So I guess we know what my race nickname is. I mean it could be worse -- it could be Pigeon.
So I guess we know what my race nickname is. I mean it could be worse -- it could be Pigeon.
I went running a little later than usual on Sunday, which means I caught the sunrise; sunrises are nice and all, but sunrise is way cooler reflected in the faces of the buildings on Michigan Avenue.
And then I punched a pigeon in the face. Possibly to death. I’m not feeling good about it.
I was on the return leg, near the CSO, and there was a homeless dude to my right and some pigeons to my left up ahead. I was just running along, mostly thinking unflattering thoughts about Coldplay and why they had to make Viva la Vida so very long, when I startled the pigeons and they took off.
And you know, sometimes when you startle a bird they fly straight towards you.
So I startled too and ducked right, but as I ducked right, my left foot came forward and both my hands came up to block. And because my left foot was forward, right arm was blocking, and my left arm was already raised, I just like….instinctively threw what I have to admit was a frankly amazing left hook.
I didn’t mean to. It just happened. It’s probably the most beautiful punch of my life (not difficult, I haven’t punched much) and I socked that pigeon right in its poor tiny face.
Feathers went everywhere (including up my nose, oh my god) and I stopped and did like a weird hop-turn thing to slow my momentum, and what I saw was just freaked out birds and a cloud of feathers and homeless dude losing his shit laughing.
And I didn’t know what to do, I don’t know what one does when you’ve just punched a bird probably to death. I couldn’t even see a body. Did I vaporize the bird?
So I looked at the settling feathers and I looked at the homeless dude, who started laughing all over again, and I turned around and legged it (Viva la Vida was still playing).
So IDK if I can trust any pace I set that morning, because man is inherently destructive and eternally at odds with nature.
But I did 1.93 in 26:37 for a pace of 13.47 which is slower than my average and likely does account for the bird punching.
I am almost definitely going to hell.
I've been looking casually for some time, which means I've brought Project Management to bear on it. My real estate agent sent me 15 homes to look at, and I checked my spreadsheet and rejected 10 of them out of hand as belonging to buildings I knew I did not want to live in, then rejected another 4 (and added them to the spreadsheet).
I have one "maybe". The layout is crap but it has a fireplace, a gas stove, a dishwasher, a laundry hookup ensuite, and the building has a gym. The fact that it has NO PARKING might be an issue for my parents, though.
And the goddamn bedroom walls don't go all the way up, which is an architectural quirk endemic to Chicago rehabs. What the fuck, Chicago.
But the best, most awesome takeaway from the weekend was The Cab Light, which my mother discovered while making small talk with the doorman.
It turns out that my building has a cab light mounted on it. I didn't know cab lights existed; I'd seen yellow lights mounted on buildings before, sometimes even flashing, but I thought they were some kind of emergency signal. Apparently they are used to summon cabs without having to go outside. I wish I had known this in the PREVIOUS EIGHT YEARS I HAVE LIVED IN CHICAGO, not to mention the TWO YEARS I have lived in a building that actually has a cab light on it.
I need to apologize to a couple of people I made wait in the cold while I tried to hail a cab without one. D:
So between the Cab Light and learning about how to age egg whites, I've had a very educational time of things. Also Mum bought me a box of cookies from Trader Joe's, but I paid that back by introducing her to the heat-and-eat samosas they sell in the freezer case.
Also to apple mustard, which she put on the samosas.
Mum: this mustard is amazing, where did you get it?
Me: I made it!
Mum: what’s in it?
Me: Apples, it’s apple mustard.
Mum: Apple mustard. *pause* blame the Internet?
Mum: DONT TELL THE INTERNET I SAID THAT
I stopped by the bank after work to drop off a check -- it was a ten thousand dollar check from my parents, which had to be put in my name so I can use it as a down payment when I'm ready to buy a home, and that's weird enough. But then I got to chatting with the banker while he was setting up my new savings account and I think he propositioned me? We were talking about living in the area and about the burger bar near my apartment, which has terrible service but really good burgers, and at the end after I'd deposited my check he shook my hand for an awkwardly long time and was like "Maybe my wife and I will see you at the burger bar sometime, we're there most Thursday nights."
I can't tell if that was just an oddly-framed "have a nice day" or if I got invited to a hamburger-oriented threesome. I'm not really down for threesomes but if I were, hamburgers-first would be a good way to get me on board, kudos to him for a keen sense of strategy.
