Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Happy Birthday Jesus/Rachel in the Rockies

Happy Birthday to Jesus today! He is 25 and feeling all of it. His birthday plans include starting his first day of parkour training certification and hopefully exploring Boulder later today. I, on the other hand, have the whole day to myself to explore. And what am I doing? Sitting in the local Starbucks, mooching their free wifi (and hopefully some electricity eventually...waiting for the guy next to me to free up an outlet). I need some Internet/lazy time before I head out and see what Boulder has to offer.

Yesterday was a long day--and I'm not even exaggerating. With our flight west we gained an extra hour, so what felt like a 25-hour day actually was. We began the day before the crack of dawn, watching the sunrise from Midway. Jesus and I both slept most of the flight to Denver, and once we arrived, luggage in hand, we set out to find some food.

I had several "buy a drink, get a bagel free" coupons for Einstein Bagels, so we checked with the front end manager if we could use them at their airport location. He approved them, but our cashier was unsure how to ring up the discount, so we ended up getting breakfast for free. So far we like Denver.

Next, we found a bus to take us into downtown Denver. The first thing I noticed driving in was how Denver's simple skyline is dwarfed by the Rocky Mountains. Several skyscrapers, as impressive and beautiful as they are, cannot compete with a mountain range. Their arrangement at the foothills served to complement Mother Nature's grandeur.

It didn't take us long to realize Union Station is under complete renovation, so we had to schlep all of our stuff to the next major bus depot to figure out our plan of attack for the day. The end goal was Boulder, about 45 minutes north, but there was no rush. It was only 11 AM and we had the day to explore Denver. Unfortunately, we also had several heavy bags each. The solution was simple: we rented a locker at the Greyhound Station a few blocks away. For $5, our load was lightened for the day.

At this point, we also learned that Denver has a free bus shuttle that runs along a pedestrian mall. We used this to our advantage the rest of the day, hopping on and off at our convenience and interest. We checked out Skyline Park, home of a fountain that has been on Jesus' parkour bucket list for about four years. It was nice to play around on this fountain, which begs to be climbed, soaking our tired feet in the cool water (me) and honing our athletic craft (Jesus). At one point, another kid came around and started running, jumping, and flipping on the structures. Surprisingly enough, Jesus met another parkour friend who was only stopping in Denver on his way to Wyoming from California for a family vacation. His dad, mom, and brother watched from the edge of the fountain as he got some monkey play out of his system and they were on their way.

We also got to see the Capitol Building, Civic Center Park, and more of the 16th Street Mall. There are restaurants and retail stores, food trucks, interesting art installments, and free pianos. Making our way back to the bus station, we decided it was time to head further north, to Boulder. We found an express bus and got there in about 45 minutes. After showering (a homeless man gave us a pro tip to check out the YMCA since the gym we are staying at doesn't have a locker room/showers), we dropped off our stuff at our home base for the week, Apex Movement. We found dinner at a small drive-thru/walk-up burger joint. The food was great, reasonably priced, and we ate on their outdoor patio. At some point Jesus found his second wind and he spent the night exploring the gym, which is a giant warehouse converted into a traceur's heaven. I found my sleep mask and crashed on an air mattress in a semi-private corner.

We will go back to Denver this weekend, but our first impressions are that it's clean, pretty, and NICE. People on the street approached us if we ever hesitated at a corner, asking if we needed directions. Cars slowed wayyyyyyy down to let us cross the street. All of the bus drivers and station attendants were well informed and gladly directed us what lines to take, where to get off, and even if we needed change for fare.

So far Boulder has been similar. Trees and flowers line the wide, newly paved streets filled with Jeeps and Subaru Outbacks. Bikers abound. Everyone is pleasant. We've not even been here 24-hours and I already know the lay of the land, for the most part. I was able to give a biker directions earlier, to my own personal delight. That's what happens when you spend the week before your vacation studying maps and researching your travel destinations.

