Week 2

This year, for some reason, I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions. I don’t know why. I think at the time I felt like I was coming up on 40, and that I would make a list to go along with a milestone birthday. And then my birthday came and went, and I still hadn’t made a list, and so I decided I would just give myself another year to finish all the fun things I had set out for myself last year. And then life changed so dramatically that aspiring to finish that list became impractical, if not unimaginable.

So now what? We’re a quarter of the way through a year that has already felt like a decade – though I hear that for some, time feels like its speeding up rather than slowing down – but at a juncture where writing down anything beyond an intention for the day feels like an exercise in frustration.

We are far from the point when After might come into view, but despite that, I have started to make – not quite a list, perhaps more like notes for a more hopeful time:

  • Rainbow Cone, still on my bucket list, with my friends Alisa or Ashley or both.
  • Coffee made by someone other than me, consumed from a ceramic cup, preferably somewhere pleasant and outdoors.
  • Smelling other people, which, while not always pleasant, currently feels incredibly novel when it happens in passing.

In the interest of thinking about Something Else, here are a few things to read, and one thing to eat:

January Around Here

We weather the polar vortex with cinnamon rolls and Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon, congee and oatmeal, layers and blankets. Will this be the coldest winter of the baby’s life, or just one of many freak storms as climate change continues to shift the Overton Window of normal?

The baby cuts his first tooth at 5 months, 4 months earlier than big brother. I am more sad about missing out on months of toothless gummy grins than I am about the terrible bites – though there are many of those, particularly as tooth number 2 appears a week later.

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My device check-up is fine. and the device is recalibrated to lower the charge since I’m responding so well to it. In the following week, I’m aware of being paced several times, enough to feel concerned. I’m fitted with a monitor that I have to wear for 2 weeks of no swimming, no baths, no long showers, no sweat. The baby tries to rip it off on the second day. I couldn’t be happier to send it back. I’ll find out in a few weeks if they learned anything meaningful.

We try, again, to make room in our living space. Things are shuffled around; a small table is sold. It feels a little better – until the terrible cold snap, when we pull the couch (rather, the bed it contains) away from the windows, and everything feels overwhelming again.

The baby kicks and kicks and kicks and kicks and KICKS AND KICKS AND KICKS. His relentlessly busy feet are a source of joy.

I make a snack breakfast for myself one morning, prompting the big kid to request one for himself morning after morning. Some mornings it feels too fiddly for 6:30am; most mornings it feels soothing to adjust slices of apple, cucumber, and bread, a quartered egg, a few olives just so.

We bundle up and walk through the empty zoo on a perfectly sunny 9 degree day, peeling off and then reapplying layers as we duck into buildings to see the fennec fox, the giraffe, the tropical plants in the conservatory.

We struggle with big feelings, big needs, big frustrations. I reach the point that I reach in every winter where everything feels too hard, except that this year it feels like it came earlier than usual. I spend a weekish in a fog of discouragement.

For my birthday, brunch at The Gundis: olives and honeys and jams and cheeses and bread and borek and lentil soup and a tofu scramble and tiny cups of tea. Everything is perfect, including the sleeping baby on my chest. We walk around N’s old neighborhood, stopping for cappuccinos at Intelligentsia (free in return for filling out a satisfaction survey) and cupcakes at Molly’s. The management company treats us to a day without water for the second year in a row. Later that week, we leave the kids with a babysitter(!!) and have a wonderful dinner at Virtue and an adequate cocktail at Bibliophile. We need to do this more often than once in a blue moon.

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I take the kids out to my parents’ to celebrate my niece’s birthday – the same as mine. The big kid plays with his cousins while I try to convince the baby to nap in unfamiliar places. I’m so busy wrangling the baby while trying to be helpful that I miss moments of big feelings, and am heartbroken to recognize the ways that I let the big kid down when he needed me.

