Wednesday, January 30, 2008

my train delay made CNN

But I'm thinking it's only because an officer on call captured the crash on his squad-car video camera.

Ole boy was lucky he got out in time. It was a pretty fiery crash. And I would have been on that Metra train if I had gotten to the station three minutes earlier.

Again, thank God nobody got hurt.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

not my lucky night

Last night it looked like I was going to get out of work earlier. I packed up my stuff at 5 pm and ran for the bus, hoping to get to the train station in time to hop onto the 5:26. I missed it by two minutes.

The next train was the 5:49, so I waited around with my Sudoku and got on when the train pulled into the station at about 5:38. The guy who sat next to me had a crunchy leather coat that made a lot of noise every time he moved. I started reading my book.

At about 5:55, the train stopped, which is odd for an express train that usually doesn't make its first stop for about thirty minutes. The loudspeaker announced there was an accident up ahead and that they had no other information. Everyone grumbled a little, but for the most part we figured it'd just be a few minutes, like when there are track issues.

After six, a woman in our car called someone she knew who was on that 5:26 train. It seemed the train hit a car and the car was on fire. The lady in our car was speaking very loudly to relay the news to everyone sitting nearby.

At 6:30 the loudspeaker came on and essentially announced what we heard from our fellow passenger, adding that not only did the car get hit by the incoming train, but it was pushed into the path of the outbound train and hit again before it caught on fire. The fire department was putting out the blaze and we couldn't proceed until the police released the track. Leather Jacket told his wife on the phone that he was "effing annoyed" and was turning his newspaper pages in a huff.

At 7 pm, I decided to take a nap. But Leather Jacket was shifting around a lot. Noisily. I thought to myself, Self, this guy seems like he's a nicotine addict in need of a smoke.

At 7:30, I realized that there was a draft coming from my window (emergency exit) and wrapped myself in my hat and scarf. Leather jacket took out some gum and started chewing it in frustration. He started to relax. I'm willing to bet it was the nicotine kind.

At 8 pm, both Leather Jacket and I were leaning forward, snoozing into our hands. So were some other people. It was as though we were in a disaster drill or something.

At 8:30, the announcer said no one was hurt in the accident and that we might be moving soon. However, because we were on the center track, we would not be able to let anyone off earlier than the original scheduled stops. All of the people who were frantically trying to arrange pickups at various stops groaned.

At 8:45, we started moving. Then we stopped. More groans. Leather Jacket was on his third piece of gum and in a jolly mood. He began to tell me that the last time a train he was on hit somebody, the person didn't make it and that the transit authority actually let people off during the cleanup. He said police were walking around, covering things up here and there. It took me a second to process that. He was three hours late to work that morning.

At 9 pm, I got to my stop. A full two hours and forty minutes later than I was supposed to have reached my destination. I had spent more than three hours sitting in the same position. Fortunately, the buses were all lined up and waiting for us, so I still had a way home.

So the first night in more than a week that I had a chance to get home at a decent time, a drunken 72-year-old gets stuck in my homeward path. I'm happy he was pulled from the car before the trains hit, but it sure did throw off my evening.

Monday, January 28, 2008

"lazy" Sunday

This weekend was all about lying around and doing NOTHING. Except somehow I got a lot done.

I woke up at 2:30 pm on Saturday afternoon, watched television and finished knitting a scarf. Then I ate and talked on the phone. That's it. And it was soooooo good.

Sunday, however, I got up at the bootycrack of dawn (which I consider 7 am for a Sunday) and drove to the city for breakfast with cc. It was bizarre to be up and about so early, and the place was a little like a ghost town. After a lovely brunch in her old 'hood, we walked around shocked that the cute little shops weren't going to be open till NOON. We hadn't really made plans, so we checked out the theater listings and weren't impressed. And we were already caffeinated from breakfast—the coffeeshop was sort of out of the question. So we did what any bored twenty-something does on a Sunday.* We hit The Crack House.

Let me clarify: I refer to Jo Ann Fabrics (or any craft store) as "The Crack House." Mostly because I get a rush out of going there and acquiring items that are probably not good for me. Like boxes and boxes of choice cuts, gadgets, pattern envelopes, balls of yarn, loose sheets of pretty paper and a whole mess of other stuff that will likely get crumpled in my closet for decades to come. And with every trip, I suddenly find my pockets empty and my home bursting with heaps of craftery. It's nothing like the tragedy of an actual crack habit, but it's an addiction nonetheless.

