Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mixteco Mission and Reverse Parallel Lives

Upon moving into our current apartment two months ago, K and I soon noticed that there are a couple of restaurants within a one-block radius of us that are constantly jam-packed with people. One of them is Glenn's Diner, a fun and quirky place (they have a cereal wall!) specializing in seafood. K, our friend J and I stopped in for a delicious late lunch on moving day - they just happened to have three empty stools at the bar - but we have not had a chance to try their dinner menu because every time we've tried to go there has been a line out the door. K and I are generally not reservation-making people, but we will have to make an exception for Glenn's, the only "diner" I've ever been to that necessitates reservations for a party of two!

The other staggeringly popular restaurant on our block is Mixteco Grill. Time Out Chicago says, "Mixteco doubled its dining room capacity recently, but that's done nothing to quell the crowds it gets, even on otherwise sleepy Wednesday nights. Summertime is only bound to make the crowds (and thus the waits) worse..." Oh no! K and I have popped in two or three times to see if they could seat us for dinner, but the wait was always upwards of an hour, so we never saw it through. Once K even called several hours in advance but was unable to get a reservation. I think Time Out is right: as the weather warms up, Chicagoans will be more willing to traverse the city for good food, and it will become increasingly difficult to get into Mixteco. So I hereby resolve to secure a table by the end of this week. The plan: do whatever it takes. I really hope the guac and mole live up to their reputation.

In other, unrelated news, I watched "The Big Bang Theory" again this week - I'm very impressed with this show and it is growing on me. In the new episode, Leonard and Kuthrapali attempt to take Howard's mind off of his broken heart by convincing him to go with them on a weekend trip to Las Vegas, where they remain for the majority of the half-hour show. So in the few weeks since I started this blog, "The Big Bang Theory" has addressed the topics of comic books and Vegas - and so have I, albeit in reverse order. It makes me think that my favorite sitcom characters and I may be leading parallel lives. Well, reverse parallel lives, anyway. Is this some sort of cosmic connection? I guess I'll just have to keep watching.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Procrastination Fever

I took a big step today. I successfully made a doctor's appointment. I answered several questions about my current health, insurance plan, and reasons for making the appointment. The whole thing took about ten minutes. I feel great.

Is it sad yet sort of hilarious that it's taken me so long to take this leap? Absolutely. What is my deal? I have no idea. I gave myself the assignment of scheduling a doctor's appointment last Monday. Last Monday. My goal is to blog about doing something new every week, writing a before post and an after post. And this week, with pretty much the quickest, most tedious task possible, it took me the entire seven days. Except last Monday to today is actually a week plus a day, so make that eight. And if it weren't for me knowing that the few people who read my blog were going to hold me accountable for my doctor's appointment promise, I'm sure it would have taken me even longer still.

In my defense (if I dare), I did spend a chunk of my week in Florida on business. God forbid that I place my phone call to Northwestern Memorial Hospital from Orlando instead of Chicago, though I'm not sure what difference it actually makes. No, I think I should stop making excuses and go ahead and acknowledge my general tendency for extreme procrastination when it comes to unpleasant, seemingly non-urgent tasks. Certain things simply need to be done, so I should just put my head down and go through with it.

Experiences like the one I had today are encouraging. The person I was dealing with was very kind and helpful - the process was painless. Perhaps I should use this momentum to tackle one of the many other tasks I've been putting off for way too long, but I'd rather just lay back and enjoy the small victory.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dr. Strangelove

This is just embarrassing, but here it goes: I have never made a doctor's appointment. Dentist and optometrist appointments, yes, but regular-doctor go-get-a-physical, hit-my-knee-with-the-little-hammer-thingy, no.

It's weird. I mean, I think of myself as a pretty responsible person, and on top of that, taking care of myself is very important to me. And I do it fairly well when it comes to diet, exercise, etc. I know that regular visits with a doctor would be beneficial, but they just haven't been part of my routine. There must be some sort of elusive mental block keeping me from scheduling a check-up.

I don't think I am afraid of doctors. Sure, they've been known to be the bearers of bad news at times, but on the other hand, there could be some disease slowly taking hold of me right now and I wouldn't know because I've been too lazy to go and get some basic blood-work done. Modern medicine is not infallible, but theoretically I'm a big fan.

