Monthly Archives: May 2010

the neighborhood

One of my favorite things about living in a city is awesome neighbors.  One time, while walking home from the L, I saw a guy dressed as a gorilla chasing a guy dressed as a banana down the sidewalk.  Another time a guy rode his bike past me and did a somersault while riding, thanks to the roll bar that went over the top.

Those are just random characters that seem to hang out around the periphery of my neighborhood… but today I’m going to focus on the folks on my street.

First, there’s these guys:

These are the Yoga Jerks.  Now, when I moved in, I was excited to live above a yoga studio… if you’re going to live above a business, it might as well be one into meditation and quiet, right?  Well, last year they changed hands and now they are a Yoga and Movement Studio.  To them, yoga includes gonging so loud that my entire apt vibrates.  It’s really distracting, whether I’m trying to make a phone call, work on the computer, or heck, even just trying to watch Battlestar Galactica in peace and quiet.  To add to my fun, they also do something called Zumba on Saturday mornings.  It involves really loud dance music, a heavy bass track, stomping, and yelling.  Which is not a fun way to wake up… especially if you, say, perhaps imbibed a bit too much the night before and your head is pounding in the same rhythm as their feet.  I keep meaning to write them a polite note asking them to keep it down… but I keep forgetting.  Sometimes, on Saturdays, I find an online polka radio station, put my speakers on the floor, and turn the bass up… just for kicks.  I feel like it’s the mature way to handle things

Some new, seemingly much more awesome neighbors have moved across the street.  They are a bakery and the other day, I came home to my whole street smelling like this:

If this is how my summer is going to go…. I might be in trouble.   And to make things more awesome, I got a notice in the mail the other day that this particular business has applied for a liquor license.  What kind of bakery needs a liquor license, you ask?  The best kind, I say.

Finally (for tonight), there’s the cowboy.  Now, this guy isn’t a real cowboy (I’m pretty sure… he doesn’t seem nearly muscle-y enough).  But he lives on my street (I’m almost positive) and no matter what the weather, he’s always wearing the same thing: Black cowboy boots, black jeans, black button-down shirt, black canvas jacket, black cowboy hat, and GIANT silver belt buckle.  He looks kind of like this:

Okay, not exactly.  He doesn’t wear spurs.  And I think his hat is bigger.  I was so excited to find myself on the bus with him during my evening commute (and sadly, without my camera phone), and shocked to find out that he’s actually pretty cute (he’s considerably taller than me, and did I mention wears a big hat?  It’s been hard to get a good look all subtle-like).  He also appeared quite charming as he talked to his seat-mate.    I wonder, are they really the same clothes, or does he have a closet full of black jeans and black button-down shirts?   Also, do you think he would want to be my friend?  Maybe I’ll run into him at the bakery/bar and ask him…

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Garlic Mustard and the Great Outdoors

Garlic mustard… Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?  I wouldn’t know… but I did spend the whole day pulling it off my family’s property today.

First, a little explanation:  I know this may come as a shock, because I seem so sophisticated, but I was not born and bred in Chicago.  I’m a transplant from the relatively rural Midwest.  Home-schooled until high school, my siblings and I took care of a menagerie of various animals… sort of like a 4H explosion… chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, a couple of sheep, some pigs, and a pair of goats (who had a couple sets of kids).  Did I forget anything?  Dogs and cats.  There were always dogs and cats.

My parents, grandma, sister, brother-in-law, and niece live in two houses on the property, which is mostly wooded over at this point.  Because of tax credits the state gives conservation areas, we are in the process of clearing out invasive species, pruning apple trees, planting native prairie plants, restoring the pond and creek, etc etc…

So, I have lots of friends who are born and bred city-folk and they can usually be bribed to do things by offering them free beer and food.  In an effort to get some free workers, my family’s been offering free food, beer, and homemade cookies in exchange for hard labor.

Today, we cleared garlic mustard.  Luckily, this is a pretty distinctive plant, because when you’re standing in the woods, surrounded by green things, attempting to pull a very specific kind of green thing, things can get a little confusing.  We spread out, hefty bags in gloved hands, ducking under tree branches, and clambering over fallen bushes, feet getting wet and muddy.

