Tuesday, September 29, 2009

This Doesn't Bode Well

Today I am sick. I feel miserable. I got quite a bit of sleep last night because of all the meds I took in a concentrated effort to Knock Myself Out, but woke up sporadically with cold sweats. From really weird dreams, to boot. Yick.

K's tried-and-true plan for getting well as soon as humanly possible consists of staying under blankets, drinking tons of liquids, and not leaving the bed or couch except to go to the other one (or the bathroom). In the past, I haven't been very good at adhering to the plan, deciding at some point mid-day that it would be a good idea for me to go to the library or throw in a load of laundry.

Today I vow to diligently stick to Plan K. Even though by sitting here at the desk typing a blog post I have already diverted. Ok, ok, starting NOW.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lemondrops and Gumdrops

As a child, my sister M was a huge Barney fan. Huge. Yes, I'm talking about the big purple dinosaur. And until you have lived with a huge Barney fan, you cannot know the toll it takes on the entire household.

At first, it was actually kind of cute. M would carry around her stuffed Barney, which was almost half her size, and sing the 'I Love You' song. Don't worry, I'll spare you the lyrics. She would patiently look forward to PBS' daily airing of Barney, filling the rest of her time with more wholesome (and by that I mean less annoying) things like coloring and playing on the swingset.

Then one day, someone bought her a Barney video. And things quickly spiralled out of control. In addition to the half-hour tv show, we were now subjected to a daily screening of the half-hour video. My brother and I - we would have been about eight and thirteen at the time - were constantly shocked and dismayed at how M would always want to see her video at the exact moment when it would be least convenient for us.

Say, for example, that I had come home from school and eagerly finished my homework in order to watch the new Punky Brewster with a clear conscience. Well, it was pretty much guaranteed that M would step up to the plate and request Barney. Ah yes, the same video with the same dinosaur, the same peppy kids and the same catchy songs. Again. I would plead with my dad, but he was always a sucker for an adorable toddler. "She hasn't watched it yet today," he would explain. "You're the oldest, don't you think you could just be nice and let her watch it?"

I usually did. Not that I'm bitter about it or anything, but I still to this day can bust out a handful of songs from that video. One of M's favorites - and also one of the most irritating - was called 'Lemondrops and Gumdrops.' Fear not, I will again spare you Barney's lyrical genius.

Fast forward to the present. M is a newly minted college freshman and I vowed last week to send her a care package - the first care package I have ever sent. For a moment, I thought it would be clever and funny (and slightly mortifying for her - all the better, mwahaha!) to go with a Barney video theme for the package. I could include all the goodies mentioned in the Barney songs I know, starting with lemondrops and gumdrops of course, and maybe throw in a mini Barney.

Then I realized that this would take much too much planning, and I can be pretty lazy sometimes. Plus, I knew that Swedish Fish would remind her of home and I really wanted to include them but couldn't see a way to make them fit with the Barney theme.

So today I mailed a perfectly swell non-themed care package to M. Snacky contents: Swedish Fish, trail mix, a single microwave popcarn packet, and a big ol' package of Nerds.

Non-snacky contents: yellow nail polish and a new file, a couple of little Burt's Bees products (because M's hands get very dry), a journal, two funky erasers shaped like a lobster dinner and piece of strawberry cake, bacon-flavored toothpicks (what?), mints, gum, and monkey head covers for keys to make them funnier and also easier to tell apart.

I also threw in a card and a random picture I found the other day. It is of M and our other sister AL, about eight years ago, and they have stuffed their shirts with croquet balls. My, how quickly they grow up - and sprout real breasts of their own!

Anyway, I hope M likes the package and that it makes her feel important and loved. With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you... Ooops, there they are. Sorry, I just cannot seem to banish those lyrics from my head.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Lederhosen, with a Side of Hate

This is what the annual German Day Festival in Lincoln Square is supposed to look like:

Lederhosen, smiling faces, encased meat, folk music, dancing and steins - steins! - of beer. Unfortunately, one attendee has tainted the entire Festival for me. Here's what happened:

K, our friend B and I walked over to Lincoln Square to see a movie. We were standing outside the theater discussing show times and our pre-movie drink options when a man and a woman, both in their 40s or early 50s, approached from the direction of the Festival. When they were almost past the theater, we heard the woman say very loudly, "Hmm, it looks like they're showing that anti-German movie here." Suddenly, she turned around and marched right up to the movie poster for Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, and shouted several sentences in German. Next - and this is where it really gets crazy - she raised her right arm in the Hitler salute and declared "Sieg Heil!" Then her companion linked his arm through hers and they continued on their way.

Shocked, the three of us stood there with our mouths open for a moment, looking at each other like umm, did that just happen? Did that woman just pronounce her Nazism to a near-life-size image of Brad Pitt? Yes indeed. Next question: what is the proper response on our part? Our natural reaction was simply to stand there in astonishment. Before we knew it, the outburst was over and the woman had gone on her way. In hindsight, I'm not sure that there is anything else we should have / could have done, but nevertheless I felt yucky about just standing there.