Since Jesus is doing his parkour certification, I have today, tomorrow, and Friday during the day to explore, read, write, relax, and take myself on all the day dates I could ever want. This afternoon I hope to take a tour of a tea factory. I'm also looking forward to discovering parks, pools, farmer's markets, and museums. Oh, and getting closer to these mountains.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

And the Living is Easy

Once again, it seems silly to list ways to be happy in the summer. July is filled with festivities, great weather, and a kind of carefree spirit that months like January don't subscribe to. My July was certainly jam-packed (and continues to be--I have big plans for my first full day in Boulder, more on that later), from Independence Day to a mini family vacation/reunion to extensive bucket list endeavors. A lot on this list happened naturally, and that makes me happy.
  1. Start a conversation with a neighbor. Okay, so I don't really know my neighbors...the tenants who live in my building change yearly (they're usually college kids), and those on either side I prefer to eavesdrop and spy on from my apartment. I've overheard many conversations. Just the other morning the girl downstairs told someone on the phone, "I don't care, I'm not moving to California....I don't know, home? HOME? Where is that? I don't know, Pittsburgh?" so....she's having a life moment.
  2. Organize a household meeting. Yes. These happen naturally at the Naw. They go a lot quicker than house meetings at MercyWorks.
  3. Be an optimist. I think I am?
  4. Memorize the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. I know I had to do that in high school. Schoolhouse Rock helped.
  5. Look through a book on another country. I'll give you one guess as to which country is featured in more than one book I have lying around.
  6. Have a sing-along. Does a Dave Matthews Band concert at Alpine Valley count?
  7. Make and introduction. Okay. Brownies, meet my mouth.
  8. Say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no. I feel accomplished at this.
  9. Relate food to your mood. Is there another way to do food?
  10. Get in motion. Refer to 26 mile bike ride.
  11. Make plans to visit old friends. Yesssssss. Done and done.
  12. Play horseshoes. I don't even know where to find a horseshoe pit in the city...but there is one at the YMCA here in Boulder.
  13. Have a tea party. At work, G is on a super tea kick. She has me buy new flavors weekly so we can try them out (hot and iced).
  14. Do everything French. Sometimes I like to say giraffe in French: "girafe" say it with a French accent. Brilliant!
  15. Consider alternative healing. I've been to the chiropractor and acupuncturist. I love yoga and massages. I take/have taken vitamins/supplements. I try not to rely on Western drugs, but they can be effective!
  16. Rearrange your furniture. Well that's a freebie.
  17. Sit in the dark. Done.
  18. Be different. I've got nearly 25 years on this one.
  19. Take your sense of romance to the next level. Woah, Epstein. This is a family-friendly blog.
  20. Go to a matinee. I've not been to a movie yet this summer. :/
  21. Think about all the people in your life right now who really mean something to you. This might take some time.
  22. Trade places with a cat. Absolutely.
  23. Make a new friend. It's on our summer list! We have several hopefuls.
  24. Build a sandcastle. For all the times I've gone to the beach, this was never an activity that happened. There's still time.
  25. Build a fire. In my grill? 
  26. Start to keep your personal finances in order. I started a few months ago...before that it was just trying not to spend any more than what was in my bank account/wallet. 
  27. Frame a photo, poster, or picture. Yes, yes, yes.
  28. Go through your personal telephone book and conjure up a recollection of each person. LOL, telephone book.
  29. Take a walk around your neighborhood. Yay! Another item on our list--neighborhood exploration.
  30. Keep fresh flowers nearby. Like on my downstairs neighbors' porch?
  31. Assemble a family tree. I did this in college. It was intense.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Leftovers

Imagine you are going about your day when suddenly people around you disappear. They are just gone. Not everyone, but random people. Maybe it's the cashier as you check out at the grocery store--poof--and you are left with half your groceries still on the conveyer belt. Or maybe you are on a crowded bus when--snap--now there's room for everyone to have a seat. Or, just maybe, you are home, alone. But when you try to contact a friend, several friends, no one answers.

