Chicago! Quilters! And friends! And friends of quilters! And their pets:
Did you know there’s a new quilt shop in Chicagoland? You didn’t? Well, now you do. Katie and Lisa, both handsome and imminently capable women, have opened up The Quilter’s Trunk and I’m to be the first big, juicy event they hold. (That is a terrible sentence for several reasons but mostly because it makes me sound like I’m a pig they’re going to roast in a barbeque pit.)
The event is next Saturday, October 10th, starting at 10am at the shop. I’ll be giving two lectures — one in the morning, one in the afternoon — signing books, doing mini-demos, takin’ pics, and enjoying the company of fellow quilters. If you live in the area, you should come because you can:
1. support a new quilt shop in your area
2. shop for things to help you make perfect objects (quilts)
3. hang out with me
4. probably eat snacks
Go to the Quilter’s Trunk website for more info and contact information for the shop. The lectures will have limited seating, so I wouldn’t wait long to call.
My brand new brother-in-law is making something wonderful.
Jack Newell (that’s the brother-in-law) and his partner in this project, designer Seth Unger have been working for four years on a public art project. They are very close to making this big, big, BIG idea happen and I’m shaking my head in wonder. Jack is cooler than Paul Newman speaking French while riding a motorcycle up to a valet guy at the backdoor entrance to a Rolling Stone (circa 1972) concert. Something like that. I recently spoke to Jack about The Wabash Lights.
Let’s talk about Wabash Avenue. What’s it like?
It embodies Chicago. It’s gritty, hardworking, overlooked, sometimes avoided, but crucial. It’s not touristy Michigan Ave or State St. It’s a place in a very segregated city where you find people from all over converging. Students from one of the seven colleges that touch Wabash, restaurants, bars, hot dog stands, jewelers, hotels and residences. If you were to walk down Wabash, you would find it dark, dreary and loud. We want to make it less dark.
I love Wabash Avenue because the el tracks run over the top. You get to walk around underneath — but I love the idea of transforming it. So give it to me: what’s The Wabash Lights?
The Wabash Lights is an interactive light installation on the underside of the elevated train tracks on Wabash Avenue in the heart of Chicago’s Loop. Designed by the public, this first of its kind piece of public art will give visitors to The Wabash Lights’ website and future app the ability to log in and design the lights, making it entirely interactive.
That is so great. It’ll be great for the street, obviously, but also civic pride and local business. And tourism! This wouldn’t be that far from The Bean. Wow. You’ve traveled all over the world with my sister Rebecca. Thanks for keeping her safe, by the way. You’ve seen a lot of public art in all these places. Talk to me about public art for a second.
There’s two types of public art, broadly speaking; temporary and permanent. Each of these can evoke a different experience. Sometimes the beauty of a piece of public art is the ephemeral nature of it.* The permanent pieces of public art need to do something different — they never change, but you do. Each time you interact with them your experience might be different. It can be an interesting experience in reflection.
Jack, I’m sorry. I have to ask. You say in the video that you’ve been getting permits and city clearance for four years. Did you have to engage the mob to get this kind of thing done in Chicago?
Funny question and we get questions in this vein quite a bit. We’ve found city government and the agencies we’ve been working with to be full of passionate, hard working people who have very difficult jobs. These organizations are most of the time underfunded and overworked. People usually only know of the CTA or CDOT when there’s something broken; they’re perceived one way, but our experience has been the opposite. They get what we’re trying to do and have been incredibly supportive and honest throughout the whole process.
Do you ever wake up in the morning and go, “When did I become an adult who does huge, ambitious, city-changing projects?”
You either do stuff or you don’t. You are defined by the stuff you do and by the stuff you don’t do. I want to be defined by having done this.
You’re so close to funding the huge, ginormous first step for the Lights. The videos about it are amazing. There are four days left in the Kickstarter campaign. What’s the website?
The main website is right here; the Kickstarter campaign is here.
Will you engrave my name on one of the lights? Don’t tell me you can’t do it just because the thing is made of thin glass with gas inside it! If you can dream it, you can do it, right, Jack?
The point of this, and one of the reasons we wanted to get the public on board before corporations (and in our corporate partners we will be looking for folks who agree with this) is that we want to maintain the artistic integrity of The Wabash Lights. The Wabash Lights is an art installation. It’s not a way finding installation or a commercial digital billboard. It’s a piece of art that is created by the public.
Fine. Thanks, Jack. I’m so glad you’re my brother-in-law.
*Google “Pink Balls in Montreal” or anything by Christo.
There are many fantasy conversations we’d like to have. Maybe it’s a “Lottery Prize Official to Your Spouse” conversation that begins with, “Mr. Jones? I have very good news for you…” Perhaps a dream conversation for someone under eight years old might be, “Hello, is this Little Suzy? This is Elsa from Frozen.”
I have a dream conversation. I’m going to share it with you now, but in case this concept doesn’t fly, I’m going to spell it out for you: I need to rent my South Loop condo in Chicago. It’s a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom, 1500 sq. ft. space. The apartment is furnished in mid-century modern style (for the most part), and the kitchen is recently remodeled, as is the master bath. There’s an exposed brick wall.
The building staff is amazing. Doorman. Hot tub. Community room. I could go on and would love to. If anyone — you or someone you know — is looking for a home in Chicago for the next year or so, will you please contact me? Having a referral from a reader is so preferable to a stranger. I will, however, be happy to talk to strangers, provided they are well-groomed. Email me at mary @ maryfons . com and we will have a little chat. I’m a great landlady; I don’t live in town, I’m not a meddler, and all maintenance and management is on-site. Contact me and I’ll let you know the rent amount. It is fair.
Okay, here we go. A phone call:
PERFECT TENANT: Hello, is this Mary Fons?
PG: Yes, it is.
PT: My name is Perfect Tenant and I’m very interested in your space. I’m a well-groomed adult professional. I might be a doctor or a lawyer or a person with Important Responsibilities, which likely means that I would not trash your home. I also might be a family man/woman with well-groomed children who are into books. This means they would likely not trash your home.
PG: Well, gosh! You sound like such an interesting person/family. What brings you to Chicago?
PT: A project that will take a year or so, maybe two. I/my family has a home in [INSERT PLACE, EAST COAST POSSIBLY] and we’re not looking to buy in Chicago, at least not yet. We’d like to rent a lovely place to live and we really, really like the looks of your condo. Is it rented yet?
PG: (fanning self.) No, in fact, it isn’t. Did I mention it’s two blocks from the Harrison Red Line?
PT: You didn’t! That’s fantastic!
