Archive for the ‘absorbing’ Category

Father's Day.

June 22, 2015

“Use that sunroof as much as you can,” he said, glancing skyward as the car silently shifted gears up the hill of the frontage road ahead. “Once we get near the city, you won’t have a view like this.”

It was just after 9:30 the night of the summer soldtice — Barnaby Bright, the longest day and shortest night — and the sky had barely darkened, but kernels of bright white stars were bursting in the sky one by one. By the time we hit Route 80, wisps of cobalt cotton-candy clouds shrouded our view of that astral popcorn, but even with a partial view, I knew he was right: Only thoughts of stars appear in the Chicago sky.

He took a deep breath as we made our way to the highway, making a memory of the day through wine-worn nostrils. Taking in humidity and tall grass, livestock and distant smokestacks. “That smell reminds me of my first car, of my childhood…it doesn’t always smell like shit.”

 

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Taylor Cotter, you are stupid.

July 10, 2012

Submitted, for your consideration: A Struggle of Not Struggling.

(Prepare to resist the urge to scream and break things.)

It’s one of those articles where you see the headline and realize you’re walking right into the biggest train wreck you’ve seen all day.
And I see a lot of train wrecks. I actually love train wrecks. (Sometimes I’m one of ’em.)

It begins:

Like most female journalists, I assume, I only grew up with two real inspirations in my life: Carrie Bradshaw and Harriet the Spy.

…………

Oh, dear. This will go well.

She, like me, had plans a career in New York City, living the life we see on television. I think a lot of girls, especially ones who grow up in smaller towns and the Midwest, dream of this.

But she goes on to lament her choice to throw these dreams away when the harsh reality of the recession set in; she passed up the glamorously broke life and her impending mid-life crisis in lieu of practicality.

Now, two months after graduation, I seem to be one of just a handful of people that’s been able to get themselves on their feet, pay their own bills and actually put together some semblance of an adult life with minimal parental assistance. I bought a car, found an apartment and set up a 401k, just six months after turning 22. I came down on the “right” side of every statistic — I found a job in my field that actually pays well, I’m living on my own, and seem to have everything that these other college graduates are dying to have.

Girl, I do not like you.

She’s actually disappointed that she didn’t get to struggle on shitty freelance work and a crappy apartment shared with 17 roommates in Bed-Stuy.  “I chose the path of a full-time job and an adult life,” she sobs. Like she can never go back now that she’s shackled herself to upward mobility. Oh, woe is me.

Taylor, I can’t wait until your boss realizes he hired an idiot — probably after reading this comment — and has to wrestle with some pretty tough decisions himself. Although they won’t be that tough, because these things actually are reversible. You can lose everything in a heartbeat.

The number of people I know who “did everything right,” just like you did, and still can’t get work — not even the 10-cents-a-word kind — seems to go up every 47 seconds or so. Or, worse, they had great jobs and lost them.
And all those people have every right to hate you, because you are an asshole.

You are really dumb.
For real.

(You should go hang out with this dope for a minute. I’m sure you’ll get all kinds of content ideas.)

I’ll look forward to your follow-up column about getting everything you ever wanted because you lost that cushy job, can no longer pay for your car and have to look to your parents for way more than minimal assistance.

If this is Taylor Cotter’s idea of a springboard into a successful career as an edgy, of-the-moment female voice, I hope she gets one hell of a wake-up call from the Internet hive mind.

Shame on Taylor Cotter for thinking it’s even remotely okay to write smug swill like this, and shame on the Huffington Post for encouraging her while, at the same time, knowing it was going to spark a firestorm of viral criticism and make them more money.

And, I guess, shame on me for perpetuating it even further. Sometimes I’m just embarrassed to be…seemingly way, way too much like her. And I have to put it out there.
Ugh.

Oh, tro-o-o-o-o-ll?

Front page.

April 24, 2012

So, let me just get this out of the way:
OH MY GOD YOU GUYS I’M ON THE COVER OF USA TODAY.

