Little Girl, Big Book.

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life 0
She's actually looking up at Grandma for a chocolate shake, but let's say it's a shelf of books. Photo: John Trainor, courtesy Wikipedia.
She’s actually looking up at Grandma for a chocolate shake, but let’s say it’s a shelf of books. Photo: John Trainor, courtesy Wikipedia.

My neighborhood is the South Loop (that’s the bottom of the Loop Loop) but I’m a block over from Printer’s Row. Printer’s Row is a short stretch of Dearborn St. that many years ago was the heart of the Chicago robust publishing and printing industry.

Not much is left of that era; most everything is pretty condo buildings and storefront business and restaurants — but there is Sandmeyer’s Books. It’s a snuggly, warm bookshop and though I have promised myself that I cannot, shall not buy any more books until I read all the books I have, I should go give Sandmeyer’s Books some money because I don’t want it to go away. I’ll go there tomorrow and let you know what I buy.

Claus and I passed by the bookshop today and smiled when we saw the most adorable child in the Milky Way. She was maybe four. Cute little cap with blonde hair poking out. Nice warm jacket. And she had a book in a Sandmeyer’s Bookstore bag clutched to her chest. I was enchanted. Kids with books, man; they could steal my purse and I’d tell them to go have fun and be careful. In a very friendly-not-weird way, I stopped and said “Well, hello there! Did you get a book today?”

The girl looked up at me with big blue eyes. Her nanny said, “She found a ten-dollar bill on the street.”

If I found ten bucks on the street, I would freak out. I said to the little girl that that was really cool and very lucky. And she wanted a book, eh? Her nanny nodded and told me the little girl was going to give the rest of the money to her mommy and daddy. Yeah, right.

“And what book did you get little Miss?” I asked.

Her nanny helped produce the book. It was Home for a Bunny, a Big Little Golden Book by Margaret Wise Brown. A favorite of mine as a child and for my sisters, too. I told the little girl she had made a excellent choice. Claus and I waved goodbye and headed home, past old Dearborn Station, which was a passenger train hub from 1885 to 1971. Many, many people arrived in Chicago through that station; plenty of them bought their first book in this city.

Pigeons: It’s Us And Them.

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life 1
Me, just hangin' by a two-story Alexander Calder sculpture by the downtown Chicago post office. Photo: Claus
Me, just hangin’ by a two-story Alexander Calder sculpture by the downtown Chicago post office. I have a picture of pigeons from the same day this picture was taken but I can’t bear to use it. Pigeons are just gross-looking Photo: Claus

I was on the No. 3 bus that runs on Michigan Ave., heading south. The bus was full, so I had moved to the front; my stop was coming up and I didn’t want to have to throw elbows to get out.. In close proximity to me was the silver-haired bus driver, this really tall black dude with a pick in his afro, a tiny Asian woman of about sixty, and another white chick like me, who never looked up from her phone a single time and she got on when I did, way up at Chicago Ave.

Our bus got stopped in traffic. There was construction and a couple busses ahead of us, so we had a long wait at the curb at Lake Street. This brief party found ourselves looking out of the bus onto the sidewalk at our right. There were people walking along on the sidewalk, as usual; we hardly saw the scaffolding criss-crossing our view of the sidewalk because that scaffolding has been on that block for nine thousand years. (Maybe they’re just building scaffolding.) And then we all saw a couple boys of about thirteen or so running around chasing a big group of pigeons. The boys were clearly brothers; you could tell by their likeness and how a woman nearby was yelling, “John! Jake! Get back here! Where’s your father?”

The boys were tossing parts of their sandwich bread to the birds and some of the bread landed right outside the bus door. The bus driver shook his head. I jumped back, even though the door was closed, and went, “Eee!” The Asian lady clicked her tongue and gave the boys a fabulously disapproving look, which they will unfortunately never see. Longtime city dwellers know that pigeons are dirty and annoying, that they spread disease and are capable of pooping on your head.  My bus friends and I — being the wizened, hard Chicagoans we are — knew this and watched from our place of wisdom.

“Pigeons,” said the bus driver. “Just rats with wings. Those kids are in from out of town.”

The boys were running directly into the swarm of pigeons that had heard Subway sandwiches were being served at Michigan and Lake. One of the boys tried to pick up one of the birds.

“That ain’t even right,” said the guy with the pick.

We all looked at the sidewalk scene, at the people, the birds, the metal, the concrete, and I felt for the 20 millionth time in my life a comforting certainty: I belong in a city.

 

Wellington On Smartphone.

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life, Story 0
コーちゃん、オーちゃんと Photo: Wikipedia
コーちゃん、オーちゃんと Photo: Wikipedia

Yesterday’s story about quitting a restaurant job in the name of making no money in the name of art reminded me of other tales, all from my early twenties. I did not sleep well. Thinking back on my early days in Chicago, I am filled with a 2:1 ratio of compassion and chagrin: I love the girl who moved to a major city alone, knowing no one, having only a vague idea of what she was going to do once she arrived; I wince when I think of what bar she thought was cool and which lampshade she chose to wear on her head while she hung out there. Youth is wasted on the young — and youth was wasted last night, too.

I moved to Chicago before smartphones. In black and white, here, right now, I am officially “dating myself,” which is something that until this moment, other people older than me did. Well, here we go: I’m dating myself, but I remember what it was like to move to a new city and not have a magical electronic map in my pocket that talked to me. I had a foldout thing I got for graduation, a wing, and a prayer. Just one wing? When has one wing ever worked?

I did not know my way around the city. At all. And I didn’t know anyone, either. I got off the Brown Line train at Wellington a couple days after I had gotten my apartment. The Wellington Brown Line station is on Wellington Street of course. But my apartment was twenty-six blocks west of that station. All I knew was that I lived on Wellington St., so I was like, “Oh. Okay. Well, I don’t know where I am but I live on Wellington, so I’ll just call this one good.” I got off the train. And I walked twenty-six blocks. I realized I was really far away from where I needed to be, but I was on Wellington and the numbers were going up, so I just kept going. I couldn’t spend money on a cab. I didn’t know the bus lines. If I had had a smartphone, that never would’ve happened. Because GPS is watching.

I’d like to say, “And I’m glad I didn’t have a smartphone! That was good for me, that horrible, hot, summer day in Chicago, walking miles and miles.” But it wasn’t good for me. It was bad. I was sad, lost, and alone. There’s no other way to say it. It took so long.

The image above conveys perfectly my disorientation that day. The word “Wellington” always reminds me of “Paddington,” as in Paddington Bear. After seeing WikiCommons’ offerings for the Wellington El stop, I searched for images of Paddington Bear. Nothing good there either, so I went for “Wellington boots.” This image of a Japanese theme park came up on that page. That is actual Japanese in the caption. I have no idea what it says.

My point is that thirty-six is is better than twenty-two; thirty-six with a Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is better still. I will try not to be twenty-two in tomorrow’s post.

 

“You Can’t Have Both.”

posted in: Art, Chicago, Day In The Life, Story 1
It was kinda like this place. Image: Wikipedia
It was kinda like this place. Image: Wikipedia

When I was new in Chicago — this is fifteen years ago, now — a friend of mine helped me get a job as a hostess at a downtown restaurant. The restaurant was a citywide chain so popular, Saturday night at the host stand felt straight-up dangerous. Elbows were thrown. Twenty-dollar bills were passed to the maitre-d’ for special treatment (woe betide the tipper if the guy from out of town waiting three hours already spied the exchange.) Wine was sloshed. It was loud. And it was an hour commute on the train from my tiny apartment in the middle of nowhere.