PG: Would you like to see the space? I’m living in Washington, DC, but I’m sure my sweet medical students could let you in…
PT: You know, I actually don’t? I don’t need to see it. I trust you completely. I don’t know how to explain it, but you’re just a good person, and I’m a good person, and let’s just do it. I mean, why wait when something feels so right?
PG: Did you say you were married?
PT: [INSERT ANSWER HERE.]
PG: I see. Well, yes! I think this sounds great. You can move in June 16th and I’ll send the lease today!
PT: I just love it when things are this easy. Thank you so much. I/we love your style and we will take great care of your home.
PG: Gosh, this is the best day ever. Your email address?
When I’m facing a challenge that seems impossible, or when I’m standing at a path in the woods that is diverging before my eyes, there’s a tool in my toolbelt I find handy. It doesn’t solve the problem for me, but it helps…with the drywall? Hm. Okay, the tool metaphor does not extend terribly well. I’ll just tell you what I mean. It’s not a complex concept — maybe it’s something people do it all the time — but if it’s new to you, perhaps it will help you with a challenge, also:
I pretend it’s the future and I’m telling someone what happened in the situation I’m currently facing. For example:
“Well, what can I say? It was a tough time in my life. I was heartsick. I left New York. I was in Washington in a kind of limbo, trying to decide if I’d stay or leave. But I trusted myself, I made what I believed was the braver choice and now look at me! I’ve never been happier.”
See what I mean? It sort of calms me down. Because it illustrates what we know will happen: we’ll talk later — casually, even off-handedly — about something that seems impossible to us now. Let’s try another one, perhaps more relevant to you than the above example:
“I never thought I’d buy an entire island. Who does that? But then I thought, ‘I am a billionaire. Why not enjoy it?’ So I shopped around and it was so extremely difficult to choose between the two I fell in love with and the legal stuff was an absolute nightmare — the French Polynesians are a real pain in the neck, trust me — but you know what? It was worth it. All the pain. All the flying back and forth. I almost gave up a dozen times. But I stuck with it. And now look at me! I’ve never been happier.”
You see what I mean.
In the next few days, I will announce the decision I’ve made regarding staying in DC or going back to Chicago. Curious? Me, too. It’s time to start telling the story.
Not much. A sofa makes the news in your head or your household when you buy a new one. A sofa is exciting when you’re shopping for a new one. It’s exciting when you remove the old one and put in the new one. After a few weeks, though, the sofa recedes into the landscape of your home and that’s good because you have better things to think about. Hopefully.
But for me, for almost a year now, the object that is the couch* has stubbornly refused to leave my portfolio of active thoughts. This is because since leaving Chicago almost a year ago, regardless of the agony and the ecstasy of the entire adventure, it has been The Year of Terrible Couches. It’s like the Chinese “Year of The Goat” thing except no one is ever, ever born in The Year of Terrible Couches and we should all be thankful for that. Let’s celebrate by eating a fortune cookie. Done? Excellent. Let’s examine what I’m talking about.
When I was first in New York with Yuri, we had a furnished place for just a couple months on 10th Street and 2nd Ave. I filmed my book promo video while we were in that place. Then, when we officially moved to New York in June, we got a furnished place on St. Mark’s. Then, when everything became hard and sad, I moved into a furnished apartment in D.C. with rats in the walls. Then, the management company relocated me to the place where I’m sitting currently. That’s not one, not two, not three (I’m weeping, now), but four furnished apartments in a single year.
You do realize this is not my normal life, right? I am not a fan of chaos. Chaos, it appears, is extremely fond of me, at least this year. Thanks, chaos.
Here’s the thing about furnished apartments: they are lousy. If you have no furniture, maybe they are great. Any couch is better than no couch, right? Fine. But I have a couch. I have arguably the best couch ever. It’s in Chicago right now, being used by my adorable med school tenants. Why? Because moving to NYC was always going to be a yearlong experiment and what are you, nuts?! You can’t move a couch into Manhattan! You have to go there with your hobo stick and just figure it out from there, find someone who can take you to the IKEA in Jersey! Please! Anyway, my gorgeous couch in Chicago is wide. It’s leather. It’s sky blue leather with chrome legs. (I bought it at a sample sale at Design Within Reach.) It’s sleek and sexy, but it’s functional. You can take a nap on it. You can sit cross-legged and eat your lunch on it. You can watch a movie on it. And you can… Well, you can do a lot of things on that couch. Trust me.
The four couches that I have been subjected to over the past year… I can hardly talk about it. Do you realize how awful a couch can be? If it’s shallow, your back hurts when you try to sit back. If it’s a sectional that doesn’t have those grippy things on the bottom and your floor is slick, the parts separate and slide all around! Good grief! That’s a Beckett play! If the couch is so old it’s buckling (see: St. Mark’s) you are asking for early-onset arthritis. A bad couch is sad, indeed, and I realize this is as luxury a problem as luxury problems get. But what can I do? It’s been The Year of Terrible Couches and as the hourglass runs out of sand, as I am forced to make a decision to stay in D.C. or go back to Chicago, this much is true: The Year of Terrible Couches is about to end. If I go home, I get my couch. If I stay here, I’m going back for all my stuff, kids. If I stay in D.C., I am staying in D.C. with my couch.
I’m in Philadelphia. Just one night to see a good friend.
Sometimes, when I have to make a big decision, I am comforted by going through options that are not on the table. In short order, I must make the decision, once and for all, whether I’m going back to Chicago or staying in Washington. Before I list a few options I can cross out, let’s review why I am in Washington at all. (It’s so interesting: when I tell people I live in D.C., they almost always go, “D.C.?? How in the world did you end up there?” I like to tell them that I’m planning to run for president, but then I say that I’m kidding and I go through the story.)
1. I lived in beautiful Chicago, in my home in the South Loop.
2. I met Yuri, a Russian bitcoin speculator with a heart of gold who can play classical piano. We began to love each other very much.
3. Yuri got a job at an exciting startup in New York City.
4. Working, as I do, for myself, I have the ability to work from anywhere. Having, as I did, fond feelings for New York, Yuri and I said, “Let’s go together! Just for a year, see how we like it.”
5. I rented out my condo for a year, put things in storage, and moved to the East Village with 1/3 of my worldly possessions.
6. I detested living in New York City. It felt like I was at a crowded outdoor music festival all the time. I really, really hate outdoor music festivals. I became depressed.
7. Yuri and I, though we loved each other very much, broke up for reasons that people always break up: irreconcilable differences. We became depressed.
8. Having no love for New York and no workable love in New York, and essentially being in exile from Chicago until my tenants vacated in June, I was in a sticky position.