No, really.
My picture (taken by Brett Roseman) is just below the USA Today logo, front and center, above the fold.
I am writer Hadley Malcolm’s lead source in a story called “The cost of financial illiteracy.

The story is about my generation — the Millennials — struggling with money. You know, basically.

First: For reasons that are beyond me, I’ve been on USA Today’s “shopper panel” e-mail list for years. (Jayne O’Donnell, one of the paper’s other reporters, and I are besties.) When I got an e-mail seeking sources for this story, I actually contacted the writer and suggested they interview my sister. In part because she’s more responsible and has her shit approximately 472 percent more together than me. But unable to leave things well enough alone, I signed off and added, “For what it’s worth, I am 28 and still have no idea how to manage my money.”

So she interviewed both of us.

And I’m the only one who ended up in the story, probably because I was desperate to entertain her and gave her everything she was looking for to illustrate her point that my generation is a bunch of spoiled, entitled idiots with irresponsible spending habits and no capacity for fiscal responsibility.

I spent almost an hour on the phone with her from my hotel in San Antonio, just after my second week back in a full-time job, talking about my upbringing, my work history, my moves from city to city, my hopes, my dreams, my desire to have better financial security, my efforts to learn more about budgeting and personal finance.

And in the end, we get this: Paige Worthy is a stupid yuppie. Look at her in that handmade scarf, on her iPad, looking up a recipe while she shops at a hip European grocery store. Check out this flake! She’s had six jobs in as many years, and now this idiot’s about to go off on her own again as a freelancer! Now…let’s go to our experts to find out what a disaster everyone else in her generation is.

I mean, I’m paraphrasing.
I’m a journalist. I GET IT. Ultimately, many reporters use their sources to illustrate the point they always knew they wanted to arrive at. I’m not mad at you, Hadley! My picture’s on the front page of one of the most widely read newspapers in the country. Thousands of people are waking up in hotels everywhere with me juuuuust outside their doors.

But damn. As a personal blogger, I’m even more cognizant today of the luxury that comes with telling my own story day to day.

So.

I won’t argue with most of Hadley’s story.

Yes, I do believe we’re mostly screwed as a generation. We’re inheriting a country that’s positively gone to shit in almost every way. It’s hard to find work, and when we do find work, many of us are being paid so much less than we deserve that it’s practically laughable.

And despite this, many of us continue to rack up debt by spending beyond our means, taking trips, going to restaurants, and so on and so on.

But there’s a lot more going on than just some irresponsible kids that would rather play Angry Birds than learn about being fiscally responsible. A LOT.

I like to live well. I buy my cat’s food at Whole Foods. (It’s $3.99 per bag.) I enjoy a good meal from time to time. And — DEAR GOD — I have an iPad. (It was a Christmas gift, for the record.)

But really, I’m one of the lucky ones. My family taught me, from a very young age, not to take things for granted. I’ve had a savings account from the moment I was born; I have an IRA now that I contribute to regularly; I pay my taxes on time; I can count the number of times I’ve overdrawn my bank account on one hand.
I went to a state college and majored in a subject that, at the time, I knew would translate into a career after graduating. I’ve been employed constantly, if not consistently, since I left school.
I never fell for the credit card scams in the student union. Who wants one of those oversized, crappy T-shirts anyway?
I’m not in debt, from student loans or otherwise. I never have been and, barring any catastrophic future life events, I don’t intend to be.

Why yes, I am patting myself on the back. Everyone who can claim as much should pat themselves on the back, because it’s hard to do these things in a financial climate like this.
And yes, I’m defending myself. Because I’m pretty offended to see my generation constantly carpet-bombed with blanket criticisms about our attention spans, our work ethic, our financial shortcomings.

My problem is, as always, with the hayseed commenters who think they have all the answers. Blaming “me” for the ills of society. Calling “me” worthless and stupid. Thinking a single photograph of a girl on a staged photo shoot in Chicago really says something compelling about an entire generation of young people still trying to figure things out in a pretty messed-up world.
Sorry, guys. It’s not that easy, and it’s not that simple.