We watch videos with the baby of his cousin rolling over. A few hours later, the baby rolls over again. And again and again and again. Perhaps he needed inspiration? His cousin is also eating all kinds of food, and we talk about how neither of us feel ready for him to take that step, but the next day he is fascinated by us eating, so I offer him oatmeal, which he spits out like poison. He seems to like the idea of eating more than the actuality of it.

January Eating

 

Chicago Bucket List

Chicago sunset

Two years ago, I spent Thanksgiving weekend apartment hunting in Chicago.
On December 23, 2011, I became a part-time resident of Logan Square.
On April 2, 2012, I became a full-time resident of Pilsen.

In the two years since I first signed a lease in Chicago, I have covered much of the city on foot and by bike. I have gone to bars and shows and farmers markets and beaches. I have visited the sand cat a number of times. I have had a whole lot of Chicago-specific adventures, but feel like I have barely scratched the surface of what Chicago has to offer.

I am not planning on leaving my beloved city any time soon, but I expect I will leave eventually, and in anticipation of that day in the far off future, I have started a bucket list of Chicago sights and eats and scenes that I want to be sure not to miss. Some of the items on my list are things I have always wanted to do. Some are very unlikely to get done. Some I have done before, but want to repeat with someone who has not yet done them. Some might require winning the lottery or overcoming severe phobias. Some will likely be removed from the list, and others added.

Without further ado, and with a promise to tell you about each of these adventures as they happen, I present the first draft of my Chicago bucket list:

  1. Adler Planetarium
  2. Art Chicago at Merchandise Mart
  3. Bike the Drive
  4. Bike to Milwaukee
  5. Bike to the Botanic Gardens
  6. Bike to Three Floyds
  7. Brunch or drinks at North Pond
  8. Carillon tour with Mom
  9. Chicago Architecture Foundation walking tour
  10. Chicago History Museum
  11. Chicago marathon
  12. Complete tour of all Chicago beaches
  13. Complete tour of all El lines
  14. Cubs game with Nicolas
  15. Deep dish pizza
  16. Dinner at Bistronomic
  17. Dinner at EL Ideas
  18. Dinner at Elizabeth
  19. Dinner at Next or Alinea
  20. Donuts from Do-Rite
  21. Drinks at a shitty Wrigleyville bar
  22. Drinks at the Half Acre tap room
  23. Drinks at the Signature Room
  24. Ferris wheel at Navy Pier
  25. Festival of Barrel Aged Beers
  26. Field Museum
  27. Frank Lloyd Wright walking tour in Oak Park
  28. Hemingway birthplace tour in Oak Park
  29. Hot Doug’s
  30. Hot pot in Chinatown
  31. Ice skating at Millennium Park
  32. Kuma’s Corners
  33. Last call at a shitty 4am bar
  34. Live jazz on Rush St/River North
  35. Lunch at Calumet Fisheries
  36. Museum of Contemporary Art
  37. National Museum of Mexican Art
  38. Newberry Library
  39. Oriental Institute
  40. Pie at Hoosier Mama Pie Company
  41. Polish food
  42. Printers Row book fair
  43. Rainbo with Nicolas
  44. Robie House tour
  45. Sailing on Lake Michigan
  46. Sears Tower observation deck
  47. See a race at Arlington Park
  48. Shedd Aquarium with Nicolas
  49. Show at the Double Door
  50. Show at the Empty Bottle
  51. Sushi at Kai Zan
  52. Taste of Chicago
  53. Tea at Allium
  54. Tea at Pleasant House Bakery
  55. Vegan Korean at the Dragon Lady Lounge with Karen
  56. Visit one new street festival
  57. Vosges with Nicolas
  58. Walk or run the entire Lakefront Path
  59. Water taxi
  60. White Sox game

