Sunday, June 30, 2013

In Summer, the Song Sings Itself [william carlos williams]

The end of June/beginning of July was so eventful, I forgot that I had a list of happy things to report about! It's so much easier to "be happy" in the summer. I hate that my moods are so dependent on the weather, but the more I take note, the more I see a correlation. I checked off more than one of these things by chance, without referring to the list first--June lends itself to good times.
  1. Pick up every coin you see. I do usually pick up coins I see, unless they are nasty, but this month I had the awesome luck of finding a 20-dollar bill on the sidewalk. This was at 7 on a Sunday morning, on my way to work at Mercy, so no one was around to otherwise claim it.
  2. Eat only fresh foods. Also something I usually do, year round. The non-fresh items I eat most are canned beans.
  3. Dye an outfit or article of clothing. Or hair?
  4. Throw stones in a pond. We skipped stones into Lake Michigan on the 4th. (I know, that's July, not June.)
  5. Go camping. Definitely on my summer bucket list--will it happen this summer? I don't know. I tailgated (in July) and I'm planning a vacation to Colorado, where I will do campy things.
  6. Clean out your fridge. To eat, yes.
  7. Compose your own greeting card. I have, and I usually add my own greetings to pre-composed ones as well.
  8. Trade outfits with someone. Britney and Bailey, check.
  9. Plan a party. Britney's birthday was in early June! We made angel food cake.
  10. Take a mental health day. Yes. I try to have some mental health time every morning before work.
  11. Plan an adventure. Currently/continuing to plan vacay in CO.
  12. Forget about diets. Always.
  13. Do something naked. Ok.
  14. Thing about what the US means to you. This one was for flag day, which I completely forgot was a holiday. I am reading a novel about post-9/11 life for one family, and that has me thinking.
  15. Hire a student to do a summer job. No.
  16. Watch the full moon rise at sunset. We saw the fullest moon of 2013 in June!
  17. Fight fair. LOL...I always try fighting with Jesus and he's never about it.
  18. Work before 9 and after 5. After 5 is regular for me, before 9 happens at Mercy. Never both in the same day.
  19. Take a break from a daily habit. I've been off and on coffee as a daily habit, but that's mostly dependent on if I wake up early enough to warrant making it or if I have a caffeine headache and require it.
  20. Collaborate with a child on a project. Mercy youth are a little old to be considered "children," but I did help one guy dye his pancakes red and eggs green with food coloring...his idea.
  21. Ask for a refund. I do this a LOT for my job.
  22. Read a different newspaper. Briefly scanned the Tribune one day...I don't remember where I was. Otherwise I stick to the always free Redeye.
  23. Tell someone the story of your life. I didn't do that in June, but I did it my MercyWorks year.
  24. Hold hands with someone special. Yes.
  25. Research something. I researched where to buy curtains last month. I also taught myself some hockey facts during the Stanley Cup Finals.
  26. Pick berries. Bailey, Quinn, and I almost did that last weekend. Ooops.
  27. Carry and amulet with you. I'm not big on amulets.
  28. Think about your "giants" (the book describes these as heroes/mentors). I'm not sure that I have an actual mentor, in the traditional sense. I've always leaned on books, sometimes music.
  29. Join an organization. I'm anti-establishment.
  30. Get wet. The end of June was rainy, so.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Kitchen Strike

I'm avoiding my kitchen this week. It's too hot to cook and as much as I love making my own food, some weeks I don't want to do anything after work, especially washing all the dishes that cooking creates.

Diego, Brit, and I grilled out on Saturday for the Hawks game, only doing basic prep in the kitchen. On Sunday, Jesus and I ate Jimmy Johns. Monday, Brooke ordered pizza from My Pie for us to eat during the hockey game. Jesus and I went to Native Foods for vegan fare on Tuesday, then Tastee Freez for decidedly non-vegan ice cream afterwards. Yesterday marked a semi-return to the kitchen, but only to mix together ingredients for granola bars (minimal effort required) and bake an already prepared pizza from Homemade Pizza.

I don't anticipate a full return to meal preparation until at least next week--tonight I will be busy packing for a weekend at home, and tomorrow I will be on the road. Even at work I'm keeping dinner duties light with grilling and take-and-bakes. Sorry, Kitchen, we need to take a break.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Pulphead is a fun, honest, strange collection of essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan. Would I recommend reading the whole thing cover to cover? No. Do I suggest dipping in and out of stories that you, the reader, find most interesting? Absolutely.

I enjoyed the short biographies of Michael Jackson ("Michael") and Axl Rose ("The Final Comeback of Axl Rose"), both in content and style. The essays had unique perspectives on each musician and delved into a specific aspect of their lives, Michael's mystery and vulnerability and Axl's hometown and youth.

