Saturday, March 26, 2005

Grey Gardens

Wow, we watched this last night and I wish I had time to write about it. These are two fascinating ladies - but it seems to be about a million things, this seemingly simple little documentary. Anyway, you should rent it. I don't have time to write about it right now but I'm still processing it anyway.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Interview - Five questions

The brief lowdown on this dealio is that Megan and some folks she knows starteddoing this interview thing where you answer five questions and then postthem on your blog and invite anyone else to be interviewed by you which theythen post on their blog. (And you tell two friends, and so on, and so on…) So if you want me to interview you, say “interview me” in the comment box! It’s that easy!

1. What was you and Ben's first date?
Youwere on our first first date! That was to the ZZ Packer reading in Oak Parkand then to that place with the S’mores. I should have known that he thoughtit was a date, cuz he put on a nice shirt and pants (where I left on thesame schleppy sweater I’d had on all day, so he wouldn’t think it was a date)Our second first date was two weeks later. Apparently we’d been dating thewhole time, but I was sort of clueless until the night he came to pick meup for dinner at the now-tragically defunct La Borsa, bearing flowers.
2. What would you do if Owen Wilson responds to the personal ad?
I’dsay, “Owen Wilson, you didn’t read that story close enough, cuz I’m taken!” And then I’d say, “But if you want to buy the movie rights and put in agood word with Wes Anderson, that’d be swell.”
3. When are some convienent dates for you guys to come over for dinner and what would you like me to cook for you?
Lotsof time after April 1 when we’re back from NY. Except the 6th or 7th I havereadings. We would like for there an emphasis on dessert. Okay, I wouldlike for there to be an emphasis on dessert.
4. When have you been so riled up you've had to ACT (instead of just complaining, as I usually do).
Augh,this is a toughie. I’m not one for marching and also I tend to get riledup about really dumb things. Let’s just say I write letters to the editor,and sometimes they’re long and often they’re anonymous. But in the pastI’ve gotten riled up with myself enough to act on my writerly aspirations.

5.Will you please do this: set a timer for fifteen minutes and write whateverrandom things come to your mind very fast without stopping un til the timergoes off?
Pshhhhhh. Could I do this again another day? This was maybethe worst day I’ve had in I don’t know how long. I’m going to cheat and gowatch STARLET! and come back to this later. So you have a bonus twenty secondsat the top.
Crap, I just erased everything I wrote and it was soo good! Ok, nothing a good episode of reality TV can’t perk up. Starlet. Thisis genius. Not much need to explain the premise of the show. I think itmay be important to mention that I keep typing “startlet” by mistake. Ok,so I missed a few episodes due to a couple of weeks of miscommunication withmy VCR (yes, I tape these things!), but as of now there are five girls left. On this episode they are taken to an acting coach who is introduced as havingtaught such students as Demi Moore, which elicits a gasp from the startlets. The assignment in this class is to work on “anger.” First the coach asksthem to say something about their co-startlets and they all say nice thingsand they are admonished with a stern “That won’t do.” I begin to fear fora fakey reality bitch fest when they are instead directed to “dig” for momentsfrom their own lives in which they were the most angry. I have to say, minusa little bit of screeching, each does a surprisingly respectable job. Here’sthe part that makes life worth living though. After this the host comesback and congratulates them and says something like, “I hope you all learnedto channel your anger here, because your next screen test is from the HilaryDuff film, “A Cinderella Story.” Understand that there is a gravely serioustone to the host’s voice as she reports this. Ah yes, a classic tale ofrevenge and hatred, starring the raging, intense Hilary Duff! I still havethe giggles. I have to call Bob.

and (this isn't as much an interviewquestion as it is a question-question, and if I'm categorizing then #3 ismore of a question-question also)

6. Did you mean it when you saidmaybe you could puppysit sometimes on Thursday or were you just temporarilyblinded by his cuteness and unable to think clearly?

I really meant it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Book Group Rules!

