PaperGirl Blog by Mary Fons







Jeni’s Ice Cream Will Soon Be In My Chicago Neighborhood (Goodbye, Cruel World)

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life, Food 6
I was ready to use a stock picture of any old ice cream, but a Hilary Hartman uploaded this image to WikiCommons. My Wiki-only OCD re: pictures is assuaged. My streak unbroken. Thank you, Hilary. Image: Wikipedia.


There is a Jeni’s Ice Cream shop coming to my neighborhood.

When I discovered this, I screamed — for ice cream. If you know Jeni’s ice cream and live in my neighborhood or near it, you’re also screaming. It’s terrifying, all these screaming people, but it’s not like we’re screaming because we’re being chased by an axe murder or anything. We’re screaming for Sweet Cream Biscuits & Peach Jam, and Salted Peanut Butter With Chocolate Flecks, and Gooey Butter Cake, and Brown Butter Almond Brittle. There are others, and great tubs of them will soon arrive in the Gold Coast and I will commune with them.

This is not a sponsored post. In fact, it is I who pay Jeni’s Ice Cream for their goods and services. It doesn’t seem fair to pay a company lots of money (their product is not cheap) and then give them free marketing on top of it. But, since the ice cream-delivered dopamine hits I’ve enjoyed over the years have been made possible because of Jeni’s product, I suppose I owe them. For cold spoonfuls of Atlantic Beach Pie, Mexican Chocolate, Buttercream Birthday Cake, and Skillet Cinnamon Bun, I give, and give, and give, apparently. Pathetic!

Recently, Eric and I caught a matinee at the AMC on Ohio Street just off Michigan Avenue. When the movie got out, we walked north, toward home. Our route from the theater takes us past Connors Park, a tiny patch of land at the intersection of Rush, Wabash, and Chestnut Streets, and this was the location of my discovery. I know I’m giving you lots of street names, but I want to remember every detail, to mentally return to the scene of my future ice cream crimes.

And setting the scene is important because Jeni’s could open a shop in a ditch or serve customers through a subway grate and I’d still be happy about it, as long as that subway grate were 10 minutes from my home. But the decision to operate out of Connors Park? It makes this whole thing extra awesome.

I didn’t know that the tiny patch of land at the above intersection was considered a park; I thought it was just a very large curb. Indeed, the triangle-shaped island that is Connors Park comprises just .34 acres, bounded on all sides by a line of narrow shrubs. There’s an oak tree, three or-so benches, and birdbath-sized fountain, which is all that can fit around the biggest feature of Connors Park, a low, rectangular-shaped glass building plopped right in the center. I’ve always loved that building. It looks like a greenhouse. It was an Argo Tea for the longest time and I fondly recall several afternoons there, writing in my journal as the autumn leaves sifted down past the windows all around me. But the Argo Tea closed years ago — even before the pandemic — and the greenhouse sat empty.

Until now.

Eric was saying something to me when I saw the banner hanging on the building. The banner showed pictures of Jeni’s Ice Cream and the words “Coming Soon!”

I stopped dead in my tracks. I clutched my husband and raised a trembling finger to point at the sign.

“Eric. Look!”

My husband makes noise about not liking sweets — “I’m a savory person”  — but he is weak in the presence of Jeni’s Ice Cream. Most people are His favorites are Brambleberry Crisp and Buttercream Birthday Cake. My favorites are, in no particular order: Pistachio Honey, Atlantic Beach Pie, Mexican Chocolate, Green Mint Chip, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, Salty Caramel, Cream Puff, and Savannah Buttermint.

I’m serious, those are my favorites. All of them are my favorite-favorites. I will say that Cream Puff is my main favorite right now but that’s only because Pistachio Honey, the first Jeni’s flavor I ever had, is no longer available for some demonic, cruel reason. You always remember your first, you know?

Anyway, soon there will be a Jeni’s near our apartment. It’s the best news I’ve heard all month and I just wanted to share the news — but keep your hands off my ice cream.*

*I hate this cheesy ending but I have to get back to work … eating my ice cream. I hate that ending even more. I hate it more than I hate it when my Jeni’s ice cream is gone. Help. I’m stuck in a bad ending loop. Maybe Jeni’s will open a location in the Loop. 