"Upon This Rock" and "At a Shelter (After Katrina)" describe two life experiences the author only had because he's a writer--he neither attends Christian rock fests regularly nor lived in New Orleans--and are fresh and honest because of it. He is able to lay out the scene before him with largely unbiased prose, pulling the reader into these slices of American culture few know about.

This essay collection intrigued me in its reality, and the format made it a quick read. I give it a solid 6. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Stanley Cup: Bring It Home!


There are so many fireworks happening right now, most of them right outside my window and nearby in Logan Square. Brooke and I were flipping back and forth between The Bachelorette/Mistresses and Game 6 earlier tonight, but by the third period we were all Blackhawks. Boston was up, then the game was tied, then Boston, then tie, then Chicago held on till the end. I'm so glad there was no OT; I wanted to see the end of the game and I'm way too tired for that 6-hour long game nonsense.

Thanks Blackhawks!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook

We walked into Walgreens, me slurping the remains of an Italian ice I found in the car and Jesus berating (to himself) the parents who left their three small children unattended in their van outside. Two other couples stood ahead of us in the movie line, and we tiffed about what we should rent.

"Let's just go home and find Pain and Gain. Give it twenty minutes, if you don't like it we can watch something different," Jesus said.

I stepped out of line and started walking through the grocery aisles. "I already did give it twenty minutes. I didn't like it. I'm hungry. We're hungry. What do you want?"

He led me towards the frozen pizzas.

"No," I shook my head and walked away again. "I told you, NO frozen pizzas. If I'm gonna do pizza, I might as well make it at home."

Jesus followed, sighing. "I don't know why we're pretending we're not getting the sushi." He grabbed the party platter out of the refrigerated display case and we walked back towards the Redbox.

"I'm not eating sushi," I said. "I want something cheesy."

"Then make yourself a pizza at home, right?"

I nodded as we started paging through the movies. After taking away the Blue-Ray discs, copycat B movies,  and ubiquitous horror flicks, we were left with a sparse field of options.

"It's like the same three movies that have been in here for weeks," Jesus said.

"I'm not in the mood for muscles or guns," I said.

"Are we gonna watch Step Up: Revolution?" Jesus asked, already selecting it on the screen.

I groaned. "We've seen that already."

"I've seen it. You've not."

"No, we don't want that tonight."

By this point, the line had regenerated. Jesus glanced over his shoulder, sighed and punched the screen to select Silver Linings Playbook. It had been on my To Watch list since it came out, and all too frequently my To Watch list becomes Jesus' To Watch list. He reached for his wallet, defeated, but before he could swipe his card I selected "Use Credits."

"I got this one." I swiped, using the free movie Redbox gave me after the snafu of last weekend. "Don't be annoyed at me all night."

"I'm just tired. Today is rest day."

We drove home, where I made my pizza and Jesus had his sushi; I ate one piece. We started the movie. Jesus feigned disinterest as it began: "I hate this family. Why are they so dramatic? These parents annoy me. She cheated on you, bro, this marriage is over."

As the movie progressed, he quieted down. We started guessing at what would happen next--for those of you who haven't seen it yet, Pat (Bradley Cooper) was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder and just got out of a psychiatric hospital after finding his wife in the shower with another man and subsequently beating the man nearly to death. He moves back in with his parents and tries getting his life back on track, with the goal of winning back his wife. Then he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a newly widowed woman also trying to get her life back on track. She agrees to help him reconnect with his wife if he enters a dance competition with her.

We did end up guessing the main plot line, but the journey the movie took us on was still enjoyable. The movie was funny, and after eating our moods improved greatly. We found the silver lining of a night that started off with two grumps, one hungry and one tired. Thanks, movies!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Side Effects

Watching a psychological thriller in the morning before work is like waking from a haunting, lucid dream, and trying to forget it and go about your daily life.

Side Effects starts off like a White People Problems melodrama: rich husband goes away for insider trading, wife has to start working, husband gets out and wife feels depressed, she tries a myriad of different anti-depressants, all with less than satisfactory results. One drug has completely unsatisfactory results, leading to the climactic, crazy, and meaty second half of the movie.

There's really no way to summarize the entirety of Side Effects without giving away its tricks, and even the trailer is convoluted--watch it, but know that it doesn't give you any actual information about the movie.