What's really awful is how hypocritical I've been about this. Last summer, K had abdominal pain so severe that he asked me to take him to the emergency room. As he was getting checked out, I called my mom (also a doctor) and complained that K doesn't take care of himself properly - doesn't go to the doctor, never exercises, doesn't really watch what he eats - and now the poop might be hitting the fan. Well, as it turned out, K's appendix was about to burst; so his choices were not a contributing factor, and I felt like a big ass.

Since then, I've been all over K to schedule regular doctor's appointments, first to check in on the status of the massive incision from his surgery, and later just to make sure he is healthy all-around. I need him to keep ticking for quite a while longer. Meanwhile, I've been toddling along without any serious thought to the fact that I haven't gotten the green light from a physician since the last millennium, when I was still on my parents' insurance.

It is a strange love that has allowed me to stay oblivious to my own hypocrisy. So K, if you read this, I'm sorry. This week I will make a doctor's appointment. It will be a small achievement but a significant one. I can't wait to get an officially clean bill of health. I'll be brand new.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Comic Book Challenge: An Update

This week I'm endeavoring to introduce myself to the world of comic books (read about it here). So far, it's been an entertaining and eye-opening experience. Here's a break-down of my week in comic books:

Monday: Today I read Hack/Slash issues #1-3. The series opens (literally, the first page) with the main character getting her little toe cut off by a psycho slasher - woah! Yeah, it's a little gruesome, as you probably guessed from the title.

One thing that's caught me slightly off-guard is the length of time it takes to read a single comic book - in my case about 25-30 minutes. To the uninitiated me of just a couple of days ago, a comic book looked super-thin and my thought was 'It's all pictures - how long can it take?' Turns out it takes a while! I am still 100% committed to reading all 21 issues of Hack/Slash and the first 16 of Spawn, but I may have overextended myself in thinking I could do it in just one week...

Tuesday: Between working late, my taxes and my volleyball game, I hardly had any time to read comic books today, but managed to squeeze in one - Hack/Slash issue #4.

I also took it upon myself to kick back with a glass of wine and queue up yesterday's episode of "The Big Bang Theory" on my DVR. Oddly - or not so oddly, considering the fact that the show follows the lives of four supernerds - comic book banter was a cornerstone of this week's episode.

At one point in the show, Penny, the show's only non-geeky main character, asks the four aforementioned nerds to pick up some "comics" from the comic book store for her nephew's birthday. Her neighbor, Sheldon, is obviously irked and responds with a quick lecture: "I think you mean comic books. Comics are feeble attempts at humor..., found traditionally in the optimistically named 'funny pages.'"

And that's why I've always felt that it is too risky to try to talk to comic book readers about comic books. You never know what you might say to offend them. Another Big Bang case in point:
Penny: "What about this one for my nephew?”
Sheldon: "A superb choice..."
Penny: "Great."
Sheldon: "... provided he has already read Infinite Crisis and 52 and is familiar with the re-establishment of the DC multiverse.”
Penny: "What's a multiverse?"
Sheldon: (to Leonard) "Get her out of here."

Wednesday: Today I read Hack/Slash issues #5-8. It was fun to sit at the dining room table with K and read comic books together. He said he could get used to this.

I find myself slowly getting attached to the characters of Cassie and her partner/sidekick Vlad. Yes, Cassie is a sexually confused, smoking-hot virgin, no doubt contrived to appeal to the 13 to 20-year-old boy-man demographic, but she is also portrayed as a powerful but sensitive woman who has meaningful relationships. And I like that.

Thursday: Well, I've finished Hack/Slash issue #9 and I'm still going strong. One thing I really like about the series is that it leaves a lot of unanswered questions about the characters and their back-stories. I think I might be - dare I say it? - a real follower now.

Clearly, this Intro to Comic Books project that I assigned myself was too ambitious for only one week. But I'll keep plugging away at it and hopefully finish by the end of next week. And in case you're wondering, a multiverse basically consists of a bunch of alternate universes and story lines, and allows writers the freedom to explore what-if? questions and alternate versions of their characters. I think.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Staring Down the Comic Bookshelf

In the apartment I share with K, there is an entire bookshelf filled with comic books. Not just one shelf of the bookshelf, but all three, and the collection continues to grow. K loves comic books, but it is not a shared hobby. To be honest, I think I've been a little intimidated by the whole scene. When K bumps into other readers of comics, they ask each other "What books do you read?" and use buzz words like '90's-style comics' and 'underground comics' and I cannot participate because I have no knowledge of comics and do not know what these terms refer to.