And tramping around in the hidden parts of the family land, listening to the creek gurgle beneath me and birds sing above me… I am home.  No matter where I move in the world and how completely I move my life into the City…. this is home.  And I am 10 years old again, making homes out of bushes, using cast-off dishes, wading in the creek in my bare feet, writing 10-year-old girl poetry in my notebook.  I am Laura Ingalls, Anne Shirley, Susan Pevensie, and Jay Berry Lee.  I am high up in a tree, sitting under the bushes, hiding from the world with my dreams…

I am not grown-up there.  It’s awesome.

Fancy Pants

It might be time to rethink my professional wardrobe.

It’s really laid back at my office – as long as I’m not going to a meeting or sitting in on an audit or something, I wear jeans, sneakers, a t-shirt, and maybe a cardigan (you know, to dress it up a little).  If I’m feeling particularly professional on a non-meeting day, I might throw on a shirt with buttons (it’s likely to be from 1979, but whatever).

So the other day, I had a function related to my former graduate program to attend directly after work, so I wore my dress clothes (what most people would consider “business casual”) to work.  On a Friday, no less.  There were comments.  A LOT of comments.  All of them involved speculation on what I was doing after work.

Because it’s inconceivable that I would dress in anything other than jeans and sneakers for my actual job.

Sigh.  I gotta get some more grown-up clothes.

I will behave in a responsible and professional manner

Last night was a fancy fundraiser for my work.  I had volunteered to sell drink tickets for the bar (hey, I was promised free food, free wine, and a ride home.  As you will learn in the weeks to come… I’ll do a lot for a free meal), so I got all gussied up (which, for me, means I put on a dress and heels), slapped a smile on my face, and prepared to schmooze with the mucky mucks.

It wasn’t too bad.  I can schmooze as long as I’m selling something.  Because then it doesn’t feel so fake to me… we both know I’m trying to get you to spend money and get drunk (and thus spend even more money), so there’s no pretense on either side.  I like the honesty.

The meal was tasty, and I’m always extremely friendly to the wait staff (my low-ish cut dress probably didn’t hurt, either), so I get hors d’oeuvres when they make the first round of the room.  The wine was flowing (and I even knew when to cut myself off, which I believe is the sign of maturity I’ve been waiting for).  The music was great, and because I was working a table, I wasn’t forced to mingle with anyone.  And, I successfully restrained myself from overtly flirting with the only men in the room who weren’t with a date, and weren’t 20 years older than me (that would be the men working at the event – wait staff and the photographer). 

See, one time, a looooong time ago, several jobs ago, I may or may not have picked up someone working at our staff appreciation day.  He was kind of cute, he was a masseuse, and (most importantly) he seemed to be kind of into me.  At the end of the day, I asked him for his number and he gave it to me.  Then he started talking about my aura.  And he told me his very unusual name was “self-taken”.  Around then’s when I realized I had picked up some new-age weirdo… and ended the brief (30 minutes or so?) encounter with an awkward hug, a sort-of promise to call… and tried to put the incident out of my head.  Unfortunately, my coworker, supervisor, program director, and various other people knew about this… and still won’t let me forget about it. 

So now I behave at work events.  Even when some of them have really cute boys working there.  It has nothing to do with my tongue-tied-ness, or the tendency to blush in a horrific manner when I get nervous.  Nope.  Just me, bein’ professional.

Lessons I’ve learned from cutting my own hair…

1.  Never, under any circumstances, even if my hairdresser says that’s how I should do it, should I cut my bangs in a straight line first, and then snip the ends to shape them.  Especially if I’m not exactly known for my ability to cut in straight lines.

2.  If I do not follow rule one, I should be prepared to bobby-pin my bangs back for up to 3 weeks, depending on badly I’ve screwed them up.

3.  I should never trim my bangs after I’ve had even one drop of alcohol.

4.  I should never “just snip this section here” 30 seconds before I need to out the door to catch the bus.

5.  I should not wait so long that I have to cut any significant length off.

6.  I should spread the trimming out over several days so I can”t screw it up too badly all at once.

7.  If I’ve taken to wearing hats to work in order to keep my hair out of my eyes, I’ve probably waited too long to trim them and likely now require professional assistance.