Sunday, June 19, 2005

Hi, My Name is... Slacker?

Uh oh, feeling bad about not posting in a while. Hmmm, Sunday night ain't no time for this though. Oh well. Go read www.thebrillance.com for something to do. [Taylor]

Friday, June 17, 2005

Connections...?

One of Meg's dearest friends is getting married this weekend. Meg has phoned me twice to say that she's worried because the bride is entirely clam and unsually nice. In fact, she hasn't shown the slightest symptoms of bride-zilla. None. Strange, I know.

I've been part of the supporting cast in several weddings and about half the time the bride has behaved herself or been downright nice. This has me wondering if there is a direct correlation between the way women behave as brides and the sucess rate of their marriages. Hmm...

On another note, I'm off to pick up the world's ugliest bridesmaid dress this evening. Trust me, I know we all say this, but I seriously look like a puff-a-lump in this dress. And the thought of having women flutter about my ankles with needles and pins trying to convince me that I look lovely makes me physically ill.[Halle]

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Roughing it!

Trying to organize a fairly major trip with someone who lives in a country where access to the internet requires a long and often unreliable bus ride and cell phone coverage is spotty at best has been especially challenging. Add to that challenge the fact that my brother's monthly income is something around US$200. Getting in touch with him and locating a ticket that he could afford was proving nearly impossible. That is, until this morning! I just scored 2 tickets on Alitalia via www.expedia.co.uk from Warsaw to Istanbul for a measly 97 Quid, yeah! I'm pretty excited!

The only issue is that our flight arrives at mid-night. My budget brother suggested hanging out at the airport until we can check into a hostel to save a few precious coins. I told him I thought it'd be much cooler to sleep on a park bench somewhere in the city--after all, I'll need something exciting to blog about, right? I thought it was a great idea until I remembered that I also thought it would be cool to pick up a hitchhiker outside Eugene, OR. The hitchhiker was cool until he stunk-up our car and we discovered that he talked incessantly. The worst part was, when he got in he asked us where we were going and when my brother told him we were headed to Sacramento, CA, he responded, "Great! I've always wanted to check out Sac-Town." I'm booking a hostel for the night. My brother can take the bench.[Halle]

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Black Hole of Chicago

I thought I'd take this moment to explain exactly how Chicago works, especially for the newcomers to this city. While some may think Chicago is simply a rather large city, like any other, it is actually something of a natural phenomenon. A city that appears normal at first glance but secretely holds the power to suck anyone in who stays longer than six months, or three months if those months happen to be summer. The Black Hole power is especially strong June-August.

Very rarely does anyone (my parents are the exception) say "I want to live in Chicago forever." Most of us claim we will only be here a year or two as a stop on our journey to bigger and better places, where the weather stays between 50 degrees and 80 degrees longer than 4 days a year. Three longer years ago I too made this claim that I would only be here for one year, two years max. And now here I am. I have many friends (some in denial like Halle) who have uttered these same words only to look around 2, 5, 7 years later still here. My boss is actually one of those people, from New York City, the capital of all snobby, East Coast, "I'm better than you" places and she moved here well over a decade ago and just bought a house with her husband, a die hard Midwestern. She still claims to be a New Yorker but to anyone who knows her, she's pretty Chicago at heart.

So to anyone who's ever uttered the stereotypical "only for a year or two" sentence about Chicago, my message is simply that Chicago has a power of its own. One that's indescribable, and resistant to all forces. Why else would so many people from across the country remain here for years at a time? A city where there are no mountains, oceans or any seriously beautiful outdoor scenic locales for MILES. A city where the spring and fall are approximately one week long each. Not to mention the sweating all summer and freezing all winter. But there's just something about this place. Even those who leave, usually end up back. So be careful what you say, never underestimate the power of Chicago. Grad school is never just grad school.

Grace

Like the whole natural blonde incident with my car, I feel the need to share my latest blunder. Isn't there always one?

Last week, the trainer for my running group was asking me if I felt I needed help with my form. I told her that I didn't think I needed help with my form so much as I needed help with a program. Afterall, I'd run cross country in high school, competed in the Junior Olympics and run for a brief spell at an NCAA D-1 school. She didn't say a word, but looked at me like I couldn't be more out of my mind.