I had learned to eat well in college. I worked as a waitress at a cafe there in Iowa City and got my culinary education — and dating the head chef for most of that time meant I got, you know, tutoring help and stuff. By the time I got to Chicago, I actually knew a little about wine. I could make a pan sauce all by myself. This small-town girl not only knew what sweetbreads were, she would order them if she found them on a menu. Aside from the occupational hazards, being a hostess just felt wrong. I was in a restaurant but not doing what I could do. I knew a restaurant job was what I would have for awhile, but the role and the restaurant had to change.

There was an ad in the Chicago Reader for a waiter at a two-star (Michelin stars, that is) restaurant on Taylor Street. Let’s call it The Fancy Napkin. This place was gorgeous: an upscale French bistro owned by a Moroccan man who looked like a swarthy James Bond. The cafe sat sixty, tops, outfitted in impeccable white linen; the waiters wore impeccable white bistro aprons. Each wine glass was spotless and the lights from the chandeliers glinted off them all. Steaming bowls of boulliabaisse. Crusty baguettes. And if you wanted to spend north of a grand on a bottle of wine, the restaurant would be happy to help you do that.

I applied. There were no female waiters, just three dudes, one of whom had been there over ten years. I had to take a wine test. I had to answer serious menu questions. I forget what the owner asked me, but it would’ve been things like, “What is canard? What is mille-feuille? Pair wine with the caviar plate for me.” I got an hour with the menu and then had a quiz. I did very well on everything and the owner offered me the job. But I had a problem.

The theater company I was a part of was producing our first show. I had a small part in the second act. There was zero money. And I had rehearsals at night. As a hostess at the chain restaurant, I could be in the play: I’d just work the lunch shifts. But not at The Fancy Napkin — there was only dinner six nights a week. I told James Bond I would be thrilled to take the job and then gently broached the little matter of needing Wednesdays and Thursdays off for awhile, then swapping those out for the Friday and Saturday nights I’d need for the play. But not for long! Just four weeks or so? Sir?

This did not go well. After expressing his extreme displeasure over taking so much time to vet me, he told me something I will never forget: “Marie, you can be a poor artist. Or you can make a lot of money at this restaurant. But you can’t do both. Decide now. Do you want to be poor and in a little play? Or do you want to live?” I was speechless. I needed money. But the play. Theater was the reason I came to Chicago. But money. But art. But rent. But love. Oh, no, no, no. I was twenty-two years old.

So you know what I did? I took a walk around the block. Someone had told me once that if you have to make a big decision, take a walk around the block and say to yourself firmly, “By the time I get back to where I started, I will have my decision.” It works. You speed up the decision-making process. You get closer to the end of your loop and you’re still in a quandary and then bam! The solution presents itself. The whole way around the block, walking slowly, I didn’t know what to do. But when I got to the door, I did.

I quit the job.

 

 

Swinging From Metal Vines.

The 11 train, NYC Metro. Image: Wikipedia
The 11 train, NYC Metro. Image: Wikipedia

There was a time not so very long ago when I had moved to Washington, that I figured out a few slick subway train transfers within the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which is called “WMATA” for short, which sound’s like something Tony Spaghetti’s big brother says to the pipsqueak who’s lookin’ at him funny:

“Ey, yew! Yeah, yew, kid. You keep lookin’ at me and my brotha like that, I’ma wamata ya right in ya gavone face. Capishe?”

Anyway, there I am in Washington, and I’m stepping out from the Red Line to Shady Grove to the Gallery Place/Chinatown station because I need to transfer to the Green; you can catch the Green Line there, as well as the Yellow Line. As I did that, I recalled how I know the NYC Metro 6 line pretty well and the Q, and that I used to take the 1 train up to the Upper West Side to get to The Yarn Company to sew because there was no room to sew in the tiny, tiny, I-hate-you tiny apartment I was living in with Yuri.

A few weeks after the WMATA moment, thinking deeply about two cities’ subway systems, I was in Chicago for a weekend and, wow, I know the train system here like the back of my hand, which, after at least thirty years (do two-year-olds consider the backs of their hands?) I know pretty well.

All these train maps in my head and the solid knowledge I have of navigating them came together and I felt like a monkey swinging from one big vine. Shoop! The L train in Manhattan that crosses the Lower East Side over to the west side. Shoop! Down from Cleveland Park in DC to get the Orange Line to Eastern Market. And then, that first, peaceful ride on Chicago’s Orange Line to go to Midway to catch a flight, knowing I’d be coming back on the same tracks.

The other day, though, I went down into the lower level of the Chase building because I thought there was a post office down there; I realized when I couldn’t find the post office that I was thinking of a post office in the basement of a building in Penn Quarter in DC. That was weird.

This One’s For You, Baby.

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life, Family 1
Unidentified man with unidentified object that is too cute to be human, puppy, or kitten. Photo: Me, carefully.
Unidentified man with unidentified object that is too cute to be human, puppy, or kitten. Photo: Me, carefully.

My mom is in town for the lighting of the first (or “beta”) test of The Wabash Lights. We had plans to meet at the new Maggie Daley Park Ice Skating Ribbon. Mom and I love to skate; we both love it enough and are good enough to have our own skates. Stand in line for rentals? Not these girls. We just lace up and go.

Mom lost her phone, though (first time in her life), so she had to deal with that this afternoon. The last time we communicated was earlier in the day via email; as of then, the plan stood. So I went to the Ribbon at the appointed time, but no Mom. I couldn’t call her. She couldn’t call me. So I skated by myself until she showed up. For an hour, with no headphones, no pal to chat with, I skated round and round that magnificent ribbon. It’s less of a “view” you get than a “movie” you get on that thing. You get a moving picture and you’re the thing moving and the air is crisp as can be. The city of Chicago is the sky below the sky and the endless blue of Lake Michigan rounds out the whole world. They did a really, really good job with this thing.

I love this city so much. The Ribbon is one more reason to be a jerk about how much better this city is than any other city now or ever. But what I really want to talk about is that baby.

There is good in the world. Because nothing could be cuter or more wonderful than this baby. Strapped tight into its little snuggly, winging around on its dad’s back as he deftly — and carefully, I assure you — maneuvered the Ribbon, this baby is everything. I have other pictures. I tried so hard to not be weird, but I had to take pictures of this baby. This is the best one I got, I think. I’m on Instagram, so follow me for more of the Perfect Ribbon Baby images that I cannot stop looking at. You will not be disappointed.

Sometimes, I do want a kid.

Office Supplies Will Save Us All.

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life 0
Office supply store, Poland. Photo: Wikipedia
Office supply store, Poland. Photo: Wikipedia

I’m under the weather. I’m body-achy, I’ve got heavy-head-on-necky, and my eyeballs are dry. I’m serious, they’re dry. I continually require drops. What can it mean?

Perhaps the two-hour walk I took yesterday evening pushed me into this. The night was colder than I anticipated. I had been out earlier and it wasn’t too bad, but the temperature had dropped. Not realizing this, I made a suboptimal coat decision.