I, personally, am in a pretty good place — and I’m getting better.
I gave my two weeks’ notice yesterday at a job that wasn’t fulfilling me, and I’m not sorry for that. I’m going back to freelancing and all the good and bad that comes with that.

Financially, I’m keeping track of my business expenses, paying my quarterly self-employment tax estimates, establishing a budget for the first time in my 29 years on this Earth. (Whether I stick to it is another thing, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, right?)

My efforts to improve are the part of my story that she left out. And really, that’s completely fine. Because the story wasn’t about me — it just started with me.
What’s your story?

Grappling.

April 16, 2012

I read this article yesterday while I was at brunch.
(Ha-ha, white girl on the North Side of Chicago out to brunch, reading about Trayvon Martin. GET OVER IT.)

And I got to thinking: America’s kind of an awful place.
I’m so disheartened sometimes that I don’t even know what to say.

 The 911 calls began at least eight years ago, with Mr. Zimmerman reporting on a range of non-emergencies, including the existence of potholes or someone driving slowly through the neighborhood. By late 2011, his calls were often about black youths and men, with complaints about suspicious activity or just loitering.

By the time he went on neighborhood watch patrol with his 9-millimeter pistol and spied Trayvon Martin, Mr. Zimmerman saw not a teenager with candy, but a collection of preconceptions: the black as burglar, the black as drug addict, the black “up to no good.” And he was determined not to let this one get away.

As recently as a few years ago, this case probably would not have been noticed outside Florida, which has a long and bloody history of sacrificing black lives without consequence. The country is right to focus on this case and to look for ways to prevent it from happening again.

People who are seeking to affix blame for this tragic death do need to bear one thing in mind. Gun laws that allowed a community watch volunteer to run around armed are, of course, partly responsible. But Trayvon Martin was killed by a very old idea that will likely take generations and an enormous cultural transformation to dislodge.

My family had season tickets to Kansas City Chiefs games when I was a kid. My most vivid memories of those games have nothing to do with Arrowhead Stadium; they’re of crossing Troost Avenue on 63rd Street in my grandparents’ Mercedes-Benz and watching my grandparents’ hands fly to the automatic-lock buttons. They’re of counting the number of tree-shaped air fresheners hanging from passing cars’ rearview mirrors.

Troost was our arbitrary dividing line between Kansas City’s racial no-man’s land and what I’m sure we so lovingly referred to at some point as “the ghetto.” (Which is hilarious in that completely horrifying, not-funny-at-all way now, because I don’t think I’ve come within miles of the real ghetto in Kansas City, if it even exists.)

We passed through, hopped on the highway and made our way to Arrowhead’s parking lot, locked safely behind the parking attendant’s stations, where we tailgated and then watched the game wrapped in blankets, cheering for our team and doing the tomahawk chop.

What do these memories say about me?
Have these experiences shaped who I am?

Maybe in some way.
But how?
I read articles like the one from the Times’ Sunday Review today, and I’m ashamed because I know the author is speaking directly to people like me. I’m not racist — never. ever. EVER. — but I know I hang on to some prejudices that will be tough to shake off.

Am I part of the problem?

I didn’t hear about Trayvon Martin until days after he was shot. I read about it on Twitter and didn’t understand why it was such a big deal; I was busy being enraged about yet another fat white man in Congress trying to take away all women’s hard-fought reproductive rights. Then I read more about it. Then, it was another few days before I saw anything about it on television. Finally, a month and a half after he was shot, George Zimmerman — who’s a year younger than me, who owns a gun and thinks he can play policeman, judge, jury and God himself — was charged with second-degree murder and taken into custody.
A MONTH AND A HALF LATER.

What does that say?
Really. If the situation had been reversed — if Trayvon Martin had shot George Zimmerman or anyone else, for that matter — he would’ve been locked up in the blink of an eye. I’m sure of it.

