Thursday, January 31, 2008


I wish I could tell you that I'd been to the moon today. But nope, this is my own back yard. One icy Lake Michigan. Anyone for a swim?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Girlhood in Iran

I always seem to be behind the times. But thanks to Erin I have finally read the graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and currently can't put down Persepolis 2. I have never read a graphic novel nor do I know all that much about the Islamic Revolution in Iran. It seemed sort of a strange combo but surprisingly, the simple drawings, scarce words and one woman's memoir, opened up a little known world to me. I highly recommend the read. It's like sitting down to the fun of comic books (okay, I've never read those either) but realizing that you've got some compelling literature on your hands.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Susie's Drive In

This place has good toasty grilled cheese most definitely inspired by cold Chicago nights. It's just a tiny place on the corner of Montrose and (roughly) Elston and you can go in to order but most people line up in their cars to go through the drive through where you pull up to the one and only window, order, and sit and wait while they go make your food to order. If you are behind three other cars you will be in line for a good twenty minutes. But I'm loving it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

This rules...


48 degrees puts a little hope in the air.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Dear Superman," by Ron Koertge

Dear Superman

I know you think that things
will always be the same: I'll rinse
out your tights, kiss you good-bye
at the window, and every few weeks
get kidnapped by some stellar goons.

But I'm not getting any younger,
and you're not getting any older.
Pretty soon I'll be too frail
to take aloft, and with all those
nick-of-time rescues, you're bound
to pick up somebody more tender
and just as ga-ga as I used to be.
I'd hate her for being 17 and you
for being… what, 700?

I can see your sweet face as you read
this, and I know you'd like to siphon
off some strength for me, even if it
meant you could only leap small buildings
at a single bound. But you can't,
and, anyway, would I want to
just stand there while everything
else rushed past?

Take care of yourself and of the world
which is your own true love. One day
soon, as you patrol the curved earth,
that'll be me down there tucked in
for good, being what you'll never be
but still

Your friend,
Lois Lane

Saturday, January 26, 2008


I must mention that the Polkaholics make bowling amazing fun.

Lincoln Square Lanes

This has to be one of the coolest bowling alleys alive. It's on the second floor over an old hardware store and has "Lincoln Square Recreation" and a sweet mountain scene painted over the lanes. Bowling and drinks are cheap and last night there was a polka band, yes POLKA band, with no cover charge. I especially like the people who run the place. If you call ahead, they'll give you tips on how to score a lane even during league season.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Drive by Shooting

So I was trying to do something creative here with my camera and it didn't really work. But I still love this place-solely for its signage. Note the Free Advice post. I really wanted to pull over and ask about what to get Eric for Valentine's Day.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Honorary Way

There is a block of Rogers Ave. that is also Norman Ross Sr. Way. After three and a half years of walking past the sign, I went and looked the guy up. It turns out he was a Chicago radio personality from 1935 to 1953 (when he died). He had his own show called 400 Hour on which he played light classics (I wonder what light classics were during the 40s...) But more remarkable (to me anyhow) is that Mr. Ross Sr. was an award winning swimmer. I found a story that said that one of his favorite things to do was to swim five miles out into Lake Michigan and hail passing boats. When they'd stop he'd ask them for directions to Milwaukee.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dreary Day

I'm with Max. This day is grey, cold, and gloomy. I can't seem to get enough coffee in me.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Grace Period Voting

I took a trip downtown today to visit the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. I just realized (by calling) that I hadn't reestablished residency in Chicago after living in Virginia. So I had to show my face and hand over mail with my current address by today to be registered to vote in the primary election. To add to the fun, I actually got to (had to) vote while I was there. So even though I was a slacker running in the door at the very last minute possible, I left the place as an early voter.

And then, as a new resident, I took about a billion photos of north side Chicago from my train window on the way home.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Stockyard Princess

Chicago History Museum

Eric and I perused the Chicago History Museum today. I took this picture in Diorama Hall (my favorite part) and even though I'm sure most of you know about the Great Chicago Fire, I'll give you a little review.