Last night, while running on the treadmill, her thoughts regarding my form couldn't have proved more prophetic if she tried. While swinging my arms, I nailed the ring and index fingers on my left hand into the headphone jack on the treadmill. I don't think they're broken, but they're fairly swollen and it hurts like hell to type this. [Halle]

Monday, June 13, 2005

Dear Chicago Ramblings

I helped a friend of a friend move about two weeks ago. While I was helping him move, I realized that this will be the first year since graduating from college some six years ago that I will not be moving. In those short six years, I have moved seven times which included one international move (there and back) and one cross country move. And speaking of cross country moves, though Alison has mentioned the value of driving cross country, it’s not something I recommend doing alone or in two days or with your trunk packed so tightly that you can’t get to your c.d. changer. As grateful as I am not to have to pack up my things and hire another bloody U-Haul, it’s also a bit intimidating to know that I am finally establishing roots of some sort. As someone who moved a lot as a kid, I tend to balk at community and commitment. I suppose what’s more surprising if not altogether alarming is that fact that I’m establishing these roots in a city I once loathed. Yes Chicago, though it’s been a love-hate relationship from the get go, I prefer to say you and I have been more like Harry and Sally. That said, I still don’t have an Illinois license or a proper winter coat and I doubt if I will be phoning my parents anytime soon to say that I’ve decided to build a home here. It is after all just grad school.

As I prepare to attend graduate school this autumn, I’m surprised that I’ve decided to stay in Chicago for two more years. When I first moved here, I was convinced I’d do my time here and bid my farewells for good within two years. Sounds like I was treating it as a prison sentence… In fact, I was initially biding my time and it wasn’t until I opened my mind a bit that I began to build some great friendships and learned to appreciate this great city of ours. At the same time, I’ve learned to appreciate home and realized what I ultimately need when I really do decide to settle—the outdoors, a temperate climate, and family. Like I said, Chicago, it’s just grad school.

Still, I relish the fact that I have a real home and an address I won’t forget in five months. I love that I am getting to know my neighbors and them me. I’ve enjoyed watching the seasons in my neighborhood change and it’s been interesting to witness the gentrification of my community; in the last month alone three houses have been demolished. These three houses were without question in disrepair, but it’s still unfortunate to watch my neighborhood become increasingly less affordable and the architecture more homogeneous.

I am also looking forward to experiencing Chicago as a student. I can’t begin to articulate my excitement toward the GSB and my amazement following the AdCom’s phone call. I should note that in anticipation of their call, I rehearsed my response to be sure that I didn’t say anything stupid. Those who know me well will know that it would not be entirely out of character for me to say something like, “You’ve gotta be kidding me?! Are you sure you have the right person?” Still after the shock wore off and after the desire to share my good fortune with every stranger on the street dissipated, I began to assess the admissions process and prepare for the coming year. The GSB reminds me a lot of the London School of Economics—both universities seem very cosmopolitan, if not slightly geeky and both have a history of producing great leaders and thinkers. As a result, I think I will feel very much at home at the GSB and will naturally learn to appreciate the city further.

Some of my more cynical friends—you know who you are—think I will be staying on after graduation. I am going to learn from the mistakes when I first arrived and try not to think too far ahead where I will be headed come June 2007 and to enjoy the ride. So the same should be said for you dear Chicago. Don’t jump the gun, after all, it’s just graduate school. [Halle]

Friday, June 03, 2005

Caution: Natural Blonde

Yesterday I realized that I should really move to Manhattan, London, Tokyo, or any other locale where driving is entirely unnecessary and in fact not recommended. To all of my friends and passengers who have criticized my driving skills over the years (you know who you are), I finally admit I am a horrible driver. Heck, I think you’re safer on the road with my granny than you are with me, even though Granny’s 96 and has cataracts.

As I was leaving the gym yesterday (no, I’m not trying to compete with Bob the body builder), I was clearly more concerned with taking my i-pod off than I was with driving. Instead of backing out of the parking space, I decided to go forward even though I know that those little cement barriers divide the parking spaces. As my car started to go up over the barricade, I thought, “Why is there a hill here? Strange indeed…” Then, as the bottom of my car literally grinded it’s way over the barricade, I realized what was going on. Kids, it’s not a pretty sound and not something I recommend trying unless you drive a hummer. Wait, kids what are you doing driving?

I panicked. I started to phone a guy friend who, during a crisis that also required a MacGyver-like skill set, told me, “Jews don’t do tools. It’s all you.” Realizing he was the wrong person to phone, I hung up and grabbed two unsuspecting guys on the street. I explained what had happened and told them that I desperately needed their help. They asked me which car was mine and when I told them that I drove a black Jetta, I realized that I was truly living the stereotype. Mom would be so proud! When they asked me if I had AAA, I told them I had more important things to spend my money on, like shoes and handbags. Incidentally, when I relayed this part of the story to my mom, she asked if I wanted AAA for my birthday. Shoes, mom, shoes! They then told me that without AAA, what I needed was five strong men. To which I responded, “No, I think I need a beer, but do you have three friends I can call?”