How…
What.
I don’t know. I don’t know anything.

I don’t know whether Martin was shot out of racist hatred or singled out by Zimmerman’s prejudices and caught in the crossfire of self-defense.
I don’t know what happened in Sanford that night. Until they release all those 911 tapes, the autopsy report and call every possible witness from both sides, no one will know exactly what happened except for George Zimmerman.
Even then, it’ll be a neighborhood watchman’s word against a dead hoodie-wearing black boy’s.
Does it really matter whether it was racism or prejudice that led to this kid’s death? Because he’s still dead.

I picture the outcome of this case being utter horseshit. Nothing good can come of this. This will not be a “teachable moment.”
Sometimes I think we’re beyond teaching. Like it will never, ever get better. And that makes me want to throw things. Or curl up in a ball and cry.
Neither would make me feel better, I’m guessing. And logic has obviously worn out its welcome.

If you’re reading about the Trayvon Martin case, trying to make sense of anything at all in this ridiculous media circus, do yourself a favor: Don’t read the comments. Ever.
Whether you’re reading a blog entry or an article on Fox Nation or MSNBC, just do yourself a favor and skip the comments section. Just walk away.
People are horrible and hateful and violent with their words.

Is there a way to start calling people on their racist, ignorant fuckery, beyond posting to our own Facebook feeds and trolling comment sections to lob holier-than-thou word bombs into the ether? Would there be a point beyond making us feel better about ourselves, proving to the Internet we’re above it?

I don’t know. But that’s the kind of “Stand Your Ground” I can get behind.

Spring cleaning.

April 1, 2012

Just before I moved to New York in 2006 — at least a lifetime and a half ago — my mom slipped a big, dark-blue envelope into my carry-on.

I found it after I got to the airport. It was heavy and thick, filled with huge prints of her and my stepdad, my sister’s senior pictures and some photos of us as a family. And a note.

Paige —

Do these things for me:

  • Always remember you are loved
  • Always remember where home is
  • Always remember you can come home anytime — no questions
  • You can call any time, day or night
  • Always remember we are all proud of you

I miss you terribly and adore you beyond your wildest imagination. Enjoy this adventure — don’t forget home and us.

 

I never have. Not for a single second.

 

I’m doing some spring cleaning today: not just shuffling things around but actually throwing them out. I found her envelope today in a box of things I plan to throw out. Five and a half years after she wrote it, I smile to think that I don’t need that note to know what it says is true.

Get the foods like Jagger! Be the first to try Nellcôte.

February 23, 2012

The Rolling Stones recorded most of Exile on Main Street in a villa in the south of France called Nellcôte.

The original Nellcote

Cocaine and vomit at the first Nellcote…

Crazy shit went down at Nellcôte. It’s rumored that Nazis occupied it and tortured locals in the basement. Apparently, while the Stones were recording Exile, there was a pretty wild house party there one night. (John Lennon puked all over the floor and blamed it on the Methadone.) There were…drugs.

Hell, I don’t know where I’m going with this. I can’t talk about this kind of lifestyle. My idea of a great night is a Redbox rental and deep-dish delivery. With my cat.

But for those who can hang, there’s a new Nellcôte coming closer to home — and the Chicago version will skip the cocaine-and-vomit excess for a more classic version of luxury and opulence.

Interior of Nellcote

Much nicer at the West Loop Nellcote.

Created by Element Hospitality Group, which is also behind Chicago’s Old Town Social and RM Champagne Salon, with a menu created by Executive Chef Jared Van Camp, this West Loop night spot is going to be so…damn…rock ‘n’ roll. Here’s what their publicist told me:

The concept is meant to capture this particular cultural zeitgeist, where the young Rolling Stones partied and dined in Villa Nellcôte with the who’s who of early 70s Bohemia—a veritable checklist of rock ‘n’ royalty including artists, style icons, deviants, socialites and creative misfits.