Those of you who pay attention to my Twitter have seen that the keyboard-length chain of neon Post-Its is no substitute for a Rolodex, but I hate the options out there, so I'm attempting to make my own. And I'm being picky about it, because I have to refer to it about seven trillion times a day. I was telling cc about this quest and she offered to help, which was excellent because somehow I always find what I'm looking for when she's around.

So we spent the day roaming the aisles of The Crack House, Target, and were even considering the dollar store to find elements I thought I'll need to cobble together what I'm envisioning. We found them, (as well as a cable needle and gauge thingy I really didn't need). Now all I have to do is get cracking on it and hope for the best. Cc got a lot of her stuff done, too, and we returned to her place satisfied.

But the day was still young! So we watched Roll Bounce, then got sucked into Take The Lead. I've said before that I will sit through any movie with good dancing or good driving, no matter how terrible the acting/plot, and it's so much more fun to see them with likeminded people. (And that way I don't end up "owing" anyone for making him sit through a gem like Center Stage.)

It was a good day. Busier than I had anticipated, but a very good day.

*I am aware that this only applies to me.

Friday, January 25, 2008

this week

I will have worked a total of 60.5 deadline-pressured hours (not including commute). There was one day when my door-to-door time was 17 hours.

I know that's not a lot to some of you insane workslaves, but I am so incredibly pooped that I can't think straight.

All I want to do is curl up on the couch with my knitting and watch Roll, Bounce.

Monday, January 21, 2008

an unlikely playlist

The musical tastes of  H and I rarely overlap. He likes Rancid and Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers. I like Julieta Venegas and A Tribe Called Quest. But as it is with anybody you spend millions of hours getting to know, songs that normally would have made you turn the dial start sounding really good to you—partly because it's not just a song anymore, but a reminder of the person and the good times you've had together.

The other day I heard a Weezer song on the radio, and I was immediately transported to the Conejo Grade in the passenger seat of H's red car, dreading getting to the airport. It's always an impressive view from that 2-mile slope, and especially so for a Midwesterner whose closest thing to a local "mountain" is a little higher than a speedbump. And it's amazing how the first few lines of the song so clearly brought back the dry, dusty brownness of the mountains, the breeze through the windows and that feeling of cruising down the hill as though it was a rollercoaster with brakes. All that from one song. 

So I typed it into and got a stream of other tunes I'd heard in H's car. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Ok Go, Green Day. All of it reminds me of him. I've been listening to it all day and feeling a little better about the fact that it's going to be another month before I see that grade and that man again.

Unfortunately, the music does nothing to satisfy the taste I have right now for an In N Out burger.

Friday, January 18, 2008

one less thing to worry about

So Illinois finally passed the bill that saved my commute. I'm greatly relieved about still having a way to get to work, but I'm anticipating the punch in the face I'll get from the Real Estate Transfer tax hike later this year. Part of the drama leading up to this "doomsday" scenario was that the proposal (which included bumping up the real estate tax in Chicago and the sales tax in the city and collar counties). But at the last minute the Governor said he wouldn't sign it unless senior ride for free.

Don't get me wrong, I love seniors; crotchety as some of them are, most are pretty darn cute. But in the coming years, there are going to be a whole lot of them as more Baby Boomers tire of the 9-to-5. What's going to happen then? How high will the taxes/cost of public transportation jump to make sure all of that is still covered? It's already so expensive to try and live "green," am I going to have to start walking the 72 miles every day? Wait, will I even be able to DO that in a day?

And what about Social Security? I've been paying into the system; am I even going to have anything to lean on later? Oh crap, am I going to have nothing to live on in my twilight years because I didn't set up my 401k until three years into my first job and haven't contributed much since then? And what about when the country goes into a Depression? Waiting-for-Reports jobs are already starting to shrivel up (hell, I practically had four different jobs in a single year).

Oh my God, I should be taking night classes in electronics or iPhones to have some kind of backup plan! What if my kids won't take care of me when I'm old because they're in jail or something? What if I don't even get any kids? What if I never get married and end up living in some ashram somewhere with only one tattered sari because I'm the social outcast that Bollywood and the Auntie Patrol have insinuated I will become if I don't hurry up and make a family before the expiration date stamped on my ass?