I'm glad I didn't know exactly what I was getting into--the twists and surprises are the linchpins of the movie, bright bursts of frenzy that briefly illuminate the drama on screen before dying away and leaving the viewer with questions that can only be answered by continuing to watch.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Date Night: Take Two

Either because we can't stand the thought of the universe beating us, or because working out and renting a movie is the basic shape our date nights take, Jesus and I recreated the failed parts of Sunday night on Tuesday.

We began our adventure closer to 7:30 than 9:30, which in itself helped things go smoother. I checked for sewage gutter puddles before getting in the car and Planet Fitness was open, tootsie rolls waiting for us (me). I remembered my wallet for the Redbox, and thanks to a customer service representative sympathetic to our previous situation, we had a credit towards one free rental.

We kept dinner simple with some sushi from Walgreens (we're addicted, it's another of our date night/guilty pleasure staples) and leftover cheesy beany (a Naw original, it is what it sounds like: cheese and beans) while we settled in to our double feature: Brave and Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away.

I wasn't excited about Brave when it first came out--those accents turned me way off--but I found it really enjoyable and only a little predictable (it is a children's movie, so that's forgivable). Worlds Away was another pleasant surprise with its stunts and acrobatics. It kept me awake past my typical bedtime, so there's review enough.

Tuesday night went infinitely better than Sunday. Jesus and I redeemed ourselves and the universe is right again. (My dramatics remain constant.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sharp Teeth

I just read an amazing book. Twice.

I never re-read books--there are too many books I haven't read yet for me to spend extra time with the same one--but this one was such a beautiful, intricate story, and though not short (just over 300 pages), written in free verse poem, so it went fast. I spread both readings out over two days, and the first took me about four hours.

Sharp Teeth is Toby Barlow's first novel, and not something I would normally pull off the shelves. Werewolves in LA? Meth labs, surfers, and shady dog pounds? A free verse novel? (Okay, that last one I'm all about.) This book is worlds different than the stuff I've been reading recently, and I needed that change of pace desperately.

Anthony is a dogcatcher in LA, unsatisfied with many aspects of his job and longing for love. Lark is the alpha male in a pack of modern day werewolves, involved in several business ventures, some dirty, some clean. Then there's Ray, alpha of the rival pack, and Annie and Palo, the blond surfer werewolves with a troubled history that becomes all too present when these characters meet.

One creative decision I did struggle with was Barlow's female werewolf who never gets a name--she is "the girl," "his girl," "she." Her character is integral to several story lines, but if I read into her namelessness, her importance is only as a type: She-wolf. As a likable, sympathetic character, I want her to be more than the main bitch.

Still, with lines like these, it's hard not to fall in love:

The heart is quite comfortable with secrets.
After all, its home is a dark wet place
tucked in among all the other organs
who aren't talking either.

I know that not everyone who reads this book after my high praises will enjoy it--it's a little out there, form and content-wise. I'm still suggest it for anyone needing something new to read. I loved it for the multiple stories, the lyricism, and the diversity of the characters. And I just saw that it's being made into a movie, if IMDB is correct, coming out in 2014. Even though the novel is rooted in literature (thematically/structurally), it's a graphic visual tale that will (if done right) take well to the screen.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rachel & The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Night

Yesterday started out with so much promise. I was up early to work at Mercy, and my shift passed by quickly and smoothly--the kids were in good moods, they kept busy, and I had enough free time on the train and during down time to finish an entire book (a free verse fiction, it went fast).

I went home and made lunch, read some more, watered my thriving plants, and awaited the arrival of Jesus (boyfriend variety, not the Second Coming). We walked down to Humboldt Park and caught the last night of Puerto Rican Fest, with its crowds of people, street vendors selling anything you could want with the Puerto Rican flag on it, flashing carnival rides and games, and FOOD.

We ate arepas, tostones, arroz con gandules, alcapurrias, and pastelillos. It was pretty typical fare, though to be honest, writing about it makes me hungry for a jibarito. We walked around the carnival area, people-watching and listening to music. For those of you from Colby, imagine Cheese Days in a giant grassy/tree-lined park with reggaeton playing and Puerto Rican flags adorning everything.

The rest of the night is where things fell apart. We returned home to change and go to the gym. (Okay, Jesus changed and I gathered books to read in the gym's lounge area while Jesus worked out.) As I got in the car, I stepped in a puddle of something nasty in the gutter, so we endured the smell of sewage on the way there. When we got to the gym, we saw that all the lights were off and no cars were in the parking lot: the gym was closed. That one was on us for forgetting Planet Fitness is only 24/5, not 24/7.

