birthday party, age 4, picking up boys and being awesome.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

I'm Dreaming of a Long-Haired, Head-Banging, Synth-Fueled Christmas

How do I know it’s the holidays? Because last night, on local PBS station WTTW’s fantastic phoneathon primetime feature, I had the pleasure of watching a good 20 minutes of The Ghosts of Christmas Eve, starring the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and featuring Jewel. Yes, Jewel. You may remember her incredibly mediocre poetry or perhaps her hands? (They are small, she knows. But they are not yours, they are her own.)

I searched in vain for an embeddable version of the opening scene where a runaway finds refuge in some theatre and some guy who apparently is a ghost makes the Trans-Siberian Orchestra come to life, but alas and alack, I can only link to it. I highly recommend you watch.

Please note: Just because I am linking to the TSO does not mean they have surpassed my deep, undying love for Mannheim Steamroller. See: A Very Merry Fresh Aire Christmas, for proof.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Keeping in Mind

You know how some memories from your childhood live so vividly in your mind, but with absolutely no context? Like you’re looking through a kaleidoscope with bright shapes, colors and memories bouncing about, surrounded by blackness? Fortunately, we can peer back in whenever we like and relive this moment again and again.

One of the stronger moments I have like that (again, with absolutely no context of year or age, I was maybe six or so) is of running around in my backyard. It was summer, the light fading into sherbet-colored pastels and I was jumping over my mom’s lavender hedge waiting for the fireflies to come out and play.

I had asked someone (my parents, maybe) to come run and chase me. Whoever it was said they would in a minute, but they were a little bit tired. We had just eaten dinner, too. There was time needed, as adults say, to let their dinners settle and relax.

I could not, for the life of me, understand this. The night was especially warm and there was running that absolutely, positively needed to be done. Didn’t they know how important this running was, how fun it was, or how great it felt? I satisfied myself with tearing around the lavender hedge again, totally content. And then I realized that one day I’d grow up too, and I’d be sitting at the table with a cup of coffee in my hand and tell someone like me, “In a minute. I’m a little bit tired. I’ve just eaten dinner. I just need to let my food settle and relax.”

It seems a little contrived and ridiculous that I’d have this revelation while in mid-jump over flowers on a summer evening of my childhood, but that’s how it happened. And I filed the moment away in my memory, somewhere between Bittersweet Moments and Unadulterated Joy.

It’s tough when you’re an adult to have these moments of Unadulterated Joy. You might even argue that the word “UN-ADULTerated” strictly forbids you from them. We’re all too much aware of the world around us to really sink into the bliss of the moment and bask in it. So when they do come along, and we truly enjoy them, they’re even more precious.

Like when over Thanksgiving leftovers, you accidentally teach your 2 ½-year old cousin that hippos make the sound “RAWR,” and she spends a good part of fifteen minutes pressing a tiny plastic hippo against your nose and rawring her little heart out.

Or when for no good reason other exhaustion, the thought of vomiting in front of a quaint Nordic pie shop in Wisconsin makes you giggle so hard that your eyes water from trying to keep from bursting at the seams.

Or even when while rinsing with mouthwash alone in your bathroom, your “vigorous swishing” gets a little too vigorous and you inadvertently squirt peppermint mouthwash out of the corner of your mouth, dowsing your mirror and wall with a hefty portion of the blue liquid and leaving you struggling to control your amusement until you give up and spit the rest out in a blast of side-splitting laughs.

I’ve been lucky to have quite a few of these total joy moments in the last few weeks. They may or may not survive in my memory in a context, and they very well may end up in that bright kaleidoscope where I think, "Remember that time..." But they’re little blessings—unplanned, unexpected and, most of all, unadulterated.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I'm off to the northern reaches of Minnesota to visit the family. It's been nearly four years (!) since I was last there, so I'm excited to go back. In celebration, I'm posting some of my favorite pictures from the last time I visited in September 2004. Most of these are from our drives north of Duluth along the shore of Superior. I am guessing it will be way too freezing cold for that to happen and most of our time will be centered around the casino (!) we're staying in, but still. :)Have a great Thanksgiving and avoid the turkey sleepiness.

Writing on the rocks of Sugarloaf Cove, this awesome abandoned log mill site. You can't tell from this picture, but the rocks there are crazy--unlike any of the other rocks along the shore. They're big, smooth, boulder-like and made from seemingly all different natural backgrounds. It's almost like a glacier dumped them there and the cove protected them from getting broken up over the years.

Rock-pickin'! :)

This was the view from my grandparents' cabin up on the Gunflint Trail. Basically, I had this love-hate relationship with that water. I loved it, but in really small doses and without the fish and not while in the canoe either... :)


Monday, November 17, 2008

Quel imagination!

Oh, my, god. Seriously. I need to find myself a French child somewhere.

Once upon a time... from Capucha on Vimeo.


Now you know

I am currently writing a blog post for my “real job” that includes a product from Hammacher Schlemmer. So I’m here just posting to say I never really paid attention to the second of those two German surnames. In my mind, it was always Hammacher Schmeh-mumble-mumble. I guess we grow up in all sorts of ways. Posted for your consideration, their Marshmallow Shooter.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Historication: My Bucket List

When my friends and I get on the topic of family vacations, many of them wax poetic on their trips to the beach or Disneyland. Once it's my turn to chime in, I usually offer up something like, "I had a really good time when the power went out at Martin Van Buren's home in Kinderhook, New York," or, "Have I ever told you the one about how I got kicked out of the Rockefeller home for dropping rocks in the stairwell? GET IT? Rocks? Rockefeller?!" I usually then dissolve into a fit of giggles and my companions probably second-guess their judgment in befriending me.

