Thursday, August 28, 2008

even if i don't always agree with his thumbs

This is why I love Roger Ebert.

You cannot put a price on loyalty, especially when the chips are down.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

not a dry eye in the treehouse

When last we left our heroes, High Contrast was obsessing about his best-man speech and the bride was losing sleep over the fit of her dress. I was trying to lay down the calm without yelling, because H was asleep. But what did the trick was when I mentioned a phrase from Highcon's speech to Kai about getting ready to bust out her signature laugh during his toast—it broke the tension for her and gave him a taste of her approval. Then everyone could finally go to bed.

is a graphic designer and Lee is an artist, so there was no question that their wedding would be beautiful. They wanted a very intimate celebration that would include all of the people they loved best, so the guest list was a VIP affair (I believe there were only twenty or so people, total, in attendance). It had to be small; the entire thing was going to take place in a treehouse, albeit a very special treehouse. It's the only one of its kind in the state.

As we approached, it didn't take long to see a very Kaiya-like touch to the decor.

When we got to the first landing (where the people are standing in the first photo), there was an assortment of glass vases and jars assembled on a table. In each one was a stem of astilbe in various shades of pink and white, and around the vessels were notes attached with a ribbon, each addressed to a separate guest. We were to take our stems and our notes and gather in the gazebo area of the treehouse, where there was a Brazilian guitarist from Kaiya's samba-dancing days playing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." I adore that song, and the way he played it sounded as beautiful as a harp.

There was something for everyone on this table.

So we followed the ramp and took our places around the railings of the gazebo. There were bouquets and soft tulle draped here and there, but the place really didn't need too much in terms of added decoration. The treehouse is up 12 feet in the air, and it is built around the oak and ash trees that had already been growing in the park. It was really lovely. And with the music and the hushed murmuring, it really did feel like a spiritual place.

The ceiling of the gazebo had plenty of skylights to let the sunshine in.

Everyone was milling around, smiling at each other. H and I were standing behind two little Chinese women who looked so adorable in their floral dresses and hats. And then someone said, "Here they come!" and we watched as the car came into the parking lot, pulled up to the beginning of the ramp and Kaiya and her father came up the "aisle." I got teary, but looking around, I noticed that everyone else was misty, too. Last week when I dropped the gift off at her parents' house, I asked Kai's mom if she was going to cry at the ceremony. "No way!" she had said, "Why would I cry? I'm happy!" But of course she did. And it's rumored that her tough-guy little brother was wiping his eyes, too.

And she was wearing the "Plan A" dress. I knew Lee's mom would save the day.

Kaiya was carrying a single stem exactly like the rest of ours, and when her father presented her to Lee, the bride and groom (who had a stem, too) placed them into an empty vase on a table in the center of the gazebo.

This was the "unity" vase.

She had said she wanted a ceremony that everyone they loved could be an active part of, so at this point, the officiant asked all of us to come and add our respective stems to Kaiya and Lee's in the vase. Then she asked the two mothers to come and tie the whole bunch together and make Kaiya's bouquet. I got tearier.

The moms sealed everyone's blessings together with a bow. Then Kaiya and Lee sealed the deal with a kiss.

I thought the mirror on the tabletop was an awesome touch.

And then there was the food. Kaiya's mom and friends set up a Chinese buffet with shrimp rolls, crab rangoon, barbecue ribs, lettuce wraps, chicken wings, puff pastries with yummy stuff inside, big shrimps, little shrimps, rice, salad, fruits and all kinds of other deliciousness. I am sad I didn't take any photos of the spread, but I was too busy chowing down (I have never been able to resist homemade Chinese food since my childhood babysitter got me hooked on the real deal right from the start).

High Contrast only had a few cherry tomatoes and a piece of lettuce on his plate, and he was fidgeting nonstop. He was clearly still nervous about his toast, and couldn't wait until it was over and done with so he could finally relax. I kept reassuring him that all would be well* and joked that should he falter, he could have his cousin on speakerphone to prompt him (she practically memorized the thing, he had practiced so many times in front of her). He laughed his nervous laugh and kept shifting around. And then he was up.