(Veritably. I’m convinced pretty much everywhere in Chicago is too cool for me.)

And I got invited to preview it, before anyone else in the city, on Tuesday night, Feb. 28.

A first look at the white marble, wrought-iron gates, crystal chandeliers and Parisian herringbone wood floors!
Tray-passed previews of Van Camp’s “obsessively house made” menu items!
Hosted specialty cocktails!
WINE!

And then…my heart broke into tiny rock ‘n’ roll pieces. Because I realized I’ll be out of town. In San Antonio. For work.
Man. Some timing I’ve got with this full-time job nonsense!

Van Camp has his own FLOUR MILL, for God’s sake!
Sigh. But you — you can go. Because in addition to my invitation, I was also offered some tickets to give to people I love. (That’s you!)
I’ve got three pairs of tickets burning a hole in my pocket, and I want you to be my proxy at this amazing shindig. If I can’t be there myself, I want as many people I know there to tell me all about it when I get home.

So, wanna go get your rocks off? (Ew.)

Just three things to be eligible — and seriously, you’ve got a pretty good chance, because not many people read this dumb blog:

  1. Make sure you’re free on Tuesday night, for God’s sake. If I pick you and then you flake out, I will be angry.
  2. Leave a comment here with the Stones lyric (from any album) that best describes your feelings about this event.
  3. Tweet this to your adoring followers (or post it to Facebook and tag me): “Call me the tumblin’ dice! I wanna be @paigeworthy‘s proxy for @nellcote833’s VIP preview party! You can enter too: http://bit.ly/pw-nellcote”

 

Do this before Saturday night. I’ll choose a winner randomly on Sunday morning from deep in the Heart of Texas — and if you’re one of the lucky few, I’ll get your and your guest’s names on the list at the door on Tuesday night.

Best of luck, and may the good Lord shine a light on you.

 

Chandeliers

Crystal chandeliers. Get after it.

Nose in a book.

August 26, 2011

For the past three months, off and on, I’ve been reading a beautiful cloth-bound, hardcover copy of Jane Eyre. I’ve only recently recommitted myself to reading every day; when I was working in a 9-to-5, the drudgery of words on a screen, the teasing blink of a cursor, and the dizzying lines of black serif-tailed text on a white-paper background made the idea of writing for myself or opening a book completely unattractive.

No more words.

But now I spend days bathed in natural light, dimmed by coffee shop blinds or filtered through the trees beyond my living-room windows. And even on those rarest of days where I can discipline myself to work a full eight hours — it’s happened once since I lost my job, by the way — I can take breaks to rest my eyes.

So it seemed silly to me that the stacks of books in my apartment staring me, spines in tact, down should keep collecting dust. I read every night now, before bed, which reminds me of being 12 and reading in my childhood bed with dusty-mauve sheets so old and loved that they were actually wearing in the spots where my body spent so many nights.

 

I adore Jane Eyre; I’d attempted it before but was always tripped up by the cumbersome language. Now, if anything, it’s just the punctuation that gets at me; single quotes are where we use double quotes in modern language, and vice versa, and there are so many colons nested throughout a single sentence that takes up three lines that it can be hard to keep up with exactly what the original thought was.

But I love how Mr. Rochester called Jane “Janet” in his most ardent moments, and the way that made me think anachronistically of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I love Jane’s impudence and careless way with words, love the way the characters talk to one another, love Jane’s I have trouble visualizing it as a movie; in my mind, the characters are more a collection of words and ideas, sometimes taking the shape of humans but mostly just swirls in my head, than they are actual people.

And I have trouble understanding where the story could possibly go now that she’s left Thornfield. I still have 75 pages before the end, and while my heart hopes for the 1990s-romantic-comedy happy ending of a reunion between Jane and Rochester, I can’t say whether that’s plausible or would even really be satisfying.

But I’ll have to wait until I’m back from Portland to find out.