My family's historically-slanted vacations brought me to more tours of historic homes, battlefields, cemeteries and villages than I could count. From Jamestown to Hyannis Port, I've traveled the east coast and beyond with my family, taking my fill of reenactors, historic markers and velvet-roped house tours.

Maybe to outsiders, my childhood seems a little bit warped. I had a penchant for those fluffy white colonial hats women in Williamsburg wore. (See G. Family albums for photographic evidence.) My American Girl doll Samantha and I wore matching outfits while visiting Biltmore, and my Princess Barbie dream bedroom was Alice Claypoole Gwynne Vanderbilt's oval seafront bedroom at the Breakers estate in Newport, RI. I also distinctly recall deriving serious joy from a hoop and stick in a motel parking lot.

Before my junior year of high school, my family took a trip to Gettysburg and Antietam that lives vividly in my mind today. After junior year, we hit up Emily Dickinson's home in Amherst where I took a photo of myself with a pizza box, which was a nerdy joke between my English teacher Mrs. Powell and I. Two years ago we spent my mom's birthday at the living history Pleasant Hill Shaker Village where some of the old Shaker family dwellings have been converted into individual hotel suites (with, I might add, the best TempurPedic cushy beds you'll ever sleep on).

I loved these vacations, even the ones where we spent significant time in the icy March Midwestern winds visiting ancestral grave sites. Maybe it’s the fall air or the political mood I’ve been in lately (you may have noticed that I’ve had politics and history on the brain), but I haven’t been able to stop considering all the little history vacation hot stops I’d love to make if I could get away right now. For your consideration, I’ve compiled a few below. Anywhere else I should keep in mind for future nerdy getaways?

The Mount: Edith Wharton’s Estate
I may or may not be a huge fan of The Age of Innocence. We’ll let that lie and just say that I’d love to visit Wharton’s home where she did a lot her writing. Even better is the fact she designed the home herself. How awesome is that? The Mount is facing foreclosure, however, so I hope that this spot makes it through these hard times. []

Like I said, I’ve already visited the Biltmore estate while wearing this dress, but whatever. I wanna go again. This time, maybe without wearing that dress. This place is freaking awesome, and it was just a SUMMER HOME. A 175,000 sq. ft., 255-room SUMMER HOME with grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. No biggie.[]

Abraham Lincoln Presidential
Library and Museum
It is a travesty I live in Lincoln’s state and have not visited the Lincoln Museum in Springfield. This trip is on my short list because I think I should be able to make it down in a day. Of course, if I do go, I am absolutely positively visiting the Lincoln home and tomb. I will probably cry while I’m there cause that’s what I’ve been doing lately whenever anyone brings Lincoln up to me. (I’m talking to you, Obama!)

Hearst Castle
I have only been to California once, but if I can make it out there again and be anywhere near San Simeon, I’m going to Hearst Castle. One of my friends told me it’s like being in a haunted, abandoned, lonely place, and I think that sounds fantastic. I can also fantasize about Cary Grant swimming in the pool here. []

National Archives
Heaven is a place on earth, and it’s here in Washington, D.C. I really can’t explain it, but this place has been on my mind a lot lately. I’m itching to get back there and just soak in as much smelly, moldy paper as possible. []


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I was there when we made history

I was lucky enough to receive tickets to go to Obama’s Election Night rally in Grant Park last night. The experience for me was surreal and overwhelmingly emotional. I felt lucky—not just to be at the front lines of this historic moment but also to be a part of a country like ours.

I spent the first part of the rally ecstatic, pumping my fist against my chest whenever Ohio’s results were pulled up on the Jumbotron and screaming, “THAT’S MY STATE!!” When CNN finally project Ohio for Obama, though, I felt quieter, calmer. It was as if I finally was allowing myself to believe that this could happen. I had made calls to my hometown in hopes to help Obama win, and while I got hung up on and sneered at a few times, I also talked with undecided voters who were truly concerned about our country and who seemed to lean Democratic by the time we finished talking, with Republicans who were voting for both a black man and a Democrat for the first time in their lives, and with other Democrats who were making calls themselves and who had voted in the early Ohio voting.

Here it was, Ohio’s electoral votes going to Obama, and I felt the pulse of the crowd against me and the rush of screams around me but I was floating outside of myself, completely peaceful.

By the time Obama’s rally was pumping celebratory music and playing a video montage that played on the emotions of a proud American, I was—like everybody else it seems—in tears. I replayed in my mind the last eight years of my life and all that has changed and imagined what changes will happen for me now—hopefully, for better this time.

But it was Obama’s speech, the full text of which is available here, which most resonated with me. In the last few months, I’ve been reading up a lot lately on Lincoln and feeling some strong emotions about our sixteenth president, so when Obama said the following, he truly touched me:

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House -- a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn -- I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

Coming from such a conservative area, I know full well that there will be people who will never accept Barack Obama. That’s fine. But the important thing is that for those of us who believe in him, and those who might come to believe in him too, Obama represents a true shift away from that petty partisanship and negativity that has so sharply pitched liberal against conservative in the last eight years.