And these are the *condensed* notes. He didn't really look at them, but they probably offered a sense of security.

Highcon did a great job (of course) giving Lee some tips on what to expect from his lifetime ahead with Kaiya. She asked, "Is this a roast or a toast?" but ended up laughing, just as I'd promised.

We had sparkling grape juice; no alcohol allowed in the park. But Kai's and Lee's look suspiciously bubbly...

After Highcon, Lee's big brother gave a speech that included advice for Kaiya in her future life with Lee. Both of the toasts went together well. We mingled around and caught up, as we don't see each other very often. And then it was time to hit the road. But before we left, Kai wanted to show us a sketch that My Favorite Mami had drawn up about what Kaiya had envisioned for her wedding gown:

Lee's mom did a fabulous job, and it was just what the bride had wanted.

The fitting issue had come from the flowy fabric being stretchy and the ribbon at the bodice being taut; a tricky situation that was probably much trickier when the model was living 135 miles away. I think Lee's mom handled it like a pro.

We said our goodbyes and the happy couple were off to a swanky hotel for a massage and some much-needed rest. They will continue the celebration with a reception next month and a honeymoon in Taiwan next year. But I doubt those will top such a sweet ceremony. As we left, I noticed a mark someone left on a railing in the gazebo:

Not all graffiti is an eyesore.

*I kept telling Highcon to "relax, like I did when I gave Ri and C's wedding toast" two years ago, until H gently reminded me that I was full of crap: I had been a nervous wreck, agonizing about that speech for months (even asking you guys for advice on the blog) and barely slept the night before their wedding. And when I got up in front of all those people to deliver it, I was so nervous that I held the Champagne glass against my side to keep it from violently shaking and spilling all over the place. How soon we forget.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I don't usually talk about work, and I won't go into specifics, but my boss abruptly gave two weeks' notice. I don't know what that's going to mean for the rest of us (especially me) in this four-person-outfit-that-will-become-three, but I'm still a little stunned right now.

So I went on and made this:

Basically you put in your URL and it comes up with a graphic interpretation of the stuff it finds on there.

Apparently, I use the words "going," "just," and "Highcon" quite a bit.

Tomorrow I will have a recap of Kaiya's wedding.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

the night before--multi-tasking

Kaiya is getting married tomorrow. And I have never seen such a calm bride. All summer, despite the hiccups, she'd say everything was going well with a big smile. As of last weekend, she wasn't even sure what flowers she'd have and she was very breezy about the plan in case it rains (the forecast isn't so good, and she's getting married in a treehouse). But tonight, she's starting to crack. Just a teensy bit.

It's 11:52 p.m. I've been coaching Highcon on his best-man speech over the phone all day. Now High Contrast is totally the type to freak out. Royally. He will leave things to the last possible hour, and then squander 55 minutes of that hour hysterically pacing and complaining about how he has no time left and so much pressure. And then in those last five minutes, he will come up with something brilliant and shrug it off as no big deal when he's patted on the back about it. That's just how he rolls. But it's one hell of a rollercoaster if you're along for the ride.

Currently, he is transposing the speech he'd written out, word for word, into outline form so that he doesn't get up there in front of the guests and read from a paper. No, wait--he just accidentally saved over all that word-for-word so now he HAS to write the outline. While he's working, I checked my gmail-chat and see that Kaiya's online. It's a little late for someone who needs her rest for the big day, so I wish her luck and ask how everything is going.

Apparently the dress the mother of her husband-to-be hand made for her doesn't fit quite right. So she's freaking out, saying she had a plan B for everything, but not the dress. And bemoaning the tragedy that it would be if she had to walk down the aisle in anything other than THE dress.

I try and try to calm her down, but after awhile I realize she needs this freak-out release because she's been so very placid this whole time. I'm positive that the dress will fit tomorrow; that Lee's mom wasn't going to have spent all these months making it just to have it not go down the aisle to meet her son.