Right Now

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  1. Settled in a great new apartment in a great new neighborhood with a great new roommate.
  2. Spring and maybe summer have arrived in Chicago. On Tuesday, it was 85 and sunny for my post-work run.
  3. A couple of great overnights in Champaign, and vacation on the not-to-distant horizon.
  4. Lunchtime walks in beautiful places.
  5. Lots of demands at work, but most of them are interesting and stretch me in good ways.
  6. So much good music in the next two weeks: Zoe Keating, Emily Wells, Front 242 (DJ set), Colin Stetson, Four Tet (DJ set). And then Movement not long after.
  7. Back to back PRs in a set of races where I PR’d last year.
  8. A new relationship that isn’t really new at this point, but that continues to fill me with wonder and joy and peace.
  9. A battery of tests proving that I’m in excellent health.
  10. Horoscopes that tell me to follow my heart:

CAPRICORN (December 22-January 19): Despite everything I wrote to you last week about weighing self-gratification against fairness-to-others (which probably still requires some consideration), I can’t help but encourage you to veer slightly more in the direction of pursuing whatever the hell makes you happy. While it’s useful to reflect enough on your privilege relative to your friends or colleagues so you’re not blind to their potential responses, you can’t live a satisfying life by concentrating too much on assuaging others’ discontent. In fact, with multiple 5th-house planets now moving into a supportive trine to Pluto in your 1st, I’m sure you’re feeling pretty emboldened to make the personal most of any situation… and why the fuck not? These energies sure seem to be formally inviting you to intentionally put yourself at the unapologetic center of this week’s decision-making—and not just out of some future-minded commitment to ‘becoming your best self’, but in order to choose whatever will bring you immediate joy, creative fulfillment, and/or positive flirtatious attention. In closing, yes, I suppose I should reiterate the possibility that certain social allegiances could suffer tension, as envious or disapproving others react to seeing you so unapologetically serve your own pleasure. Maybe it’s because they’ve become too accustomed to you taking care of their needs first?

no simmering life but a boiling one

1.
I woke up this morning sick as shit. I don’t know where it came from, but it felt a little like several essential parts of my body got together and decided to put me in time out. You’ve been doing too much, they said, and it’s time to stop. I ignored the message for a while, but when I looked in the mirror at work and didn’t really recognize myself, it was time to go home. I took photos with my phone to prove the point; when I checked just now, they’re not there.

2.
Last night Erin and I saw David Byrne and St Vincent at the Chicago Theater. We both had to temper our slight disappointment with the knowledge that this was David Byrne AND St Vincent, not Talking Heads. But the sound was fantastic and Chicago got on its feet and danced, and when they closed with Road to Nowhere, it was like something out of an old revival, hands in the air, voices united.

3.
I’ve fallen into that city-dwelling habit of eating out too often while observing evolution in action in my crisper. Every couple of weeks, I buy a bag of produce from Edible Alchemy and dream big dreams about what I’m going to make – and then I devour the fruit while letting the zucchinis go soft, the potatoes grow eyes, the onions shed their dusty skins.

4.
A week submerged in The Diaries of Anais Nin. I’m not sure that I can neatly summarize it. It’s been a complicated, emotional year, and so many of the things she described resonated with my experience while also being completely foreign to me. Perhaps this, from November 1933:

Allendy took pains to delineate my character, my true nature, my human attitudes, but it was by a process of oversimplification. The mold into which he tried to fit me came to a climax the day he suggested I should take love more lightly, give it less importance, to evade tragedy. That I should take a playful attitude towards it. It should be sweet and casual, easygoing and interchangeable…This was the natural conclusion to the formation of my human self, to normalcy; and if he was right about overcoming tragedy, par contre, he overlooked the deeper cravings of an artist, for whom deep full love is the only possible form, no simmering life but a boiling one, no small compromise with reality.

5.
Fall has arrived right on schedule. Last night the thermostat dipped low. It is 6:45pm in my living room, and my space is illuminated more by my laptop than by the waning sunlight. Laurie said that we’re losing 2 minutes of daylight each day. But still the ice cream truck sits on the corner, and I dream of swimming in the lake and of all of the summer things that didn’t happen amidst all that did.

6.
Six months in Chicago, and Jeremy said that it sounds like I’m home. Two and a half years in Ann Arbor. Two years in DC. A year each at MPub and Kresge, two years at Gelman. Five years in this goddamned profession. Six years in a relationship, seven months out. I love Chicago. Chicago exhausts me. I’m envious of friends who have recently moved to quieter places. I worry that my life here will burn me out. I don’t know.