9. A dear friend said to me, “Why don’t you have an adventure? You can live wherever you want for the next eight months. Where have you always wanted to live?” I answered without hesitation, “Washington, D.C.” I performed with the Neo-Futurists for a whole month at the Woolly Mammoth theater several years ago and loved the city on contact. I wanted to return someday.
10. I packed the 1/3 of my worldly possessions into a U-Haul van and drove to D.C., not knowing anyone but excited. And I have a terrible, beautiful love for the city and don’t want to leave, yet, but Chicago is my best friend.
If you missed the cliffhanger decision-making process when I decided to leave New York, start here.
When I verbally go through the steps, I make it quick, but I can’t skip a single one of them. If I don’t say my condo was rented out, a person understandably says, “Well, why not just go back to Chicago?” If I say I moved to Washington without explaining that I had lived there, however briefly, once before, they don’t understand.
But my lease is up in D.C. on June 15th. My tenants are leaving. The clock ticks. The clock stares at me. The time is now. And a new cliffhanger begins. (Insert wink here.) And now, if you’re still with me, a few options that I can rule out, at least, as I work out what the Sam Hill I’m going to do now that it’s flipping May:
1. I am not moving to Philadelphia, nice as it is.
2. I am not moving to Kathmandu.
3. I am not taking a job with streets and sanitation.
4. I am not planning to eat an entire German chocolate cake in a single sitting.
5. I am not planning to throw myself into the Nile.
Hi, Chicago peeps and anyone who wants to make a pilgrimage for poems and possibly Scotch.
I’m honored to be the feature poet at the legendary Green Mill Cocktail Lounge for the perhaps more legendary Uptown Poetry Slam on May 3rd. That’s a Sunday night. The open mic starts at 7pm, then I do a half-hour of my classics (!), plus new poems and a couple covers, too. If I had more time, I’d absolutely love to do Prufrock, but that would be downright indulgent. After my set it’s time for the slam.
If you’ve never been to the Green Mill for the slam, you have not lived. Oh, I mean it. That’s not hyperbole. There is nothing like the show at the Mill, a blend of poetry, bloodsport, make-you-cry beauty, and possibly Scotch. It’s hilarious. It’s not too long (7pm-10pm, tops), and the Green Mill itself is gorgeous and historical. If it was good enough for Al Capone, it’s good enough for us, right? You could make a night of it and stay for the jazz trio that comes in after the show. And hey, I know many people have dreamed of reading a poem at a microphone. This is your chance.
So come over. Get there early for a seat. I’d like to see lots of friends, of course, old and new. It’s a powerful, humbling thing to have a half-hour at the Mill microphone and I intend to kill it.
We spent time together on Monday. After work tasks were complete, he took me to the Chicago Botanical Garden to walk, to talk, and remember each other for awhile.
The Chicago Botanical Garden is a world-class joint. Hordes descend upon the place in warmer months but somehow milling among thousands of people doesn’t feel bad at the Botanical Gardens; it feels communal. English gardens, Japanese gardens, fields of field flowers, a glassy pond, sculptures big and small — if it’s green and cultivated you want, green and cultivated you shall have and there’s a great cafe for when you’re exhausted from walking and have pollen all over your shirt. It’s also free to get in.
Yuri and I walked through the grounds arm in arm. We did this because we care about each other a great deal but we were also freezing cold. Nothing has bloomed, yet; there were a few brave shoots poking up here and there, but not many. All the plants are waiting, checking final items off the pre-production list before the big launch.The greenhouses were thriving — greenhouses do that — so when we were almost too cold to be having fun, we found a greenhouse and slipped in to warm up. Tip: if you’re feeling disconnected from nature, pop yourself into a balmy, breathing greenhouse. You’ll get fixed right up.
We had fun together. We got soup and a glass of wine at the cafe. We argued. I cried. We laughed. Walking on the main promenade under the cold, grey sky, Yuri picked me up and spun me around and I hollered, “No! Don’t! Yuri, stop!” but it was okay. New York, we have both decided, seems like a dream. It’s a trite thing to say, but damned if I know how else to describe it. The East Village? Really? Manhattan? But when? I know why — passion, risk, love, adventure — but as to the how, I couldn’t tell you if you put a Rhododendron ferrugineum to my neck.
Yuri and I aren’t together, but we’ll always be together because of New York, because of Chicago, because of that day in the garden, I guess. When do you stop being connected to a soul?
That picture up top is one of a series Yuri took of me being a mom to a hunk of bronze.
When my St. Louis-to-D.C. flight landed late last night, we taxied on the runway; once I fetched my luggage I taxied on home and then I taxied my batooski right into bed.
Tonight and tomorrow, that’s all we got in Columbia’s District before heading onto Chicago to tape twenty-seven episodes of Quilty in three days. That’s just how good we are, brother. The days are long but the days are good and this time, they’ll be extra hard and extra good because it’s my last shoot. Many of you know now that the magazine is closing but they’re keeping the show going and I’m sure the person they put in the host position will be fabulous and do a far better job than I ever did; it’s my sincere desire that this is precisely what happens.
In St. Louis, I met so many devoted Quilty fans. It’s hard to leave. It’s really hard to leave. If I think about it too long, I feel wistful and sorry. But there are projects on the horizon that swoop in and take that maudlin business away and that’s what I grab onto. I can’t talk about anything, yet, because nothing is final, yet; counting chickens before they hatch is like, the worst job you could ever, ever want. Tedious, stinky, and you’re probably gonna be wrong.
I’ll just do the shoot this weekend and go from there.
No one in my family has ever sipped a Hurricane slushy through a straw shaped like a penis. No one in my family has ever — or will ever — wear an inflatable hat. We don’t do feather boas, we don’t do party wagons, and we certainly don’t do male strippers (heh) or Jell-O shots. But the youngest Fons is getting married! What’s a bachelorette to do??
So much. So much that is not making Girls Gone Wild XXIIVI. The world is wide and beautiful. The world is grand and gay. There’s no reason any bride-to-be ever has to be sprayed with whipped cream. She never has to be carried out of the club, vomiting, with a broken high heel. This should not be the way nuptials are celebrated. I mean, girls.
Gather ’round, friends, and I’ll tell you how to throw a party for a bride. This weekend was Rebecca’s Surprise Wedding Fun Weekend. The grand plan was mine — I am maid of honor, after all — but without the logistical and financial contributions my mother and older sister made, it would not have been possible. Thank you, guys.