I needed to walk. I had no destination, just the desire to get out, move my legs. Sometimes I work all day and realize at 7pm that I haven’t gone anywhere but from my desk to the kitchen to the couch and back. This doesn’t bother me, usually. But a brutal nightmare woke me from my power nap that afternoon and the hours following that were just weird. I felt weird, I felt sad. A walk seemed the thing to do, so I grabbed my wallet and my favorite tote bag and hit Wabash Avenue.

Nietzsche said that the best thoughts are conceived while walking. I think he was right on that one; the rhythm of your feet helps sort things out up top. I was sorting out but not liking what piles were forming and actually going deeper into my funk…when the glowing lights of a Staples store shone in the distance and I immediately felt one-thousand times better.

I love office supplies. I squeal when I unscrew a fresh bottle of Wite-Out. I can’t talk about PaperMate felt-tip pens or I’ll need a hanky. The small, sturdy boxes with staples inside. Paperclips! Folders of all colors and styles: hanging, tabbed, pocket, no-pocket, etc. Tabs. All the tabs. Stickers. My mother says that if you love office supplies, you’ll love making quilts. I think the converse is true, as well: if you make quilts, you probably love office supplies. My little sister and I used to play “School” up in the toy room on the farm. I thought about that as I floated through the aisles last night. This is the difference between kids and adults. We do not play “Work” after we get home.

As a rule, I don’t shop for entertainment. When I go into a store, I’m there for a reason, for an errand. But last night, I needed to go up and down the aisles, touch office supplies, and select some to put into my handbasket. An hour before closing, it was pretty much just me and the two employees in the store and they couldn’t have cared less about me. I had the place to myself. I studied paper. I deliberated over the thin highlighters or the thick ones. I considered purchasing a slim spiral folder with the bend-back cover that I don’t need but might need soon. I put that back, barely.

It helped. Sometimes I resist taking a walk because taking a walk for no reason, by myself, can seem sort of pathetic. But that’s silly. Walking is a noble thing to do. Even if the chill I got made me sickly, the walk snapped me out of myself, which is what I needed. It snapped me out of myself and into Staples and here I am.

Thieves.

posted in: Chicago 0
"Beware pickpockets" sign. Photo: Wikipedia
“Beware pickpockets” sign. Image: Wikipedia

Are you in the market for a bed? I’d love to sell you one. If you’re one of the two scam artists who tried to rob me this week, I’d love to poke you in the eye, which is the PaperGirl way of saying: [REDACTED] you.

I have a beautiful oak bed I need to sell. The bed is modern minimalist in style. Oak. Gorgeous, deep brown finish. Low to the ground. A fantastic bed. I got it on Overstock for a head-slappingly good price and I have the receipt to prove it. But that’s not all. I have a dreamy, cloud-like mattress to sell, as well. It’s a Charles P. Rogers “Estate 5000,” which clearly means it’s good. These things were purchased and used by me for exactly three months while I was in Washington, D.C. Remember, all my furniture was here in Chicago. The first months I was in D.C. I rented furnished apartments; when I moved into the Kennedy Warren, furnishing was on me. I needed a place to sleep, so I bought the bed and mattress.

I came home, though, so now I have these enormous objects in my hallway. They must go. I made cute signs and posted them on my building’s bulletin board, but that was three weeks ago and no bites. So, Monday evening, I posted an ad on Craigslist. Together, the bed and mattress are worth many hundreds of dollars, which is important to note because my experience with Craigslist would’ve been different if I was selling a collection of half-grown Chia Pets for four dollars.

Immediately, I got emails and texts from people who said they wanted to buy my stuff. I was thrilled! I communicated with the one guy — not a great speller, incidentally — who wanted the mattress and a gal who wanted the bed. Strangely, they both were out of town and told me they’d have a mover come get the furniture. Seemed reasonable. One offered to PayPal me. That seemed fine. PayPal is safe. One said she’d do a cashier’s check, which was okay with me, too. Those are legit. I’d love to tell you I was unsure about either of them, but I wasn’t. I was excited to sell my stuff and reclaim my hallway.

Clicking to edit an ad on my Craigslist page, I clicked the “Avoid Scams & Fraud” tab. Everything they warned against was happening to me: text messages with bad spelling, asking for my PayPal account number, the cashier’s check option (Craigslist says these are always, always fake), and the employing of a third party (e.g., a mover, a friend.) I felt sick. I was totally playing into scam artists’ hands. Once I understood what was happening, I texted each person back and said, “You’re trying to steal from me. I’m not interested in speaking with you. Good luck.” No response from either “buyer” since then; I have the hunch I was right.

I’ve had my purse stolen. I’ve had two bicycles taken. And my car was towed once by legendarily evil Lincoln Towing Service in Chicago, which is a kind of larceny. The feeling one gets when one has been suckered, or fooled, or taken advantage of, or relieved of personal belongings without consent is a feeling akin to having a nightmare. Because like a nightmare, when you’re stolen from — or about to be stolen from — you’re disoriented; you’re confused; it’s spooky; there’s a kind of dread and vulnerability present; there are boogie men.

When I blogged about my condo up available for rent last summer, it worked: I got tenants. Maybe this will work, then: I am selling a bed and a mattress. Facebook message me if interested.

Ode For the Ocean: My Shedd Aquarium Adventure

posted in: Art, Chicago, Day In The Life, Poetry 0
Residents of the deep ocean. Photo: Wikipedia
Residents of the deep ocean. Photo: Wikipedia

There were fish, sharks, fish, strange plants, and 1.5 millions of gallons of water at the aquarium. In response to the Shedd, I’d like to post a poem I worked out this summer. It’s longer than most of my poems, but I hope you will read through it today and when someone asks you, “Did you read any poetry this week?” You can say, “Yes, I did.”


 

Ode for the Ocean

by Mary Fons
© 2015

I’ve never thought it beautiful.

I much prefer a mountain range, which
                         strikes me as more traversable;
The ocean just strikes you with waves.

The “treasures of the sea,” to me,
Are going silver
             (such foolish gold)
Not proof of some grand, courageous adventure,
Just wet and old.

We are to find an endless blue
              (or anything endless) a reflecting pool?
This is madness
           and all madness should frighten you.

For lurking under sunset fire, just beyond the lovers’ sighs
Are beasts with coal black eyes
                          blind with only one own-only mind:
                                                                                                        survive

And longer than you, laughs the whale;
Killer, indeed, and with a tail to crush you,
As you clap and wave and save your photo.

All combers,
Mind the suck down —
                                    that human-sized sucking sound;
So much chum and lunchmeat now,
First for the mighty maw that spied you
                           (what’s red and white and red rolled over?)
Blood becomes you
               ‘till you’re dispersed in that vast, mast-hungry pool
                                                                   adrift on the waves that lulled you
Back when Cabo was not the site of your grisly end;
The fishes catch the tissue last
                                          and any flecks of left eye that’s left —
Are you finally out of the office

Further below, in depths we cannot fathom deep —
                           translucents sleep
Why they wake at all
A question we ne’er allow to ask;
Preferring such questions as:
                         “Shall we take the pink umbrella, dear?”
                         “Is Carol bringing Jake?”

The sea does not care
The sea does not love Carol

But for heaven’s sake!” the swimmers scream,
“Death’s not all the ocean! Think of schools and dolphin,
Think of shells and oyster feasts!”