At about 9 p.m. on Sunday October 8 1871, a fire quietly sprang to life on the Southwest side of Chicago. Strong winds that night blew the fire wildly out of control through a young city constructed largely of wood. People actually reported seeing giant fireballs flinging through the air. Thirty-six hours later the fire finally went out (with the help of a little rain) but left 2,000 acres destroyed 300 people dead, and 100,000 people (a third of the population) homeless.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Let me introduce to you our friend Steve. Eric met Steve years ago at Allstate and got to know him while they were both managing the actuarial training unit. Before that though, I recall Eric talking about this guy Steve at work who was getting married in the spring but returned to work after Christmas and announced that he and Sarah had decided to just get the job done over the holiday. Family and friends were all gathered anyway. I remember thinking that they must be two brilliant people. Come to find out, they are. Eric says that it should be noted that Steve is the messiest grapefruit eater on the face of the planet, that it's not particularly gross but that you don't want to be the next person to happen upon that spot in the Allstate cafeteria. Steve has since moved on from Allstate to an office with a much better view (of Millennium Park and the lake) but remains one of our favorite people in Chicago. Steve is wonderful for many reasons but one is that he has an uncanny knack for scoring Wilco tickets. It's awesome.
1. Steve's favorite sports person is Brett Farve. (I happen to know that he is in Green Bay at the moment and quite possibly has no feeling in his arms or legs and that Mr. Farve thanked Steve for freezing his ass off by throwing a game-losing interception in overtime of the NFC championship game.) (Steve, do you want to change number one to something else?)
2. Steve's favorite movie character is John Bender from The Breakfast Club
3. His favorite food is white popcorn
4. His favorite extra curricular activity is biking
5. And Steve's favorite band is Destroyer

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Flake Out Festival

When we woke up this morning it was -15 degrees up here in Wisconsin. Sarah (who grew up in Wisconsin) called it snot freezing weather. That's when you know it's too cold to be outside up here. When your snot freezes.

Nevertheless, we went outside for a while to the Flake Out Festival, a snow carving competiton. It was fun, except for the moments that I felt so sorry for the artists with ice on their eyebrows and eyelashes that my eyes watered and froze themselves.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Can you hear my teeth chattering?

Wow it's cold today. It's that type of cold that frosts the lake with patches of ice just dense enough to sort of hold the lake in place, barely let it move. It just pulses here and there while it waits to really freeze around the edges. Tomorrow will be even colder.

So we've decided to head north for the weekend. Up to good old 'Sconie for some skiing. I am actually looking forward to it. Getting out of town with some friends, hot chocolate, a couple good books. But if you don't hear from us in a few days, please send help to Cascade Mountain. Either we'll have all drowned in an avalanche or have frozen straight through and become stuck to the side of the slope (or in my case the bunny hill). If you don't hear from us in a couple of days, my brothers can have the stackable washer/dryer (Drew, you get the washer, Wes, you get the dryer) Mom and Dad, there are some homemade soups in the freezer (I hope you'll think of us when you feel the cold of the freezer) and Katie, you take care of Max. (When he starts growling at you that means he's pretty hungry).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Quake Collectibles

The signage says "toys . star wars . pez . tv nostalgia . gi joe . always buying old toys"
The windows are packed full of goodies and if you stand on your tip toes, or peek through the door, you see display after display, pile after pile of childhood memories for we the mid-twenties to mid-thirties population. I've only parked in front of this alluring Lincoln Square shop, I've never actually walked inside mostly because we have no place to store this wonderful plastic of our past but also because I'm too afraid that I will run into Jeff "the comic book guy" Albertson (you know, from the Simpsons). Snarky man-children intimidate me more than advanced integral calculus professors. But one of these days I won't be able to resist it any longer, I'll get up the courage and then, inevitably, I'll return home with an Annie Warbucks lunch box or a light saber. And then this adult phase I'm going through will finally be over.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I Heart Rogers Park

No comment from me, my friends. Just sit back and let it be.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Albany Park

I've driven over to Albany Park a few times this week. It's a northwest neighborhood in Chicago that I've never spent any time in. I must say, I like it a lot. There are billions of eateries, corner taverns, and little convenience markets catering to loads of separate ethnic groups. In a way it reminds me of Rogers Park in it's diversity except that Albany Park is a bit more tightly packed in. It's in a constant bustle. I bought a big puffy chocolate cookie at a Mexican bakery and a couple of oranges just steps away at a small market with essentials like fruit.