It brings to mind an experience K and I had several years ago during one of our visits to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. As we were making our way through the permanent exhibition, we encountered a group of four or five young men with shaved heads and clothing littered with swastikas. They tromped through the museum without pause, occasionally pointing and laughing. Laughing. In that case too, they were there and gone before I was even able to comprehend their presence in that space. Did they think they were being brave? Were we cowards for not confronting their hate?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Girl Meets World: A Care Package

I've been feeling sort of dazed and ungrounded these last few days. Zoned out. I hate it when that happens. It's like a non-feeling. I'm not sure how I stumbled into it, but I guess I allowed myself to get caught up in the details of an annoying project at work, my first paper for the class I'm taking, and the GRE test looming in my near future.

So yesterday I was in full glazed-eyes computer robot mode when I came across this picture. That's my sister M, doing her special wild-arm lunge version of the running man. Isn't it great? And yes, I share much of the same genetic material.

As I was contemplating how funny and awesome M is (and good at dancing!) it dawned on me that I have not spoken to her in the last several weeks, since before she moved into her freshman dorm four hours away from home. Come to think of it, I haven't spoken to any of my family members for at least a couple of weeks.

That speaks to the larger picture of why I have been wandering around dazed and confused lately. Caught up in the stress-inducing tasks ahead of me, I neglected my normal sanity-preserving activities like staying connected with my family and working out. The result is I feel like a zombie.

No more. I'm going to the gym right now. And then I'm going to do the running man. A little later this week, I am going to send M a care package. Hard to believe, but this will be the first real care package I've ever sent. M deserves it, and I think it will do us both some good. Suggestions for what to include, anyone?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Like a Big Pizza Pie

Last Thursday night, there was a full moon and a clear sky. And at the Foster Beach Fire and Drum Jam, there were dozens of people spinning, throwing, juggling, eating, breathing and dancing with fire. They didn't even seem crazy - I guess that's just what they like to do for fun.

There were hundreds of onlookers (mostly humans, but also several dogs and at least one cat), and a bunch of percussion instruments (drums of all sorts, upside-down buckets, tambourines, maracas, castanets and - of course - a cowbell).

There were lawn chairs and glow sticks and hula hoops and joints being smoked. People danced, people drank. They yukked it up. Also in attendance were some police officers, or as K says, "It's the fuzz!"

I quickly gave up on taking photos in the dark with our little digital point-and-shoot, but K managed to get some decent ones. The camera's nighttime setting extended the shutter speed enough to get some cool fire trailing images.

I like this one where the camera was unsteady. You can kind of tell how bright the full moon was.

In this one, the flashes of other cameras combined to light up the scene.

Let's face it, though: it would be pretty impossible to capture the experience on film even with a professional grade camera. Which is why you should check this event out for yourself. If you're not into fire, come for the drums; and if you're not into drums, the Jam makes a great excuse to meet other free humans and drink in the park.

Happy 090909!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fire and Drum Jam

Apparently there is something called the Foster Beach Fire and Drum Jam that happens in conjunction with every full moon during Chicago's livable months (April to November).

Huh. I spent all of those months in 2008 living one block off of Foster, about a mile from the beach, and never have I heard of such a thing. It goes to show just how much is happening all the time in the city.

Anyway, according to this website, the next full moon is - fire and drum roll... - tonight! And with photos like these posted on Flickr (thank you, california cowgirl1, whoever you are), who could honestly say that they aren't even the least bit intrigued by the Fire and Drum Jam?

Not I. Plus, I gotta get my hippie fix somehow, right? The fire jammer above doesn't look very hippie (twirling fire with long hair and flowing clothing is probably ill-advised), but I bet the drum circle will make up for that.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Danny vs. The Fearless Three

K and I had about 48 hours to spend in Rhode Island with M, and we planned them to correspond perfectly with the wind and torrential rain of Hurricane Danny.

We arrived on Friday evening, delayed by an hour but in two pieces. (Me - one piece, K - one piece.) Danny then proceeded to drench New England continuously through the night and well into Saturday.

K, M and I toddled out of bed, well-rested, at about 10am. We breakfasted at Frank's, which was already suffering from some flooding. One staff member got an electric shock from the water vacuum he was using and made a loud squealy sound like "Kkkiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeee." A furious handshaking and several lively swears later, I am certain he was ok.

Not one to be easily deterred, M proposed that we drive down towards the coast and see what we could see because in all likelihood, "by the time we get there, it will have let up a bit."
"Sounds great," said K.
"Mwahaha!" said Danny.

We drove south for about an hour in minimal visibility, only to find that many of the roads leading to the ocean were blocked off due to flooding. But then - lo! - Danny slowed to a drizzle long enough for us to spot signs for Greenvale Vineyards, follow the signs all the way there, and hurry into the tasting room. This is us in hurry mode:

Once inside, we paid $15 each for a tasting of six different wines and a (bonus!) souvenir wine glass. It seemed to us like a pretty good deal, especially since there was a really fun and soulful jazz trio playing in the tasting room. Surely the goal is to entice tasters to buy more wine...

So we obliged, buying two bottles of our favorites from the tasting and settling in to enjoy more jazz and our own pleasant company. The scene around us was very relaxed - none of the snootiness I had feared. The rain could only have helped in that regard; for some reason, very few people with fogged-up glasses, running make-up, wet clothes and frizzed-out hair have the gall to be snotty.

The three hours we passed at Greenvale made for a terrific afternoon. We emerged to find that the storm had abated, so we were able to visit the seaside after all. K and I intend to return someday soon to visit Rhode Island's other wineries, hopefully in better weather. We'll let you know, M - keep your wine-o hat on!