11:58 a.m: I am simultaneously reassuring Highcon that his speech is both appropriately funny and touching, and that he should watch how many times he uses "You know" instead of "um" (but that's a much better word than "um" anyway), and at the same time gmail-chatting to Kaiya that there is no way in hell she won't have a dress to wear tomorrow for the ceremony.

12:02 a.m.: Kaiya has apparently checked out. I hope she gets some sleep tonight. Highcon is going strong, on his third speech rehearsal. It sounds good. He is still worried about it.

12:36 a.m.: I'm worried about having to get up at the bootycrack of dawn tomorrow to catch a train to southwest suburbia to get my car to drive to northwest suburbia. Yet I continue to talk with Highcon.

1:02 a.m.: Reminiscing about high school with Highcon, how we procrastinated on our Cry, The Beloved Country papers in Essay Writing. Both of us stayed home "sick" to work on them, but spent the entire day on the phone talking about nonsense like '70s Hindi Disco songs and what Strawberry Shortcake albums his sister and I both had. We didn't turn in our papers until two weeks after the deadline (senioritis) and I was so angry because he nonchalantly slipped it into Mrs. Dabrowski's pile while I handed it to her sheepisly in person. But I was vindicated because Mrs. Dabrowski wasn't stupid and we both got the same amount of points knocked off. We're wondering how the heck we passed after pulling that kind of crap and where we found the gall to try a stunt like that in the first place.

1:20 a.m.: REALLY thinking I'm not going to be freshfaced tomorrow. Highcon and I are discussing Obama/Biden and who McCain might choose as Vice President runningmate. Highcon cannot figure out how to set the alarm at his parents' house. I just remembered I forgot to put away the leftovers from dinner.

1:44 a.m.: Can't. Break. Away. From. This. Conversation. It's always been this way with this kid.

1:48 a.m.: Talking about how one of our nicknames for Kaiya is not going to apply anymore, as she's going to change her last name. Sad. What's sadder is that I'm going to be SO TIRED. Perhaps we can get a ride with Ri and C tomorrow? Yes, I really hope so. Because otherwise I am screwed. Highcon is starting to fall asleep. I'm finally able to hang up.

All this counseling, and I'm wired instead of tired. And all the while, H has been sleeping like a baby.

Friday, August 22, 2008

he must have seen the SUCKER sign over my head

I was hustling to work today, late to our weekly status call (normally it's on Thursdays, when I take the train in from suburbia and am in the office early. But without fail, whenever it's rescheduled I am late or miss it.) This is troubling because a major part of my job is managing the flow of information between parties, and there are some questions for the client that only I have details about. Plus it's just bad form.

Of course, I didn't realize today was status until I had already lollygagged around at home, chewing my Crispix while watching the episode of NewsRadio that I fell asleep to last night. So I rushed out and was about 200 yards from the front door to the building when a group of beefy Euro/club looking guys with spiky hair walked past, taking up nearly all of the sidewalk. I flattened myself against the brick walk and squeezed past. But then one of them called to me.

UGH, I wish I had kept going! While I looked at my watch every 30 seconds, the guy pitched me some really *awesome* deal at a shi-shi salon in the Gold Coast, and if I paid for this gift certificate, I'd get two visits of all kinds of luxurious blablablas for a FRACTION of the cost I'd normally pay.

If I were smarter/more alert/not so flustered I would have said Sorry, my mom still cuts my hair (what would he know, it was in a bun) and be on my way. But what did I do instead? Hemmed and hawed until he threw in two for a reduced price of one and wrote a check, thinking Hell, at least I have an excuse for being late to the status meeting.

When I got to work, not only did I look bad for missing the meeting entirely, I looked stupid for giving some random guy money for services at a salon I'd never even heard of. When I got to work I checked, and it's legitimate, but seriously, this is one of the dumbest things I've done in a really long time.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

i've forgotten vocabulary, but the warm feelings remain the same

Studying in Granada, Spain, was one of the greatest adventures of my life.

Unfortunately, when I got home and tried to describe just what it was that made it so amazing, I couldn't find the words. But one thing I couldn't stop talking about in my newly acquired Andalusian accent was The Alhambra. It's what the town is known for all over the world and, in my opinion, it lives up to the hype. (When you live somewhere for nearly half a year, it's hard not to feel a small sense of ownership.) So I'm a little biased.