How To Save Money For Home Improvement

posted in: Day In The Life 11
Repairing our frescoes is going to cost a fortune! Image: Wikipedia.


When I bought the apartment where Eric and I currently live, I knew it needed work. Everyone knew it needed work — that’s why I was able to buy it. The location, the building, the mise en scene; if I hadn’t gotten a discount, we wouldn’t have an address on our historic, tree-lined street.

But I did get a discount because the paint in the unit is an inch thick and the parquet floors are in terrible shape. The kitchen came with a Magic Chef stove ca. 1955 and a dishwasher from the pleistocene era. And the other day, one of the shelves in the inset bookcases literally collapsed. (There’s a joke in here about slouching toward Bethlehem, or Atlas shrugging, or the fall of the House of Usher, but that would require me to admit that I’ve still got a copy of Atlas Shrugged. It’s a first edition and it was a gift and it’s hard for me to let go of books, alright?)

Now that we’re staying put in Chicago for the foreseeable future, we’ve got to serious about home improvement. Eric and I have been discussing needs and wants. We need to replace all the molding; we want to connect the kitchen and the the dining room by opening up the east wall. We need to install ceiling lights; we want a gold toilet.* It’s going to cost a bunch of money because this is a big city and that’s just how it is. Plus, Eric would be cool with standard-issue everything, but I’m fancy. I told him this before we got married. He knows.

To get it done, we’ll have to take out a home loan. This is terrifying to me. Borrowing money with our home as collateral — I think that’s how it works — is just a very grown-up thing to do. I feel like a child most of the time and children don’t take out home loans. Can we manage another monthly bill? It’s freaky to think about. Student loan payments have been suspended for two years now, but that party will be over soon. And the apartment may have been on sale, but property taxes don’t get markdowns. If we want to do the work, we’ll have to get the loan, but I want it to be lean, lean, lean. This means I/we need to save money or make some more of it.

Here are things I can do to save money:

no new clothes (I hate this)
no fripperies (I love fripperies)
no major travel (let a book take you on an adventure, loser)

Here are things I can do to make some extra money:

sell my old clothes (but keep a few or I won’t have ANY clothes because I can’t buy new ones, apparently)
grow my Twitch and YouTube channels (harder than it sounds but I’m working on it)
rob a bank (complicated)

If you have other ideas, feel free to comment below! If you know how to rob a bank in your old, dumb clothes while broadcasting it all live on the internet, definitely comment below.


*do not want

Ponytail Elastics: Free For All

posted in: Day In The Life, Tips 7
The elastic is safe … for now. Image: Wikipedia.


Tea. Light and heat. Transport. Cell service. Socks. Aspirin. Butter.

Some things in life have to be purchased over and over and over again. There’s no way out. If you want to stay alive, you’re going to need supplies, and supplies wear out, run out, break, go missing, or you decide you hate yours, or the ones you got don’t work out, or you just want new ones. Not everyone needs the same supplies, but everyone needs some supplies, so you’d better get yourself some money because there’s no such thing as a free pair of socks.

For those out there with long hair, however, I’ve got good news: If you’re in a city, there is one supply that you will never, ever have to buy again, if only you pay attention.

I’m talking about ponytail elastics.

Maybe you call them “hair ties” or “ponytail holders” or “hair elastics”. You may go for the thin kind, where the two ends are joined with a speck of pinched metal. Maybe you prefer the thicker, fuzzy ones that are less likely to result in horrible snarls when you take them out. Whatever your preference, if you’re in a place that has miles of sidewalk, there are free ponytail elastics waiting for you. Some of you know what I’m talking about.

I’ve walked a lot of city sidewalks. A month after I turned 18, I moved to Chicago and I’ve been crossing her pavement ever since. Longtime readers of PaperGirl saw me walk through New York City and cross sidewalks in Washington, D.C. after I left. I didn’t write much while Eric and I lived in London, but you can bet we covered a lot of cement over there. And in each of those cities, without exception, I found many, many ponytail elastics on the ground. When you’re next in a city, look down. You’ll find them too.