Please

A grinning manatee emerging from misty black is a heart attack —
You’d mess your pants and your electric fan;

And if walls of undulating weeds or tangerine clowns are cool to you
Fix them in your mind for
                         five minutes down the line these lives, too, are over;

Such is the lifespan of sea color
And what a drag!

The cleverest trick the ocean ever played
Was convincing us of her placidity

There’s chaos in the drink —
A jungle reversed,

                           inverted earth
Primeval monster bedlam,
Time and zero memory locked in loggerheaded war;
What in heaven’s name 
                           are you out there for

 

The sea does not love you

The sea married herself a long, long time ago
                           and she’s kept a tight ship ever since

See how she takes out the garbage

See how she freezes her food
See how she sweeps the floor

See how she claps herself on the back,
                                        see how she races herself at the shore, one more touch,
                                        one more touch, one more touch, one more

She doesn’t love you
She doesn’t even warn you

You: land creature
Get out

 

 

The View From Above: My Chicago SkyDeck Adventure

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life, Story 0
Love at 1,351 feet. Photo: Me
A teenage couple looks out on Chicago from the SkyDeck. Photo: Me

While in the admission line for the Adler Planetarium on New Year’s Day, Claus and I looked at a pamphlet advertising something called the Chicago CityPass. For $96 bucks, you can buy a book of tickets to five of Chicago’s best art/culture destinations for half the cost if you were to buy tickets for all of them separately. The catch is that you have to use your book of tickets within nine days, which means you have nine days to see: The Field Museum, The Shedd Aquarium, SkyDeck Chicago, The Museum of Science & Industry or 360 Chicago, The Adler Planetarium or The Art Institute.

It’s lousy they make you pick between The Art Institute and the Planetarium, both of them being potentially life-changing experiences if you’re on a family vacation and you’re six. “Look, Denny: it’s either stars or art. Make up your mind or we’re getting in the car and going back to your Aunt Rita’s. I need a bathroom.”

Claus and I went to the SkyDeck on Tuesday. The SkyDeck is the observatory on the top floor of the Willis née Sears Tower. It’s strange that I like flying so much; airplanes hang out at 30,000 feet or so. The Willis Tower is 1,450 in the sky and I hated being up there. I got nauseated. I got dizzy. And then I had to “face my fears” and step out onto “The Ledge.”

The Ledge is a clear glass box that extends 4.3 feet out from the tower. You’re supposed to walk out into the box and stand there. Stand in a 4-sided glass box 1,450 feet in the air. There’s nothing under your feet but a clear glass shelf. I do not ride amusement park rides. I do not sky dive. And The Ledge? I did not want to do it.

“You have to do it Mary,” Claus said. When he says “Mary” it sounds so nice, like, “Mah-rie” and this is dangerous.

“Absolutely not,” I said. I was feeling queasy again and wanted to go back to the gift shop to discern why they were selling those monkey toys with the velcro hands that hang around your neck. How was that a relevant Willis Tower gift shop item? Plus, the gift shop is at the center of the observatory, so I was safer there.

“Oh, come on, Mah-rie. Face your feers.”

I hate it when Claus or anyone else says that because then I have to. What, I’m going to live this life without facing at least half of my fears? Damnit! People laughed at me because I had to stick one toe at a time into the cube. Inch by inch, I made it out there, took one look left, one right, one out, and one down past my feet (oh sweet mercy) then immediately nose-dived back to what now seemed like safety. Relativity is a cruel mistress.

We checked the SkyDeck off the CityPass. Tomorrow: The Shedd Aquarium.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

posted in: Chicago, Family 1
Jimmy Carter and his family, Christmas Day, 1978. Photo: Wikipedia
Jimmy Carter and his family, Christmas Day, 1978. Photo: Wikipedia

Merry Christmas!

I’m at my younger sister and brother-in-law’s home in Old Town, Chicago. It smells like ham in here — not all the time, just right now.

I have eaten popcorn, sausage, peanut butter cups and a big chocolate-dipped marshmallow with red and green sprinkles — that last item was on a stick. I made dinner at my house the other night and that went off well. My mother is presently putting together a puzzle with my step dad. We all saw Star Wars the other day, and it rocked. We had tickets to A Christmas Carol at the Goodman yesterday; my good friend plays Belle in the show and she was great. Some of us may go ice skating or pay a visit to the Field Museum tomorrow — we’ll see. I might have a bellyache because I plan to eat at least one more decadent food item off a stick if I have to stick it on myself.

It sounds perfect. But there are wrinkles. Deep breaths are taken from time to time by this person or that one because someone is loud or someone says something wrong (usually me, lately.) I got sick yesterday in the Goodman bathroom; still not sure what that was about. Every day that passes means Claus is one day closer to going back to Germany. So really, this is a perfect holiday. Because this is the way it always is; it fits perfectly into the story of the end-of-year holidays that we tell every year.

Thank you for reading my blog. I love to write it. Merry Christmas, everyone.

The Monadnock Building (It’s a Wonderful Life.)

posted in: Chicago 1
They are looking at the arcade. Photo: Wikipedia
They are looking at the arcade. Photo: Wikipedia

The Monadnock Building on Jackson and Dearborn is my favorite building in Chicago (outside the building where I live, of course.) When it was finished in 1893, it was the world’s largest office building, and some say modern architecture was kicked off when the Monadnock was complete. It was a Burnham and Root building, which says all needs be said for those who know what that means; for those who don’t, this means it is one of the most important buildings in the city, historically, aesthetically. There are three-hundred offices within. A winding staircase. Big windows on all sides. I had a writing job for a company on the fourth floor a few years back. I had a Mary Tyler Moore moment the day I walked into that office. Six feet tall that day.

The best part of the building — the building experience, you could say — for me is the old school arcade of shops on the ground floor. You can enter the Monadnock on Jackson and walk straight through to the other side of the building to the Van Buren side. On a freezing day in winter, you can escape the pain and get south (or north, depending) for a full block, wrapped in the gold warmth of the gas lamps that run on either side of the corridor. The tile is tiny, mosaic. It feels like another time, except you’re listening to Beyonce on your headphones. Potentially.

There are shops on either side of the arcade hall, including a barbershop that is always full, the best florist shop in the city (really), a really good tailor, a milliner (do you call a shop that makes men’s hats a millier? or a hat shop?), an Intelligensia coffee bar (also best in city), a shoe-repair shop where I take all my shoes, a woman’s clothing and accessory boutique, and a diner that serves a great, inexpensive grilled ham and cheese. It’s all oak and glass in there; you can see the activity of the people and shopkeepers inside.

I’m still floating, being back home in Chicago. I walked through the arcade the other day and I felt like grabbing people and saying, “Do you know how wonderful this is? We get to walk here! We get to walk through the Monadnock anytime we want! It’s free! We get to have this! Do you realize how lucky we are?”

Tomorrow, I have errands that include: get flowers, take shoes in, get sandwich, get coffee, look at hats. Lucky me.

 

 

Just To Be Here.

posted in: Chicago, Paean 1
This is the interior of a palace in Poland. But my heart feels like this!
This is the interior of a palace in Poland. But my heart feels like this! Photo: Wikipedia

My heart feels like it’s in a jacuzzi. Being back in Chicago is a gift. I turn a corner and look at something so banal as the American Apparel store or the conveniently-placed mailbox on the corner of Polk and Dearborn and I beam. Thankfully, it’s scarf weather, so I can beam into my scarf and not scare anyone.