A2 Bucket List

I have two weeks left in Ann Arbor. Two weeks from today, I should be in Chicago, and a week after that, I’ll be getting ready to start my new job. I asked the internets for recommendations for my last two weeks here, and they responded in great force. I can’t obviously accomplish all of these things in two weeks, but it’s good to have a place to start.

  • Filmfest, foolmoon, festifools
  • Get into that little playground on the roof of the old Mott Children’s Hospital.
  • Coconut cream batido from frita batidos
  • Frita batidos, Sunday brunch at Aut bar
  • Canoe the Huron (if they’re open?) If not open or too cold, go to the DIA. That never gets old.
  • Dunny purchase from Vault of Midnight. Go see Lewis the orange tabby cat at Downtown Home and Garden. Go to Ashleys for beer on the busiest night, take $20 and play the same song (bad or good) over and over again on the internet juke box. Walk in Gallup Park.
  • If the weather is right & you still have your bike, you can take the b2b trail to downtown Ypsilanti.
  • Run through the Arb, brunch at Eastern Market, good beer at Jolly Pumpkin and then a bad beer over at the Eightball and definitely go visit Lewis!
  • Happy Endings at Berkley Front over City Club this Friday.

This is in addition to the list that Shana and I have been compiling:

  • Bell’s bi bim bap with Amanda
  • Nachos somewhere with Shana and Javan
  • Night out in Detroit with housemates
  • Biscuits and chocolate-bacon gravy at the Roadhouse (post-race brunch of dreams
  • Brunch at Raven’s Club
  • One last bakefest (Oreos!)
  • Another Knights of the West Side

Already checked off the list in the last few weeks are:

  • Afternoon Delight, which is hands’ down my favorite breakfast place in town.
  • Taco Tuesday at Sabor Latino
  • Donuts and/or ice cream from Washtenaw Dairy, which has the best donuts on the planet.
  • Plastic Passion at Necto
  • My first and only visit to the Arb
  • A very long walk along Huron River Drive
  • Treasure Mart
  • Zingerman’s

What am I missing?

Further Thoughts on Chicago

  1. Chicago is much more fun in nice weather than in the snow. In fact, it’s pretty miserable in the snow.*
  2. Last night we learned an important lesson about paying attention to parking meters. The parking ninjas here aren’t messing around, and at least four of us wound up with $50 tickets. Sheeeiiiiit. Good thing it was a cheap dinner.
  3. That said, we’re still trying to determine when it makes sense to take the train as opposed to driving. Fares are $2.25 in each direction, while parking is $1.75 per hour. If we’re going somewhere together, do we pay $3.50 for two hours of parking? Or do we pay $9 in train fare? This will all be academic when the weather is nicer and we can ride our bikes or ‘peds.
  4. I haven’t figured out why some bars are open til 2am, while others stay open til 4am. I also haven’t put much effort into figuring it out, though I have managed to see 2am at Neo twice since we landed here in December.
  5. I also have absolutely no idea how Google Navigation comes up with its time estimates or directions. I drove to Iowa yesterday for my uncle’s funeral, and the initial estimate for the drive was 3:04. I got in the car and mapped the route with my phone. 3:49. The drive, including stops for fuel and food, took 3:15.
  6. The coop in our neighborhood is sweet and well-stocked, but doesn’t carry yeast in bulk. I miss By the Pound already.**

*I would say that this had something to do with the fact that I just spent five days in California, but no. I think this is empircal fact.

**I still haven’t decided how I prefer to write coop. Co-op? CoOp? I could always go the New Yorker route and use an umlaut, but that just looks ridiculous, even in print.

Keeping Our Wits About Us

This is the obligatory ‘sorry, we’ve been MIA’ post from a neglectful blogger. It’s not that I don’t love you and/or don’t want to share things here. It’s just that it’s the end of the semester and the holiday season and, oh yeah, we’re moving to Chicago in TWO WEEKS. Put all of those things together, and you don’t get a whole lot of coherency out the other side.