After the bank I walked down to the corner to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy and I thought I'd spend the last of a Dunkin Donuts giftcard on a VICTORY DOUGHNUT, given I'm one step closer to the terrifying spectre of home ownership. When I got up to the window I ordered a cruller and a double-chocolate, which would just about empty out the giftcard's remaining balance and leave me a doughnut to spare for breakfast tomorrow, and the guy behind the cash register said "HEY. I LIKE YOUR HAIR. YOU GET AN EXTRA CRULLER!"
Have I suddenly developed a powerful animal magnetism? About goddamn time, really.
I realize that probably this was more a case of "any excuse to get rid of these extra crullers at 5pm" but still.
Stale Dunkin Donuts crullers are my jam, actually, so tomorrow morning's already looking up.
I did one time get off on the wrong floor and was trying to put my key in the lock of someone else's door before I noticed, so, you know, this isn't 100% unlikely to happen.
Today's origami was an AT-AT! Shut up, it totally looks like an AT-AT, origami is hard and it wasn’t my diagram. (Step 25-26 is the Do Some Magic step btw.)
When you’re doing a relatively complex figure like this one, you either have to have very good origami paper or very large origami paper. You’d think thin paper would be best but it tears too easily; what you want is something like tant paper, which feels thick like construction paper but, due to the way the plant fibers are layered when it’s made, folds and holds a crease like tissue paper.
I do have some tant paper but I’m not wasting it on an AT-AT, so I had to use the large paper, which was rather poorly printed. So now the tips of my fingers are blue where the ink came off.
We went shopping at Belmont Army, where my guest got a dress and I did NOT find a new suit coat that fit, but at least we had fun. Also, Crisp on Belmont, for those of you in Chicago, has really delicious Korean chicken, but the wings are FULL wings, so you don't want the ten-wing platter unless you have a powerful hunger.
After chicken, I decided we should take the train back instead of taking the bus, which meant we could swing past the new Stan's Donuts (HIPSTER DONUTS) and get some donuts on the way home. But I couldn't go into Stan's when I tried, because there were a bunch of people in the doorway...handing out free donuts.
Apparently it's free donuts day at Stan's!
So to sum up, today it was 60 degrees and sunny in Chicago and they gave me a free donut.
So I'm actually really happy they didn't offer it to me, and I think my folks are happy too. They'd like to have me in Austin, but Mum says if I'm coming home to help them in their old age I should wait another five to ten years, so I think she gets it.
In other news, I wanted to get my host something special for the party she's throwing, and she expressed an interest in Baiju, which is a kind of Asian liquor made from grains -- in much the same way that Terry Pratchett's "scrapple" drink was made from apples.
So I went to Chicago's Chinatown, to a liquor store where I was told I could reliably acquire it, but of course a lot of the signage and labels are in Chinese. So I approached the cashier, who was this older Chinese dude who clearly either owns the store or runs it, and I said, "I'm looking for some Baiju. It's a gift for lunar new year."
His face LIT UP for some reason and he got super excited, and he said, "Oh, you don't want normal baiju. For toasting! You want violent baiju!"
And what else can you say when someone suggests violent liquor to you? YOU SAY YES. So I said "Yes, show me the violent baiju!"
So I bought some Red Star Guo Tou Jiu, which is fifty six percent alcohol by volume. For reference, most vodka is 40%.
I cannot wait to TASTE THE VIOLENCE.
Mum sent me some money this week, not for a particular reason but just so that I could have a fun weekend, which was super nice of her. But I have also acquired, through various honest and nefarious means, a handful of giftcards: $10 at Starbucks, $25 at Macy's, $20 at Old Navy, $45 at Target, $5 at Wow Bao.
So the plan is to leave here at 9:30, have some tea at the Starbucks in the Macy's basement and then buy a saucepan at Macy's, get a late breakfast at Wow Bao, buy a shirt at Old Navy, pick up some grocery staples and maybe a bluetooth keyboard at Target, and then dig into the "Mum fund" for latkes and blini at Russian Tea Time. And then I have a groupon for a reflexology massage!
And thus home. Where I may, depending on my whim, pressure-cook a loaf of bread before retiring to the internet.
I feel so cosmopolitan. Even though I will be shopping at Target for most of the morning. It's not suburban if you can take the train to it!
I actually had a great morning, though. I'd heard about this thing called the Maxwell Street Market, which is apparently a long-standing but TOP SECRET Chicago institution. Every Sunday, year round, Desplaines between Roosevelt and Harrison closes down and people show up to sell stuff. It's like if you held a garage sale inside a dollar store which was also a taqueria. And outdoors. And the hipsters haven't found it yet.