As I walked up State St. the other day — State St. in all its bunting and festooned glory — I thought how remarkable it was that no one around me knew how happy I was just to be there. No way could anyone walking behind me or crossing the street with me know that I was so happy to be back in this city that my heart was singing, even as I dodged a weird/large puddle by the library? But we don’t know about anyone who walks near us, do we? (I wrote up a similar thought in regards to bathrooms and disabilities, but this is different.) We all have stories and circumstances, but we can never know all the people so we can’t know all the stories. Good or bad, when significant things happen to us, we still have to like, walk to the bank. We still have to go to work. We gotta eat something. But where did the person next to you come from? And where are they going?

That man’s mother died last night. That other man, he’s on his way to court to give a deposition — and he’s debating whether or not to lie. That woman on your left is headed to her first job as a dominatrix. The woman on your right just got elected to the board. That guy, he was diagnosed yesterday. The woman up ahead was going to break up with her boyfriend at lunch but couldn’t do it. The man across the street, crossing to your side, lost his wallet twenty minutes ago. The woman nearby him is worrying herself to death over her prodigal son.

I wanted to grab someone and say: “Hi! I was walking next to you but there was no way for you to know how happy I am to be in Chicago and I want to tell you because you should know. You should know that just walking near you, just being under the Chicago sky — it’s wonderful! It’s a wonderful life! Don’t take it for granted, don’t forget: Chicago is the best city in the world. We have a lot of issues. But we can make it. We’re gonna make it. We’re gonna work together and we’re gonna make it. Okay?”

I suspect the person would run away from me as fast as possible. And if they did, no big deal. I’d just grab the next guy or the next guy, until I found someone who was ready to rap with me for the rest of the afternoon about how there is no place like home and there is no home like Chicago. Not for me and not for the person rapping with me. Maybe we would sit on the bench in front of the old school barbershop-and-cigar shop on Dearborn. I love to walk past that place but I’ve never been in. It’s not that cold, yet; we could share my scarf.

Life Made a Pre-Washer Out of Me, Part I.

posted in: Chicago, Quilting, Small Wonders 1
If Small Wonders fabric was pretty and sweet before; washed and dried, it's angelic.
If Small Wonders fabric was pretty and sweet before; washed and dried, it’s angelic.

For PaperGirl readers who are not quilters, you are about to learn that quilters are a divided people. We are locked in a brother-against-brother conflict so deep, so indelible, generations of quilters from now will bear the weight of our differences. And it all comes down to how a quilter answers this question:

“Do you pre-wash your fabric?”

When a quilter gets home from the quilt shop or opens the UPS box, she has a choice to make: will she pop that cotton into the laundry first or will she just take it all to her fabric stash and just pull it out when she’s ready to use it? There are strong cases to be made on either side. What’s most important to know now is this: if you pre-wash some of your fabric, you must pre-wash all of it.

That’s the hard and fast rule. You can’t be a little bit pregnant and you can’t be an on again-off again pre-washer. This is because pre-washing pre-shrinks. If you make a quilt with some pre-shrunk fabric and some that isn’t, you are in danger of ruining your quilt. Stretching, pulling, snapped threads, rippling: fabric stitched together that shrinks at different rates wreaks havoc. If you care about what you made — which of course you do — don’t cross the streams.

Here’s the pre-wash argument: pre-washing gets rid of fixative chemicals from the factory; it obliterates any fear of dye bleed when the finished quilt is washed; you’ll use fewer pins because pre-washed fabric sticks together way better; if you use fabric softener it smells amazing; best of all, it feels incredibly soft and nice and it’s fluffy.

The non-pre-wash argument: you have to be insane to do more laundry what is wrong with you; any fixative used on the fabric is negligible; no one wants to wait to use new fabric; you’ll endure Thread Hell from unraveling edges; fabric from the dryer is super wrinkled and you have to press everything. No way.

It is a rare, rare occurrence indeed when a quilter leaves her team for the other. It’s like a Confederate soldier joining the Union Army. A Packers fan with a Bears jersey in his trunk. My friend Susan switching to Pepsi from Coke. (Never!) Aside from the convictions held by quilters on their respective side of the aisle, it’s a really, really big deal to stop or start pre-washing. Either you start in and pre-wash all of your stash one day, or you have to give away/donate all of your pre-washed fabric and resolve to not wash any fabric you bring into your home from here on out.

But I switched.

Right now, at this very moment, six washing machines in my building’s laundry room are sloshing and swishing yard after yard of fabric. Right now, four dryers in that room are tumbling, fluffing the material that I use to make quilts.

I’m doing it. I’m pre-washing my entire stash. I’m switching teams. I’ll tell you why tomorrow.

Opening The Door, Part II: Me Of Little Faith.

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life 1
My tenants didn't look like these chuckleheads, but they were apparently as squeaky-clean. Three's Company publicity photo courtesy Wikipedia.
My tenants didn’t look like these chuckleheads, but they were apparently as squeaky-clean. Three’s Company publicity photo courtesy Wikipedia.

I’m ashamed of myself.

There were nights when I actually lost sleep obsessing about people living in my house while I was not in it.. These people were good people. Students. Film professionals. A professor. But still. Dishes break. Folks have (hopefully good) parties. Bad emails come in and you punch a wall. Would my cream-colored carpet be wrecked? Would my couch be all jacked up? Would the baseboards be really, really gross? I didn’t think anyone would damage anything on purpose or be wantonly reckless; I just had a lot of anxiety about it.

Well, guess what I found when I opened the door? Stewardship! Care! Consideration! I’m ashamed of myself that I had so little faith in people. I’m a jerk. Really, I am a jerk.

Every person who had a key to this place treated it with respect. Or, if one of them didn’t, the rest of the gang made it right. There were no bloodstains. There weren’t even wine stains. My planed wood dining table has nary a scratch. Are you kidding me?? I will absolutely scratch this table at some point in the next year — but none of my tenants did.

Okay: the mirrored dresser in my bedroom is cracked across the top. But that’s what a table runner is for! Anyone could’ve cracked that thing, including me. I did have a professional carpet and mattress cleaning company come in before I got home, which I think was smart. And yeah, the baseboards are really gross. And I was faced with confusing feelings in the kitchen: the entire top shelf of my open cupboards went totally untouched. No one used the vases, the china, or the unusual dishes up there (e.g., ramekins, fancy mise en place bowls, etc.). On one hand, it was like I never left. On the other hand, everything has a stubborn film of dusty grease because that shelf is high up over the stove. Ew.

I’m still deep-cleaning the whole place because I like deep-cleaning and mentally, I must do this. But tenants, if you’re reading this, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my wicked, faithless heart for being the civilized, thoughtful people that you always were but who I lamed-out on in my head. You’re welcome back anytime. I’ll open a bottle of wine and you can watch me trip on my shoelace and spill an entire glass on the floor.

Opening The Door, Part I.

posted in: Chicago 0
This, friends, is what you get when you put "flip-flop, footwear" into WikiCommons image search. Thankfully I did not find this person in my home when I opened the door.
This, friends, is what you get when you put “flip-flop, footwear” into WikiCommons image search. Thankfully I did not find this person in my home when I opened the door.

