Strange Hers On A Train

When the clock strikes midnight tonight, I’ll be on my way to New York City. Specifically, I’ll be in a roomette in a sleeper car on Amtrak train number 48, the Lake Shore Limited. I’ll probably be frantically shoving grapes into my mouth while my friend Jacinda does the same.

The grapes are for luck, and Jacinda is for company. I don’t know how I did it, but I convinced one of my oldest and dearest friends to take the train with me, promising shenanigans and good times (and hopefully no delays) in what is estimated to be a twenty hour journey. Twenty hours! I know there are these fancy flying machines that can get us there in 1/10th of the time this will take, but with 1/10th of the fun.

Mildly Eventful Beginnings

Top Five Kinda Alright New Year’s Eve’s:

  1. 1999: Y2K! Even as a teenager the threat never seemed too real. I babysit a 10-year-old, feeling like we’re too close in age for this business and she could probably be left home alone. I drink Martinelli’s, eat snacks, and watch a Twilight Zone marathon. Happy millennium!
  2. 2004: Home for the holidays. A mistake. My friends from back home feel claustrophobic and unfamiliar. I don’t know what to do with myself. I go to some goth-industrial party in a warehouse a few blocks away from my mom’s house. I drink a lot beforehand. Everything is blacklight and makeshift tunnels. I crawl into one of these tunnels, make out with the guy I came with, then fall asleep. I don’t remember most of this. It’s slightly weird between us for a short period of time. I spend all New Year’s Eve’s in Chicago from that point forward. Happy 2005!
  3. 2008: My boyfriend isn’t into going out. I say I’m okay with it. I miss going out. We do random things around his apartment while I brim with vague resentment. This feeling is starting to become familiar. I go to bed shortly after the ball drops. I don’t know it yet, but 2009 is going to suck. Happy 2009!
  4. 2010: 2009 sucked. 2010 was so solid. I don’t want to let it go. I want this gentle upswing of a year to continue and am afraid the bottom is going to fall out any minute, a persistent and paralyzing life fear I should go talk to someone with a certificate on their wall about. Instead, I go to some friends’ adorable storefront studio with my nice newish boyfriend and his friend and girlfriend. I like them. I like him. We don’t know a lot of other people but it’s okay. We look at their screen printing stuff, knick knacks, new kitten. At midnight they play Ratatat. There’s this on the wall:

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There isn’t a real number five. I have a limited number of New Year’s Eve tales, and am saving the worst for our next show: Gallery Cabaret, 1/28, 7pm. Readers to be announced soon. Have a good rest of 2014, or just get it out of the way. Either way, I hope your last day of the year is memorable.

-Rose

First Impressions of Motherhood

Oh hey!

Lots has happened since I last wrote. Namely, I had a baby.

That sentence comes nowhere near describing what actually happened. But that is a story for another time, one I’m still trying to get all down before I forget.

Anyway, here are some initial impressions of being a first time parent, just shy of two weeks.

  • The everyday tasks of taking care of a newborn ranges from the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done to the most tedious, all at the same time.
  • I have never cared so much about urine, bowel movements and consumption of food in my entire life.
  • I have never gone this long without sleeping. I was in the hospital for five days and the first two I got maybe three hours total.
  • You can think you are doing what’s right for your baby and be totally, totally wrong.
  • I spend copious amounts of time on Google typing out searches that average eight to ten words.
  • I never get tired of looking at his face. And smelling him. And kissing his cheeks. And talking in an annoying voice that I’ve never heard until now.
  • Sometimes it feels like I’m constantly trying to figure out where to put him down. And that sort of makes me feel horrible.
  • But then he coughs and I feel way more horrible.
  • The only piece of clothing your baby needs is a sleeper or one piece, with footies and the fold over hand mitts. Onesies are worthless and you’ll feel bad because you won’t use them and that’s what most of your friends and family bought you.
  • I don’t know if I’m posting too many photos and frankly, I don’t care? Or I pretend for the less than a dozen people who’d like to see him, they are wishing I’d post even more.
  • If you don’t communicate with your partner in general, things will be really terrible. Thankfully, we’ve done pretty well in my opinion.
  • Saying “my son” is totally awesome and totally weird.
  • The only way to get through each day is to not think about all of the things that can and perhaps will go wrong in the future.