Basically, way back in the day when the Islamic Moors ruled what is now southern Spain, they built the intricate and elaborate fortress/gardens to serve as their palatial home base. But as Chris Columbus' pals King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella started gaining ground, they attacked and took over—in 1492, of course—and proceeded to build over some of the original work in their own style. The result is an intricate mix of styles at the top of a hill overlooking the city. We went there numerous times during the semester I was there, and I still feel like there was stuff I didn't get to see.

So this year, for my big 3-0, my peeps took me to Alhambra Palace restaurant in Chicago's West Loop. It is HUGE, and the intricate details reminded me a lot of the real thing. Plus there were flamenco performances, and the group's leader called me out and wished me a happy birthday in that accent I hadn't heard in such a long time. I just wish I had enough wits about me to bust out my own accent and thank him properly, but I just smiled and then for some reason I sort of curtsied.

Afterward, we went to a wine bar called The Tasting Room, where I spent the night catching up with friends I haven't seen in a long time instead of sampling vintages. But High Contrast fixed all that, right at the end. But let's start at the beginning:

A poor shot of what you see when you walk into the main dining area of the Alhambra Palace. (There's some sort of bollywoodish music video on the screens.)

The fountain at the foot of the stairs. The blue thing is a mini waterway that follows down the length of the stairs. My non-expert guess is that it's a shout out to the Alhambra's acequias (water conduit technology system the Arabs brought, making a lush garden with fountains like the Generalife at the top of the hill possible).

This guy was tearing it up, heeled shoes and all.

And the ladies (in red) on the floor had some cool costume changes.

Detail of our table; some of the same motifs you see all around in the real Alhambra.

I had chicken and couscous cooked in a tagine. So tender!

H had kebabs. We switched halfway through because I wanted some, too. Also delicious.

Our V.I.P. area at The Tasting room.

I guess it's never too late for shots. These are the three I took to close out the bar.

Just as we were walking out before the bar closed, someone asked me how many drinks I'd had (one glass of red wine) because I didn't look drunk enough. I said, jokingly, "Let's do shots!" Highcon ordered a round, then a second round, and then a third one just for me. As you can see, those are more like double shots, so essentially I had six Lemon Drops in a row. Fortunately for me, my stomach was full of absorbent rice and couscous, and directly after The Tasting Room we went somewhere for a thick, cheesy slice of pizza. And when I got home, H made sure I drank plenty of water and took an Advil. So no hangover!

It was a good day.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

he's already changed my name in his phone to "Bev"

"Hello, this is Duuuaaane at AARP, calling to confirm your registration."

"Har har, brother. You couldn't even say that without a smile in your voice."

"Happy Birthday, old lady."

"Thanks, pal."

"I think you need a new, elderly-ish name to mark your entrance into your twilight years."


"Yeah, something like Ethel. Nah, Ethel's the name of Tony's dog."

"Something like Gertrude?"

"Nah, that's a little too old. If your name is Gertrude, you might as well be dead. Something not too oldish, that still has spunk... I got it! Beverly! Still youthful, but yet—you're old. Yeah, BEVERLY!"

"Ugh, isn't the name of that chipmunk-looking girl on Seventh Heaven that you thought was hot?"

"She was cute when she got older!"

"I cannot believe you're going to call me that."

"Now, Beverly, aging is a part of life. I just want to remind you that shuffleboard starts at 3..."

"Why, I never—"

"And it's Lights Out promptly at 6:30!"

"Shut it. What are you doing today, pretending to go to the office?"

"Nah, I worked the weekend, so I have today and Friday off."

"Lucky! What are you going to do?"

"We're driving to Atlanta to see the Cubs game."

"Sounds fun. Well, if you're drinking, have one for me."

"I'm pretty sure they don't sell prune juice at Turner Field."

"I was talking about ALCOHOL."

"You know, they might have milk, but I'm going to need a microwave."


Today I turn thirty. 