We picked the kid up Saturday morning, her only instructions to “dress like a lady.” At a favorite brunch spot of hers we gave her a box that contained a Visa gift card. There was a sizable amount of money on the card; we had all contributed to make the number a wowie-zowie one. “Today is a shopping spree!” we cried when she opened the box. “We have you all afternoon. You can spend that money on whatever you want — no rules or restrictions, no judgements. It’s your shopping day!” My sister was floored. Shocked. Thrilled. And, ever pragmatic, she bought a killer leather jacket and is choosing to spend the rest of the money on wedding needs.
But tonight, the piece de resistance: we rented out the historic Music Box movie house here in Chicago. We invited forty of my sister’s best friends and family. We put her name up on the marquee and booked a private screening of her favorite movie, Big Trouble In Little China.
When she walked up to the theater and saw her name in lights, that was good. When she passed the window of the lobby where all her friends were, waving to her, that was good, too. When she got into the little lounge area and saw exactly who all was there — superb. But the best moment came when Jack said, “Rebecca, wait… Did you see that?” and he pointed to Theater B where we were going watch Big Trouble. The movie title was lighted up above the door. My sister did this beautiful, involuntary convulsion and her hands went up to her head, looking like someone experiencing most pleasantly excruciating migraine headache in history. And then she said something I’ll never forget. She was so happy, so happy, and then it occurred to her. Through ugly-tears of joy, she looked at us all and squeaked out, “Are you all… Are you all going to w-w-watch it…with me???” Yes, Rebecca. Yes, we are.
It was a slam dunk weekend. And just in case you’re thinking, “Yeah, well penis-shaped sippy cups are a lot more affordable than renting out a whole damned theater, Mary Fons!” I want you to know that it was surprisingly doable. We did it on a Sunday, from 4pm-9pm. This is considered an off-peak time, so the space rental was quite reasonable. We didn’t go nuts with decorations. We didn’t order extra food or do a big cake or anything. We did have an open bar, but with 40 people — several with babies — that wasn’t too bad. All I’m saying is that with a little dough and a lot of creativity, you can do something awesome for someone you love.
I feel so grateful to have a blog. Because I can share stories like this one with more than three people.
If you’ve been reading the past few days, you know I was in Chicago several days over the past week to perform poetry and teach writing workshops in a number of schools. I’m home in DC now, where it is about six degrees warmer. I have named each of those six degrees because I cherish them like I might my very own children.
One of the schools I visited is an affluent one. Real affluent.The parents who send their kids to the school are affluent, the neighborhoods these families live in are affluent neighborhoods, and the school, which is private, is therefore well-heeled by default. It’s breathtaking to see. The student body — remarkably diverse, I’ll note — has in-school yoga classes, an organic lunch program, and all kinds of autonomy in their day, as far as I could tell. On the walls of one hallway, I checked out the art on the walls: there was a sign that said, “All these pictures were made by code!” Meaning that the kids are coding, for one thing, and through their coding are creating fractals on paper. When I was their age, I think we melted crayons between wax paper. And I thought that was great.
There were cups of grapes on trays for the kids in case they needed a snack en route from like, Spanish XVI and microbiology. Did I mention this is a middle school? I have to make sure I say that the students are delightful. They’re engaged, polite, and 100-watt bright, every last one. I’ve been the school many times and it’s a joy, but it’s also disorienting.
At the beginning of my workshops, the teacher in the room will pass out sticky-back name tags so that I can call on the kids by name. Miss Tully (not her real name) was handing them out when a concerned-looking young man raised his hand.
“Miss Tully?” he said.
“I can’t put this name tag on my sweater. This is cashmere.”
I had been looking down at my lesson plan, but upon hearing this my head snapped up. “This is cashmere”? Did that ten-year-old boy just say that he couldn’t put a name tag on his sweater because it’s cashmere? My eyes were big as dinner plates. And the kid was not being a jerk. He’s ten. He was worried his cashmere sweater would get jacked up if he put on his name tag. He’s just doing him.
Tonight I’m Chicago watching the Oscars with my sister Rebecca and her betrothed, Jack. I haven’t tuned into the show for probably eight years, but this is the first year that I have seen exactly none of the films nominated. This makes me feel triumphant and hopelessly isolated at the same time. I did it to myself; I just never want to go see a movie. It’s all sewing and books for me when I have a free evening.
The gilded stage pieces, the lace beadwork, the shiny white teeth — it’s all distracting me, so I’m going to make this short: if there’s big money riding on your predictions (an office contest, perhaps, or some crazy bracket system you’ve found on the Internet) may you drink the blood your foes and secure your legacy by guessing correctly in every category from Best Supportive Actress to Best Copy Editing to Best Sweater.
I will not write about how cold it is in Chicago. I will not write about how cold it is in Chicago. I will not write about —
It’s so cold in Chicago, “minus twenty-five” actually refers to the number of people we’ve lost to frostbite in the last hour.
It’s so cold in Chicago, when your older brother tells you to chill, you burst into tears.
It’s so cold in Chicago, you’d think you be at a bar where all the chicks is models.
It’s so cold in Chicago, the ice machines in all the restaurants are out back smoking cigarettes because dude.
It’s so cold in Chicago, I put on a shirt, a sweater, and another sweater this morning. I carefully wrapped my scarf around and around my neck and face, put on my hat and gloves, and pulled on my flea-market fur coat. Double socks, then out the door to the Latin School to talk about poems and teach storytelling to some of the most incredible students on the planet. (They’re also some of the most hardcore; Latin stayed open while most public schools in Chicago closed for the “extreme weather.” It really was -25 today.) I walked to the school from my hotel thinking, “Well, I’m bundled up. I’ll get a little walk in this morning.” The cold took my breath away; it took a half-hour being inside before my toes stopped aching.
I’m headed to Austin now for QuiltCon. When I get to Texas tonight, I’ll hang my fur coat up in the closet and I will not look at it till I leave. Remind me to get an entourage, by the way. I love my life but the schlep is killing me.
For a year now, I’ve been wingeing on about how much I miss Chicago, how it’s like a long-lost lover I know I’m going to see in a few months for a reunion. And if it’s bad on PaperGirl, imagine how much worse it is in my private journals. For so long, I have been counting the months until my exile would come to an end.
But something is happening to me.
It’s the wide streets downtown, maybe. It’s most definitely the art. My new quilting friends have had a huge impact on my fondness for the place. That I can get to Reagan National Airport in almost exactly twenty minutes from my door on the yellow line train has something to do with my crush. It’s the men in their suits. It’s my buddy Abraham Lincoln over there on the Mall, always ready to hang out and just sit quietly with me. It’s the dinner I had the other night with the incredible Malbec.