I will say it over and over, I have an outstanding group of women friends. When we have occasion to get together, just us girls, it’s not just that it’s a super fun time – this is one funny bunch of ladies indeed – but I always walk away knocked out by the collective wisdom, strength and overall greatness of these people. More often than not few of us succeed in actually reading the assigned book (I out myself as undoubtedly being the most guilty of the bunch, having not even bought one or two of them), about which we’ve always had an unspoken understanding that the book part of book group is beside the point, but this time quite a few of us did. The book, Middlesex, as I said and as was unanimously agreed at group, turned out to be hard to put down once you picked it up, and we had a lively conversation about it. It is a book about which there is plenty to be said, a book that succeeds in doing that thing I love so much which is to make me feel something and also think about stuff I might not have thought about so much had I not read it. Our discussion, to my delight, made me think even more! It was deep! And funny!
I have to give a special shout-out to my friend “New York” Mary, though. NY Mary is someone I’ve known almost since I arrived in Chicago nine years ago. Here’s what you need to know about Mary: she’s drop-dead beautiful, with bedroom eyes and cheekbones like a forties movie star. She’s called New York Mary because there are any number of Marys, and she has the sexiest Brooklyn accent you’ve ever heard, often delivered in a forties movie-star whisper, and when I hang around Mary I get a New York accent I never really had in spite of being a native New Yorker myself. The short backstory on Mary, is that, like many of us, she has really turned her life around in an impressive way. For no particular reason Mary and I have never been best friends (ok, a little bit of a lie, I was kind of scared she might kick my ass when I first met her!) but she has always been fun to be around – she has a unique sense of humor – Mary can get away with saying some of the raunchiest things I’ve ever heard for a laugh and they will be wildly funny. My favorite Mary story, which I’ve told many times, is when we were at a party about five years ago. It was a bowling party, the first time I’d been to a social occasion since my mother’s death a few months earlier, and I was still raw and uncomfortable outside my apartment, and some girl in the lane next to me more or less picked a fight about using my ball. Near tears, I told my girlfriends what was going on, and Mary jumped into the huddle with this advice (don’t forget to insert trademark sexy NY whisper) – she said, “Here’s what you do. You take her outside. You grab her by the hair. You put her face down by the curb. You say, ‘Now you want your ball?’ And if she still won’t give it to you – then you send her to me.” Understand that I am relatively certain Mary was joking to make me feel better, and it served to make me glad I’d left the house and willing to do it again in spite of mean bowling ball stealers.
So, back to this weekend, Mary showed up a little early, and we had the chance to catch up one on one, and she floored me just about as soon as she walked in the door because she made what seemed like an offhand comment about walking down the street in our fairly recently gentrified neighborhood (she’s recently moved to the suburbs). Mary pointed out that, essentially, she’s quick to make judgments about people who look a certain way, well-put together yuppie types, in this case, as not belonging in this formerly rough neighborhood, making the assumption, as I have done myself since the beginning of time as we know it, that these people are “normal”, you know, basically that they’ve never had any problems of any kind. But she quickly added, “But look at who’s saying this,” she said, pointing to her professional black suit – she’s an attorney – “I look just like them, who am I to say what their lives are?” and pointed out a few details of her personal history that one would never assume based on what she looks like, succinctly illustrating how we really have no idea what anyone’s life is like. I remember doing this years and years ago in New York, looking at healthy and well-adjusted-seeming blonde girls with pearls and wondering who in the hell someone like that even was, laughing in New York or whatever, never in a million years thinking anyone would think such a thing about me even though I could at least fake the healthy and blonde part and even the pearls and occasionally the laughing. When in fact I was so… well, I was depressed, and broke, and generally struggling with the meaning of life. Anyway, Mary was finally like, the truth is we could probably stop anyone on the street and they’d have an interesting story to tell. Which is so true and which only served to make me think about how I still judge books by their covers. (To tie this back to “book” group.) I guess if I’ve made any progress in this area it’s that now at least I’m willing to admit I’m likely to be wrong.
But I haven’t even gotten to the best thing Mary said all night. Know that none of these quotes are direct, I didn’t write them down. We were talking about the themes of identity and gender and parenthood in the book, and what it would be like to raise an intersexed child. (Basically, difficult.) Pointing out that most often the choice is made when the child is born to raise the child one way or the other, and often um, eliminating the unwanted genitals, she stopped and said, “But imagine if you have a child who’s a brilliant scientist but also a piano prodigy. You’d be like, fantastic! My kid is these two great things! But if you had a kid who was these other two great things, male and female, you’d think it was a tragedy, where really, you should look at it as a gift – this is a person who potentially has the best of both genders, someone who could have a balanced perspective the rest of us couldn’t possibly have. Someone we could learn from.” I was like, “Yaaaaahhhh! Right ON!” She blew my mind and it just made me see the book (and in no small way, Mary herself) in a whole new light – it was so relevant to the narrator’s experience, who chose to live as a man but definitely had this gift.
Rock on Mary.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Meaning of Tracy Partridge