There are probably a hundred other things, but I won’t bore you.

It’s been surreal and also totally normal simultaneously.

-Carly

Four Ladies Snarking

“This is actually a bad movie right?”
“yes”
“oh yes”
“yeah but I can’t help loving it”

Cynthia*, Karlin, Irene, and myself discussing Love Actually.

I don’t have many traditions that I observe in life, and Christmas is no exception. Sometimes I give people presents (and they’re usually terrible), and occasionally I’ll remember to send cards. Am I watching the Pope celebrate Midnight Mass at the Vatican on television, or dragging myself to Our Lady of Mount Carmel?

This year I sent a few cards and made donations to college funds for a few friends’ kids. I bought a toy for a child through a toy drive, and slipped $40 to the nice lady who empties the trash bins at the office every day. I visited the Christkindlmarket three times, and only got tipsy on glühwein twice.

All You Can Eat

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. In this season of excess, I’d like to talk about an area of excess very close to my heart: The buffet. Buffets and I go way back. When I was a kid, “We’re going to Sizzler.” was music to my ears. I was a pain in the ass about food, and Sizzler worked well with my unrefined palate. I can’t imagine my parents loved it. But I did.

Out in the first-ring suburbs of San Francisco, I’d load up on chicken tenders and spaghetti with marinara, plus a giant Sprite. The salad bar and carving station were lost on me. But not the dessert. Sizzler. had. soft-serve. machines. And it was awesome. Sometimes I’d lay a cube of red Jell-O gently to the side of my Oreo-crusted chocolate-vanilla swirl, an artistically placed fruit cube sure to make my sister roll her eyes.

The soft-serve with gelatin backer tradition endured. I was 23 at a Chinese buffet on Belmont and Elston, but this time it was my then-boyfriend snorting at my creation – a neat vanilla twist with green Jell-O and fortune cookie garnish. He eyed the rows of almond cookies, his hand hovering over their rounded, pale yellow tops.

“I’m sure they’re not vegan.” I said. I was mad at him.

He sighed. “Probably not.”

We liked buffets for some of the same reasons. We both liked Chinese food of varying quality, from Chinatown’s best to China Fast Wok to Panda Express at the Des Plaines Oasis (It’s like McDonald’s for Chinese people,” he said, and I mean he was born in Taiwan so who was I to argue). And we liked to eat a lot of it. He didn’t eat animal products but wasn’t highbrow about where his non-meat came from, and liked anywhere that let him load up on vegetables, white rice, and tofu, plus the never that great kappa rolls for garnish. Then another round for noodles and fried rice. We took advantage of endless trips, pacing ourselves to get the most out of our experience.

And it was an experience. I liked to look at other diner’s selections. Every now and then you’d see variety platter from the American section: dried-out pizza, sad fries, and that grossly delicious prepackaged garlic bread. Usually this was kids under seven. Sometimes it was a giant pile of sweet and sour shrimp, the small mound of rice an afterthought. Sometimes it betrayed their not-so-secret sweet tooth, a double plate stacked high with fresh fruit, cookies, and brownies – in my opinion, a waste of stomach space. My own plate was potstickers, green beans, crab rangoon, rice, whatever Hunan or Szcehuan chicken was available, and sometimes beef with broccoli. That was round one. Round two delved further into the starch families: chow fun, chow mein, and occasionally a chunk of cantaloupe for color. Round three was dessert, and maybe more chow fun. It varied, but that was the general format.

I wanted everything. He didn’t. This extended past buffets, into areas beyond limitless egg rolls and General Tso. We didn’t last, but my love of buffets persisted. I haven’t been to one in a long time, not so much out of relationship nostalgia and more the noble and boring goal of trying to eat less like a jerk. But I remember them, a uniquely Chicago United Nations of endless food: Indian. Polish. Pizza. Thai. Old Country Buffet or Golden Corral. Flattop Grill totally doesn’t count.