There’s much more I want to say about what I found when I entered my condo on Thursday for the first time in a year-and-a-half. For now, a list of things left behind by the tenants who lived in my condo while I was out of town:

1. One pair dusty flip-flops (women’s)
2. A nice collection of dishwashing detergents
3. Blowdryer (unisex)
4. IKEA comforter, sheets, pillowcases
5. A bunch of medical textbooks, including “The Human Brain Coloring Book” (it sounds a lot cooler than it turned out to be)
6. Guides of things to do in Chicago
7. Dust bunnies the size of flip-flops (men’s)
8. English toffee from Trader Joe’s (probably intentional, tasted fresh)
9. Small screwdriver (in bathroom)

and, among a few other things:

10. Good vibes

Enlightenment: Easy

posted in: Chicago, Paean 1
Note bouquet of flowers and candle on large box. It's the little things when your house is full of cardboard.
My living room. I’ve actually made a lot of progress, if “a lot of progress” means making my bed. Photo: Me.

 

In the course of getting my undergrad degree, I took a class in Indian Buddhism. A lot of undergrads at Iowa did because it sounded cool and fulfilled the Eastern Studies requirement. I’ve forgotten the impassioned notes I scribbled next to passages in the textbook that summer, but I remember a little about Buddha’s enlightenment. Enlightenment is the Western translation of bodhi, which means “awakening.”  Wikipedia says what the we understand enlightenment to be is “sudden insight into transcendental truth.”

I always imagined Buddha becoming enlightened in this searing, brilliant, sunshine-y moment, when he suddenly saw the world for what it is: temporal, finite, and indescribably beautiful. He saw that every single one of us is born and every single one of us must die, and every single one of us is important, and we hurt ourselves over and over and over but we don’t have to. I imagined him seeing the brilliance of roses and commuter trains and coffee cups and bad haircuts. Basically, it was all really intense and beautiful and made him the Buddha.

Being back in Chicago after all this time, after thousands and thousands of miles, I swear I know at least 1% of the enlightenment experience.

Because I walked out into the alley behind my building this morning and the oil on the cement, the rumbling el overhead and the pigeons flapping away as it came, the smell of fresh dough coming from Lou Malnati’s, the crisp pre-snow air, the Columbia kids walking to class, the beep of the parking garage security bar going up across the street, the skyscrapers to the north, painted there just for me, all that metal and glass and the whole city was there, right there, and I was no longer in exile. I saw Chicago, my real home, as it really is: alive, temporal, suffering, perfect. I never knew pigeons could vibrate.

Words can’t express my joy. God, I missed you so much. I tried to do that thing where if you tell a lie long enough it becomes true. But my heart was buried in that alley the whole time I was gone and I had just enough honesty left to come back and scrape it out. Telling the truth should be so easy — but we cover it up, roll trucks over it, let snow fall on it, bury it. For what? Appearances? Fear? Impatience, I think, in my case.

Surely, there’s something better than what I’m doing now, I said to myself last year. Surely, I thought, there’s something else to see than this. Surely, if I don’t put down roots, I won’t grow moss. If I don’t admit I love this place so much it feels like part of my body, if I lose it, or if it rejects me, it won’t hurt as much. That’s what I said when I thrashed and burned and left Chicago. But I’m home, now.

The definition of suffering in Buddhism is “being in one place and wishing you were someplace else.” For one second — and for the first time in a long time — I couldn’t possibly tell you what suffering feels like because there is nowhere, nowhere on Earth I’d rather be than here.

 

Heart Party!

posted in: Chicago 0
That's a good-lookin' dame.
Now that’s a good-lookin’ dame.

My body feels like it got run over by a truck. A moving truck. I also feel like I slept in feathers and I dreamed of swimming in vanilla frosting. (That’s good!)

This was the right choice. If I’ve ever felt so strongly that I made the right choice, I can’t remember. The sun is shining through the south-facing windows in my beautiful home and not far away, the sun is bouncing off the lake. It can do both, because it’s Lake Michigan. The tea kettle I have carried with me for 1.5 years is about to whistle. Get ready, pot of honey and pitcher of milk. It’s on.

If Chicago’s wrong, I don’t want to be right and also I am never, ever moving again unless there are rats. Actually, at this point, I would be down with rats. Rats are cool. Rats just do rats, man. Besides, Chicago rats don’t work on Capitol Hill and they eat too much Lou Malnati’s to move very fast.

Soon, I will be selling furniture, so watch Facebook and PaperGirl. Because I have double everything, basically. And double happiness, but I’m keeping that.

Praise the lord and pass the hot dogs!

Miss District of Columbia.

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Photo: Me, July 2015.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Photo: Me, July 2015.

Six days — six days — from right now, I’ll be back in Chicago. It has been such a long, long, long, long and incredible trip. God, I’ve loved living in Washington, DC. It carried me so far and I loved where we went. My darling, a short list of what I’ll miss the most.

– The scent of my tenth-floor apartment: fresh paint, trees, French perfume, clean air.

– The drive to Ronald Reagan National Airport from my building. The taxi takes me the length of Rock Creek Parkway and it’s like driving through the countryside, right there in the city.

– The macaroons of consequence at Firehook Bakery. Baseball-sized, dipped in dark chocolate. With a cup of black coffee, my favorite breakfast.

– How when you turn a corner or approach a park, another bronze or marble memorial greets you and you appreciate the artists who carved the art, the humans who carved the country, and time that carves the rest.

– Mr. Lumbibi, my favorite of the Kennedy Warren front desk staff. He always asks me where I’m off to when he sees me lugging suitcases. John’s usually on the night shift.

– The view of the Klingle Valley outside my window. Cue tears. That’s one’s gonna hurt.

– The opportunity to get closer to Elle, to Carissa, to Carla, the gorgeous girls I met at the DC Modern Quilt Guild and never spent enough time with while I was here.

– The National Gallery.

– Le Diplomat, the perfect French Bistro: I went on three different dates there and the Lyonnaise salad is the best I’ve ever had, especially with a glass (fine: two) of Charles Hiedsieck Brut Reserve NV.

– The Mid-Atlantic weather. I am going back to Chicago at the worst time possible, weather-wise. Great, Fons. Very nice.

– Dropping my mail through the mail chute. It goes all the way to the lobby! I love that!

– Telling people, “I live in Washington, D.C.” It always sounded amazing. And it was.

True Tales From Brunch: SCRAM FLAT, Part II.

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life, Food 0
Way bigger than the restaurant's actual kitchen, but a decent facsimile. Photo: Wikipedia
Way bigger than the restaurant’s actual kitchen, but a decent facsimile. Photo: Wikipedia

Please read Part I of this story (one post prior) or you’ll miss the important setup.

I approach the family, who was spilling out of the booth. There were Cheerios everywhere, but we did not serve cereal at the restaurant, so these were brought in from home. Two booster seats were cramming the narrow aisle but it was cool; these folks deserved (?) brunch like everyone else in Chicago. A yoga mat was stuffed into the corner because Mom had just come from class. Even though there was jelly soaked into my apron and egg on my shoe, I was chipper.

“Good morning, you guys,” I say, “You’ve been here a few times — I bet you know what you want!” I’m doing the assumed close, you see. Three new tables had been sat behind me and had already gotten coffee. Let’s do this.