The other day I was coming out of the Jewel parking lot and almost hit another car (for real) because I became temporarily stunned by a large, vaguely Lichtensteinish portrait of Tracy Partridge in an art gallery window dead ahead. For any non-formerly devoted Partridge Family fans, like myself, this represents something of a mystery. Tracy was one of the two youngest, quietest, Partridge kids, generally offering no more than one deadpan "zinger" per episode. (Zinger being defined here as "marginally humorous line that usually observed the strange behavior of the adults present with keen wit and precision.") Notably, I think, Tracy, and her male counterpart sibling, Chris, rarely offered any facial expression in a pre-Botox era, and I cite this as notable with regard to the painting, because there was little about Tracy to distinguish her as being someone you might want to paint a portrait of thirty years later. Danny, oh yeah. He is so VH1 Behind the Music, with his drug addiction and the whole sleeping with the transvestite/hiding in the closet thing and subsequent reinvention as talk-show host and radio personality. Plus, he was the one on the show with a real personality, which I say as a completely biased, formerly devoted Danny fan. (Come on, everyone loved Keith, but even at ten I found him obvious. I'd put italics on "obvious" here but every time I try to italicize I delete the whole entry. So try to read them italically.) Danny was funny, and in my ten-year-old mind, complex. And was I so right? I think I was. So I could see where someone might paint Danny, as a metaphor for any number of things not the least of which might be redemption. No seriously. But Tracy? I just can't read it. Is the comic-book style of painting meant as a metaphor? And if so, a metaphor of what?

Friday, March 18, 2005

Mesmerizing, and...

I'm SO sorry if this is too much info, but it's just too good. I just told my husband I got a review that said I was "mesmerizing." He said, "You're not just mesmerizing, you're sex-merizing!

I Wish I Were a Better Person

But lately I'm obsessed with the fantasy that somehow a certain ex of mine from (oy) twenty years ago (feel free to say get over it) who made sure to remind me on a regular basis how much smarter he was than me (sealing my already flourishing self-doubt, brain-cell wise), finds copies of my critically acclaimed books (just give me this, if you knew this guy, you'd indulge me more than a moment to boast), hears where I'm teaching, and kicks himself in the ass for ever being such a cock.

Can somebody else please admit they have fantasies like this so I don't punish myself for the rest of the day?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Merkins & Plus

I am pretty sure Wigs & Plus does not have merkins, although they do have some sexy lingerie in the window. Maybe the merkins are behind the counter. I feel the need to use merkin one more time in a sentence, because it's a funny word, meaning and soundwise, but I'm not sure what else to say. I'm not really in the market for a merkin? Too much info?

Landon and Shavonda

I do not know who they are, but I want to.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