 

The 600-page beast of a book was a weight and bulk my carry-on couldn’t accommodate, so I opted for paperbacks as I packed last night for my trip to Portland. I’m always filled with dread when choosing a new book to read — my reluctance to start Jane Eyre again after I finished The Ha-Ha was almost physical. I ended up choosing two: I Was Told There’d Be Cake, a book of essays by Sloane Crosby, who I aspire to be; and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, a book of essays by David Foster Wallace, who terrifies me.

I had an ambitious bout of book buying sometime earlier this year, where I tracked down copies of The Anatomy of Criticism and this David Foster Wallace book, thinking owning them might somehow make me smarter by osmosis. Anatomy of Criticism sits in my top bedside-table drawer like an anxious brick in the pit of my stomach; I haven’t even opened it. The pages are tissue-thin and the words impossibly small, and it’s still two inches thick. The terror.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, however, sat staring at me from the top of my little desk, stacked among my AP Stylebook and Chicago Manual of Style, a paper dictionary and thesaurus, and a dog-eared copy of Olive Kitteridge on loan from my grandmother. This particular copy was published in 1998, a full 10 years before Foster Wallace killed himself; the short biography says he lives (present tense) in Bloomington, Illinois, accompanied by a photo of a strong, confident man in a black shirt with long hair tied back.

I am not terribly literary. I do not follow authors’ careers or celebrate entire collections of their writing. I should, as a writer myself — I should have role models and geniuses of the written word whose styles I hold up as an influence, and be able to quote passages or favorite characters from famous works — but I don’t.

All I know of David Foster Wallace, in fact, is that he killed himself. That and the fact that he wrote Infinite Jest, a book I will never read. (It’s right up there with Ulysses. Just forget it.)

 

But I started A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again this morning on the plane, slightly fearful of cracking the spine but somehow just shy of smug in a cabin full of pocket-size mass-market paperbacks, and I loved David Foster Wallace.

There is heart and humanity in his words that I didn’t expect. The first essay, 23 pages long, is about math and tennis, but somehow comes around to discussing his “initiation into true adult sadness,” around 13 or 14 years old, in the midst of talk of angles and wind shears and how his Zen-like acquiescence to the harsh elements of central Illinois made him a superior junior player.

Halfway through that first essay, I wanted to get a notepad out to take down the words and terms I didn’t understand. Instead, I kept reading; the words are important but not as much as the feeling behind them. I want to get to know him through his writing. If that’s even possible — did he hold back? I don’t know why he killed himself; I don’t know whether there was a suicide note that beautifully explained it all. Looking back at his work, do people know David Foster Wallace was doomed?

After 23 pages, I understand already what a tragedy it is that he’ll never write another word now. But I’ll celebrate him for the next 330 pages and absorb whatever I can.

Link parade!

June 10, 2011

Oh, hello.

First of all, I…

Okay, no, wait.
FIRST of all, thank you all so much for reading my post yesterday. I’m pretty sure that besides the breastfeeding fiasco of 2010, yesterday’s post got the most hits I’ve ever had in a single day.
The comments and other feedback I got on that post really made me want to keep writing at a time I’m otherwise finding it difficult even to get out of bed.
So.
Thanks.

Second of all, I guess, I read this just now: a New York Times blog featuring a letter from a Father in Florida talking about all his regrets about having children.
I won’t read the comments because I know people will judge him. So hard.

His honesty is so heartbreaking.
I know I want to be a parent at some point. When I finished Gilmore Girls and finally stopped crying, I started watching Parenthood for my Lauren Graham fix, and it shows all the sides of parenting that Father in Florida hasn’t seen yet. (Maybe he never will.)
They say you know when you’re ready to have kids, that the idea of childbirth won’t make you break into hives and you just…know. So I guess this nagging fear that I’ll never do anything I dream of doing — like drive a semi cross-country for a year then write a book about it (the big truck stops have shower-credit vending machines, for God’s sake) — means I’m not ready yet.
Besides the fact that, you know, I can barely keep a houseplant alive and I start crying when my cat bounces off the walls. And that I haven’t had a relationship last more than two years.