“Yeah,” the mother said, and she put her fingers to her chin to ask what I prepared myself to be a focused question. “Belle is going to have the corned beef hash — do you think that’s something she’ll like? Corned beef?” Belle was six, so probably not. I told Mom, “Probably not. There are lots of peppers and corned beef is kind of an advanced thing… It’s a big plate.”

“Okay… I think… Belle, do you want corned beef?” Belle colored her placemat and said “Whatever,” without looking up.

“Let’s do that,” Mom said. “And Slade wants scrambled eggs, but can you have the kitchen make the eggs flat like a pancake?”

“Eggs on a pancake, sure,” I said, scribbling on my pad, making sure to press my pen hard so the carbon copy would come out clear for the kitchen.

“No, not on a pancake,” she said. “I’m wondering if you can scramble the eggs, like, flat.” She cocked her head and she looked like a cockatiel.

I looked up. “Scramble them flat.”

“You know, like put them on the grill and smooth them out, so they’re scrambled but, like, flat. And then flip it? So it’s flat? It would be like a pancake?”

I couldn’t stop blinking at her. Teddy, my righthand man, the best busboy who has ever lived, squeezed past me to grab the twenty-fourth pot of coffee of that morning.*

“Well,” I said. “I’ll ask the kitchen,” I said. On my pad, I wrote the shorthand word for scrambled eggs, which is “SCRAM.” Then, cocking my head like a cockatiel, I wrote, “FLAT.” So on my pad I had “SCRAM FLAT.”

“Thanks,” the woman said, “Is that weird?” I told her it was really, really weird. And I left them with a thank-you and a smile and banged through the double doors to the kitchen like we all banged through the double doors because that’s what double doors in a restaurant do: they bang.

“Glen,” I said, approaching the line. I could see the Great Men through the metal line where they were putting plates up. It was like a ballet back there. “Glen, this ticket says SCRAM FLAT. They want…” I could hardly tell him. This was a grown man. This was a man with dignity. I just came out with it: “Glen, they want the scrambled eggs flat. Like, scramble the eggs… Flat.”

 

There was no time for pausing but Glen stopped what he was doing and asked me what the [redacted] that meant. I explained the best I could. And he said “Alright,” because that’s what a Great Man does when faced with a challenge and indeed, about fifteen minutes later, I had a plate with SCRAM FLAT, sprinkled with parsley, with a twisted orange slice on the side. And love in there, because every plate had love in there.

Belle sent back the corned beef; Slade ate every bite.

*Teddy once caught me in the coat closet, bent me back like we were on the cover of a romance novel and kissed me on the lips. “Mi amor,” he said, “I’m in love with you.” That’s a story for another day.

True Tales From Brunch: SCRAM FLAT, Part I.

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life 3
There are many, many pictures of eggs on Wiki Commons. You do not need to go through them all because I have found the only one you really need to see and this is it.
There are many, many pictures of eggs and pictures including eggs on Wiki Commons. You do not need to go through them all because I have found the only one you really need to see and this is it. Photo: Wikipedia

From about 2004 to 2006, I waited tables at a hot brunch restaurant in uptown Chicago. I got the job right when it opened and it was almost immediately the spot to eat breakfast on the north side. this was a lucky break for me because I needed money and I made good money there. I worked for it, as you’ll see, but it was worth it.

We were only open on Saturday and Sunday from 8am-3pm, so it felt like an event to be there, even if you just had coffee and toast. The dining room was small: at capacity, we packed about 45-50 people in there — not many people if you’re a brunch restaurant in Chicago. There were many weekends when the wait for a table would be three hours long, and folks would wait. If your friend tells you he waited three hours to get into a brunch restaurant, you’re going there next weekend. You going to get there earlier than your friend did, but you’re going there.

The decor was fabulous, the front-of-house team was tight as a drum, and the owner has been beloved by the community for decades, but true honor and praise has to go to the cooks. Oh, the cooks! How I loved (my) cooks! Those three men toiled in that tiny, city kitchen and like some six-armed Indian god, they turned out delicious, gorgeous breakfasts for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people every weekend.

Yes, hundreds. I would do my tally sheet at the end of a shift and I’d have turned 300 covers. That means I waited on 300 people. In eight hours. But there were three waiters. So you’re talking a thousand plates of food served from 8am-3pm on a busy Saturday, same thing on Sunday. Much factors into a successful restaurant, but honestly, it comes down to the food, man, and we were doing breakfast well: perfect chewy-crispy bacon, a lox platter big as your purse. Hollandaise so creamy somebody’s gonna get in trouble. A vinaigrette with the perfect tartness, everything organic, blah, blah, blah, yum. And the people who prepped, handled, and made all food in that hot beehive back there were the engine. The food people are the engine for any restaurant, so you should always be nice to them. But that was the other thing about my guys on the line: they were great. It was a pleasure to be in the weeds with them.

“Glen! Pot-roast Benedict on the fly and I’m missing an over-easy bacon –”

“Look at that,” Glen would say as he handed me the eggs before the order was out of my mouth, magically plating a perfect pot-roast Benedict in the time it took me to toast the toast. This was all happening in a hurricane, you realize.

“I will marry you,” I’d say, and Glen, who was about 6’4, Jamaican, and had thick dreads down the middle of his back all the way to his waist, would turn to his physical opposite, wan, beanpole Steve at the grill and say, “She loves me, Steve.”

“I know!” Steve would say, and flip ninety free-range sausage patties. “If I can’t have her, you’re alright, I guess.” I’d whirl around to get another cup of apple compote before I forgot it and bang! Out the double doors, back into the fray. It was a punishing job made well because of the people.

So one Sunday morning, this family comes in. I’d waited on them before. They were nice folks. But they were extremely high-maintenance. I did not have time for maintenance, so when I saw them my heart sank a little. Many children. I like kids, but the kids in this family ran the show. They got whatever they wanted to eat and if they didn’t like what they ordered, they’d get to pick out something else. At 11:30 on a Sunday, one round of food per table was all anyone could handle.

For the next part of the story, please see the Part II post. This is getting long. But the best part is coming, I promise.

*Hi, Michelle! Thank you for giving me the opportunity for this story and for all the wonderful years I had at Tweet.

Airsick.

posted in: Chicago, D.C., Day In The Life 0
Showcard, 1918. Image: Wikipedia
Showcard, 1918. Image: Wikipedia

This is not good. This is very bad. I think I have a flu.

I am achy, sniffy, feverish, though that’s not confirmed because I’ve just realized I don’t have a thermometer. I barfed twice. (Sorry.) I had terrible nightmares when I took a nap this afternoon; the nap felt like it was nine hours long but was really only about 1.5 hours long. When I stand up, I swoon. I’m hot. Then I’m cold. Then I’m hot. Then I’m crying while I’m flat on my back watching MasterChef on Hulu.

Damn, damn, damn! This year, I was going to get a flu shot! I’ve never gotten one but I reflected upon the past few years and realized I have been felled by flu more than once. I should’ve gotten a flu shot. It’s so easy! You can get them everywhere: Walgreen’s, CVS, sporting events, Burger King. Why! Why didn’t I do it?

Woe.

And the panic doesn’t help. There’s too much to do. I can’t be sick. I have to teach in Williamsburg this weekend. I have to go to North Carolina and Denver next week. Oh, I’ll make the gigs. Unless I’m in the hospital, I’ll be there and I’ll deliver. But when you feel like this, the road seems so long. There’s also the little matter of packing up my apartment and going home to Chicago.