After that failure, we decided to continue on with the night's plans: rent a Redbox movie. I had reserved Oz: The Great and Powerful earlier that day, but I forgot my wallet at home, so back to the Naw we went. I grabbed my credit card and we went in search of the only Redbox in my neighborhood to still have a copy of the movie. Here's where my morale really hit a low. The Redbox was located at a Walgreens. Inside a Walgreens. Inside a Walgreens THAT HAD ALREADY CLOSED FOR THE NIGHT. First, I couldn't believe it. Walgreens doesn't close, does it? And even if it does, they don't keep their 24-hour, no-human-supervision-needed, movie rental kiosk BEHIND LOCKED DOORS, do they? They do.

I can get over the $1.30, and even having a fun movie to watch--we'll try again another night--but the principal of the matter really got me. Who made that inane decision? There are thousands of outdoor Redboxes. THOUSANDS. Why, why, why put this one indoors, where it is unavailable for several hours each day?

We were defeated. We stopped trying to get plans back on track and just went home...but of course, there was no parking to be found. Jesus drove loops around my surrounding blocks for about 15 minutes before reversing down a one-way to grab a parking spot. We were done. No more trying to do anything except cheer on the Spurs in Game Four (they did win).

Last night wasn't our night. I should say, though, we got through it together. I think I made Jesus sad when I kept over-dramatizing how awful I thought the night was going. It was less awful with him around. :)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

For Dad

Happy Father's Day, Dad! I can't count the number of times I tell myself I'm turning into you--usually it's after I wake up early, arrive somewhere early, give someone directions with astonishing detail, or explain the plot of a movie to someone. If I ever need grilled food, a back rub, or a motorcycle ride, you're the man for the job! Thanks for everything, I love you!

Chicago Blues Festival, a combo of Dad's favorites: music and people-watching. (And spending time with me!)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

PR Fest/Stanley Cup Finals

I'm halfway through a month of 6-day work weeks. I didn't plan on starting my summer taking extra shifts, but c'est la vie. When you have one day off each week, you savor it--sleep in, lounge around, have brunch, take a nap. I also checked out a stack of books from the library and I have limitless Sudoku puzzles on my iPod. Still, we have lots left to do on our Naw Summer O' Fun list. Weather permitting, this weekend's non-lounging activities will fall under one of two categories: neighborhood festivals and hockey.

Puerto Rican Festival

None of us in the Naw can claim Puerto Rican pride (except Jesus, an honorary Naw-ian), but we live so close to Humboldt Park it seems silly not to check out the festival. The parade was earlier today, but the food/music/vendors will be out all weekend.

Stanley Cup Finals

Tonight is Game Two! I will be the first to admit to being a bandwagon/fair-weather fan (of the Blackhawks and hockey in general), but I have been following the games during the playoffs and I attentively watched Game One (instead of just having it on in the background). Growing up in a non-hockey town, I don't know enough about the game to fully appreciate it, but I'm learning!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Then We Came to the End

After a series of unenlightening and dull books, I've finally found one that I plan on reading in its entirety. Then We Came to the End is the first novel of writer Joshua Ferris. It's a story of 9-to-5 office life in an age of economic recession and unending layoffs--something that I'm sure appeals to many readers because of its familiarity, but is enjoyable to me in its foreignness.

As a house manager, I miss out on coworkers, coffee breaks, the rumor mill, and all the little tediums (is that a word?) of working in an office. While I can't say if Ferris captures corporate America, not being of that world, I can say he captures characters and the nuances of a group of people not quite friends, but more than acquaintances.

I'm glad this book came around just as the weather is screaming "BEACH!" There's nothing worse than laying out without a book to read.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Boys of Summer

Wow, there is a lot going on right now! With M out of school, work now consists of entertaining a teenager while juggling regular responsibilities. The other day I took him and several friends to the beach (mind you, it's not quite beach season--the temps have been in the 60s/low 70s--these kids are super thirsty for summer).

What was supposed to be a relaxing afternoon turned into a production when more and more kids (read: girls) kept showing up. I settled in to watch the social experiment unfold in front of me as playing water volleyball turned into a boys vs girls splash fight, then a full on water fight including buckets of lake water and a lot of screaming middle school girls. I tried to stay out of all of it (one, because I wasn't responsible for ALL of the kids, only about four of them, and two, because M told me he would be embarrassed with me around), but when they started throwing buckets of water around the beach I reminded them to stay away from other people (like me--I was also trying to read). Another couple also gave them a warning when they got too close for comfort: "Go away. The beach is huge."

Eventually, parents reigned in the madness (not in person, via the iPhones all the kids seemed to have) and little by little the kids left to go home, leaving me with my original four guys. We listened to the radio as I drove them home; M kept it on the cool stations. These guys weren't self-conscious enough to not sing along, though (to the female vocals on most deep voices here).