This is the premise of Tom Perrota's The Leftovers. In a Rapture-like phenomenon, people disappear on October 14, but with no rhyme or reason--they aren't all "believers" or "heroes," but they aren't all bad either. Those who are left have to figure out how to carry on, how to make meaning from this senseless event (which is eventually named the Sudden Departure). The book follows several "Leftovers" in this post-tragedy world.

Nora Durst lost her husband and her two small children. She struggles with the grief of both losing her family and not knowing where they are--she considers the woman who lost her family in a car accident "lucky" for having bodies to bury. The Garveys, on the other hand, remain unscathed--at the surface. While all four of them remain, none of them is the same. Kevin becomes mayor of their small town, hoping his undying optimism helps heal the community. His wife, Laurie, holds it together for a while, but eventually leaves her family to join the cultish Guilty Remnant, taking a vow of silence in honor of the missing. Their son, Tom, tries to continue with his college studies, but drops out to become a follower of Holy Wayne, a "prophet" of the times. Their daughter, Jill, mourns the loss of her friend Jen by befriending Aimee, shaving her head, and failing her classes.

The book clips along at a fast pace--I finished it in a few days after several marathon reading sessions. I liked how it skipped around, telling the story from five different characters' perspectives. The term "leftover" takes on new meanings--the people are leftovers, they have more leftover dinner because there are less people eating, or no leftover dinner because they stop making fancy meals, there are leftover memories of those who are gone. The final chapter brings everyone's storylines to a head and brings each one a sort of closure.

The novel is being made into either a TV movie or show (I can't find any details other than HBO Pilot, so maybe it's not been picked up yet), currently in pre-production. Read the book, then check it out.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

As the Coloradans Do

At the height of summer, I love living in the city. The whole place is alive and there are always things to do, even if what I actually choose to do is binge on Netflix shows.
At the height of summer, M goes to sleepaway camp, meaning I have more free time and flexibility with my schedule.
At the height of summer, My boyfriend's birthday and my birthday are five days apart.
At the height of summer, there is a national parkour jam in Boulder/Denver, Colorado.

Did you put it all together? While it seems silly to leave Chicago during its best season, sometimes one must get out even as millions of tourists pour in. Jesus and I are set to fly out to Colorado early Tuesday morning to spend the week flipping, jumping, hiking, sightseeing, and exploring in the foothills of the Rockies.

Traveling on a budget means we will stay at the parkour gym, shower at the local rec center, and milk the heck out of free birthday swag at local cafes and restaurants. Jesus has a three day training certification course, so I will have several days to wander downtown Boulder (population ~100,000). I'm excited to take myself on dates and have already planned an excursion to a tea factory, plenty of coffee house chillaxing, and self-guided biking/walking tours.

No worries, I won't hog all the fun touristy things to myself--I'll make sure to include Jesus in nature walks, checking out new places to eat, and obligatory scenery-gazing. Before all that happens, though, I have to do laundry and pack...or watch another episode of something on Netflix.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

As the Romans Do: The Book

Remember back in January, when I started my end-of-the-month Happy lists? I mentioned one of Alan Epstein's other books, As the Romans Do. Thanks to the miracle of InterLibrary Loan, I have that book in my (borrowed) possession!

Now I'm reminiscing vicariously through Epstein's experience of living in Rome with his family. He says in the introduction that travelers might leave Rome, but Rome never truly leaves them, and I fully agree. One could make that argument for many travel destinations, but for some reason it feels truest with Rome. It's the history of the city--no other city has experienced all that Rome has experienced.

Recently, I've been thinking about my life in Rome. Maybe it's because I'm reading this book, maybe it's my travel bug acting up (Have no fear, little bug, my next trip is around the corner!). My neighbor smokes a cigarette every night at about midnight, and for those few minutes I can close my eyes and pretend I'm back on Via Pascarella. Cigarette smoke mixes with warm summer air, cooling after dusk, and the train, the traffic, the tourists, and the ambulances all compete for my auditory attention.