I ended up just gunning back over the barrier, with their guidance though because we all know that I can’t drive. And as I drove home, I thought about what a horrible driver I am and that all those folks that have been complaining for years were really on to something. I mean I’ve never hit a moving object in my life, but I have been in something like five accidents with stationary objects. In my first accident, which occurred only weeks after getting my license, I took out a mailbox, a stop sign, and a telephone pole in one fell swoop. Though there’s certainly something to be said for being thorough, I can’t say that I was off to a good start or that I ever really improved. [Halle]

[Editor’s note: A slightly used, slightly dented 2001 black Jetta will be coming to a craigslist.com near you.]

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Bodybuilding and the suburbs -- Is there a connection?

Now I'm sincerely hoping that in our mass fan base there does not lie the individual I am writing about but if so I apologize in advance to him all bodybuilding, suburban dwelling men. An individual (let's call him Bob) that I have been cooresponding with used to compete in bodybuilding. Now before you all die laughing, there's more. Bob lives in the suburbs, and enjoys betting on horse races. I have nothing against a good horse race, but not necessarily what I'd call a quality hobby, especially combined with weight lifting. But I digress, the point I'm getting at is how and why does a person get into bodybuilding????? It's a very strange activity to me - it involves staring at yourself while lifting heavy objects. I think it's the excessive staring that really disturbs me. Have you ever been at the gym and watched these guys? The ones who lift one weight and then sit either staring at themselves or the person next to them or some girl, possibly trying to chat him/her up and then after the (apparently necessary) 10-15 minutes left another weight. What may I ask is the point of going to gym for 3 hours only to lift maybe 15 weights?

Just Like David Hasselhoff, I'm HUGE in Europe!

Ok, so though saying, “I’m HUGE in Europe,” may sound like a sorry excuse for a floundering music career state-side, it’s honestly true. And for the record, I have no musical ambitions whatsoever. Especially not after my good friend Meg and fellow member of Tangible Insanity told me I’d be PERFECT for Superstar USA, an American Idol-like spoof to find the truly untalented.

But as for being huge in Europe… My youngest brother is currently living and working in the Ukraine as a Peace Corps volunteer. Though he loves what he’s doing, he hasn’t found the locals to be particularly effusive. As it turns out, the local media got wind of his loneliness and decided to do a story on the local Yank that no one has befriended. Since he was desperate for anyone to talk to, he agreed.

It turns out that the only picture that he had of himself was a picture of the two of us at Wrigley Field. He told the journalist to cut me out (ouch!), but he didn’t. The following day, my brother woke up to a huge color picture of the two of us on the front page--above the fold, mind you—of the L’viv Times, or whatever it’s called over there, with a headline that read, “All Americans Know of the Ukraine is Chicken Kiev”. That same day, about 15 sweaty teenage boys stopped him to ask who the mysterious woman in the picture was. Again, my brother was delighted to have someone to talk to, so he told them it was his sister. In unison, they declared, “We’re in love!” and then asked when I’d be coming. My brother’s Ukrainian is a bit shakey, but he’s fairly certain that I have a large following among the local teenage population. So see, I’m just like David Hasselhoff! And the good news for my budding fan base is that I’ll be arriving in about 45 days! [Halle]

And now a word from...

For my virgin post I thought I'd add a little cynicism (I know big surprise). While I was warmed in my little heart reading the lovely ramblings about Route 66 and the wonderfulness that is Chicago between Enya moments, my crabiness of a tired cloudy Thursday actually made me think nasty, mean thoughts about our city. Like a little statistic I heard at work the other day that Chicago spends more money on landscaping than youth employment. So next time you're out and thinking "damn those young hooligans" (okay you're probably not ever thinking that, that's more like something our parents or grandparents or really rich North Shorers) just remember that our friendly Chicago cares more about those pretty little tulips you see everywhere than the living teenage human beings in this city. And while I could go on for hours about this lovely city's wicked ways of eliminating poor people from the city boundaries through it's clever CHA redevelopment I won't. I feel a little like Mayor Daley's henchmen will find me now and tie me up in a bag and throw me in the back of a mysterious black vehicle. Kind of like how I feel when I badmouth Bush in the presence of anyone. Call my mother if I don't turn up for days.

As a sidenote, I highly encourage anyone to take the entire Route 66 across the country if you ever have a couple weeks with nothing to do. It's a fabulous snapshot of what once was in the Western US. It's full of decaying buildings and random roadstops like the giant blue plastic whale and decorated cadillacs sticking up out of the earth. A word to the wise, cell phones don't work for part of the journey so pre-warn your family since mine didn't speak to me for days when I didn't call to check in. It was the only downside to an otherwise fascinating journey. [alison]