It would be disingenous of me if I didn’t mention that I wasn’t always such an Obama supporter, as evidenced even by this blog. But as the other candidates fell away and Obama’s policies took stronger form, I became one of his believers. Standing and cheering among his other supporters last night, I could begin to imagine a better America where our rights and freedoms are not stripped from us and we are given the freedom and benefits we deserve. I am so proud and just wanted to share.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween Update

When the Pygmalion Sarah Palin was unveiled back in August, I was still back in Denver, glowing happily from the Democratic National Convention. I couldn’t help but notice Palin’s side-swept brunette bangs and rimless eyeglasses, both of which I wear or own, and felt the call to Halloween action.

Of course, the Dressing Up as Sarah Palin for Halloween Express was bound to be one big trainwreck with just about everybody from Tickety-Tack Trannies to Joe Six Packs donning their own Palin get-ups for the evening.

So I decided to try something different, and this is what I came up with: Sarah Palin’s Forbidden Romance / Mr. Moose Whisks Sarah Palin Away. It involved a whole crapload of brown fleece, several trips to Jo-Ann Fabrics and at least one tantrum that involved foam and PVC pipe which we will not get into now.

Not exactly easy to maneuver in, but I had a fun time throughout the evening hanging out with friends at a few parties, taking photos with other bar-goers, and defending myself from crazy, crazy people who hate Sarah Palin so much they were willing to attack her Halloween doppelganger while screaming “I’M GOING TO KILL YOU.” To each is own, I guess.

Also see below for my #1 Halloween companion, Wall Street. :)


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Scary Female Voldemort With Fluffy Bow in Hair For Ohio's 2nd Congressional District?

Okay, prepare yourself for a Harry Potter reference. Remember how Voldemort becomes less and less human in his evil attempts at immortality? This, I’m pretty sure, is why Jean Schmidt looks the way she does.

I suppose that after you violate basic Congressional rules by calling Marine veteran and congressman John Murtha a “coward” on your first day in Congress, lie about gifts received from lobbyists, falsify your college education, tell voters you’ve been endorsed by politicians and organizations that haven’t endorsed you, plagiarize guest columns... TWICE, admit you weren’t aware of the financial crisis ‘until a few weeks ago’ and then air ridiculous commercials about the “success we’ve enjoyed” due to your leadership, and finally, wage a three-month assault on the fictitious Chinese drilling off the American coast that you've apparently imagined and then blame everyone (Republican John Boehner, democrats, then the media) for your lies, it becomes easier and easier to let yourself sour with age, baseless vitriolic attacks and senseless politics.

Of course, like the Cincinnati Enquirer reported back in 1984, this wonderful woman was calling young Republicans “young Hitlers” and booing Elizabeth Dole at the Republican National Convention, so I guess maybe she’s been this stupid all along.

Anyway, I proudly checked my ballot box for Victoria Wulsin. It’s hard to imagine that anyone continues to elect Schmidt into office, and I assume that those who do so just don’t realize how this woman is seriously embarrassing our district. I would beg Republicans and Independents who don’t know the issues at hand in the 2nd Congressional District of Ohio either do some research on the atrocious behavior of this woman or just skip voting for their representative altogether.

On a personal note, I might not be so angered were it not for the fact that I personally visited Schmidt’s office in Washington, D.C. back in 2006 to request her support in Congress to end genocide in Darfur. Upon arriving and waiting for quite a long time, I was handed off to an aide, not much older than me, who condescendingly suggested that it was so wonderful I was attempting to be so involved in politics, deflected my serious questions, questioned my own knowledge and then (!) tried to connect with me about my hometown by naming streets in it.

Totally insulting, but exactly what I would expect from Jean Schmidt’s office.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Adorable Politics

You may have seen this before now, but it's just so cute I had to post it. These students at the Ron Clark Academy have been studying politics this year with mock debates and, well, raps apparently. Some parts are a little tough to understand so they lyrics are posted below.

Obama on the left
McCain on the right
We can talk politics all night
And you can vote however you like…

(McCain supporters)
McCain’s the best candidate
With Palin as his running mate
They’ll fight for gun rights, pro life,
The conservative right
Our future is bright
Better economy in site
And all the world will feel our military might

I want Obama
Stick wit McCain you gone have some drama
Iran he will attack
We gotta vote Barack!

(Obama supporters)
But McCain and Bush are real close right
They vote alike and keep it tight
Obama’s new, he’s younger too
The Middle Class he will help you
He’ll bring a change, he’s got the brains
McCain and Bush are just the same
You are to blame, Iraq’s a shame
Four more years would be insane

Lower your Taxes - you know Obama Won’t
PROTECT THE LOWER CLASS - You know McCain won’t!
Have enough experience - you know that they don’t
STOP GLOBAL WARMING - you know that you won’t

I want Obama
Stick with McCain and you’re going to have some drama
We need it
He’ll be it
We’ll do it
Let’s move it

I’m talking big pipe lines, and low gas prices
Below $2.00 that would be nice

But to do it right we gotta start today
Finding renewable ways that are here to stay

Democratic left
Republican right
November 4th we decide
And you can vote however you like, I said
You can vote however you like, yeah


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Signs That This Election (Coupled With My Own Independent Historical Research) Has Mentally and Emotionally Exhausted Me

Last night I dreamt that Teddy Roosevelt, angry with me for apparently defaming the Republican party, was stalking about outside my house equipped with two black bears and one angry blonde mountain lion. What does it all meeeaaaan???