And here I thought my worries were over.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

how the mortgage crisis saved my morning

After several days of poor rest, I knocked out last night and had some of the best sleep in weeks. It was so good, I can't even describe it properly. And this morning, when I jumped out of bed to hit the snooze five times, it was more of a sprightly hop than the usual half-dead stomp. Getting ready, I even flirted with the idea of humming. In the MORNING!

I knew it was going to be a bad day. Because when I wake up in a good mood, something always goes wrong.

The thing about this bad-mood crap is that calling it out doesn't seem to keep it from showing up. I got on the train, hoping to hold on to my peaceful state as long as I could. What a joke. My train nemesis came and sat down behind me, in all her throat-clearing glory. I've learned to recognize her woven-out-of-seatbelts bag (which I normally would think was cool, but I can't bring myself to compliment it), and avoid sitting near her if I can. I don't know what it is, but those noises she makes just freaking blacken my chicken. And my cold, cold heart.

I was sitting there, fuming, trying to read about this psychedelic-plant researcher, but all I could think was When is she going to do it? Is she going to do it now? How about now? It's been a couple of minutes. AH, there it is. Is she going to do it again? It was driving me crazy.

But then the guy in front of me recognized someone on the train and started having a spirited discussion about the mortgage crisis. They drowned out most of the throat clearing. I realize that normal people are more annoyed about loud conversations than can't-be-helped bodily functions, but I felt a sense of relief. Perhaps my day can be salvaged, after all.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

out of the vault

Four years ago I got out of a relationship and got stuck in a dungeon. From there I started a blog, spouting out feelings thick as molasses until they were dripping from the ceiling like stalactites. It was miserable. Nobody knew about it but cc (God bless her, she actually read some of those posts all the way through). I have to say, though, letting it all out helped me get past it. And when all those sticky feelings started cramping my style, I got rid of that blog and started this one.

For awhile now, I've been lurking on, a place where some talented people have shared their writing. Basically you send in your stuff and Stacy and The Panel will post it if they like it. From its "About" page:

Absolutely ANYONE can submit - bloggers, writers, non-bloggers, non-writers, anonymous submitters and stick figures - but we are working together to raise the bar substantially.


in order to grow as writers, to learn from each other, to have pride in our work, we need to try hard and challenge ourselves.


Anonymous submissions are now being accepted and are welcomed.

What a novel idea! "Anyone" applies to me, so I dusted off a post from that long-deleted old blog—a longish recap I wrote while retracing my steps to figure out where things had gone wrong—and sent it in. "Anyone" can also apply to all of you. I happen to see a lot of great writing on the blogs I visit, and it'd be cool if more people got to read it.

Check it out sometime.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

someone tell the boogeyman to leave me alone

Last night I fell asleep on the couch at 11, transferred to my bedroom at 11:45 and flew out of bed at 3 am as though my footie pajamas were on fire because even though the clock said 3:07, my brain read it as 8:07 and I thought I had way overslept, missed the only bus I can get (which is probably going to be canceled anyway) and wouldn't make it to a Very Important work day.

As I calmed myself down and lay down again, I realized that this is the fifth or sixth in a series of bad dreams that have shaken me awake in the last few weeks, including one where I was in an underwater knife fight with some broad with long red hair that was flowing around so much that I couldn't see well enough to get a good shot at her.

That's not the half of it. I know the last thing anyone wants to read about is somebody else's messed up nightmares, but mine run like feature-length black and white movies. Maybe one day I'll sit down and write about that time when I was this badass cop named Keshia who could actually pull off the running-roll-onto-the-floor-while-shooting move and caught the badguys or that other time when I was a 56-year-old white man contemplating suicide because I had shot my Throw-Mama-From-the-Train (I think it was that same actress, too) mother and the feds were coming for me. But those are stories for another time.

For today, I am TIRED. Normally I sleep like a brick—it practically takes a wrecking ball to dislodge me from bed, and with a few solid hits, at that. Waking up multiple times a night with nobody to blame that doesn't live inside my head makes having to actually wake up so much more agonizing when I realize it's the real deal.

So I'm going to need this to stop. Like now. 