The circumstances that brought me here were relatively grim. (I realized this past Saturday that the last time I even though the word “valentine” it was to announce Yuri and I breaking up; that illustration of the two kids looking out at the rain is perhaps the most appropriate image I’ve ever selected for any entry in the history of this blog.) But since getting to DC I’ve blossomed like the cherry trees in the National Cherry Tree Festival set to begin next month. Honest, I have. When I was in New York City, I couldn’t drag myself to a decent workout or yoga practice. Now, unless I’m feeling poorly, I’m all over it. In New York, I did almost zero socializing. I just couldn’t get out there. But I’m a butterfly now! My quilting friends, my writer’s group — I’m making new acquaintances all the time and I love it.
Washington, you were supposed to be a weigh station. You were supposed to be a place I said I lived in for six months, once, in my thirties. You were not supposed to enchant me like this. With you, I feel like the most fabulous 1980s, Jessica Lange-y, Mary Tyler Moore-y, working gal with a hot date on the books and a plane to catch. The only other city that ever made me feel like that was Chicago, but you have three distinct advantages over that most recent love:
1. Chicago winters are sick, cruel, horrifying; yours are kinda cute
2. I did not get married and divorced in you
3. No Cubs
We shall see. If my adorable medical students want to renew their lease, I may just let them. When I let my life unspool before me, when I let it show me what it wants to do and then I pay attention, I am always entertained.
1. Learning to spell my middle name in kindergarten (“Katherine” is long)
2. Opening a Roth IRA in my mid-twenties (I was a waitress and it wasn’t much of an investment but I did it, anyway)
3. Being included in the first-ever Best of Write Club anthology (out this month.)
Write Club is a live lit show started in Chicago a few years ago by writer-performer-genius Ian Belknap. The show goes in three bouts, with two writers per bout. A week in advance of the show, Ian pairs up the writers and assigns each pair two opposing ideas, e.g., Rain vs. Shine, Hello vs. Goodbye, Fire vs. Water, etc. One writer takes “Hello” and the other takes “Goodbye” and they go off and write a piece extolling the virtues of the side they drew. You get seven minutes up onstage to deliver the piece you’ve written, onstage, at the mic. No props, no costumes. There’s a clock that ticks down from seven minutes. There’s a packed house every week. The bouts get ferocious and amazing and heated. The audience goes crazy with love and loyalties. The winner of each bout is picked by the audience; whoever gets the loudest, frothingest cheering wins and the winner’s fist is hauled up into the air by Ian, just like you’re a boxer and the crowd goes wild. If you win your bout, you get to name any charity you want to give your prize money to and that’s what happens with your prize money.
I can’t describe how incredible Write Club is because it’s late, my contacts are crunchy, and I have to be on a plane at 7am tomorrow morning. The best I can do tonight is to tell you that Write Club will leave you breathless. There is astounding writing talent in Chicago. We have so many brilliant people writing here, it approaches embarrassing. We’re stinking, filthy rich with good writers who are alive, which is to say nothing about all the ones who are dead (e.g., Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow, Studs Terkel, Lorraine Hanesberry, etc., etc.) I’m honored to call many of these (alive) people my friends and I’m goofy, nerdy, tripping-over-my-feet happy to be able to write alongside them every once in awhile. Write Club has expanded to San Francisco, Atlanta, L.A., and Toronto; more cities are sure to come, and I hope they do. But the show was born here in Chicago and it will always have the imprint of Chicago’s meaty fist in its forehead. Chea.
Anyway, The Best of Write Club anthology has come out and I’m in it. I haven’t stopped pinching myself. There are 24 writers in there and my friend Chloe and I start the whole book off with the essays we did for our bout, “Foreign” vs. “Native.” I drew “Foreign”. I won the bout that night, but a) Chloe’s essay is amazing and b) my first time at Write Club, I lost my bout. It’s a hard game.
I have a book sale going on right now and you should take advantage of that. But if you’re like me and you buy .8 books a day, get The Best of Write Club at a bookshop called The Book Cellar, or Amazon, or lots of places online. You’ll pay under $20 and get some of the best, freshest, most exhilarating writing you’re going to read this year. I saw a lot of it happen live and I’m telling you: these words are electric.
Note: I was at the Chicago Book Expo today to read my essay. That’s why I keep saying “here.”
A friend of mine who lives in Chicago picked me up after we wrapped the Quilty taping. Neither of us had much time, but a few hours was better than nothing. I was expecting a cup of coffee and a snack, but instead, we shot guns.
There’s a huge, down-to-the-studs remodeling project going on in the warehouse that is part of my friend’s business. And there’s a giant wall of insulation that is going to be torn out tomorrow. On Sunday, not a soul is in the warehouse and that wall of insulation is smack in the middle of that absolutely enormous, raw, space, and if a person had a Colt 45 and some wax bullets, why, it would be really fun to shoot a few of ’em through that big insulation wall, now wouldn’t it?
It’s just what we did.
My friend was in the armed forces years ago and respects every firearm safety measure there ever was or ever will be. He made sure the wax was placed correctly, that the chambers were loaded just so (there are six chambers but you only load five) and he had me stand far away so he could take the first few shots and ensure everything was okay to let me try.
The combination “BANG!” of the pistol and the essentially instantaneous “PAP!” of the wax slug as it shot through the insulation board was intoxicating. I cocked again: “BANG!” And again: “BANG!” and the holes appeared in that towering piece of two-inch thick pink insulation board. I was shooting a little high and brought the gun down, or so I thought. My shots kept hitting higher than I thought they would; it made me want to get the whole bag of wax and practice till I got good. Practice till it got dark. Practice till I didn’t feel like shooting anymore.
I have no comment on the rightness or wrongness of guns. I can only comment on how good it was to see my friend, how thrilling it was to make a loud sound.
At Heather’s house, I’ve been reading from a Dorothy Parker anthology and a book of Emily Dickinson poems. I don’t have much time before we have to leave for the second day of the Quilty shoot (which is going well) but I made a poem in the time I had.
Being in Chicago is hard. I miss this place very much. New York is not taking, I’m afraid. More on that later. For now, a poem about the day I left.
June 1st, 2014
by Mary Fons
We sped down Lakeshore Drive that day —
The train giving way to a taxi drive —
Me and my luggage were whisked away,
Around a quarter to five.
Through grimy windows my eyes did see
Steel and glass buildings standing so sure;
Chicago’s a hard and imposing city,
But its heart is pure.
What have I done to my favoritest lover;
Leaving like this, my purse grabbed in haste;
Off to new visions and a new city’s cover,
What a waste.