Monday, October 27, 2008

What I Did With My Friday Evening.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

In defense of elementary school children everywhere...

I'm sure by now you may have seen the video where Sarah Palin answers an eight-year-old boy's question about what a vice president does. Palin does her best concerned look with knit brow and maternal smile, explaining that the veep "runs" the Senate and can "really get in there" to affect policy. The McCain camp has defended Palin, pointing out that she was explaining complicated civic issues to an eight-year-old. For the video of Chris Matthews putting a McCain spokeswoman Nancy Pfotenhauer through the ringer on this issue and Nancy jumping and bending backwards to defend her veep candidate, see below.

So who should be angry here, other than Chris Matthews? John McCain--because his running mate has a tough time stringing sentences together and has gotten mixed up before about what the vice president does? The American people--because it's insulting that a national political party would choose a vice presidential candidate not for her qualifications but for her yoobetchya charm as a last-minute effort to revive a floundering campaign? Dan Quayle—because he sees his great legacy of vice presidential flubbery challenged by this Alaskan maverick?

Nope. In fact, those who should be most angered are probably busy right now, playing tag at recess or practicing long division. Or perhaps they are learning Civics, and their teacher is having to waste lesson time reteaching what Sarah Palin got wrong about the duties of the vice president. It's the children of America who should be angry.

As I listened to Nancy Pfotenhauer argue over and over again that Palin's response should be taken in the context as an answer for a schoolchild, I was furious and wanted Chris Matthews to point out the obvious—that a second-grader could handle simple civics and grasp that the vice president doesn't run the Senate but instead serves as a tie-breaker when the Senate can't make up its mind; or the fact that if we all followed Palin's example, we'd oversimplify things so much for schoolchildren that they'd never gain a basic understanding of how our country runs or much else for that matter.

There are enough fairy tales in public education already. When in some history lesson Christopher Columbus was outted as the rapist and pillager he was, it was a little bit like losing Santa Claus. I thought back to my first lessons in Kindergarten, where in the week leading up to Columbus Day we read picture books about this international hero who brought gifts to America and back to Europe, who befriended the Native Americans and who looked dashingly handsome in the watercolor version of the story. With the truth exposed years later in another school room, I sighed and filed Columbus away in my "Believed That Once, But Never Again" mental dossier. To join him later would be Thomas Jefferson's indiscretions, Abraham Lincoln's theories on colonization, Japanese internment camps and John Edwards's fidelity, just to name a few.

I'm not advocating for a first grade lesson plan in smallbox blankets, but I also think that if we can tell children the truth and not insult their intelligence, we should do so. No vice presidential candidate who claims to be so dedicated to education should go in front of a nation and tell a child an oversimplified truth about American civics. So instead of condemning Palin for telling American children distortions, I will give her the benefit of the doubt that she didn't understand the issue herself.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Things Currently Occupying My Brain, Preventing Me From Blogging


Friday, October 3, 2008

Before you go see another quirky generational movie about being...

Tonight, college kids will pay their student ticket prices and pile into movie theatres across the country to see a movie that undoubtedly will speak to them, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

I know because I was there in their shoes on this very night five years ago, paying $8.50 for a 10 o’clock showing of my generation’s movie, Lost in Translation.

I had landed as a freshman at Northwestern University only two weeks before opening night and I felt, as most college kids feel, like I had finally arrived. This was where I was meant to be—living in my totally awesome dorm with the coolest kids in a great-but-I’ll-knock-it-anyway college town, where I could finally eat fresh sushi and drink sake while musing about politics with other young liberals (hallelujah!) who shared both my opinion that God does not hate me for my lefty persuasions as well as my use of unnecessary superlatives like the aforementioned 'coolest' and 'totally awesome.'

But college also has this way of setting off a self-referential inner-monologue that you can’t shake. Walking through a gorgeous campus with your iPod soundtrack while leaves crackle underfoot doesn’t exactly help to curb your deluded sense of grandeur either. So you walk from class to class, high off Rousseau and that cute guy from Econ who was most definitely at least a sophomore, and you ponder your depth and your Friday night plans because that sophomore-dude is most definitely going to the party in Allison Hall.

It was in this mindset that I found myself on October 3, 2003, huddled around California rolls with new friends and waiting for our showing of Lost in Translation. I had broken up with my high school boyfriend the night before and was really looking for some solid ground, something I could identify with and find strength in. That turned out, I would discover at about 10:45 PM, to be Scarlett Johansson’s underwear.

Who was this girl who--while deeply pondering her life (like me! twinsies!)--wore headphones, stared aimlessly at citi-scapes and bounced around on a bed in Tokyo in her underwear? How cool was that? I made a mental note to find grandma panties like Scarlett’s and figure out how to make them so sexy. Underwear aside, I wasn’t in Tokyo, I wasn’t going to Yale and I was not planning on majoring in philosophy like Scarlett’s character, but her brooding self-examination spoke to me. It resonated with my inner-being, and this was my movie.