Epstein catalogs life as Roman from every angle: money and business, public transportation, Roman women, monuments, statues, and fountains, family, public service strikes, politics, daily schedules, coffee, technology, tourists, immigrants, and natives, and of course, food. Roman values and philosophies fill the pages: don't worry, things will happen as they should, family and friends are more important than money, drink a coffee, eat, eat, eat. It's clear he lived in Rome, and what's striking is that even though he lived there in the late 90s and I visited in 2009, I could relate to almost everything he wrote. It's called the Eternal City for a reason.

If you can find this book, I recommend it. I have a huge bias, yes, but many chapters read like one of my blog posts, just a bit longer. As I read, I wonder why I couldn't have found it sooner and just reviewed it chapter by chapter while I was in Rome.

Monday, July 22, 2013

How to Breathe Underwater

The transition from childhood to adulthood is scary, awkward, silly, and intense. Any writer worth her salt knows to exploit this life period in at least one story, and Julie Orringer has done us even better with an entire collection of short stories filled with teenage angst and real life drama. How to Breathe Underwater is about growing up and learning hard life lessons. It's for women who remember what it was to be a girl and girls who will soon become women.

None of the nine stories included in this collection are "happy," per se. While some might be considered more uplifting than others, they all reveal a grim reality, describe the aftermath of a tragedy, or force the character through a rough life moment. Touching on cancer, family dynamics, young lust and love and loss, fitting in with peers, religion, addiction, and racism, HTBU was no dainty stroll in the park. Most of the stories are heavy, with only brief forays into lightness. Any humor is dark and dry, which I appreciate.

My favorite story, "Note to 6th Grade Self," reads like a letter written from a future self to a young girl in the midst of finding out who her friends are and aren't. I liked the unique form and rooted for that little sixth grader the whole way through, even though I knew she couldn't come out on top. I also enjoyed "The Isabel Fish," the story I felt was most complete and whole, something that could be developed into a full length novel. In that one, Maddy literally learns how to breathe underwater by taking scuba lessons. She's also coping with the death of her brother's girlfriend, who drowned when her car crashed in the local pond.

This book got many positive reviews--it's a solid read, full of interesting characters, strange yet relatable plots, and clean writing--but several readers aren't on board with the sober subject matters or the bleak ends many of the stories have. I personally like when a story ends unsatisfactorily: that's the way life is sometimes. Sure, I don't want everything I read to depress me, but I'm not going to fault a writer for walking that path.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Marathon Biking

Yesterday I fit several adventures into one epic day. I don't use the term "epic" lightly. My day involved biking a literal marathon, watching gymnastics on the beach, getting lost downtown, crashing a fitness expo, and taking in one of Chicago's most tourist-y destinations. I'm really okay with letting myself veg out today when I remember how much happened in the past 24 hours.

Jesus and I left the Naw at about 11:30, after he pumped up his bike tires and I liberally applied sunscreen. We biked the 6-ish miles to Montrose Beach, where we hung out for a couple hours, watching a semi-amateur gymnastics competition taking place right on the sand. By semi-amateur, I mean these kids were still perfectly capable of Olympic-caliber flips and stunts, though we did see some falls. There were college-aged competitors and kids barely in school cartwheeling, tumbling, and flying high on uneven and parallel bars--all in the hot sun, just off the edge of Lake Michigan.

From there we biked 9.5 miles south to McCormick Place, taking the lakefront trail, which meant dodging other bikers and gobs of beachgoers and trail walkers and whoever else decided to just hang out on the bike path. Our actual mileage at this point is over 9.5, though, because we tried to cut inland to get away from all the people and to avoid following the curve of the lake by making a direct route south...unfortunately this did not go as we hoped due to the inability to bike on congested downtown roads and needing to find a bridge to cross the river. We ended up wasting a lot of time getting down to McCormick Place, and once we were there, biked even more to find the right building/parking for our bikes to get to the fitness expo. By the time we got there, at about 4, we were tired, hungry, and super sweaty.