What Blows

What blows about finishing an awesome book like Middlesex, which I did last night, is that you are so eager to read another great book that whatever book you read next is destined to suck. (I should save that sentence for a blurb someday.) You could read The Iliad, or the Bible and it would suck. I had put off reading this book for some time - I had it in my head that it would be over my head, which is pretty ridiculous, since Eugenides' first book, The Virgin Suicides, was also wonderful and not over my head, but anytime the word "epic" gets tossed into the mix I immediately think, not for me. Which is too bad. I made the commitment to try again after seeing Eugenides interview Gary Shteyngart at the Abbey - both of them are terribly smart, make no mistake, but also are they charming and super funny and completely not scary. This book made me want to time travel even more than The Time Traveler's Wife. And I should point out for the three of you who haven't read it, Middlesex isn't about time travel. IT'S THAT GOOD. I could go on, but there are so many secrets in this book that I can't think of anything to say without spoiling it. Except that I was given to making exclamations out loud while reading it, like "Oh my god!" and "Yes!" Ok, that sounded a little bit weirdly sexy, which was not my intention. Anyway, if you haven't, read it. I am so psyched for book group!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Ben and I had been hearing about the miracle of Costco for a while and decided one wintry Saturday to check it out. They won't let you in the door unless you join, so, although uncertain, we filled out the form and proceeded into the cavernous warehouse. Momentarily we were dazzled by the possibilities. The big-ticket items are up front, and we don't really need a giant home theater but mega-snacks were close by, pretzels in BIG-ass tubs, twenty-four packs of fruit-roll ups, you name it. The prices work out quite well when you do the math. We put a few of these items in the cart and proceeded to the toothpaste aisle. Toothpaste comes out to a little over a dollar a tube if you buy the twelve-pack. We put this in the cart as well. We continued to add things to the cart for another few aisles until we began to get a little confused. It seemed like we were going to get to checkout and have a grand total of four hundred and ninety eight dollars and perhaps we would need not return to Costco again until the following winter, but where were we going to put everything? Finally we came to this blinding realization: we are not Costco people. We have nothing against Costco people in any way. Maybe we will become Costco people at a later date, when we have kids and dogs and need Huggies and Gravy Train and Cheerios in bulk. But for now everything about Costco is overwhelmingly large with options we can't make sense of, and we are just small people in need of the least amount of options possible. We want to be able to leave the store of our own free will. Overwhelmed, we ditched our cart and snuck out, headed for the relative safety of Trader Joe's.

PS. Great news! The good people of Wigs & Plus are reading this blog, I am sure, because the mustachioed Beatle wig head's mustache has been righted.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Paradise Hotel

This morning Ben said, "I wonder what happenned to that couple from the Paradise Hotel."
I said, "What hotel? Huh?"
He said, "You know, Dave and Charla."
I said, "I have no idea what you're talking about."
It turns out he was talking about a bad Fox reality show - no, really, a really bad Fox reality show that was on about two years ago.
He remembered their names, is what I'm trying to say. I thought he was talking about people we actually knew. I watch my share of reality shows, but I can barely remember most of their names while I'm actually watching it.
My husband only likes the really bad reality shows. The more exploitative and embarrasing to mention and poorly-rated, the better. But then when I watch something like, I dunno, Cheaters, he'll say, "I can't believe you're watching that."
Sometime I'll have to write about Cheaters, because that is up there with BAD reality shows of all time.


In our house, we talk about it kind of a lot.
Sometimes there are songs.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Wigs and Plus

Pretty much it is what it says it is. It's Wigs, and also Plus. Located on Milwaukee at the intersection of Ashland and Division, it's my favorite store I've never bought anything in. That's really the name of it, Wigs and Plus. There are a number of wig stores in the area. I guess it's the uncelebrated wig district. Wigs and Plus is more like a wig store meets the dollar store. And oh I do love my dollar stores. Anyway, there are numerous wigs in a rainbow of colors for women in the window, but my favorite at the moment is a lone toupee at the bottom, a sort of very very sad-looking Beatle style, in brown, with a matching moustache. But for weeks now, the moustache has been drooping on one side. And poor Beatle is sitting right next to a very perky, Baby-Spiceish blond pigtailed wig, and so I can't help but feel his pain, is all I'm saying.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Marriage Again

This is what it was yesterday. Eating Pop Rocks with your spouse and opening your mouths to show them the sizzle, for entertainment.

Wells Tower

I know, you’re like, Michael Jackson, Charles and Camilla, Martha Stewart, who?
Wells Tower has a story called Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, which is this insane and hilarious and really beautiful story about sensitive huns. It has some gory parts, but you just have to deal with it.

Martha Stewart

I know it’s all about spin, but I just like her better now that she’s an ex-con. I want her “life-affirming” experience to be real, and for her to be my new best friend and tell me what it was like on the inside and how she really means it when she says she’s going to campaign for prison reform.