Actually, it was our movie, all of us. If you weren't on mine and Scarlett's side of the equation: What will I do with my life?, then you were on Bill Murray's: What have I done with my life? Many of us bought the soundtrack, some of us bought grandma panties (not nearly as sexy as hoped), and all of us talked feverishly about what had he said to her?? That whisper! It defined us all!

But then, four years later, we finally found out what he whispered: “I have to be leaving, but I won’t let that come between us, okay?”

And that was it.

After defining ourselves by our imaginings in that veiled mysterious whisper, relishing in the indelible innocence of their impossible, fleeting relationship, and coveting the quirkiness of Japanese culture and (by God!) karaoke parties, that was it.

Sure, I was let down in other ways, like Scarlett Johansson’s creepy, Pygmalionesque post on Woody Allen’s arm and Bill Murray’s disastrous divorce and the way the soundtrack kind of got old by the next summer. But this revelation was the final straw in severing me from the movie that I thought had defined me.

So a word of warning to you 18-year-olds or other self-seekers who might line up in the coming hours for this Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist movie and hope to find yourselves in the characters' doomed innocence or eccentric, impossibly cute behavior: Don’t hang your hopes on underwear or soundtracks and record the playlist yourself.


Friday, September 26, 2008

A Midwestern Girl Visits the Mountains

I've been back from Colorado for three weeks now and have yet to write anything about my trip—probably because I feel I can do no justice to how great my time there was in a little blog entry. I'll try, however, because it would be stupid not to elaborate just a bit on how much I love mountains and hate lightning.

It just so happens that John and I scheduled this trip to Denver during the Democratic National Convention without realizing it. We're clearly such good, devoted Democrats. Truth is that I worried—dare I say, I even fretted—about what the Convention would be like in town. Too crazy, too busy, altogether just too much. I was wrong. In short, having the DNC in town was awesome.

Not only did I relish in the crowd fervor outside the outdoor MSNBCrazy studios (where I proudly booed Pat Buchanan and was greeted by Keith Olbermann as he turned and raised his arms, channeling a bit of Mark Antony acknowledging his friends, Romans, countrymen), I also saw Hillary's motorcade going to and from her speech, and more importantly, I saw Spock Donaldson. But true kudos should go to John's mom, "a remarkably put-together Denver native," who was immortalized as such in The New York Times Caucus blog by David Carr. I feel quite strongly that she should put that tagline on some business cards.

Aside from the DNC, I also got a more normal tour of the city and J's place in it growing up, which was sweet and nice. I will forever envy his high school.

We also checked out some great Denver spots, including the Tattered Cover book store, where I bought The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, and The Old Map Gallery. I had ordered a children's illustrated map of Colorado from TOMP for John's Christmas gift this year, so it was really fun to actually go in and talk with the owners and check out their stuff. One of the owners showed us an original Chicago Gangland map that still came with its book of research by U of Chicago student Frederic Thrasher.

John and I also took a "mountain daytrip" to Winter Park for a picnic lunch, Grand Lake to go canoeing and through Rocky Mountain National Park along Trail Ridge Road—probably one of the most gorgeous things I've ever seen with lots of wildlife along the way. On our way back down to Denver, we stopped in Boulder, grabbing a drink at the Lazy Dog CafĂ© to watch Obama's acceptance speech and then a bite to eat at Illegal Pete's (the anti-Chipotle).

After a couple days in Denver, we packed up and headed southwest to Westcliffe, where J's family has a cabin tucked into the shady bottom of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. The first afternoon was pretty tame—we toured the town and ate a take-out pizza at home.

The next day was designated Hike Day, which meant getting up early, loading up on blueberry pancakes, packing up the backpacks/fannypacks and getting on our way. We headed to the trailhead for Lake of the Clouds, a trail on which John and his friends infamously got lost four years ago. The hike was gorgeous, not too difficult, and well worth the pay-off at the top where three different mountain lakes nestle against a simultaneously rocky and lush backdrop.

On our way down, we made a bit of a wrong turn, putting ourselves a mile out of our way before we got turned around. Needless to say, we lost a good hour on that diversion and were in a hurry to get off the mountain before afternoon storms settled in. (Note writer's use of foreshadowing.)

The sky was still clear with only one dark cloud above us as we worked our way down past the river and toward the final descent. We chit-chatted and picked our way down the rocky path when suddenly the largest crash of light and sound I've ever experienced crashed above us. Literally. Just above us. Ducking, my spine tingled as the air was charged around us, and for a moment, my mind raced: I had been struck by lightning but was alive—now what?

More specifically, I suddenly remembered an episode of Oprah I saw as a child where lightning survivors were interviewed. Their stories were horrific with people crawling home on all fours of rolling up shirt sleeves to reveal burn marks. Was I going to be on Oprah?

The moment passed, fortunately, and I realized I was okay, as was John.

What do we do? he said.


And that's what we did. For nearly 15 minutes, we ran down the mountainside, rolling our ankles with every other step, charged with an adrenaline rush only attributable to fear of loss of life. It was heavy on the "flight" part of fight or flight.

As we tore out of the forest and into the parking lot, we were greeted by a bunch of haggard-looking men, a couple young moms and a nun decked out in full habit.

"Run all the way from the lakes?" drawled one older worn-looking cowboy who leaned casually against the back of his pick-up truck like some kind of country icon.