For mercy and grace, I shall grovel and beg,
Come June, when weather is fair;
Chicago, lash at at the back of my leg
It proves you care.
While I’m in Chicago, I’m staying at my friend Heather’s house. She shares the house with her terrific husband, Sam, and I have very recently discovered they have many terrific books.
For instance, they have a full set of the Childcraft “How & Why Library.” I didn’t have Childcraft books growing up, but I’d seen them before. The volumes have names like, “How We Get Things,” “What People Do,” and “About Dogs.” They’re a kid’s first encyclopedia, basically.
I wanted to read all of these books, but “Poems and Rhymes” came first in the set, so I went with that, and the first page I opened to was the tale of Old Mother Hubbard. Have you ever read the entire Old Mother Hubbard poem? It’s not good. It’s not just that it lacks substance — it does lack substance — but it is also is confusing in frustrating ways, as opposed to being confusing in delightful ways, e.g., the work of Lewis Carroll.
Let’s take a look at this thing. The first verse everyone knows and it’s fine, albeit a bummer (if you’re the old lady’s dog):
Old Mother Hubbard Went to the cupboard To get her poor dog a bone; But when she got there, The cupboard was bare, And so the poor dog had none.
Okay, fair enough. But buckle up. Next verse:
She went to the baker’s To buy him some bread, But when she came back, The poor dog was dead.
The dog died?? Her dog died while she was running errands? Perhaps your dog died, Mother, because you chose to neglect your pantry. Just when rigor mortis begins to set in, however, the dog suddenly feels much better, not that the author helps his audience prepare for that:
She went to the fruiterer’s To buy him some fruit, But when she came back, He was playing the flute.
Ol’ Lazarus is playing the flute, eh? That is super, super creepy. And whose flute is it, anyway? The old lady can keep expensive woodwind instruments but no kibble? She should be ashamed of herself. The good news is that the word “fruiterer” is new to me and I like it.
She went to the fishmonger’s To buy him some fish, But when she came back, He was licking the dish.
We have an issue here with the conjunction. The word “but” is used to introduce something contrasting with what has already been mentioned. For instance, “She went to the fishmonger’s/to buy him some fish/but when she came back/he had made himself tacos.” There is no contrasting idea in the verse as it is up there but the author uses “but” and it’s driving me bonkers.
She went to the barber’s To buy him a wig,
She went to the barber’s To buy him a wig, But when she came back He was dancing a jig.
So … He couldn’t put the wig on. Because of the jig. Perhaps she couldn’t catch him in his jigging to affix the wig properly? See above problem with conjunction. I have a headache.
She went to the cobbler’s To buy him some shoes, But when she came back, He was reading the news.
She went to the tailor’s To buy him a coat, But when she came back, He was riding a goat.
Sloppy! These thoughts are not congruent in any way! I realize children’s poetry isn’t trying to be Yeats. But the minds of children are typically more fit than adults will appreciate or admit. Don’t you foist this goofy stuff on me, Childcraft. You’re lucky I’m staying in Heather’s guestroom and spied you on the shelf. It could be years before someone else comes along and gives you a fair shake. Okay, last verse:
The dame made a curtsy, The dog made a bow; The dame said, “Your servant,” The dog said, “Bow-wow.”
Introduction of a new character. Totally out of left-field. Maybe this work needs another draft, Childcraft.
I’ve arrived in Chicago in order to see my doctor tomorrow. Will the hospital admit me? Quite possibly. I’m ready for anything.
Yuri has come to be with me for the anything. We met at Midway late last night and took flying leaps into each others’ arms. I’m betting there were bluebirds of happiness flying around our heads, but I was too busy smiling like a dweeb at him to confirm it. The man looks good. He needs some home cookin’, but he looks real, real good to me.
And though we’re at a beautiful hotel in the fancy-schmance Gold Coast for the next two days, I do feel like a guest in my own house. Yuri and I will return to Chicago after the New York adventure, pending a few key transitional things in the hopper; until then, Chicago is looking at me with sad dog eyes and I’m defensive and short with it, saying things like, “I know! I’m just… Just don’t… Stop looking at me like that, would you?”
That uncomfortable conversation was playing in my head this afternoon when I walked to Walgreen’s for toothpaste. I was at Michigan Avenue and Chicago, right by the Chicago Avenue Water Tower and Pumping Station, a.k.a., “Old Water Tower.” This castle-like structure, with its finials and its flourishes is one of the few bits of construction in the entire city that survived the Great Chicago Fire 1871. Not bad for a big ol’ pipe.
There was a family walking behind me and suddenly I hear a girl of about six cry with unhinged delight,
“It’s the Eiffel Tower!!! Mommy! Mommy, look, it’s the Eiffel Tower!!!”
The mother, father, and only slightly older sister tried to tell the child that no, no, that was the WaterTower, but the girl was having none of it.
“But Mommy! It’s the Eiffel Tower!”
You bet it is, squirt. It’s our Eiffel Tower. When you’re older, I could share with you that the Ferris Wheel — I’m sure your folks have taken you to the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier, non? — debuted in Chicago at the World’s Fair in 1893. Well, Mr. Ferris designed his Wheel to rival the grandeur and splendor of the Eiffel Tower that you’re talking about. I think he did pretty well, especially since you can go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, but you can’t swing your legs.
1. Make Yuri dinner. Before I left for Atlanta, I made food for Yuri and packed it lovingly into labeled containers and stacked it all in the freezer. I’m sure he’s gone through it all by now and has moved onto Operation: Chipotle Every Day. (My darling!!)
2. Make Yuri breakfast.
When we first began living in sin, I wowed this man with my oatmeal-making skills. “Do you like oatmeal?” I asked him. He said that he didn’t, exactly, but that he knew how good it was for him, so he could choke it down. Not a ringing endorsement for oatmeal, but then, he had never had my oatmeal. When I served up piping hot organic oats with real cream, slivered almonds, dried blueberries and a scoop of soft brown sugar, well. Yuri likes oatmeal, now.
3. Make Yuri laugh.
4. Do an Aztec Mud Mask.
Yuri has this jar of weird “Aztec” clay powder that you mix with (smelly) vinegar and smear all over your face. It hardens in 15 minutes and when you wash it off, you have skin smooth as a baby’s for at least five minutes.
5. Get a glass of wine with my sister Nan at Bar Veloce.
Bar Veloce only serves wine and beer (and small sandwiches?? I can’t remember.) It’s kinda snobby but also kinda great, and you know all the wine is fresh. It better be, sister, at those prices!