That’s all. You should read that blog.

Here’s an awkward segue:
I happened to catch that blog link randomly from my Twitter. I’m so busy at work now and so caught up in my own life that the only things I do end up reading are links I click when I happen to glance at my timeline and see something underlined. Sometimes it’s a cat Tumblr. Sometimes it’s a really inappropriate video. And sometimes it’s actually not something I wanted to read at all.
What I’m saying is I know I have a lot of friends who blog. And a lot of them are coming to this site, reading the pieces I spend hours writing and maybe even leaving comments. I am essentially ignoring all their hard work — and missing out on an important part of their lives — and I hate it.

So this is a call to action (!!!) post.
I unsubscribed from all the cooking blogs I wasn’t using the recipes from (I just eat Thai takeout and pizza anyway), got rid of the gardening blogs from my past professional life (see above re: killing houseplants) and nixed the interior decorating blogs. Because despite not being ready for a child, I am nesting like you wouldn’t believe, and seeing sofas I can’t afford day after day just makes me want to do.
So I am updating my Google Reader. If you blog, please leave a link in the comments.

If you think I’m already reading your blog…chances are it’s been way too long, and I could use a reminder. I know a lot of really talented people and want to keep up.
I need coattails to ride.

Anyway, I love you all and hope you’ll help me out with some of this legwork.
And if you link here, maybe other people will see it, too?

"You are the butter to my bread and the breath to my life."

August 9, 2009

My day yesterday? Yoga at 9, personal training (kill me) at noon. A sweaty walk downtown made no more bearable by the homeless man who sauntered up to me and started to sing and dance while I was on the phone with my grandmother. A surprise Twitter-follower stalk at a coffee shop near my apartment. (His reaction: “Why else would you post your location if you didn’t want to be found?” Touché!) A quick visit — and half an Oberon — with a bartender friend down the street; a white port cocktail, with sparkling soda and fresh berries, at a favorite Bucktown haunt.

By the way? I drink alone; I dine alone; I see movies alone. Especially after my solitary year and a half in Manhattan, I’ll do anything by myself and, as long as I don’t dwell on it too much, still love my life. Try it. Being alone and feeling pathetic is so mid-’90s.

All yesterday’s errands and short run-ins preceded the main event: drinks, dinner and a movie with the man I will now offensively refer to as my Gay Boyfriend.
We met last year, just before my 25th birthday and the weirdest summer ever, on the bus. After seeing each other on the same excruciating commute for months.Now, we terrorize our fellow travelers, laughing at clueless suburban Cubs fans and singing impromptu arias about the CTA.
We saw Julie & Julia.
Which, I guess, is why I’m writing this in the first place.
Only took me 400 words to get to it…I am going to need the best editor ever when I finally write this book. Now accepting applications.
I went in knowing I would want to kidnap Meryl Streep and keep her forever, even more than before; short snippets of her as Julia Child — all hoot and height and foodlust — had me sold on the movie.
When I was in high school, my choir director used to imitate Child’s voice when he was working us on vowel shapes. Myyyyy name is Juuuuuuulia Chiaahhhhhhhld. Iiiiii sing with rouuuuuund souuuuuuunds.
I knew I’d love it even before I even found out that the other half of the movie was about a girl in New York who kept a year-long blog. About preparing everything in Julia Child’s first cookbook. In the end (spoiler alert?), she gets a book deal — and, you know, a movie made about her — but not until after she becomes self-absorbed and obsessed with her “readers”, and nearly loses her husband. Who was, himself, not without flaws. But still.
The movie touched on my biggest dreams. Getting seized by that feeling of purpose. Becoming known. Getting published. Eating all the time. Discovering contentment is possible despite several borderline neuroses and a dead-end job, despite living in a terrible apartment over a pizzeria in Queens. That kind of thing.
But it hit on some of my biggest fears, too. Namely: losing the feeling of purpose after experiencing it once, alienating the people I love in pursuit of a goal, working myself into a frenzy only to get “nothing” from it in the end. Gaining weight. My mother reading my blog and hanging on its every word. That kind of thing.
It wasn’t one of those “make you think” movies, but the movie really made me think. The idea of finishing something you’ve started, no matter how long it takes and no matter how small the payoff could be, has stuck with me.
My inspiration is re-re-renewed. I will write this book of mine. I don’t have the nicely wrapped, cute-idea-and-menacing-deadline package working for me, but I’ve already lived my story. And a lot of it is already written down. In some form, it’s all there. Now it’s just a matter of readying it for public consumption. And changing the names. (Good lord. I’ve made that mistake once.) And convincing someone to set it on paper in a nice typeface. And picking a title.
Oh, look. There’s the cart, all ready to go before the horses have even left the stable.