I defended ourselves breathlessly while the group around us laughed, which I suppose I can understand now but at the time was terribly offensive.

The good news was that a beautiful double rainbow emerged as the storm began to roll into the valley. Rain poured between the mountain ranges while the sun fought through the clouds. It was gorgeous.

That night, John and I enjoyed his parents' back deck and watched the stars, the Milky Way a blurry smudge of glitter glued against the sky.

Yet as I lay on the deck and John leaned back in a chair, I couldn't shake the feeling that there was a mountain lion crouching in the woods surrounding us, waiting for me to shut my eyes before bounding onto the deck, pouncing on top of me and stuffing my head in its mouth. My heart beat loudly, but I kept quiet, assuming that John would laugh at my Midwestern notions of wildcats eating brunettes. As it turned out, the next day when I finally confessed my fears to him, he had been imagining the same image of his girlfriend's skull shattering against the teeth of a mountain lion. Clearly, there was an actual cat in the woods telepathically warning us that we better not get too comfortable...

Let me first say I didn't sleep well my last night in Westcliffe. With images of lightning, mountain lions ripping off skulls and bears breaking through windows dancing through my head, it was all in all a tough night. It would be fine, I thought as we packed up the Rodeo for Aspen, I'd sleep on the way there.

What I didn't expect was that it would be near impossible to sleep as the Rodeo climbed upwards of 12,000 feet along a winding mountain pass--Independence Pass--that narrowed to one-lane around blind curves. I white-knuckled it the whole way, glancing occasionally down at sheer drop-offs with no guard rails, praying to God once more that my life be spared a second day in a row.

We arrived in Aspen safely and decided to go straight to lunch, ending up at Little Annie's, where I inhaled half a cheeseburger and immediately threw up. Were the idea of throwing up in a cramped, dirty restaurant bathroom not bad enough, to my total mortification, two girls from John's high school had glided into the restaurant just moments before I became overwhelmed with sickness. As I stood in the bathroom stall, I imagined these two attractive girls wandering in just as I would wretch and they would spy my yellow sneakers so that then, later, when John would introduce me to them, they'd see those yellow shoes and know that I was that disgusting girl throwing up in a public restroom and I would be humiliated forever and ever.

(I should mention that this humiliating imagining might have been inspired by the time that John and I loaded up on rum and face paint, dressed up like pirates for a Sunday evening showing of Pirates of the Caribbean 3 several weeks after it had opened and just happened to run into one of his ex-girlfriend's good gal pals at the Evanston movie theatre where she just happened to be stopping by while on a cross-country road trip. I'm a little scarred.)

I spent the rest of the afternoon sick in the gilded marble bathroom of our hotel, The St. Regis at Aspen, and gingerly sipping sparkling water while curled up on the leather couch in the hotel lounge while waiting for our room. And for the record, I know I joked about elevation sickness. and clearly the mountain gods were not happy with my flippancy. I repent and pray never to fall victim to my hubris again.

Once I felt better, the rest of our time in Aspen was great. The town was ridiculous, chock full of people-watching as the idle rich wandered from boutique to boutique, decked out in more bling than I keep in my jewelry box. Our hotel was the schmanciest hotels I've ever stayed in and we made full use of all the free amenities. The bed, I should mention, was so comfortable that I actually dreamt that night of telling people how great the bed was.

We people-watched more in Aspen the next morning before taking off for Denver once more. The drive was a bit tough as we had to go over that vertigo-y pass again, got stuck in traffic west of Denver and saw absolutely NO big horned sheep. (Disappointment!)

We ate some delicious chicken kiev at John's house with his parents and his brother's family. We read our books from The Tattered Cover and then went to a neighborhood pub to meet John's friend. We made our final stop that night at Viva Burrito, fondly known as "Viva" and a favorite of John's, to truly complete my Denver experience. There's really nothing quite like eating a $2 burrito while sitting on the hood of a Rodeo parked in a Mexican joint parking lot.
's voice announced that we would be leaving a city where the sun shines for 300 days a y
Our last day we toured the art museum with J's mom, who is a docent there, and ate lunch at the museum restaurant with J's parents. When his family dropped us off for our flight, we said our goodbyes and made our way into the airport where Denver's Mayor Hickenlooper.

Oh, thanks, Mayor Hickenlooper, but what about the lightning??

It's never much fun to come back from a vacation and slide uncomfortably back into your routine. But inevitably, the saving grace for taking return flights is always how pride creeps up on you as you fly toward home. With all the families taking vacations to the Windy City and all the business suits flying in for work, you can't help but feel proud--as they gasp at the skyscrapers or point at the beautiful blue expanse of Lake Michigan--that this city is yours, and you are at least a little happy to be home.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Do NOT idly search baby kittens on Petfinder, or you end up with something like this and then you get all teary-eyed from the cuteness and have a hard time explaining to your coworkers why you’re getting all weepy in the middle of the afternoon.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Secret Love of Organization

If you saw my home office right now you would not believe me, but I love organization. There’s such a great feeling of when everything just fits into place. I’m not about that uber-minimal, contemporary approach to organization with the Tokyo pop couches made of foam and low profile furniture with no drawers. No, no, no. But I do love finding my own system to put everything in its right place, and walking into a Container Store is a euphoric experience.