In theory, I sort of get buffet hate. You’re probably going to overeat. They’re not fancy places. But buffets speak to me of possibility: everything you want is here for the taking. Pick up a serving spoon or metal tongs and go for it – it doesn’t matter if you have a little or a lot, because you can always return. Your decisions aren’t written in stone. You’re allowed to make missteps. It’s freedom, and it tastes really good. Like the fat and salt in a lot of my buffet favorites, that feeling is delicious and addictive. It is important to feel like lots of things can happen, and that you have agency over them. You screwed up the first round with honey walnut shrimp, which with its mayonnaise contents has no business being out there in the first place? It’s cool – theres a gleaming, golden pile of combination lo mein waiting for you. You can make a mistake and come back from it.

Plus, soft-serve machines. Come on.

-Rose

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Carly

I think what I like best about Carly is that she rarely asks me to do shit for her. And when she does ask me to do something for her, it’s really that she wants me to do something with her.

Things like:

  • going to the movies to drink giant sodas and eat too much popcorn
  • stuffing our faces at:
    • the Wendy’s on Ashland near Fullerton, or;
    • Aloha Eats in Lincoln Park, or;
    • the sketchy Chinese buffet on Belmont, or;
    • Uncle Mike’s (FILIPINO BREAKFAST OMG) on Grand near Paulina
  • reading at live lit shows
  • acting the fool and singing karaoke at her birthday parties

But for this week and the coming weeks I’ll be doing something for her but not with her. I’ll be filling in for her here on the blog and at the Miss Spoken monthly shows at Gallery Cabaret while she is on maternity leave.

Just call me the substitute Carly. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Carly. Crouching Jasmine, Hidden Carly. Carly & Me.

In the history of things that I’ve been asked to do by Carly, blogging for and hosting Miss Spoken is awesome and only slightly terrifying. I like to think that she only asks me to do things that she thinks I would enjoy and, more importantly, would not screw up. I’ve said no to Carly before, and I’m sure I will again, but I couldn’t do it, not this time. And I always have feelings of regret when I do say no.

Sometimes those feelings of regret come with a little puke.

Allow me to explain.

Double Teamed

“Look at her,” he snickered, “hey man, look at her.”

The mid-July sun beat down on my bare shoulders, which were rising towards my ears. I stared down at the magazine in my lap, concentrating harder than ever on anything but the two guys a few feet away. Their whispers got louder, and then:

“Look at her. Look at the little whore.”

Tears blurred the words on my lap. I clutched my copy of Bust tighter, pretending to read. I didn’t know if that had drawn their attention, or if it was my tank top and short skirt, or big chest and long hair. Maybe all of it. Maybe none of it. Maybe being a girl between the ages of 11 and death hanging out by myself was enough.

“Little whore.”

It occurred to me just then that reading alone at a big amusement park wasn’t the best way to blend in. But I was an awkward 13-year-old. I’d brought Bust with me because I couldn’t read it at home. Not after what had happened with my dad.

I’d walked in to him raging around the kitchen, manic and self-righteous in his fury. Bust lay on the kitchen table. I tensed up. I didn’t know what was coming, but it wasn’t going to be good. A small part of my brain flickered angrily, wondering why he was reading my stuff, but I silenced it. Being quiet was my best defense – he’d logic you out of anything until nothing made sense and you weren’t sure who you were or what had passed. He was good at it.

“I found this lying around the house.” He waved the magazine slowly in the air, then plopped it back down. He was big on dramatic effect. I mentally rolled my eyes but my stomach clutched with anxiety, head and gut at war.

“Okay.” I placed one foot over the other.

“And I saw a section,” he inhaled, “Called ‘One-Handed Reads’.”

Ohfuck I thought, jolted. Butwaitbutwait, my brain raced, why are we talking about this?