All of these things worked in our favor, as it turned out. The Rock 'n' Roll Marathon (held today in Chicago) had a 2-day Heath & Fitness Expo for marathon runners to pick up their race packets and shop for race essentials. There were also tons of heath and fitness exhibitors handing out free samples, swag, health tips, and even massages. The event was open to the public, not just to marathon runners, so Jesus and I gladly checked it out. We ate a dinner of protein bars, energy drinks, post-workout replenishers, and electrolyte-filled shakes, smoothies, juices, and snacks while getting rejuvenating calf massages and electric stimulation shoulder massages. Several people gave us strange looks when they asked about our marathon training and we replied, "We don't run," but we also got props for our biking adventure and (thanks to his mustache and bicep-revealing tank top), Jesus got into several protein-filled/you should run our Mustache Run/would you like chocolate milk to sponsor you? conversations.

The free samples definitely gave us a pick-me-up, allowing for good moods and overall survival as the expo finished and we embarked on our long ride home. We consumed so many B-vitamins, in fact, that we didn't even end the day there. We stayed on the lakefront trail and rode right back to Navy Pier, where we had strayed away from the trail on our way down. It was only about 6 (and despite our "meal" at the fitness expo, we were hungry again), so we became Chicago tourists and walked the Pier, people-watching to our heart's content. Jesus got to play around some on the park structures while I took pictures, then we went through the Funhouse Maze, played an immersive arcade game, and walked around the majestic Ferris Wheel. I couldn't convince Jesus to ride it (yet), so we settled for gazing up at its immensity.

As the sun began to set, it was finally time to finish our adventure. We had bellies full of food court Chinese food and my sunblock was long sweat off. We found a bike route from Navy Pier back to the Naw and zipped past the Saturday night traffic clogging the streets. When we got back, we mapped our ride to calculate our final distance. Counting our turn arounds and doubling back downtown, we biked just over 26 miles, or the length of a marathon. Our legs felt it, too. We recovered with fruit smoothies, water, and vegging out to video games.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Movies in the Park

When the sun sets and the mosquitoes come out, you can find summer-loving Chicagoans at their local parks, catching a movie at dusk.

Jesus and I braved the intense heat to see Hotel Transylvania at Riis Park last night. After a small heat tantrum (mine) calmed by patience (his) and dinner (ours, from Burger King--did you know they have veggie burgers and sweet potato fries?), we settled in on the AstroTurf soccer field along with the rest of the moviegoers.

Everyone loves free movies, but Wednesday night + family friendly animated film = an average viewer age of about 7. Jesus and I were most likely the oldest people there without kids. And while the movie had its adult humor moments (a zombie-mannequin gag and a crack at backpackers who listen to Dave Matthews and Slipknot), it was solidly a bathroom humor, implausibly goofy kid movie.

In a reversed-role universe, monsters see humans as evil. Count Dracula builds a magnificent hotel whose main feature is its human-proof safeness, a place where monsters can vacation worry-free and his daughter, Mavis, can grow up away from the dangers of non-monsters. At her 118th birthday bash, monsters of all shapes and sizes gather to celebrate--and one human, 21-year old Jonathan, slips in unexpectedly. Now Dracula must protect Mavis from this interesting intruder while at the same time convincing his guests his hotel is still protected from outsiders.

Jesus and I both enjoyed the movie for its quirky humor and fun, albeit predictable, storyline. We also enjoyed matching the characters' voices with their human actor counterparts. Adam Sandler as Dracula surprised us, but we both guessed Steve Buscemi as Wayne Werewolf and David Spade as Griffin the Invisible Man. Cee Lo Green, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, and Andy Samberg also star, and if you are wondering if there's a lot of singing, the answer is yes.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Disorder Peculiar to the Country

Some books start out with such promise, then fizzle away into strange drivel until their awkwardly forgettable endings. A Disorder Peculiar to the Country (Ken Kalfus, 2006) is, I regret, one of those books.

Before I go into where it went wrong, let me show you how great this book could have been: Marshall and Joyce Harriman are NYC professionals stuck in the nasty/dull middle of their divorce when 9/11 happens. Both have reason to believe the other dies in the attacks, and experience glimmers of excitement in the midst of tragedy. When both then return home, to the cramped but expensive apartment they still share with their two small children, they face disappointment and the realization that their divorce must go on, with or without national turmoil.