As insurmountable as all this feels at the moment, I must focus on that last thing. When I think of being in my home — my real home — in a few weeks, I feel like I can make it. I realized today that I have been living in the air for a year and a half. I’ve been floating this whole time. My feet need the cement in Chicago, the sidewalk outside the door to my building. Maybe that’s what it is: maybe I’m airsick.

The Game Plan, and Adorable Things He Says.

This post is not about Quilt Market, but I gotta post this picture! Brian Wacaster and Terri Thom from Springs Creative with our Best Merchandising Award.
This post is not about Quilt Market, but look: Brian Wacaster and Terri Thom from Springs Creative with our Best Merchandising Award!

There are a number of booth awards handed out at the show each year; this afternoon, the Mary Fons Small Wonders booth won the Best Merchandising Award, which to me is one of the best awards to get, of course. It means your concept was clear, your goods were presented exactly they way they should have been for ultimate easy-viewing and shopping enjoyment, your design was pitch-perfect and, frankly, that you got good taste. Thank you to the Academy — I mean the judges — and thank you to the whole Springs team. We did it!

But enough of all that for a moment. It’s impossible to believe while it’s happening, but there is a world beyond Quilt Market. Indeed, it’s good to remember that. The show is over tomorrow afternoon. Dust will settle. Everyone just calm down. This means me.

In less than a month, I’ll be opening my Chicago door. Claus is going to help me with the move, which is even better than winning the award today — that’s saying a lot. I cannot lift any more boxes by myself. I won’t make it. The last time I moved (the fourth time) I was carrying a too-heavy box and the bottom fell out in the hallway. Everything spilled out. I cursed the best one-word curse you can curse, then I sank to my knees to put things back together.

“I can’t do this alone anymore,” I said out loud. “I need help. I need a partner.” After I said that, well, it was Miss Mary’s Pity Party and I invited all my friends and no one came, boo-hoo, boo-hoo.

I don’t have a partner but I do have Claus*. He’s going to fly to Washington and help me drive a small truck from Point A to B. He grew up on a farm in Germany. He is very tall. He is very efficient (see: Germany). He says adorable things, so if he drops a box on my foot, I can’t be mad at him. Examples of adorable things:

1. When we have an argument: “Are you mad on me?”

2. When figuring out logistics: “If we must be at the airport at 7am, we must stand up at 5am. Oh, god…”
To say stand up is brilliant; wake up doesn’t mean much. Until you stand up, you’re not going anywhere. Isn’t that great??

3. When I whisper something sexy to him when we’re out getting sandwiches: “Mary, please do not say forbidden things.” 

I know. It’s so hot.

Anyway, the move is happening in the middle of the month next month and you may have noticed that it is almost next month. I have a number of jobs before this happens and I’m even hesitant to say so; it appears I can only do things the hard way. But I didn’t plan on moving home next month, so I’ll be going to Williamsburg, Denver, and Charleston before Claus and I get in that truck. It’s a good thing I’m so deliriously happy about going home or I’d have to lie on the couch for a few days just staring at the ceiling, eating packets of instant miso soup mix by licking my finger and sticking it in the pouch.

*It’s complicated.

Quilt Market Is Coming! (Plus: 1 of 2 Announcements.)

This picture was taken at Market a couple years ago in one of the hundreds of gorgeous booths at the show. The pom-poms were edible! Just kidding.
This picture of me was taken at Market a couple years ago in one of the hundreds of gorgeous booths at the show. Those pom-poms were edible! Just kidding.

International Fall Quilt Market is next week!

Fall Quilt Market is the biggest trade show of the year for the 4 billion-dollar-a-year quilt industry I accidentally started working in five-and-a-half years ago. It’s a Quilts, Inc. production and it is intense. Here’s what people do at Quilt Market:

– Wear their Sunday best
– Write business
– Take meetings
– Schmooze
– Booze (Not at the level of a pharmaceutical sales rep convention, but there’s a little drankin’ and aren’t you surprised? Mm? Quilters drink liquor? Scandal?)
– Go to dinner
– Make deals
– Take names
– Chew bubblegum
– Break hearts

So really it’s just another day in the life of a quilter who took her/his hobby to the Next Level. Hey, speaking of Next Level, this Quilt Market is a big one for me. Maybe the biggest one yet. For years — years! — I’ve been circling a dream project and for months — months! — I’ve known that the dream project would launch next week but I’ve been sworn to secrecy. At this point, the pain of withholding the thing is almost physical.

Do you want to know what the big project is? Do you? Are you ready to freak out? Are you ready for totally amazing, fully incredible, head-slappingly gorgeous images to flood your cerebral cortex? It will all happen so soon! I’m the world’s worst secret-keeper; if I wasn’t in fear of mucking up the whole thing for me and the brilliant company I’m working with, I’d just out with it.

But maybe I could tell you something else. Maybe I could let a different cat out of the bag. Maybe I could finally tell you the other secret I’ve got. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Here goes: I’m pregnant. No, no, no. That’s not it. I’m not pregnant. Let’s see, what was it… Oh, right:

I’m moving back to Chicago next month.

Full story tomorrow.

Twenty Questions.

posted in: Chicago, D.C., Day In The Life 0
Publicity photo for early-1960s gameshow, "Queen For a Day."
This photo is public domain, but let’s all hold ABC responsible for the time it held the copyright. 

I am wishing so hard that I could offer all the alternate names I’ve come up with for the gameshow pictured above. Sadly, that sort of content is best saved for PaperGirl: After Dark. So far, that blog does not exist, though it absolutely should. I’ll let you know.

As I mentioned recently, I’ve had a galaxy of question marks spinning ’round my head. With a ginormous project about to launch (just a few more weeks and I can spill the beans) and a Very Big Decision I’ve made (you’re gonna flip when I tell you), I’ve been asking myself many questions. Here are twenty of them.

1. What time is it?
2. Was that my phone or yours?
3. Did I seriously forget to buy yogurt?
4. What day in November should I move back to Chicago?
5. I’m so comfy in bed but I kind of need to pee before I turn out the light. Should I just try to sleep it off or get up and go now so I don’t have to get up at two in the morning?
6. Are PaperGirl readers passing it along to other people because that would be so wonderful?
7. Am I correct in thinking that a forty-year-old woman in good shape is hotter than a twenty-year-old girl in good shape?
8. Did you hear that?
9. Did my tenants in Chicago take good care of my home?
10. Did I come to Washington and stay a year longer than planned because I was running away from something and if so, what was it?
11. If I’m such a hardcore existentialist, how come I hated Crime and Punishment so much?
12. Are you kidding me?
13. Do I still enjoy eggs or do they gross me out?
14. Will the person I went on the road trip with this summer be in my life in a significant way in the future or was that whole thing just a brilliant, brightly shining, but ultimately isolated moment in time? (There were less-shining and isolated moments, like this one.)
15. Do my friends in Chicago miss me?
16. Is it wise to have a box of chocolates in the fridge right now?
17. Is Yuri reading this?
18. Will I ever have enough money to have someone do my hair every day?
19. When’s the next time I’ll be in a hospital bed?
20. Seriously?

Oh, this is fun. I could more. I could do really, really good ones on PaperGirl: After Dark. You’ll be the first to know.

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