As the credits rolled, I turned to Gay Boyfriend and said, “Wow. That was magical.”
I don’t understand why people would pay money to see people orphaned or dismembered when they could stand up, stretch and leave the theatre thinking better of the world than when they sat down.
Julie & Julia was a wonderfully sweet movie with all my favorite elements: food, romance and devotion, the hanging-in-balance of Hollywood happy ending and real life just working out, in the way that it so often does. At least…I believe it does.

Four-eyed ghost.

June 10, 2009

28957Third Eye Blind released their first album just before I finished middle school. That summer, I met the boy who can be best described — in silly, clichéd terms, anyway — as my high school sweetheart. We were best friends, I guess, who held hands in the hallway and dropped notes through the slats in each other’s lockers, for three months at a time. Three times. And listened to music and watched Billy Madison about 473 times regardless of our relationship status.

Semi-Charmed Life” was (and still is) my favorite song from that Third Eye Blind album. (“Jumper” is a close second, if you must know.) But I could not, for the life of me, get the words right to one particular part of the song. I was convinced the line was, “the four-eyed ghost can make me cry.” When really, the lyrics actually make sense: “The four right chords can make me cry.”
And for the same reasons I’ll never forget the word that knocked me out of the district spelling bee in seventh grade (diffraction), those lyrics have stuck with me.

Of course, the line is true for me, too; music can reduce me to tears on any old day. Music is practically a religion to me. The way some people talk about God? That’s how I feel about music, especially lyrics.
The slow, sweet piano that floats into the end of Sufjan Stevens’ Michigan album. The haunting electric guitar riff throughout Guster’s “Demons.” The intro to Frightened Rabbit’s “Old Old Fashioned.”
I can also associate almost any song with a person or a memory, which makes the tears even easier. The song doesn’t have to be sad; I just cry sometimes. (Men love that. Try it.)

tumblr_mc53itajBw1r6citqo1_500But today, as I drank in the week’s first sunshine just beyond my cubicle hell, my iPod shuffled to a Death Cab for Cutie song that’s always struck me lyrically but never gotten to me as it did today.
“Diamond and a Tether” is written from the perspective of a guy who just can’t commit, singing to the woman he’s about to crush. “Pity. Take pity on me,” he says. “‘Cause I’m not half the man that I should be.”
Just before the last time through the chorus, there are these two chords. And they’re nowhere else in the song but at this moment.
Wrapped in these two chords? Heartbreak — his and hers. Faces falling. Her desperation and pleading eyes. His resignation and the instinctual twitch just to walk away, before the tears come.
The crumbling of her last bit of hope that maybe, just maybe, she could change him.

God, it caught me.
I rewound. Played it again.
And again.
And again.
My throat tightened with each replay until the chords delivered their final blow. My iced coffee was half empty before I sighed and walked back inside, blinking back tears from behind my Jackie O sunglasses.
The coffee would have been half full at any other moment. The tears just come sometimes.

Despite the semi-charmed life I find I’m living lately, the four right chords can still make me cry.