I think a lot of Americans are interested in reading stories about marriage, failed marriage, the confusing and awful intricacies of failed marriages, and broken family dynamics set up against the backdrop of recent history--not because we are morbid or nosy or grossly attracted to others' misfortunes (which we can be), but because these are all very real, relatable things, regardless of our marriage statuses and political leanings.

Now that we are all excited about this story, here's the spoiler: it has no follow through. Or it has follow through, but it's very odd. It also takes some creative licenses with history in ways that were both unsettling and unsatisfactory, especially in the post-9/11 and post-Osama bin Laden, yet mid-conflict/war/whatever it is we are engaged in world we live in today. This book was published in 2006, so Kalfus created his own ending for a drama that still unfolds. I wasn't a fan, not just because of the inaccuracies, but because of the characters' reactions--droll. I didn't like either Joyce or Marshall, which is probably the intended effect, but makes for an uninvested read.

Somewhere along the line, this story that packed so much initial punch faded. I wanted to know more about Marshall and Joyce: Why are they getting divorced? chief among my questions. We learn there are a lot of little things that add up, but we never get to the nitty gritty. What are those little things? Who are these people, really? I also didn't care so much for their oddly named children, Viola and Victor, who sometimes acted age appropriate and sometimes spoke with too much premeditated clarity for their four- and two-year old selves.

Several other scenes added to the off-putting-ness of the book--a drug-filled house party ending in what I read as the rape of a young boy (another review calls it "sexual humiliation") and a casual suicide bomb encounter too glib for me (even if this is a satirical novel, no other scenes depart from reality quite this much, making it seem out of place)--until I was practically skimming the final pages just to finish, hoping for something to redeem it at the end. No such luck. The book ties a clumsy bow on a package not fully wrapped.

Monday, July 15, 2013


Beach day two weekends in a row? I'm spoiled.

This weekend I rode my bike to North Ave Beach, where several friends were playing in a volleyball tournament. Several friends and several thousand other young/active people--the beach was completely full of teenagers, 20-somethings, and families playing volleyball, swimming, and lounging on the sand.

As Chicago's most popular beach (by observation only, no scientific research to prove this), North Ave is usually crowded, especially on the weekends, and especially when Nelly is scheduled to perform after the summer's largest volleyball tournament. Sadly, we didn't stick around to see him (not that we had tickets or anything, but I'm sure people on the beach could still hear). After 4-5 hours of sun/sand/water/people watching, we were tired and hungry and in need of some shade.

We cleaned up and hydrated at the Gold Coast/Naw, then continued "Beach Day" up north, at Roscoe Village Burgerfest. I had heard that this annual neighborhood fest topped the Taste of Chicago in quality and we prefer to check out more local/neighborhoody things anyways. We ate burgers from Mrs. Murphy's and Sons Irish Bistro (not the best I've had, but they were grilled out on a street, not in a kitchen, so I'm willing to forgive).

As the hot summer day cooled into evening, a wonderful thing happened on the east event stage: the trippin billies, the Dave Matthews Tribute Band, started sound check. I was so excited to hear live Dave music two weekends in a row. While Brit, Diego, and Barrett walked around the fest and checked out Sister Hazel on the other stage, I worked my way to the front of the crowd to sing along to the nearly identical (but still unique) covers of some of my favorite songs.

Sunburnt and sticky, we we returned to the Naw as Burgerfest ended to reapply aloe and make plans to stay in the shade all day Sunday--one mustn't overdo Beach Day if one hopes to be dark, not lobster red.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ready Player One

I recommend the most recent book I read, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, with some hesitance. I say read it if you are a video gamer, a lover of 80s pop culture, and/or a hungry reader. I agree with many of the reviews here, and I'm curious as to how the story will translate to film (either extremely well or horribly are my guesses).