This week, I've decided to take a step towards changing that. My assignment: to read 38 comic books - the first 16 of the Spawn series and all 21 issues of Hack/Slash.

Why these two particular titles? you might ask. Well, first I wanted to choose something I already have on hand. And looking through K's comic books, I selected Spawn primarily because of its interesting artwork. Also, it's a name I already know, so maybe that signifies that it is representative of popular, semi-mainstream comics (I will have to discuss this further with K). According to wikipedia, Spawn is now published by Image Comics, founded by seven artists including Spawn creator Todd McFarlane; but the issues I'll be reading were released by Marvel in the early 90's.

Unlike Spawn, which is currently on issue 191, the Hack/Slash series has only been around for a couple years, with 21 books out so far. And there is a woman on the cover - her name is Cassie, I've learned - who is clearly one tough chick. Following her lead, I will refuse to be intimidated; I will forge on until I have read all 21 issues of her book; I will not be bullied by comic book geekdom into thinking that I can't read comics because I don't know what a splash page is.

I also happen to think it's cool that Devil's Due Publishing is located just a half-mile away from our apartment in Ravenswood. So Cassie is a local bad-ass (created by Tim Seeley).

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cashing Out

Overall impression of Las Vegas:
sensory overload.
But fun!

I arrived late on Friday night and my mom and I walked over to Denny's for a 10pm breakfast - the best! With full tummies, we moved on to the casinos. It didn't take us long to figure out that there were no blackjack tables to be played for less than $5 a hand on the strip, so we bit the bullet and took a bus downtown. Downtown turned out to be the part of Vegas I'd come to see - a little less glam, a little more old school kitsch.

We worked our way down and then back up Fremont Street, stopping briefly to admire the "light show" (which is a really misleading name for a huge, tunnel-shaped TV screen) and periodically to play a few dollars at the slot machines whenever we felt like acquiring another free drink. Then finally, we came upon the poor blackjack player's mecca - the $2 table at Fitzgerald's. I plopped myself down between a friendly frat boy and a drunk Texan and got in on the game. Our dealer, Jorge (referred to affectionately by the rest of the table as "George"), was good to me, and before I knew it I'd turned my $20 into $45. "Weenah, weenah, cheeken deenah," said Jorge.

Being in Las Vegas with my mom made me realize just how hard-core she really is. As we walked to the bus stop to catch a ride back to the strip, I noticed the time: 6am (that's 8am in Chicago!) I hadn't been up that late in ages and I was exhausted, but I couldn't let my mom outlast me on my first night in Vegas! Once back on the strip, we were making our way to our hotel when my mom said, "Oooh, let's just pop in here a minute - I think we might get lucky on the Wizard of Oz slots." And the nice thing about the casinos at 6:30am is that you can actually play the popular Wizard of Oz slots because most people (reasonably) are in bed.

Well, I put in $20 and a few pushes of the button later Glinda the Good came along and granted me five wilds and a BIG WIN of $515! Pure joy. "What does that mean? Did I break it?" I asked, like the smart ass that I am, and my mom just smiled and told me, "You - are - cash - ing - out." There's no arguing with a mother who only wants the best for you, so I let her hit the cash out button and the Wizard machine printed my beautiful receipt. Thanks, mom!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Las Vegas in 24!

In 24 hours, I will bust out of my cubicle and head to the airport for a weekend trip to Las Vegas. I have never been to Las Vegas before, so - perfect timing! - this trip will be my first blogged-about new experience.

My plan is to spend much of the time just walking around, soaking in the sights, sounds, people and sunshine. If is right, I'll be enjoying daytime temperatures in the 60's to low 70's, which will be a nice break from the last few dreary days in overcast Chicago.

I didn't pick Vegas - Vegas picked me:
About three and a half weeks ago, my mom called me at work and asked me if I would like to go to Las Vegas if she bought a ticket for me. Ummm, no brainer. She goes every year to attend a big conference where she can get a good chunk of the continuing medical education credits she needs for the year. When it turned out that the friend she usually brings along couldn't go this year, I got the call!

It will be great to see my mom, and I think she will be in her element as she shows me around Vegas. I believe she has tickets to at least one show, and I'm sure that she will want to set aside some time for gambling. So I think I should decide before I leave how much money I'm willing to lose at the casino(s). For a person who is already in debt, how much is too much?