People keep asking how I feel about being the Big 3-0 and kissing my twenties goodbye. I'm at a loss. Most of my friends have been 30 for some time and I've honestly felt 30 for at least the last year or so. And I don't feel like there were xyz things I *needed* to accomplish by today, even smallish-ish feats like jumping out of a plane (which I did with H when he turned 30). Sure, there were things I've said I wanted to do, (and did) but there's nothing I feel the need to do to mark the occasion with fanfare.  

Don't get me wrong, my life is supremely different than how I'd imagined it would be when I was 10, 15 or even 20 years old. I had figured that by 30 I'd be married to a Nice Indian Boy with a couple of kids, living in suburbia, working at a job that "hasn't been invented yet" and serving as scout leader on Tuesday nights. If you had told me that instead I'd:

a) spend seven years living with mommy and daddy after college so I could take exotic vacations and save up to purchase a home 
b) discover my dream place of employment was actually a dungeon 
c) watch the industry I've slaved to be a part of implode so I no longer could afford the house I'd saved for 
d) find myself trying to unload a tiny piece of highrise real estate just in time for the housing market downslide
e) realize that a white guy from southern California understood me far better than any Indian Boy I'd ever met who wasn't gay

I'd never have believed you.

But I'm happy. Last night my mom and I got off work early and we hit the DMV (fastest service EVER!) then went for pedicures, got our eyebrows done and shopped. Today, H and I are going back to their house where I'm sure my parents will serve ice-cream cake, as they have every August 14 that I can remember. And I think my friends have planned something that I'm sure will be awesome this weekend. 

While it would be nice to have a couple kiddies crawling around, I'm pretty satisfied with my life the way it is right now, troubles and all. There are things I really should do, like set up a more solid system to save for retirement and find time for hobbies I love but haven't gotten to in years, like watercolor painting and pretending to breakdance. I'm also hoping to progress beyond the first-grade level of Hindi spelling/grammar at some point, and if we have to take the condo off the market I'll start making masala Indian food more than just once a week when I go back to my parents' house. (Hot sauce is a poor substitute, but it doesn't leave a lingering aroma that could turn off potential buyers.) Oh, and I've always wanted to see Iceland.

That's probably stuff I should put on a list to accomplish before I turn 40. Forty is the new 30, right? Maybe that's when this alleged sense of dread I'm supposed to be feeling will kick in. But if I'm to believe My Favorite Mami, I'll likely start feeling it tomorrow—like a nasty hangover. 

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A wedding in technicolor

Last weekend, H, his family and I attended his cousin's wedding in Carmel, Indiana. I drove the cadizmobile, with H and his sisters along for entertainment. Little did we know that the destination was Pleasantville.

When we pulled into the subdivision/village/whatsit of West Clay and parked the car, it really seemed as though we had arrived in some back-lot movie set. Everything was idyllic in the way it only looks on Wisteria Lane. There was a lush park of green grass in the center with a gazebo, and all around were perfect little houses with perfect white picket fences; everything so gleamingly new (or so it seemed). I kept looking around for the Truman Show-cameras. Even the stores looked like modern-day market streets with perfect signage that all went together like an old-time movie.

The wedding was held at the gazebo; complete with kilted bag-pipe artist. (There was a family playing in the grass, way to the left of this shot, and I swear they were auditioning for a Juicy Juice commercial. Or dog food. I couldn't decide.)

Seriously, though, it was a lovely wedding. The bridal party walked up a long carpet of fluffy grass and the ceremony was sweet (and pretty short; thank goodness, because I could feel my skin cooking in the 90+ degree heat. Times like those I really wish wearing hats was still in fashion).

I should have taken more shots of Pleasantville/Truman Show.

The white building is where the festivities took place. If you look closely at the set of pastel storefronts on the left, you'll see what I mean about it looking like a movie lot—all the shops and restaurants were untarnished and uniform, give or take a paint shade.

But I have to say, the party planners had great taste. I really liked the colors—various greens and white—and while I felt bad for the bridal party having to be out in the heat, (they were wearing all black with different dress cuts), I felt worse for us; at least those guys were in the shade of the gazebo.