6. See my NYC doctors and make sure they’re talking to my Chicago doctors.
7. Go to a live taping of an Intelligence Squared Debate!!
It’s not happening till November, but I am already wiggling. Google “Intelligence Squared Debates” and read all about it. Then look at the debate for November 13th. Andrew Solomon is of my favorite authors of all time and is possibly one of the smartest people alive and writing today — and he’s a freaking panelist that night. Live IQ2 and Andrew Solomon on the same night? The topic is less important than the event itself. Andrew Solomon could be debating whether quinoa is a seed or a grain and I’d be riveted. I will be in wannabe-intellectual, academiac heaven that night and I can’t wait.
10. Try to get my head around New York City. Because I haven’t, yet. Not really. Confession: Every plane trip I’ve taken since June, if I could avoid it, I’ve tried to not fly through Chicago. It’s too painful. I miss her terribly. I can’t bear to see Midway Airport because Midway Airport is so close to my home, my real home, in the South Loop. I ache for Chicago, I long for her shores. When I go back to New York, I must embrace New York again, go to the monolith differently; open up anew. There’s more than enough there for me, but if I don’t want it, I’ll be tossed nothing but scraps.
It’s really here: I’m in my final moments as a resident of Chicago. And I’m losing it.
I have 24 hours to tie up the move-out, then I give keys to “the gang,” a.k.a. the medical students who are soon going to be living in my home.
“Home” is a rich and achingly pretty word because within it, you have the “oh” sound, and oh, oh, oh, I am in pain.
After my divorce, I moved downtown. After all that turmoil and fear, I had to either leave Chicago forever or find a New Chicago. I chose the latter. I remember thinking, “Don’t throw the baby out, Fons. Don’t leave Chicago. You have a life here.” After living on the northside for ten years, the shift downtown was striking and did the trick: coming down here was absolutely like moving to another city but I retained my network and my knowledge of the place. Sure enough, in my New Chicago, I created an entirely new life. I had to.
I found a space that sang. A sunlit, wide-open, gem of a condo in the South Loop. It was love at first sight. When the realtor opened the door to what would become my unit (such a clinical-sounding term for a piece of my heart) I tried not to gape. Gorgeous. Wide. South-facing windows. Two bathrooms with these cool bell-jar-like light fixtures. One exposed brick wall. It was a doorman building with a rooftop deck. There was a garbage chute, too — and I dreamed of a garbage chute! There was an elevator and a mailroom and cleaners on-site. The best part: it was actually below my budget. After the darkness of my failed marriage, the impossible had happened: I was in love again.
One of the first things I did when I moved in was have a professional muralist paint a trompe l’oeil on the west- and south-facing walls. I wanted a faint, French drawing room panel motif over all that cream. The artist exceeded my expectations; the funny thing about art you paint on the walls, however, is that you cannot take it with you. So goodbye, mural.**
When I moved in, I had an ostomy bag. I don’t have one now, so the space saw me heal. It also saw me in grave peril last fall, when I was in the hospital every month for several months. The paramedics came for me just one time, busting in the door; usually I’d take a taxi up Michigan Avenue to Northwestern and check myself in — I even took the bus once — but that time, I was in so much pain, I couldn’t see. My home saw all that. It saw me come home thinner and depressed.
My home saw me foolish, that’s for sure. A collection of late nights, dubious houseguests, wine glasses, etc.; these are in the portfolio.
I wrote my book here. I made Quilty here. I dreamed a thousand things, made good on most of them. I fell in love here, too, and not just with the space. I mean that I fell in love here, with two different human beings. Yuri is one, and that’s all I’ll say about that.
I’m excited for New York City. Without question, saying yes to the love in my life, Yuri, this lion of a person, this force of nature, this is right. But today, as the sun glitters off the lake and the happy people of Chicago go about their merry ways, my heart is breaking. This is too hard.
I’m probably just crispy from the travel this week, emotional because dinner last night was a McDonald’s caramel sundae (long story.)
All my love, Chicago. Just know that you have it all.
* Visit my Instagram page (username: yomaryfons) for images of the mural. I’ll put them up shortly.
I’ll be back in Chicago next month for a one-weekend-only event that is not to be missed. Well, I’d better not miss it, I’m in it. But you shouldn’t miss it, either.
JRV MAJESTY Productions, a powerhouse of a production unit, honestly, has put together a program of solo performers, monologuists, presenters, etc. to deliver an evening of pieces on the topic of being different. Some of the performers will perform pieces on being queer, some will discuss further rarified qualities of being “other,” and some — like me — will perform a brief (15 minutes or so) piece on what it’s like to live with a lousy chronic illness. I feel pretty “other” sometimes, but I’m honored to be a part of this evening of extremely talented, fellow “others,” whatever kind of “otherness” they cop to.
I posed for the portrait above a few weeks ago. My piece involves my journals. I’ve spoken about them before. I brought all my journals from the past three years to the shoot; we spread them out on the floor and then I lay on top of them. My current journal (and a pen) are in my hands. The photographer, Kiam, who was wearing a sari and made me feel instantly comfortable under his lens, got just above me on a footstool and dangled dangerously over me, contorting and cooing as he aimed for the perfect shot. I think we got one, though I keep peering at the words in the journals to see if anything scandalous can be deciphered. I think I’m good.
Chicago friends, hope to see you. And everyone: hug an “other” today.
Because I’m renting my condo furnished this summer, I falsely assumed the task of moving would be less arduous and there would be no need to hire professional movers. I was wrong, and thus have spent the last two days in hell.
Fundamental truth: I am ruthless when it comes to disposing of excess stuff. I claim no bric-a-brac. I keep no old shoe. Being a purger (??) is made easier because I live and die by the words of Arts and Crafts giant William Morris, who proclaimed in 1880:
“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
Yes, Willy, Yes!
I am the anti-hoarder. I keep nothing, buy nothing that is not useful/beautiful. If I need a can opener, for example, but can only find lame ones made of plastic, I will wait until I can find a basic metal one and go without canned things. A plastic can opener might be useful but it is not beautiful, so it’s out. A classic, metal can opener is timeless! an objet d’art! I’m 100% serious and I’d like to think my home is harmonious as a result.**
But for heaven’s sake, I’m a person with a home that doubles as an office and a sewing studio. I have so many objects. Harmonious or discordant, this move is gargantuan. Do it all myself? Or even just with Yuri? What planet was I living on? (No! Don’t answer that!)
The Russian and I got boxes, a storage unit, a cargo van. Horrible, all of it. Soul-crushing. I’ve been doing my Midwest-work-ethic best, packing, eliminating, Goodwill-ing, all while still answering emails and attending to work-related tasks! I also remembered to brush my teeth! What race am I running, here?? (No! Shush!!)