Since moving into the new apartment, I’ve had to rediscover an organization system. I’m still working it out, for sure, but I lined my shelves and drawers with wallpaper from a $1 book of samples and I’ve started seriously looking at my closet. I’ve already dumped a lot of shoes. I’m making modest but valuable progress.

The Times has a great article online about organization and the trend of Professional Organizers. I’m not about to pay $100/hour to have someone sort out my life for me, but some of the tips in the article are helpful and interesting:

• Store shoes toe-heel to save room.

• Get rid of mirrors in the bedroom for good luck. (This one is NOT for me. I need to see what I look like before I so much as step into the hallway. Plus I like reflecting natural light off the mirrors in my room.)

• Use attractive wastebaskets to store wrapping paper.

• Put all the extra cords and crap from electronic items in plastic baggies, then store the baggies in a bin. That way, you’ll never lose those cords you most likely will need just when you don’t know where they are.
What about you—any organization tips to share for this disorganized apartment girl?


Monday, September 15, 2008

Blowing off steam

Okay, I promise not to complain too much about Sarah Palin or the election here. I believe that most people have their political minds made up and I don't want to waste my energy or alienate friends/family/readers/passers-bys with my white-hot anger with the dirt-flinging and outright lying the McCain/Palin campaign has passed off in the last two weeks.

That said, I do have these things to share with you right now, and then I'll keep my seething to a minimum:

  • A New York Times investigation of Palin's track record in Alaska--one of total lack of transparency and absolute vindictiveness, back-stabbiness and lies. It's 5 pages worth reading.

  • Alaska's biggest-ever political rally happened this weekend when Sarah Palin returned home. It was the "Alaska Women Reject Palin" rally, and it garnered bigger crowds than Palin's welcome home rally.

  • Not reporting here, but the Times board's editorial following Palin's only interview with ABC's Charlie Gibson: "It was bad enough that Ms. Palin’s performance in the first televised interviews she has done since she joined the Republican ticket was so visibly scripted and lacking in awareness. What made it so much worse is the strategy for which the Republicans have made Ms. Palin the frontwoman: win the White House not on ideas, but by denigrating experience, judgment and qualifications."

  • Finally, the Tina Fey/Sarah Palin, Amy Poehler/Hillary Clinton video that you've undoubtedly seen by now and that I could watch over and over.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Is this what Hollywood thinks of us editors?

Can anyone explain to me why Annette Benning's character in The Women (a high profile magazine editor) looks like the frumpier, but probably nicer, doppelganger of Wilhelmina Slater from Ugly Betty (a high profile magazine editor)?


Friday, September 5, 2008

Beluga whale haters, go home!

Who on earth could ever hate this sweet little beluga whale? Well, there’s at least one woman: the White Witc—I mean, Sarah Palin.

Let it be known I had to pass by some horrible Google images of harpooned whales in order to get this image. While I searched, my eyes welled up with tears while Sarah Palin laughed callously and used my tears to wash down the baby beluga sauteed in Alaskan oil that she ate for breakfast this morning.

Read more truth about Sarah Palin here and here.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hurricane Gustav Relief

After getting all angry watching Sarah Palin last night, I soothed myself by watching this video from Tuesday's Daily Show. Jon Stewart and his team made it all better. [or watch it here]


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On Vacation

I'm leaving for Denver in five-ish hours. Ever been? Have some suggestions of what a girl who likes to be a local should do?

On the docket as of now is visiting with John's family and seeing his home, canoing, hiking, eating at the original Chipotle, picking up convention swag and then and avoiding the convention craziness as best I can.

Maybe I'll dine with Barack...

Anyway, I will hopefully be back soon with some pictures to prove that I was in the mountains!! Elevation sickness, here I come!

PICTURED: My mom, second from left, and her sibs, ready for their own family vacation.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Thought this was nice.



Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It's Michael Phelps!

So much better than Mary Carillo's Slice of Chinese Life pieces and further proof that tall nerdy white guys all look alike.


Monday, August 18, 2008

The future of the news as we know it?

Sometimes I wonder if the AP makes this stuff up. Ol’ McDonald reports that cow named Apple chases bear away from favorite apple tree? Really?

HYGIENE, Colo. (AP) -- Residents of a rural Colorado town say a cow named Apple chased off a bear that had climbed into her favorite apple tree. Jack McDonald of Hygiene, about 30 miles northwest of Denver, said the bear had climbed out of the tree when the cow approached it Sunday afternoon.

McDonald says the animals touched noses and hung out together for a bit before Apple chased the bear off.

''It was hilarious,'' McDonald says.

There's no sign that either animal was hurt.

Apple belongs to McDonald's landlady, Nancy Dayton, who has a house and three rental units on 14 acres.

Dayton says Apple weighs about 1,200 pounds and is more pet than livestock. She got her name because she loves to eat apples from the tree the bear had invaded.


Friday, August 15, 2008

I'm sorry.

When I posted an uplifting video, I SHOULD have posted the trailer for HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3: SENIOR YEAR. While I admit I’m excited for this movie (cough cough *motion picture EVENT*), I preferred keeping my perverted too-old-for-this-kind-of-stuff enjoyment inside my living room. I guess it’s gonna be me and all the tweens squealing for Zanessa, after all.