Way back when it was a little countryside get away for people who enjoyed horse races. Yep, there was once one Rusk Race Track and a very profitable brickyard to boot. By the turn of the twentieth century the area had been settled by German and Swedish populations and they were soon to be followed by Russians. Today some of these people remain but new waves of immigrants have washed over since the late 70s bringing Mexican, Korean, Guatemalan, and Filipino families to call Albany Park home.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Speaker's Book of Illustrative Stories

I bought this old book at a used bookstore in Nebraska for a dollar. It's hardback, copyright 1956, and attractive to me mostly because of the kitschy bright pink cover. But I've grown to love the thing even for it's short little "illustrative stories" most of which really truly would only captivate a crowd in 1956. They are cute and punchy and swell. Here's one:

"Little Charles had never been outside of the large city where he was born. Then one day he was invited to go for an auto ride into the country with his uncle and aunt. A sudden shower came up, then stopped. Charlie spotted a rainbow, the first one he had ever seen in his young life. His aunt urged him always to remember the beautiful sight. "Sure," he said, "it;s beautiful. But what is it supposed to advertise?" -Camillus

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Problems Under Kitchen Sink

It's kind of been a gross day.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


It was a good Saturday for zoning out to a couple of DIY projects. Erin made stationery and I mended a couple of throw pillows that my mom gave us for a wedding gift. I don't think I've ever "mended" anything before. It felt so Little House on the Prairie. It involved going to a general store (okay fabric store) buying fabric scraps and then using an actual needle and some thread. It was productive and kind of rewarding but there were definitely moments when I glanced enviously over at Erin and her cool cards.

Dear God,
Thank you for the industrial revolution.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me!

Last night, we had the good fortune of going to this week's taping of NPR's news quiz show, Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me. I like the show for it's ability to make "keeping up on the news" enjoyable/bearable. We also learned that NPR/Chicago Public Radio listeners are nice calm and cooperative people who are willing do things that they're told by public radio authorities including forming a massive, fast moving, SNAKING line with no ropes! (at the door to get in) It was a great lesson in the things humans can accomplish by just getting along. Anyhow, tune in this weekend to see if you can hear Eric, Cristin, Adam, (I'll introduce them to you sometime- it's a good it's-a-small-world account) and me laughing in the crowd. As is often the case at other such events, there was at least one point where I was the only one laughing. So I've truly made my public radio debut.
Now straight from the WWDTM website, I ask you three quiz questions:

1. The Indian state of Himachel has a new plan to control the monkey population. What is it?
a.) Hiring teenagers to catch them
b.) Electrifying garbage cans
c.) Importing natural predators
d.) An abstinence campaign

2. Iowa residence recently created what in honor of their famous caucuses?
a.) A giant sandwich
b.) A new kind of necktie
c.) A brand of beer
d.) A musical

3. In a recent survey, 44 percent of Japanese prison inmates complained about what?
a.) The color of their cells
b.) The quality of their meals
c.) The cut of their pajamas
d.) The length of their sentences

(Answers 1. a., 2. d., 3. c.)

For more news quiz fun, click the title above.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sweet Signature Bakery

I don't even really consider myself a cookie person per se. But someone gave us a little box of of them during the holidays and since ingesting the whole pile in 24 hours, I have been craving these amazing little treats. Seriously, the past few weeks, whenever I get a sweet tooth, my mind immediately drifts down Ashland Avenue and right on Montrose to address number 1956. (Thank goodness there was a sticker on the box with an address of the bakery.) So finally today when I meant to make a quick run to the grocery, I found myself parallel parking in front of the sweet little storefront bakery. Right now I'm wishing that I was some kind of food critic so that I could know the language to use to tell you about these delectable morsels (how was that?). Try throwing these words around in your head: soft, buttery, light, flakey, sweet. Some have a dab of marmalade inside and when smooth, rich chocolate is used it is used well and with confidence. The next time you are in Chicago, you must demand that I take you to Sweet Signature Bakery.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


I know this borders on listing the types of cereal we have in the cupboard or detailing the way I organize my sock drawer but really I just thought the sunlight on the bookcase was neat this morning. I have the photo, so now I'm going to write about the books I'm reading. I have a perpetual stack of books on the coffee table that I am reading through depending on what floats my boat at any given moment. This usually requires about four or five books to be going on at the same time. This makes the process of finishing a book much slower (and I am already a slow reader), but here are the books that I've been staring at for a while now.

1. Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Most compelling book at the moment.)
2. She Got Up Off the Couch and Other Heroic Acts from Moorland, Indiana By Haven Kimmel (Entertaining sequel to A Girl Named Zippy)
3. Goddess of the Americas: Writings on the Virgin of Guadalupe Edited by Ana Castillo (Feeding my constant hunger for Latin America.)
4. Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir Edited by William Zinsser (I'm reading this because I'm teaching memoir writing to seniors. I myself am waiting until I'm thirty and insightful to start my own. Okay thirty-five. Maybe forty. I think I'll call it My Sock Drawer.)
5. A travel guide to Puerto Rico (48 days and 15 hours to go!)
6. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close By Jonathan Safran Foer (Patiently waiting as I am about to finish numbers 1 and 4.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


I know it's sort of cheating to post a picture of a picture but I glanced at this photo this morning and it made me laugh out loud in a way that I'm sure a few of my neighbors could hear. I'm not even certain of our ages here. Drew looks one-ish I look four-ish. But the best part of this photo is remembering this shooting and having seen the rest of the photos (that were not handed out to the public by my parents). There is one where we are both actually bawling because the photographer made us hug. I remember that I finally cheered up once I realized that I could a.) do what I was told by an adult and at the very same time b.) piss my brother off by placing my hand firmly on his shoulder or squeezing him around the neck and such. I love the very satisfied look I have on my face in this, the best of all the shots. And I love that Drew's little arm is inching up getting ready to shove me off as soon as the camera snapped. Next time I'm in Nebraska I'm totally digging up the rest of these. And posting them right here.

Though he still wears similar clothes, Drew has grown up into a fantastic brother. We grew to be much better friends and to realize that we had quite a lot in common- including both growing up thinking that mom and dad were really (nice) monsters who could peel off their human skin and that we live in some kind of matrix that everyone knows about except for us (though I still think he's just saying that to keep me confused and from discovering the matrix). He and his good wife Cassie have two cute kiddies, Autumn and Lucas who really should be taken to Wilderness Park one day and positioned into unnatural stances in the fall-time leaves because it is a right of passage. As well as character building. But really, Drew is an awesome stay-at-home dad and burgeoning business genius whose five favorite things, as e-mailed to me today, are:
1. Valentino's Pizza
2. Mom's chocolate chip cookies
3. The college world series
4. Golfing (and other sporting events) with his brother
5. Halloween

Honorable mentions, as e-mailed to me today, are:
1. Taco Inn burritos
2. Super Nintendo 1994 John Madden football game
3. The area under the stairs in our childhood home on Broadview Drive
(Drew, I'm not not posting "pooping." That's just gross.)

Monday, January 7, 2008


I woke up one morning and thought to myself, I've never ever in my six years in Chicago, taken the Metra, "The way to really fly." Today I decided to pack up my work and head to a coffee shop downtown near Ogilvie Transportation Center. In Chicago we have The "El" the urban subway/elevated train system with loads of convenient stops and longer, cheaper, sometimes more uncomfortable travel experiences. And then we have the Metra, the commuter train catering in every direction to suburbanites, HECK, to Wisconsinites, Hoosiers and "downstate" Illinoisians. Let me tell you, compared to we El riders these Metra commuters ride in style! At the station the guy mopping the floor of the waiting room slash CAFE told me to just buy my ticket on the train. I boarded the big train and was downright giddy to see actual conductors with snappy conductor hats and uniforms. Conductors who jump down out of the cars and assist passengers with watching their step. Conductors who never once came by my seat on the way downtown making my ride %100 free. On the way home, I could buy a ticket at the station and did so feeling certain that otherwise my photo would go up on wanted boards at the post office if it isn't already there right now. These whopping trains are double decker to boot so on the journey home I climbed to the top where I could watch the lower level and the top of the conductor's roving cap, through metal bars on the floor. Just as I began to wonder if the conductor, an older gentleman, would have to climb up the narrow steps to my seat and if I might have been able to get away with a free ride home after all, the conductor stuck his hand up through the bars. I laughed out loud thinking that he was trying to grab my foot or, you know, be funny. I was about to say something terse and pithy about knowing how enviable my shoes are or to play back by dangling my ipod shuffle in front of his face when I noticed that he continued to stand down there, hand through the bars, flexing his fingers, straight faced, counting the seconds of his day that it took me to realize he wanted my ticket. Ah well, sometimes it's good to be reminded that I don't always have the right to roll my eyes at the tourists who stop right in front of me on sidewalks.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