And they’re all for the taking, my long-haired friend.

I’ve always assumed they got there by accident. Personally, I’ve never thrown a ponytail holder on the ground in a fit of anger. I can’t remember throwing a ponytail holder on the ground at all. If the one holding my hair back breaks, well, it goes in the trash. No, the sidewalk ponytail holders soaked in rainwater or baking in the sun got there by accident. I’m sure of that. Someone pulled off their scarf from around their neck and the hair elastic came with it, falling to the cement. Or an already loose ponytail holder was dislodged when someone put on their bike helmet. Its innocent, pink body was flinged into the air, alighting for a brief, glorious moment on a smelly, city breeze before dropping to the ground to be stepped on for eternity, or until the enormous spinning brooms of a street cleaner vehicle whooshes them into a gutter. Where they go from there, I cannot say.

Will you save them from this sorrowful fate? Will you, ponytail-having person, pick up the poor ponytail holder — a free supply that in the drugstore cost way more than necessary — and give it a home? The next time you need a ponytail elastic because somehow you’ve succeeded in losing all of the ones you got at the drugstore a frickin’ month ago — will you pick this city fruit and restore its dignity?

Are you insane?? That is like, so gross.

Tender Pockets

Detail, silk dress ca. 1920s. Image: Wikipedia. 


Before the pandemic began, I had clothes that could be considered “outside” clothes.

Like so many of you, I tried to maintain some sense of normalcy amid the confusion and fear of those first few months. One of my strategies was to wear my outside clothes inside. I’d dress like like I was going to be seen in public, walk from the bedroom to my desk, perch on my chair and mostly meet deadlines. My desk was a tiny cafe table in the corner of the living room. Eric and I purchased it after we gave up the coworking space we had been renting downtown near the river. The table was barely big enough for my computer and keyboard but I made it work, wearing outside pants and an outside shirt. I even wore shoes for awhile.

But entropy always wins. As time passed, I stowed anything with buttons and zippers and embraced clothes that were soft and contained elastic at the waist and ankles.

That was two years ago. Today, I’m double-vaxxed and boosted. I mostly still wear my mask in public. (So weird that I sometimes forget.) Being outside is possible again. You can tell because today I’m wearing jeans with a button fly and my shirt doesn’t have a stain on the front. I put on my outside face almost every day.

It hasn’t been as fun as I thought it would be to get my outside clothes back into rotation, though, because most of my outside clothes have pockets. (None of my inside clothes have pockets.) As I hang things up, I check the pockets and it’s breaking my heart. It’s not just because the objects represent life pre-pandemic and that feels sad because the girl who last used these pockets had no idea what was on its way. That’s obviously part of it this time, but switching out warm-weather clothes for spring ones has always been painful for me. My pockets, myself: The objects people carry tell the story of their life (or at least part of a story.) It’s surprising how much you can learn about a person by going through them.

Here are the relics from my life in 2020:

  • lists (example: “H20, Wite-Out, Nutella, graham crackers, burrito stuff”)
  • used tissues (was I crying or did I just have a runny nose?)
  • lighter
  • plastic tabs for marking pages in books
  • loose medication
  • awesome lipstick x 2
  • lint
  • a wadded up five-dollar bill
  • a couple receipts

The lipsticks were dry but still useable. Plastic tabs will always be my #1 office supply item. I’m still on the same medication. The receipts were weird because a couple of them were from D.C. and I don’t go to D.C. anymore. I put the five-dollar bill in a drawer because I used cash in 2020 but hardly ever now. Lint is eternal.

The arrow of time only goes forward, but the arrow of time doesn’t have pockets. I’m not saying the arrow would ever turn around and go back if it had pockets, but it might slow down to catch its breath.

Let There Be Light, But Like Normal

posted in: Day In The Life 10
This picture is so gross. Image: Wikipedia.


It’s sad but true: I’ve lost familiarity with the PaperGirl catalog. It’s fixable, but it’s going to take a while.