Short synopsis (taken/summarized from the jacket cover):

In 2044, humanity escapes reality through the OASIS, a glorified video game/virtual reality utopia. Wade Watts, our protagonist, dreams of discovering the ultimate lottery ticket concealed in the OASIS, hidden there by its creator, James Halliday, in the form puzzles based on 80s pop culture (video games, music, and movies). Whoever finds the prize gets Halliday's fortune. The riddles have gone unsolved for years when suddenly Wade solves the first one. Suddenly, the hunt is back in full swing--danger, love, chaos, death, triumph, and competition ensue.

Sounds promising, right? We are definitely close to the world of RPO--we have video games controlled by our bodies, and a lot of humanity spends all waking moments plugged into some sort of virtual reality while many others suffer, starve, and die. Something was lacking from this novel, though. I'll admit, the story got better the more I read (and it kept me entertained enough to continue reading), but I think a few more revisions could have helped polish it a bit more.

What hurt the book most was the fact that I kind of hated Wade, the kid who spends all of his free time playing video games. I wanted to yank off his virtual reality gear, slap his fat head (he's gotta be fat--constant video games, lack of movement, eats junk food, never outdoors...) and tell him to GO OUTSIDE and DO SOMETHING. Of course I thought this as I sat on my couch on a beautiful July evening reading a book, but I at least spend parts of the day outside, and I know the difference between reality and electronics.

The other problem I had was that while Cline wants so bad to write for the audience of people who did experience the 80s, and therefore would get all the references, he mucks it up by long explanations of what all the references are for his non-informed audience. Even as a member of the non-informed audience (I barely know pop culture references from my own childhood), I found the explications clunky and contrived. Some things he mentions once and never again, serving only to prove that he knows his 80s trivia (while stalling the plot). Cutting down on the references and focusing on the actual story would have helped a lot, and I hope that's what the screenwriters do when they start on movie production.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Independence Day Weekend, Part Two

I showed my gratitude for having Friday off by sleeping in, lounging, and having brunch. The four of us (RBQ + R) left Chicago in the late afternoon and drove to Wisconsin, where we dropped off Rachel at her house, checked out her lake, got Taco Bell, and finally made it to Madison.

We had dinner, drinks, and Mario Kart at Quinn's house and Bailey and I put together jalapeno poppers for grilling the next day at Dave-gating. We had a small jalapeno burn emergency when Bailey scratched her nose post chop, causing her face to turn bright red and tears to stream from her eyes. Several google searches and remedy failures (milk, vinegar, tomato) later, we discovered olive oil dissolved the harmful juice and lessened the burn.

We went out that night to a friend's apartment, and later to State Street Brats, where we made it upstairs in time to get some dancing in. Bailey and I crashed in Quinn's bed afterwards, leaving Quinn with his futon and his roommate's dog, Viva.

Saturday morning, I woke up to Viva pawing her way onto the bed. I took her outside and she did her business, but then I decided maybe she wanted to go for a walk as well. Quinn and I couldn't find a leash, so we looped a jump rope through her collar and set out towards downtown. Viva loved exploring along the way, but it was hot out and she got tired quickly. Quinn let her rest while I got iced coffee, and she flopped down on the ground as soon as we got home.

Mom and Dad arrived not long after, their car full of tailgating and concert supplies. We loaded and unloaded the car until everyone and everything fit, then picked up Rachel and made it to Dave with a full afternoon of family time & snacks ahead of us.

Even though we had Premier Parking, we were still sardined in with tons of other concert-goers and Dave-gaters. We claimed a small shady area on the outskirts of the parking lot and played games while Dad grilled burgers and jalapeno poppers. Luckily we had plenty of drinks because when the sun beat down, it beat down. I wouldn't have minded if it had rained, but we had only clear skies and 90 degree heat.

Concert time coincided with the sun going down. Alpine Valley is beautiful at dusk--the sun sets behind the lawn/hill that forms the arena, reflecting off the stage. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals opened. She's the whole reason we went to Dave in the first place; she's one of Dad's favorites to listen to, especially Sunday mornings when he makes breakfast.