No Direction Home

"Wherever you go, there you are."
-Buckaroo Banzai

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Museum of Surgical Science

Three cheers for random and strange Chicago museums. LK and Eric and I journeyed down Lakeshore Drive to the International Museum of Surgical Science. I am always one for quirky and potentially nerdy learning experiences so I already figured that I'd enjoy the place, but I really truly got a kick out of this old mansion turned museum. I know several things now. 1. I am grateful for my health (an excellent point made by LK). I get the dry heaves at the thought of any of those instruments without glass casing between us. 2. I will never be a surgeon. The thought of using any of those instruments on any living me the dry heaves. 3. A museum focused on primitive and modern healing practices of Eastern and Western civilization...makes me ill.

No really, the place was fascinating. Some of the highlights for me were the polio treatment bits, the enormous x-ray machine once found in shoe stores to help size feet for the perfect shoe, the faux dentist's office you could peer at through a faux window, the breathtaking and ornate amputation saw, oh and the paintings were pretty impressive. There is even an original Rembrandt. Oh yes. It was a painting of a surgery.

At the end of this day, I retire thinking about how, indeed, advancements in medical technology are awesome but also about how the tools used for brain surgery in ancient Egypt look much the same as the tools used today. And I get the dry heaves one last time.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Mill Coffee

My friend Meghan gave me a travel mug and bag of coffee, both of them from The Mill in Lincoln, Nebraska. She read another blog entry about my new favorite coffee spot here in Chicago and wants to make sure that I don't forget my roots. I must say-when I brew the coffee from The Mill, there is no forgetting my roots. You all know those old favorite smells. The ones that wrap you up in vivid memories. The smell of The Mill's coffee picks me up and plops me right back down into adolescence. Back to those excellent days when we all were certain that we were finally mature and righteous adults. The smell takes me back to pushing curfew for the sake of talking about that boy for just ten minutes longer and to life's first caffeine rushes. When I'm smelling coffee from The Mill I'm with friends jumping onto a train that's humming through the depot, I'm dressed up for the homecoming dance a little nervous, walking through the Old Haymarket to a restaurant near The Mill, I'm visiting my brother Drew in his first apartment around the corner, I'm about to get married and even though our wedding reception is in a coffee joint, I traipse over to The Mill for a taste of things that never change. Ah, yes. Thanks, Meghan, for the gift and for the trip I took from our little apartment here in Chicago this morning.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Sometimes Max just sits there, upright, sort of glancing around at nothing. What could he be thinking about?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Magic Hour

In our screenwriting class we talked about "the magic hour" as a time of the day that not only screenwriters like to write into their screenplays but that directors and film crews like to film during. The way I understand the magic hour is that it's that time of day, pre-sunset, where the shadows are long and the light is that good vivid, deep kind of light. I found myself outside during the magic hour this afternoon. It's particularly noticeable after several overcast days in a row. It's actually a little warming even on this, one of the most frigid days this year so far. Everything that the sun hits glows pink and orange and everything in the shadows seems a cool blue. It kind of takes your breath away. Well you know. I'm sure you've seen it too. But the magic hour isn't so magic that it can last more than sixty minutes. Nor is it magic enough to come around at a decent hour like, say, even five thirty or six. Nope. It's 4:45 and Chicago is in the dark. And ice is covering the rosebushes out front. :P

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

And then we...

went to our friend Allison's for some tasty cosmopolitans (with Vanilla vodka!) and good companay. When midnight hit we tuned on a local channel to see some Chicago fanfare. I, naturally, took a photo of the the tv and thought it strange that the face of Jesus seemed to appear in the right side of the fireworks. It's either Jesus or Allison's brother. I can't be sure. They look a lot alike.

Happy New Year!

We had a lovely dinner with Sarah and Steve and Andy at what I might venture to call Eric's favorite restaurant. Or at least where Eric has had, and I quote, "the best meal of his life." We ate at a place called Feast in the Wicker Park neighborhood. Chipotle barbeque salmon over corn buttermilk hot cakes with avocado salsa is the dish that causes so much passion. And I must agree, it's a little like clean warm socks on a cold night. So good and right. Though neither particularly sounds right when talking of dinner.