I’ll probably always remember my favorite posts from the past — this one about my younger sister’s love of a white shoe, for example, and then there was this whole thing; there are a few others. But to reacquaint myself with what I wrote from year to year, it’ll take time and consistency. Some of you know I like cross-referencing posts within a post, and I reckon this will rehabilitate me by default: If I want to link to a related post from the past, I have to find that post, which means I have to search within WordPress, the platform I use for this blog. The hits from the search will jog my memory and over time, if I simply keep showing up, PaperGirls past should come back to me eventually.

But if I don’t know what I’ve written, how do I know what to search?

I know what to search because I’m fundamentally the same person since I fired up PaperGirl 2.0 over a decade ago. If I happen to have cheesecake for breakfast and want to tell you about it, I can do a search for “cheesecake” and probably find something relevant. If for some reason someone starts talking to me about baseball and I want to tell you about it — unlikely but possible — it’ll probably come back to me that I wrote about how it was in Chicago when the Cubs won the World Series. That was six years ago, but I remember.

I’ve been looking forward to telling you about how much I loathe the “smart” devices we’re all supposed to use in our homes, now. But because I have loathed them from the moment Alexa was born, and I blogged several times a week from roughly 2013 to 2019, I’ve surely covered this. I looked back and yes, I have shared stories of this loathing. Well, this is another one of those times.

Eric doesn’t share my hostility toward smart devices. Google Home, Facebook Portal — he finds value in the accursed things, though he draws the line at cameras, thank God; so far, we have no Eye of Sauron (aka Nest) in our living room.

I might take Sauron over his latest installation.

My husband activated an app that gives a person the ability to control the lights in a room. It can also be programmed with specific settings that work on a timer. When evening comes, for example, he has programmed the lights to automatically switch to an Evening setting. This happens at 8:00 p.m., I think. Around midnight, the lights in our apartment switch off entirely. There is a motion-sensor component to this system, so the next setting, the Morning one, waits to come on until you rise from your terrific night’s sleep and it registers that you have walked into the living room. Eric has programmed the Morning setting to turn on all the lights.

It’s important to note that I refuse to install or use this app. Call me old fashioned, but I’m a person who’s super okay with turning lights on or off using hardware (i.e., switches), not software.

Here’s another thing Eric’s been up to: allergies. He’s had seasonal allergies his whole life and they plague him four out of four seasons but they’re extra pernicious this time of year. For the past couple weeks, my darling husband, who is not typically a snorer, has been snoring at night on account of all the trees having sex outside our window.

Though I’m fundamentally the same person I was when you and I were hanging out regularly, there have been some changes. Over the past couple years, I’ve become a light sleeper. I hate it so much. I have trouble getting to sleep. I have trouble staying asleep. And when Eric snores, all is lost. It’s so pointless to try and sleep in the bedroom, so lately I’ve have to take a blanket and a pillow out to the couch and try to sleep there. It’s the worst.

Remember when I told you how the Morning setting turns on all the lights when you enter the living room after midnight? Yeah. Well, when I get up at 2:00 a.m. and shuffle into the living room, practically in tears from the injustice of it all, all the lights come on. The first time it happened, I howled and covered my eyes like I was staring into the sun. I raced around, turning off the blazing lamps all around me but they would not turn off because they are programmed to stay on until the Afternoon setting kicks in.

“Eric!” I howled into the bedroom, “Eric! Turn off the lights! What is this?! Are you kidding me?!”

Eric woke up and reached for his phone to turn off the lights. I was furious. In the morning, I got up from the damn couch and told him that this ridiculous light-app thing had to go. But we both forgot about it, I guess, and that night, it happened again.

I managed to stay in bed last night, barely. When I got up this morning, I went into the living room to gather my things to take to the office. On account of needing to be able to see things, I went to switch on the lights … but the lights did not come on. Because it was Morning, and Eric had turned off the Morning setting as requested. This meant that I could not turn on the lights in my own home. I turned the switches on all the lamps several times: nothing. I packed my tote bag in the dark. I left the apartment practically grinding my teeth into powder.

Eric was still sleeping. He was sleeping so soundly, I probably could have murdered him without much fuss. In the dark.

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