Then it was time for Dave. For the uninformed, Dave is Dave Matthews/Dave Matthews Band (Dave himself is awesome, but the rest of the guys are essential). I was late to the DMB Train growing up--I didn't really start listening until my junior/senior year of college. My good friend Marina re-introduced me to DMB and they got me through several breakups, finals, finals, final papers, graduation/real life stress, and rough days at work when I first started at Mercy.

A Dave concert is no walk in the park--we didn't get out of the arena until close to midnight, after an encore that included three songs and lasted 40 minutes. There's something magical about their on-stage jam sessions. When you've toured together for the past two decades, you know your bandmates and can embark on intricate improvisational solos, trusting everyone will be there for you, playing the same key, when you get back to the melody of the song. Even with an audience of thousands, it still feels special to listen to that sort of musical experimentation and communication.

I'm going to stop proselytizing, but just know that this has been a week of Dave-drawal for me. I'm youtubing concerts and going on DMB-only binges. I spent the entire bus ride from Madison to Chicago listening through part of my Dave library. Luckily my roommates have been out of the apartment for most of this--they don't share my love.

Dave was the last big hurrah of our mini family vacation/reunion. We stayed in Madison Saturday night, and the five of us did church and brunch Sunday morning before parting ways until the next time. Yay family time!

family selfie

Monday, July 8, 2013

Independence Day Weekend, Part One

My July 4th vacation started on Tuesday, with burgers and beers downtown once Bailey got in. We met up with her friends and some Mercy people. I worked Wednesday, but left early so I could get groceries for the weekend and clean up the apartment. Quinn and Rachel got in close to 10 and the five of us (Jesus, Big Rach, Bailey, Quinn, Lil Rach) had drinks, hung out, and set off a few pre-4th fireworks.

We started Independence Day early with Tortilla Espanola and Pancakes a la Naw before heading out to the beach. Parking was nearly impossible until we got way north--past Loyola. We lucked out with free residential parking and claimed a spot on the sand. As rough as it was finding parking, the beach itself was fairly quiet. Families grilled on the grassy areas and napped closer to the water.

Because we are who we are, we packed plenty of picnic snacks. Still, we went home in the late afternoon to start grilling dinner: burgers, corn on the cob, onions and peppers, and salad. Bailey left to watch fireworks from a rooftop apartment and Jesus and I took the young ones downtown to watch from the lake front. We saw Buckingham Fountain, then settled in for the show.

Chicago sets off fireworks all summer from Navy Pier (twice each week). There's something calming about watching them from a distance--you just have to sit back and enjoy. And that we did.

(semi)private beach
Buckingham Fountain

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Celebrating Freedom

After a full weekend of family time and wedding time and high school reunion time, I have a short work week before another event-filled long weekend.

Bailey is on her way to Chicago as I type and Quinn & his friend Rachel will join us tomorrow for Happy  Birthday America festivities in the city. We will end the holiday weekend with a family reunion/Dave Matthews Band concert in Wisconsin.

It's just occurring to me that Bailey is probably at O' Hare right now. Since she has a track phone she tries not to waste any minutes and we didn't plan on communicating unless she had problems. I haven't heard from her yet, so I'm hoping that means she is somewhere on her way to the Blue Line.

Earlier today, but after she was already on the bus, I realized I hadn't told her to get off at Terminal 2 for CTA, or that it now costs $5 to get on the Blue Line from O' Hare, or suggested that she get off at California instead of Western since the walk is a bit shorter, but I figure any woman who is as jet-setting as she is can surely figure out how to get around in America.

Tonight we will get $3 burgers from a place near Mercy Home so we can see old friends/Britney before she leaves for her Independence Day journey to Philadelphia. Plus, Bailey and I figured we should hit up the bar scene while we can, before the under 21 babies get here. :)

Tomorrow I will work while Bailey plays, then once everyone is together we will start celebrating Freedom, Justice, America, Summer, Family, Beaches, Food, Suntanning, Picnics, Cotton Candy, Love, Friends, know, all the important things.

Blogging Remotivation

Here is a blog I will read when "blogging" --how I define it--seems boring or dumb or pointless.