Also this:


Chicago 2016 to the rescue!!

Things are way too heavy and political here on my blog. Let's lighten things up with this promo for Chicago 2016 that brings a tear to my eye!


Monday, August 11, 2008

What does 10 pounds of guilt really look like?

I haven’t had a chance to watch the Nightline interview with John Edwards yet, but I did read his statement after penning a letter to him. (FWIW, I’m inclined to say that I found his statement to be relatively redeeming.) As Slate pointed out, this kind of story is only a story when hypocrisy is involved (Again, see: Larry Craig.), as it was with Jesse Jackson. But even Jackson was able to maintain a public image. (Kind of.) And sure, mainstream media’s reluctance to cover the story is worth mentioning as well.

But I found Alessandra Stanley's article, True or False: Everyone Looks 10 Pounds Guiltier on TV, to be just a wash of anti-Edwards rhetoric. Stanley writes: “Even if he acted to pre-empt another wave of reports, Mr. Edwards didn’t need to put himself in front of a camera. Silence, or a written statement followed by a tactical retreat from public life, would have sufficed. But apparently Mr. Edwards is not ready to leave the stage; he just wanted to have more control over the script.”

Really? Because if he hadn’t gone in front of the cameras, what would the media have said then? And honestly, what’s wrong with controlling the script? Stanley does no more than piss and moan about smart politicking. In her world, Edwards was damned because he did, but by someone else’s standards, he was damned if he didn’t.

If Alessandra Stanley was really looking for an example of someone looking 10 pounds guiltier on TV, maybe she should have watched the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremonies on Friday night instead. Because as Iraq’s four athletes entered the stadium, George W. Bush’s face contorted into an uncomfortable smirk that was worth several thousand lives worth of guilt. Or when Thailand entered the stadium, Bush exemplified all the enthusiasm for his country that one might expect from a president so disliked, as he disinterestedly slapped his thigh with the American flag and stared blankly into space.

At the very least Edwards apologizes for his behavior.


Friday, August 8, 2008

My Dear John Letter

Dear John,

I really hoped against hope that the National Enquirer was pulling a Bat Boy on you. Even last night, as I watched The Birdcage and National Enquirer reporters trailed Gene Hackman’s senatorial character down to South Beach for a scandal, I thought of you and my stomach clenched up with fear. What if the tabloids were right? I took another bite of Black Diamond Cheddar to calm myself. No, I repeated. This politician who seemed like America’s son—the Bobby Kennedy of my generation—would not so scandalize himself or undermine his party.

And now, I discover, I’m the one who was wrong.

I’m a big girl, and I know that people aren’t perfect. Even Bobby had more than his fair share of fish in the sea. But in today’s cable news age—the Golden Era of Exaggerated and Reiterated News—wrong-footing like that spells career disasters, right? (See: Larry Craig.) But, look. That foot is neither here nor there, and the real issue is that I believed in you, your ideals and your policies, I stood up for you when Obamaniacs put you down as some big-time, overprivileged lawyer, and the whole time, you were lying to me, everybody else, and dare I say—yourself?

Do you remember the first time we met, John? It was 2005, I was only 20, it was a drizzly fall Sunday afternoon at Northwestern University, and you made a quick stop to talk with us College Democrats. After your speech, you spoke to a handful of us about what you’d been up to in the last year since the loss of the 2004 election. You were more than charismatic—your energy and enthusiasm enchanted me. You spoke of domestic issues like education and health care in such lyrical terms that you were more bard than politician. I was smitten, won over, and already invested in you, who I saw as a bright light in that dark time still shrouded in the residue of 9/11, an endless war, a lost election, and, most freshly, Katrina. When you and your aides left that day, I was spellbound and sung your praises to my friends. And so I did, until recently.

I’m only 23, so I’m young and that means a couple things.

First, I don’t know a whole ton about what it’s like to bear the burden of America’s troubles as you run for office and your wife struggles with cancer. I’m sure that must be hard. But I also know the simple truth that when you fight to represent a country you love, you want to practice the morals that you preach.

Second, I think I’m too young to become jaded by politics and politicians, but I’m beginning to feel like I’m well on my way. For a while, I too considered a life in politics, but after enough involvement in college politics to recognize it wasn’t for me, I left it up to people like you to do what’s right.

But finally, and thankfully, I haven’t given up yet. I am disappointed in you, I’m hugely disappointed in this election, and I’m infinitely disappointed (and flabbergasted) by a country that could elect Bush twice. Despite whatever mistakes you’ve made, I still want to believe in you, and I hope that whatever you have to say gives me a reason to believe and your actions from here on out give me justification in that belief.

Thanks for listening,



Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Great Lakes Showdown

While searching easy, cheap ways to get to Duluth from Chicago (there seem to be none, FWIW), I stumbled across this great article from The New York Times, circa June 9, 1888, that details the struggle between Duluth and Chicago to be the great train and shipping center of the Great Lakes. Essentially, they tell us, Duluth is the right choice as its trip will be an easier one to New York.

"The odds are 400 to 150 in favor of Duluth. Chicago and its great railways may as well face the truth first at last. They are handicapped in nature, and Chicago is in a measure sidetracked."

Ah, how I love my city's history. And how I love how New York has always believed itself to be the center of everything.

[The pic, btw, is of the 1888 Chicago White Stockings.]