On the other hand, we have been cooking: Thanksgiving dinner for friends, lentil stew and other soups with the six quarts of turkey stock, shrimp tacos, and last night’s very passable impression of chicken piccata served on the fine china. And we’re throwing diets out the window and enjoying meals at many of our favorite places. So it’s not that I don’t have things to tell you about – it’s that I don’t have time.

In lieu of actual content, here is a picture of our cats behaving strangely:

Cat Train

We’ll be back soon. Promise.

Things I Miss About Champaign

I’ve been meaning to make this list for a long time, but Gemma’s recent photos have pushed me to actually writing it up.  My feelings for Champaign are all wrapped up in my grad school experience, my first really fulfilling (and challenging) professional job, and a prolonged period of personal growth and experimentation between the end of my marriage and the beginning of my relationship with Shane – so lots of complicated, complicating things factor into my relationship with that little city in the corn.

  1. Riding my bike down University towards GSLIS early in the morning in the summer – empty roads and the sun coming up through the trees.  A 7 minute commute on a good day.  And then the long months when I couldn’t ride because my arm was in a cast.
  2. West Side Park.  Living across from West Side Park.  Walking home through West Side Park after a long shift at Aroma or a movie at the Art or a too-late night at Mike & Molly’s.
  3. Coffee and sandwiches at Paradiso.  Consistently good music on the stereo.  The smoking section at Paradiso, barely partitioned off by a row of ficus trees.  Books or homework on the “patio”.  Paradiso’s perfect imperfectness.
  4. Living near downtown Champaign, where I never paid more than $500 for a one bedroom apartment, and even that included utilities.  My first solo apartment directly across from the park.  My studio apartment that never really got above 50 degrees in the winter, but that in the summer offered the most fabulous porch for parties.  The apartment with the Wild Things on the wall and the yellow kitchen.  Our last place on Clark, where we rented the entire ground floor for around $750, planted our first garden, spent $300+ on heat in the winter, and enjoyed the mixed blessing of a screened-in entryway – great for cats in the sun, not great for cats escaping.
  5. Saturday mornings at the Urbana farmers’ market, bringing home things I didn’t recognize and that would eventually go bad in the fridge. Splurging on fancy cheese, meat, and a croissant from Art Mart.  Riding our bikes to the market and bringing a dedicated backpack for watermelon or canteloupe.
  6. Friday afternoon Revolution Lunch at Jerusalem Restaurant with my favorite nutters.  The food was fine, but the company was effing crazy.  I’m glad to hear that it hasn’t changed.
  7. French toast at Sam’s, where Shane and I went for breakfast one of the first times he spent the night.  We drew maps of our hometowns on the rectangular napkins.  In case you ever forget, the special is at the top.
  8. Late nights studying at Merry Ann’s with Sarah and Nicole, drinking TERRIBLE coffee and eating fries and goofing around with the servers.  Going to Merry Ann’s at bar time, ordering a grilled cheese sandwich, and being in and out in under 10 minutes.  Greg and I standing on the booth and singing happy birthday to Mark, who brought us screwdrivers mixed in the back.  Hanging out with Shane for the first time after Carl and I had gone to see 2046, all three of us wasted but on totally different things (exhaustion, alcohol, an emotionally weighty movie).  Many many plates of fries before Subversion.
  9. Boltini bingo.  We went almost every week the last summer we lived there, but I didn’t win ANYTHING until my very last card on my very last bingo.  Marv gave me his oversized clapper, which I kept until we moved to Michigan.
  10. AromaWorking at Aroma.  Drinking mojitos outside Aroma in the spring of 2003.  Working 20 hour days (Aroma + Carle) in the fall of 2004 when it was easier to not sleep than to deal with my heartbreak.  10 hour kitchen shifts with all New Order all the time, getting fake engaged to Sam, smoking out front with Carl and Erich and Leah in the summer.  Ryan’s shark mug and Dave catching flies out the air.  Flirting with customers who became friends.  Coffee grounds permanently under my fingernails.  A good place and a good time, though definitely not the best coffee in the world.