Charles and Camilla

I’m not particularly interested in royals at all, in fact I wonder what the big whoop is. But I do see why this romance is a little bit interesting. It’s complicated. As many have pointed out, it’s partly because Camilla is older, not glamorous in any way, and because this romance has lasted over some thirty years or whatever and two marriages. I wish I could go rah rah Camilla, you go girl, rock it with the bonny prince, because for sure she’s not a trophy wife. But I can’t get around the fact that these people both cheated on their spouses – I wonder what marriage could really mean to them now, if it didn’t mean faithfulness and commitment the first time? Do they know they blew it the first time? Anyway, royal or not, you can’t take anyone seriously after the tampon thing. I wouldn’t go to this wedding either, if I were the Queen. If someone said something like that to me, even my Ben, which he wouldn’t, but if he did, I’d be like, Ok, gross, I still love you but I need some time to recover from that.

Michael Jackson

I really have nothing to say about this. But if I did, it would be to say that I saw him in person once and my only thought was, “What is that Michael Jackson impersonator doing here?”

Friday, March 04, 2005

Races That Are Amazing

I have been an ardent fan of Amazing Race for a while now and part of what I enjoy about watching is thinking about how Ben and I could do some of the challenges, which challenges are better choices (for non-viewers, the game is about traveling the globe in a big "amazing" race, and usually in each episode you have two or three challenges which you have a choice about, and they each have advantages and disadvantages, e.g., trying to get a llama to move twenty feet or carrying a thirty pound basket 2/3 of a mile) - anyway, I seem to have convinced Ben that we could get on the show and at the very least not be the first team to be eliminated (we already have a strategy, but obviously I can't tell you what it is!). Of course, if you have ever traveled with me, you know that the traveling part of the traveling is very not enjoyable for me; on a trip to Las Vegas last fall for a conference, we got stranded in Phoenix for six hours, and I was so unhappy that when Ben and I played hangman, he had only filled in one A before he guessed my phrase, "I'M SO SAD." Also, one can easily surmise that there is a decided lack of sleep in this game, which is something else I'm very not good at. I enjoy the sleep. Why, you must wonder, would I want to do this? Isn't it obvious? Because it's Amazing! You get to go all around the world and do stuff like slide down mountains and herd llamas! That's awesome! So, to try to finish the story, I went online to investigate and it turns out that the next Amazing Race is not for pairs but for a family of four, so after having gained my ever-energetic and game stepmother Lois (the conversation: Me: Do you want to go on the Amazing Race with me and Ben? Lois [enthusiastically]: Yes! What's the Amazing Race? Me: It's a TV show! Lois: Oh, The Amazing Race! Yes! For sure!), we are currently recruiting one more member of the family and are hoping Ben's brother Fritz will represent for his side.

Confusing People is Super-arty.

I just wanted to see that in bold letters. I have unintentionally been super-arty in naming my blog and not explaining, but now I will commit to leaving it to you to decipher.
Plus also I need to mention that Hutchie is an amazing actress, if anyone is planning a trip to Kalamazoo you should go see her in Parallel Lives. She kicks thespian butt.

Reason # 11

He signs emails like this:

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Sickeningly Sweet Moment of the Day: Turn Back Now or Stand Forewarned

The other day my husband said, "We should run for cutest couple in Chicago."
I said, "Who else is running?"
He said, "No one."
So I said, "Well, then we'd be sure to win."
He said, "Right." He proposed that we make an actual campaign and put up flyers and send announcements to the papers and stuff.
I said "That sounds like art."
"Yes," he said.
I'm pretty sure we're not gonna do it though. At least not until we decide what it means.
Plus if anyone's gonna draw a mustache on my picture, it's gonna be me. There was a giant billboard in our neighborhood recently of the girl from Alias (or what I like to call, The Show About Wigs). If I had to guess, I'd say her mug was about 15' by 15', and of course we don't have a billboard budget, but I thought, well, I know famous people don't mind being on billboards and some of them less than don't mind, but me, I don't know, it seems like if I had to see my big giant 15x15 mug hovering over Ashland Avenue every day I'd flat out have to be taken away for inpatient psychiatric care. I got all Kafka just thinking about it. So probably nix on the flyers, is all I'm saying.
Anyway, I tried to warn you.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Yes, Bjork

I meant to put in a whole aside about Bjork, because it seemed to be less about Bjork as a Star Without Makeup than it was about Bjork as a Star Losing Their Shit In The Airport Because Someone Said Hello. It just wasn't really in keeping with the integrity of the show. But I am sure that Fox will see the error of their ways and air a separate show called Stars Whuppin' On Paparazzi any time now.