As one might imagine, my productivity and emotional fitness ebbed and flowed throughout yesterday and today. This morning, I was actually in a fetal position for a spell, curled up near my desk in a sea of paper, wailing at Yuri, who was in the other room:
“Help me! HELP! ME! I’m doing the work of ten men! TEN MEN, DO YOU HEAR ME! I hate you! I can’t do this! I HATE YOU AND I NEED HELP!”
One of the reasons I love Yuri is because in situations like these he does two things:
1) he lightens the mood by coming into the room with a grin, saying something like, “Aw, who’s on the struggle bus? Who’s lookin’ so fine, ridin’ that struggle bus?” and of course this makes me bust out laughing, still on the floor
2) he helps
But the hard part about moving is never the logistics.
The logistics suck all right. But the core of it, the real trouble in River City is that you’re kicking up deadly serious dust. The longer you live in a place, the deeper and more emotional that dust becomes; if you have a strong emotional connection to a place (like I have to this place) it’s a double whammy. In the past 48 hours, I’ve hit upon a lot of life — more than I really cared to hit right now, honestly. Books, pictures, fabric, dresses, quilts — what we own owns us. And when we move we’re at the mercy of it all, we’re possessed by those possessions, even when we think we don’t hang onto much.
I hang onto absolutely everything. I just store it differently.
I store it here.
**All this editing may be due in part to my peripatetic lifestyle. If I’m not harmonious, I’m sunk. I heard once that “every item or object in your home is a thought in your head,” which is to say that belongings take up valuable real estate in one’s brain. A cleaner home equals a clearer head; I need every advantage I can get.
Correction: Many people, not including me, are smoking pot!
I’ve been running errands all over town and I can’t make it two blocks without walking into, out of, or through a cloud of weed smoke.** It’s not because marijuana has been legalized in Illinois; I’m pretty sure we all would’ve heard if that had happened. No, all these people are out in flagrante because it is achingly beautiful outside: the Chicago winter was truly horrific and no social contract, K-9 unit, or stroke of blue lightening is gonna stop a grass smoker on a gorgeous May day in the city from takin’ it outside.
I couldn’t care less, you understand. I kinda like the smell of pot. That funky, piney, skunky smell, it’s kinda great. And around Chicago, where folks make a living trafficking in such things, you smell some pretty dank weed, too, real hydroponic stuff. To me, weed smells like contraband, like kids, like a party, like the woods. Those things are all right.
As for smoking it, no way. Oh, I’ve tried. But I hate it. Just hate it! Isn’t that something?
When various friends offer me grass or I find myself at a social gathering where people are smoking, I pass every time. This is because marijuana makes me sleepy, desirous of high quantities of food (any food), and swiftly renders any feeble powers of cognition I possess utterly useless. Twenty minutes into the whole thing, and I’m curled up on a chair (any chair), eating Nutella from the jar, going on incessantly (either in my head or aloud, always hard to say) about how I’m embarrassed I am that I can’t remember what I just said, or if I said it, or if how I said it came off right and do you have any almonds? orange juice? marshmallows? leftover broccoli? chips — oooh, chips??
I just get super lame. It’s almost like I have an allergy. Perhaps I’ll try that the next time I’m offered weed:
“Oh, no thanks. I can’t smoke. I’m allergic.”
“Really? Woah. What happens? You get hives or something?”
“No, I get completely lame.”
Smoke away, my smokey friends. Let the Mary Jane muses of spring call out to you, let the long holiday weekend follow a loopy, endless trail of purple haze; let your picnics be filled with really really really good fried chicken and sangria, and let your connection be in town and answering his phone. May you feel soft earth under your bare feet after our hard and punishing winter and may you have a lover to squeeze nearby (and may that lover finally not be wearing five layers and a puffer coat so you can get to more of him/her.)
I beg you all, above all, to be safe: don’t drive cars if you’re stoned or drunk. I like you too much, you and all your dopey, lopsided smiles.
**I like to think Weedsmoke is a little-known, low-rent version of Gunsmoke.
If all goes according to plan, three medical students will be renting my home very soon. I met them last night and I like them a lot.
I like the idea of three big brains living here, mainlining coffee, charging their phones, putting their scrubs in a hamper. My home is a good place to be (good vibes, true story) and my fondest wish is that these folks will be better doctors later because they lived here. They’ll be able to say:
“Remember our second year, you guys? That amazing apartment we had? Yeah… That was cool. Got me through Musculoskeletal Systems II.”
Then one of them will say:
“Can you believe that chick renovated her bathroom and kitchen and then freaking moved?”
And somewhere, far, far away, I will weep.
When they came to see the place, one of the gang arrived before the others and we had some time to chat. This pleased me a great deal. I have never known anyone in medical school until now, unless you count the army of interns and residents I have interacted with over the course of my being sick, which I don’t. But I’ve always been so curious about what med school is like, why a person chooses it, and how it all happens, from undergrad to loans to residencies to actual jobs. There in my own living room, I suddenly had the chance to talk to a pre-doctor about all that. I tried not to interrogate.
“Did you always know you wanted to be a doctor?”
“Are you driven by a deep love of practicing medicine?”
“Do you enjoy it?”
“Is there a secret form you have to fill out to eventually get that doctor look and smell?”
“What’s the hardest part?”
The young man was thoughtful in all his replies. (I didn’t actually ask him about the doctor smell, but I so wanted to.) The last question got me a great story, too. Here’s basically what he told me; I may have gotten some of the technicalities funky, but it’s definitely the gist. NOTE: Squeamish readers proceed with caution.
“Honestly, it can be extremely tedious. I was on a brain-bleed case not long ago. We removed a piece of the skull — well, the residents and the surgeon did. As a student, you’re not doing any of this, you’re just watching. From about seven in the morning till almost one o’clock in the afternoon, we stood there and just watched as the resident used a teeny, tiny tool to deliver a zap that cauterized bleeding blood vessels.
He’d see blood, zap it, wipe. Wait. See blood, zap, wipe. Over and over again, but there was less blood coming over those hours, so we were just standing there and watching this process. I finally had to leave, and the other students were like, ‘But they’re about to screw the skull back on!’ and I was like, ‘I’m good,’ and I went and got lunch.”
He also told me that when a piece of the actual brain is taken out and needs to be saved for later, they store it in your abdomen. Your abdomen is like a damn locker for your brain. Oh, the humanity. Oh, my.
I secretly hope they have awesome doctor parties here.