After the ceremony, there was a lovely cocktail hour with drinks/appetizers in the courtyard area (where all the people are gathered in the above photo). It was shady in certain areas and the wind was misting us all with the spray of the fountain.

Once inside, we found a lovely green/white/chocolate cake in the center of our table. It was a novel idea to me that dessert would be there to taunt us for the entire time we tried hard not to look at it and guess what kind of cake we had (each table had a different flavor).

Ours was Mint/chocolate. Yum!

The rest of the wedding was great. Dancing, chatting, meeting; you know, all that good stuff. They had a chocolate-covered-pretzel/nut/candy bar that you were supposed to fill bags with whatever you wanted as a takeaway, but you had to move fast, and I was too slow to snag any of the pretzels.

For the sendoff, they had everyone grab two industrial-strength sparklers from a bucket and a matchbook with the couple's names on it and line up along one of the staircases. Surprisingly, everyone pretty much cooperated, and the bride and groom ran for cover through a tunnel of sparkly sparklerness to their car and sped away.

That's them: the groom's on the left. They moved pretty fast. Personally, I'd be worried somebody's AquaNet-ified hair would burst into flames, but everyone managed to escape un-singed.

Of course, the party wasn't really over once the guests of honor flew the coop. This groomsman looked hell-bent on kicking it hard core:

Yep, he's in the fountain. If the rest of the bridal party had joined them with umbrellas, it'd been a pretty sweet homage to Friends.

Sadly, things did start to wind down shortly after that. But one of H's sisters, his dad and myself didn't want to head back so soon, so we closed out the bar on Pleasantville row with some of their extended family. And even after that we didn't feel like going to sleep, so H's sister and I dipped our feet in the hotel pool and talked a lot of smack about H (just kidding). I had a good time.

On the way back to Chicago, I was telling H about the proselytizing billboards I used to see while driving through Indiana back in the day on Interstate 80, and how there weren't that many on I-65. But then we came up on the doozy we had passed on the way in:

Funny, it says "Jesus is Real" when you're going toward Chicago, and if you turn around and look behind you, it says "Hell is Real" on the way into Indiana. Coincidence?

Monday, August 04, 2008

she may not be a techie, but she's pretty adorable

This weekend, H's family came to the Midwest to hang out with us and attend his cousin's wedding in Indianapolis. On Friday night they had a casual dinner with my parents at Famous Dave's

I had met all three of H's sisters and both of his parents several times on my frequent trips to California, and both of my parents had met his dad when we was here on business last year, so I'm pretty sure nobody was nervous about meeting each other, but I think it went well; everyone seemed to be laughing, talking and enjoying themselves—we stayed for two and a half hours and closed out the place, and then had a lovely walking tour of my construction-addled downtown.

One thing I don't think my parents were expecting was just how much H's family already knew about all of us because they read this blog. His peeps initially checked it out to see if this random girl in Illinois was good enough for their only boy, but after three years they're some of my most loyal readers. And their Web savvy comes in handy sometimes, like when my twitter updates revealed we were trapped in the bayou of Alabama for hours in the dark. His parents started researching news updates to find out what the heck happened so we'd know how long we'd be stuck. Unfortunately, Alabama isn't quite as savvy, so there weren't any updates to be had (and oddly, the only news radio station that we could get was WBBM 780, in CHICAGO.)

My mom and dad don't really read the blog. I attribute that to their slower-than-molasses dialup and reluctance to come home and look at a screen. Plus, I talk to them at least once a day, so anything they'd read will already have been old news. But after finding out that other people were in on all the scoop because of it, my mom passed along the address to her tech-friendly pals. I had to remind her of what it was, letter by letter, over the phone. 

She calls back a few hours later because her friends are asking how they'd know it was really my blog* because neither my photo nor my real name is on it. I told her to tell them to look for all the green and the photo of the cornfield across from our subdivision. 

"Oh yeah, I remember that. And your name on there is Cod-zee, right?"

*Welcome, ladies! Feel free to look around and click the links on the right to see some of the old stuff.