Well, I mean technically they have since I was there, but I'm the only one.
I only ended up buying a churro (possibly the freshest, most delicious churro known to man) but I'm going back next week and I'm going to drag R along and will probably end up buying a speaker system from 1987 or a nonfunctional pocket watch or a dozen bandannas in blue camouflage pattern. Also there were some rug guys there and I wouldn't mind another rug.
I thought I'd walk home along Roosevelt, which would take me past a couple of places I wanted to shop, including Whole Foods. Some of them weren't open yet so I stopped and got an apple muffin and a lemonade from Panera beforehand, and I'm pretty sure that's what gave me the seizing indigestion. It's definitely what I puked up when I made an emergency stop at the Whole Foods restroom. Might have been the lemonade, I hear some places don't keep their drinks machines super clean.
Mind you, it was there and gone, I feel fine now. Though I do intend to take the rest of the afternoon a little easier. I'm going to slowly drink a ginger ale and read some comics.
The office building did make a court case out of it but they couldn't have been too terrible sports about it, because when they lost the case they ended up building the offices with a passageway, ten feet wide and eighteen feet high, should you need to drive some motherfuckin' cattle from Monroe to Madison and traffic's backed up on LaSalle (you can't drive them up Clark, Clark is a southbound-only one way at that point).
At any rate, eventually the cattle path was blocked off by a building to the north of Monroe, but in the spirit of the thing they diverted the cattle path to an alley. Which smells quite nice after the rain and before the trash is put out.
Chicago: we literally have not stopped being under construction since the cows went home.
So I decided to visit and walk the last surviving cow path in Chicago, and it was a short damn walk. I thought I'd stop by Wendy's and get a burger after, but I had a Social Anxiety moment when I couldn't figure out their new menu (it's all pictures and apparently they don't just sell a goddamn hamburger anymore) so I faked an urgent text and left. But I did end up at the Chicago Loop Synagogue, which has a sculpture over its doors that looks like the fever dream of a very religious typesetter.
That was cool. And surreal. Mostly surreal.
But the other day I was trying to remember when I moved to Chicago, and I knew I moved on my birthday, so I just paged through my birthday each year on my LJ until I found the SEE YOU IN CHICAGO post I made. And I thought, well, I kind of stopped blogging on DW/LJ in part because I didn't get a lot of response -- it wasn't so much that I was looking for response as that I didn't think anyone was reading here, so why bother?
That said, as a record of my life it has proved useful in the past, so I'm trying to go into blogging here more often with a sense of "recording my life in an easily indexable way" because god knows Tumblr's no good for that.
So probably there will be way less fannish stuff and way more just regular life stuff here. I will attempt to keep it amusing.
This week's going to be intense enough in ways that will probably be funny to people who aren't me. Last Friday I spoke with a mortgage advisor about buying a home, and it turns out getting a mortgage is actually going to be the least difficult part of the process, especially after I showed him my 52 page binder o' home loan.
Where it gets complicated is that I'm not sure if I want to buy the condo unit I'm in (or even if my landlord wants to sell it) or buy into another unit in the same building, or buy in another building altogether. I would like to stay in the area and it's up-and-coming in a way that kinda makes my eyes pop, so now is a good time to buy. Aggrivating this decision further is the fact that I know (through means I cannot disclose) that the bank is about to foreclose on my landlord.
For me this isn't a huge deal; I have a lease, I'm legally bound to this unit until June of next year, even if I'm paying rent to the bank. But it also means that my landlord might be more willing to sell -- or that I could get this place hella cheap after foreclosure, as skunky a move as that sounds.
So this week I'm talking to the guy who helped me rent this place about looking around for places to buy. And pending the outcome of that discussion, next week I'll be very innocently emailing my landlord to let him know that if he should wish to sell, he would have a buyer who wouldn't make him pay brokers' fees.
You know, after all this, trying to decide whether or not to get a cat once I've bought a place is going to be rather anticlimactic. Also my requirements for pets are less stringent than my requirements for homes. (Must be under 5 years of age, possess at least a majority of its original limbs, and not wish to murder me on sight.)
Mind you most homes I've lived in haven't tried to murder me either but it's still a basic requirement.
Then again, I'm an ancient arts buff so probably some of it was just deep disappointment that nothing was from before the 17th century.