Hungry Brain

Sometimes when you love a place it creeps up on you. You don’t fall hard and fast right away, and it’s definitely not love at first sight – it was never that pretty. It’s a gradual thing that builds up over nights and then months, until it’s hard to think of the last ten years without it. But you remember your first time.

Hungry Brain is a bar without a sign, but you remember it’s just past Oakley. You’re 19. You like bars. You’re too chicken to get a fake, but your friend works the door and lets you in, accepting the cupcakes you’re carrying with a nod. You asked him to look he other way just this one time because it was your friend’s birthday, just this one time, and he does. He lets you in the second time too, then the third and fourth. “You don’t cause any trouble,” he says in his froggy, rasping voice. “And you bring treats.”

There is no special occasion the fifth time but it feels significant. You drink cheap gin and tonics and look around at a space that resembles a sort of cool older cousin’s basement, if that cousin had a stage and decent beer. It’s comfortable, like a low-key house party where you know enough people to make it familiar but there’s some strangers to keep it interesting. The lighting is low and that makes you confident. There are couches and tables. The tamale guy comes by around 10.

Hello From Suburbia

There is no place like home.

Here I’ve given in to every selfish notion. If I were more able bodied and in less discomfort, I’d enjoy it even more.

But I can’t really complain.

There are home cooked meals, four choices in fresh fruit, cable t.v.s, someone offering to clean my bathroom and launder my towels.

My only job is to relax. And while that’s sometimes maddening, it’s certainly better than the alternative.

I have also completely given in to my physical state of being, which may have been better prepared, say if I were younger and had gone into pregnancy at a normal weight. Instead, the pelvic pressure has me moving at a turtle’s pace and if it weren’t for the goddamn carpal tunnel, I’d stay off my feet even more. I know that walking is good, so I have been trying to pace around the house when I’m up for it. But wandering around Target doesn’t sound fun anymore.

I know everyone’s experience is different, so there’s no sense in bemoaning the fact that “no one told me it was going to be like ‘this'”. Not to mention, I could have this baby any day now and soon I’ll be in a whole different dimension of unknown territory, so no point in dwelling on my current situation.

So yeah. I’ve been doing a lot of nothing. Watching t.v., listening to Serial, eating whatever I want, taking naps and trying to figure out if that was a contraction or just gas.

And I’ve been thinking about you all. I should text and email more and I’m sorry it’s been so quiet on my end. I think sometimes I’m unable to figure out how to deal with the physical distance while still being in someone’s life.

I hope I can still be there for you in some way.

-Carly

Not That You Asked: Being A Chicago Bulls Fan

I come from the Michael Jordan era.

You know, the days when we used to have the best player in the league, the best number two guy, the best coach, a championship team. Back when I knew every guy, even without totally understanding positions or play calls or triangle offense.

And man, did it feel awesome.

I resurrected my love for them back in the mid-2000’s alongside my then boyfriend. Even though Ben Gordon wasn’t going to take us to the top, they were still a playoff team; hustlers.

So when we got Derrick Rose, there was just so much damn hope. I cried when I saw his MVP acceptance speech. So selfless. So team oriented. So dedicated.

But after these past few seasons riddled with injuries, the energy has been slowly sucked out, like a pinhole in a balloon.

There’s a part of me, and I’m sure a part of all of us, who wanted him to come back and kick ass. To be what he could never be expected to be: The New Michael Jordan.

It’s a completely unfair desire and really, why not just let that be then and this be now?

Because we want to win. We want championship rings and unbelievable regular season records and three peats. We want our guy to go out there with the flu and still hit the winning shot.

While I don’t think we should be coming down so damn hard on Rose, I get it. We are a city that has held on to a not THAT distant past. We were kings. We were unstoppable. Or so it felt like it.

I suppose for me, I just remember watching the old team play and had confidence. I believed we would win.

Now I spend the entire game biting my nails even when we’re up twenty. And for good reason. As really good as we look, this is not that team.

And the sooner we can accept that, the sooner we can come to embrace these guys as the hard working, talented bunch of players who have an awesome coach and a city that just wants them to succeed.

-Carly