Saturday, January 12, 2008

if i never see spurting blood again, it'll be too soon

My brother's 937 miles away and on his way to the emergency room. Again.

After so many re-routing of blood vessels throughout his young life, the venous pressures in his body are all out of whack. You know, how most of our heart chambers pump with the right amount of pressure so that there isn't extra blood backing up in any one place? His are still a little off. So sometimes, if he's been standing too long or taking too hot of a shower or if the wind blows the wrong way or if the cable goes out, a vein in his left leg will spontaneously burst, spurting blood everywhere. And I don't use the word "spurt" lightly. When he calmly called to say he was going to the ER, he said his roommate, Mark, was fascinated by the blood. "He's never seen it come out like that before."

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time it's happened. In fact it's the latest of several. But every time is just as scary. This is what I wrote on July 12, 2006:

at about 9 a.m. tuesday, my brother (who is home on college break but taking summer classes) was screaming for me to help him. a vein near his left shin had burst and he'd soaked through an entire towel before he could wrangle a bandage on there tight enough to hold it back. of course i was in so deep an exhaustion that i didn't even hear him. finally he limped into my room to tell me to make sure the blood and bleach were completely washed out of the bathtub and went to class...

...after i got to work, i tried calling my mother to ask about the family, and got no answer. however, she called me shortly thereafter from the emergency room, where she had to rush my brother after she got home from work. it seems when she went to check his bandage, the blood started gushing out -- this is actually what she said, as she showed me her pinkie finger to demonstrate the thickness of the stream-- "like a watergun" and she was unable to stop it. my mother is a nurse.

Most people his age are worried about what club they're going to at this time on a Saturday night. Life is just so unfair.

Friday, January 11, 2008

i guess i still sound seventeen. but so does she.

11:06 am, on my work voicemail:

"Boy, you have a very nice voice on the voicemail! Your mother must have taught you how to speak so well. Please give me a call and have a pleasant morning. Bye, I love you."

11:22 am, on the phone:

"So you liked my message, huh?"

"It was very clear. You didn't even stumble or say 'um' at all. And it sounded very sweet."

"You do realize that I have the same voice as you, right?"

"Only it's forty years younger."

"Um,  you were 28 when you had me."

"Whatever, old is old."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

who says it's too late to talk about presents?

I'll be honest, I'm on the fence about wrapping paper. On one hand, it's pretty for a minute, then breeds in big bunches on the floor. But when it's done right, wrapping paper can make something really gorgeous, and the anticipation of opening it can be as nice as the gift itself.

Can you have the pretty without all the throwing away*? Perhaps.

I got this for Christmas, from
H's sister:

A lovely shade of green, too.

A handmade (!) wreath

And it came with these:

Handcrafted ornaments


They were addressed to both H and I, so the gifts are nestling comfortably at the top of my closet until we get around to living in the same state. But because she wrapped the lid and the box separately, I didn't have to tear the paper--I can still enjoy looking at the pretty box when I'm struggling to choose an outfit, and I'll never forget what's inside so it won't accidentally get crushed. The box may not last forever, but it'll keep things nice and safe for a good while.

I was inspired. Why not wrap more gifts this way? It'd save paper and your handiwork could live on for a little bit longer. So this Sunday, I'll be bringing a lid-and-box-wrapped-separately gift to the holiday brunch with my girls from college. ANY OF YOU ANGELS READING, PLEASE AVERT YOUR EYES. I even included a cheesy tag; it's a secret white elephant gift exchange, so we're not supposed to reveal who brought what and I wouldn't want someone to start ripping and defeat the whole purpose. Thankfully, this is a group of people with whom I have been my most ridiculous, so I'm betting they wouldn't mock me to my face.

Whether somebody enjoys the box or not, I feel better about it. Now I just hope the gift is not the one that gets rejected and passed around like a hot potato. Maybe I'll just focus more on the mimosas instead.

* You can definitely have the pretty without all the throwing away when you make the wrapping part of the gift, like putting it in an awesome duffel bag, like the one I got from cc.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

suddenly, $22 a day for parking seems attractive

So the State of Illinois can't/won't pay for mass transit. They're supposed to vote about it today, but the systems (buses and trains in Chicago as well as the suburbs) have already announced what the hatchet of cutbacks will come down if they don't get the aid.