  11. Symposium at the Esquire, and the Esquire in general.  For at least the first year after we left Champaign, I would often sigh and say that I just wanted to go the Esquire for dinner – cheap beer, cheap bar food, endless bowls of peanuts.  Always the same, never disappointing – just a solid townie bar.
  12. The Blind Pig in the winter of 2004-2005.  Holding hands with Carl on my 25th birthday.  A snowball fight in the middle of the night in the middle of Walnut Street.  It’s still a great bar, and I know Shane misses it greatly, but (oh this is so hipster) I stopped truly loving it when the sign went up.
  13. Swimming laps in the outside pool at IMPE in the summer of 2005.  I had started exercising that spring, but realized after my first botched length that Curves had nothing on laps in the 50 meter pool.  Sunshine, chlorine, hard work, bliss.
  14. Sunday nights at Bentley’s – our Local Neighborhood Bar – with the GSLIS crew.  Beth’s Bloody Marys and Blue Moons adorned with loads of snacks.  So many games of Bohnanza that we bought a second copy – one for the bar, another for occasions when we were less likely to spill drinks.  Planning our first Bonnaroo, celebrating our first NYE, eating a whole lot of miniature pizzas.
  15. Gyne instruction totally changed my understanding of my own body, and of the range of what constitutes ‘normal’.  I am so thankful for having the opportunity to work with such a remarkable group of women and to become empowered to advocate for my own health.  In the years since, a number of friends have felt comfortable asking me about gyne health stuff because they knew I had this experience and was willing to talk about it openly.  What a remarkable gift.
  16. Porch parties at my place on Springfield.  There weren’t many of them, but oh, they were wonderful.
  17. So much enduring love for Cafe Kopi.  I can’t believe I lived in Champaign almost a year before I found it, and can’t believe I haven’t found a comparable spot since.  Actually, I can believe it.  Kopi has something really special going on.  The coffee and food aren’t remarkable, but they’re solidly good, as are the staff and the ambiance.  I spent way too many nights doing my grad school reading over their cafe miels and tuna salad salads – and swatting away the ever-present flies on the patio.  Those things will survive the apocalypse, I swear.
  18. Mike & Molly’s may be my most favorite bar ever.  Shane preferred the Blind Pig, but my heart belongs to M&M.  Lots of nights reading with a beer, hanging out with townie friends, dancing to music played in the loft by friends.  Someone – Tim? Steve? – trying to explain darts to me.  The chalkboard in the bathroom.  Knowing that I was a regular when I forgot my ID and the bartender vouched for me to the doorman.  The bar’s vignette in Tell Me Do You Miss Me.  Carl arranging for my induction into Pi Omega Omega on my next-to-last night in town.
  19. Nox/Subversion and the year that saw me on the dance floor almost every week.  I told Shane recently that I missed out on being a raver girl because I didn’t live in a big city in my early 20s.  Instead, I had Tuesday nights at the High Dive with Emily and Jim playing the music I always wanted to listen to but didn’t know how to discover on my own.  Saturday nights with Tim in the booth and reciprocal pants protection with Shane and Karin.  Meeting Brian and Ben and Kristina and so many others.  Dancing when I was sick, dancing when my heart was breaking, dancing when I’d had too much to drink, dancing on the patio in the pouring rain.
  20. And then there’s everything about GSLIS: getting my job, making my friends, meeting Shane, finding a career path, getting a real job, discovering and falling in love with and then hating and then loving research.  All the wonderful, remarkable, challenging, and exceptional people who over the years became friends, colleagues, trusted associates, and family.  I can’t even begin to articulate the ways that this school changed my life.

Ultimately, though, what I miss is being able to walk everywhere – and the fact that wherever I went, I would run into someone I knew.  Hell, it’s been four years and that is still often the case.  And it goes without saying that the people and relationships made Champaign my home, but there are far too many of them to list here.