As is, I stand outside in my neighborhood at to catch a 7 am bus to take me to the Metra train station in suburbia, which takes me to Union Station, where I wait for another bus (when it's cold) that gets me nearer to the office. When it's not terrible, I'll make the 25-minute walk. 

After the cuts, the bus from my subdivision to the station as well as Union Station to my office area will be gone. That means I either have to wake up (and make others get out of bed) at the crack of dawn to get a ride and walk the rest. I'll have to leave later, too, so someone will be able to pick me up when I finally get home. So my door-to-door time will go from 10 hours to something closer to 13. 

This is the kind of stuff that kills the buzz I had over being a non-car commuter.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

seven months late to get up to speed

Last night I reached into the mailbox and found a postcard from Egypt sent by pp. She had visited there LAST SPRING and apparently sent it then, but there was no postmark to cancel the stamp. Maybe that's why it took an entire season for it to arrive--even if a little battered from the trip--at my door. And as usual, it made me smile.

She had written a pretty detailed message; something about being tempted to trade our friend the Kind Dentist for a camel, but holding out for a better offer; pp's definitely not one of those "Wish you were here!" card senders. In fact, I was going through a huge accordion file of cards and letters I've saved over the years recently and came across some real gems from over the years. Laughing about the card that came better late than never, I realized it'd been several months since I'd hung out with pp and nearly as long since we'd had a nice long chat. So I grabbed my phone.

The best part about longtime friends is that you can go months or years of not being in close touch and pick up as though little or no time has elapsed. The conversation will no doubt include phrases like, "you know how I am," or "some things just never change" and it's so warm and comforting to be reminded why you thought the other person was so dang cool in the first place. Then of course you kick yourself for letting so much time go by.

Pp is in much better touch with our girls from college than I am, and gave me the nitty-gritty lowdown. This is very valuable because we're all getting together for brunch next sunday and I haven't seen most of them in a few years. Some have gotten married, some divorced, some have more kids, new careers, new homes and all kinds of good stuff.  And it's a good thing I got the rundown, too, because there are some once-very-prominent fixtures in the group who have slid into the He Who Must Not Be Named category. The last thing I'm craving for dessert is my own foot. Thanks, pp

Monday, January 07, 2008

late to the party (fashionably?)

Happy New Year and almost one week, people!

I don't usually do recaps at the start of a calendar year; I save them for when the blog hits a milestone. So far they've been a regurgitation of things I've already said, partially digested and snippety, yet somehow still extremely long. But now that I'm past 500 posts (shit, when did that happen?) and there are four of you out there paying attention, I feel like something needs to be said. So for the next one, I'm promising to do a *real* recap. Maybe. Lucky for me, I have until March to figure out what that means, exactly.

I know, that wasn't much to say when something needed to be said. So my promise to you today is daily posting for a bit. Normally this isn't too unusual, but I've really been slacking for no good reason at all. This week I will make up for lost time: My colleagues are leaving me all alone to hold down the fort/put out fires/organize filing systems/photocopy the side of my face/create contracts/establish protocol for the coming months/listen to and dance around to my heart's content for the week while they tend to East Coast clients.

I wasn't too keen on staying behind while they racked up frequent flyer miles that I certainly could have put toward a free ticket to visit H, but I'm over it. Last night, Kaiya and I were catching up over Sizzling Rice Soup and Beef Noodles in the town where we grew up and talking about passion. Not the stuff of daytime soaps and new relationships, but the fuzzy, contagious kind that makes everyone around you feel better about being alive and able. You know the people who have it: they really care about something enough to make other people care about it, too. And not only that, they make people want to go out and do something about it, whether it's saving orangutans, eating lentils, planting trees or wearing UGG boots.

On top of that, this morning I was catching up on's Broadsheet posts and spent 18 minutes watching a speech given By Isabelle Allende at a conference for intelligent forward-thinkers, coincidentally called "Tales of Passion."

I was so inspired by Allende's phraseology, humor, charm, delivery and innate passion for other people's passions, that it made me want to throw off the comforter every morning with the intent to do something truly good. I know this post has a lot of links, but if you can only click on one and make some time to watch it, make it this one. [via]

I hope there's stuff we can all be passionate about in 2008. You know, besides daytime soaps, new relationships (where applicable). Oh, and cookies.