I did get to say hello to my favorites, Ganesh and American Gothic and the new addition to the Samtheon, "Hogs Killing a Snake", which is especially funny because if you stand in the room that houses both the hogs and American Gothic and look back and forth between them, the woman in the American Gothic painting is staring right at the hogs. I'm 100% sure this was done deliberately. Art historians and curators have the best, most warped senses of humor.
It's nice to be able to walk between my place and the museum, at least when the weather's nice. The bus from work drops me practically on the museum steps, and it's only about a mile home from there. Chicago's been cruel about the weather lately, though -- snow and wind are totally normal for this time of year but we're all extra-bitter about them now because we had that one week of 50F weather, and then it was yanked from our grasp like a taunt.
Still, of the seeds I planted two weeks ago about half have sprouted and don't seem to care that it's snowing outside. Grow, little California poppies, and do not wilt as you did last year!
This is probably the clearest, most concise telling of The Time Barre Seid Tried To Buy Shimer College, which is located just down the road from me in Chicago. There’s more about how a second-year Shimer student discovered the shady dealings Seid was engaging in here. If you google “shimer college barre seid” you’ll find more in the same vein. But essentially, a very rich man gave them a lot of money, and then began secretly buying his friends onto the board of trustees; after building his power base he ousted several popular staff members, replaced them with hand puppets, and set about redecorating a small liberal arts college as a little bastion of libertarian thought.
This did not sit well with the kinds of kids who go to small intense liberal arts colleges, and there was an uproar from students, staff, and alumni. Eventually the loyal Shimerites on the board of trustees managed to oust the puppet president and most of the puppet board members, but it took quite a lot of carrying-on and they’re really still recovering.
The story is a wild fucking rabbit hole to fall down; it’s exceptionally cinematic in scope. What made it charming and memorable for me is that one of the unsung heroes of the story, who stepped in to help boot Seid’s stooges out of the board of trustees, is a neighbor of mine. But it’s especially interesting because Shimer is a very small and unusual school — it had roughly 150 students when all this happened, and these days has closer to 70, five years on.
It recently made the news as the worst college in the country, and then made the news again when Shimer’s students and alumni vocally protested the title, pointing out that the metrics were stacked against them without context. There’s a great article here about how Shimer’s values and challenges are different from most schools, including a fairly scathing indictment of the industrial nature of many modern degree-granting institutions. They have a lot of reason to fight, especially given the chill that ran through the small-university community when Sweet Briar College announced recently that it was closing.
I’ve never been to Shimer and I don’t know anyone who went there or works there (except my neighbor), but I think it’s a beautiful little school and it deserves better than it’s had.
It was a banner morning for shopping. I caught the bus into the loop and picked up a few sacks of popcorn at Garrett's, which is a Chicago franchise popcorn shop that I'm pretty sure uses crack in their cooking process somewhere. My stepfather wanted some for Christmas, so it's now sealed up in ziplock bags in my luggage.
Then I went to Macy's, which is much like a fool returning to his folly, because Macy's on State is hellish at the best of times due to its ancient building layout and elevators to nowhere. But it opens at 7am on holiday shopping weekends, and at 9am was still essentially empty. I couldn't quite believe my luck but I wasn't going to push it, either, so after picking up a couple of ornaments as small gifts, I bushwhacked my way down to the basement and chilled in the food court for a while.
The nice thing about Macy's is that it connects via the Pedway to Block 37, the mall across the street, which ALSO connects via the Pedway to Daley Plaza, home of the Giant Picasso Baboon, which is where they hold Christkindlmarkt every year. For an idea of what Christkindlmarkt is truly like in Chicago, may I recommend my fanfic Christkindlfuckup. It is exactly like that.
The Markt is actually really pleasant early in December, especially before dark, but it gets busier and busier as Christmas draws near. People were actually queuing up at 10:30 for access to the ORNAMENT SHACK where all the Christmas Ornaments are sold (most of the Markt is open booths, but there are two giant ORNAMENT SHACKS where you enter slowly and do a lap while you select which hilariously hideous ornaments you wish to buy). There were also long waits for pretzels, wine served in ceramic shoes, and pastries of many kinds. I skipped it all and homed in on the kitsch, because Mum wanted a new centerpiece for the table, and then bought a fluffy hat, because I have a problem when it comes to winterwear. The struggle is real.
AND THEN I went and bought some seasonings for a cooking project at the grocery store, and had the singular experience of walking into Trader Joe's, which has a big NO PRESERVATIVES NO MSG sign outside their entry, while carrying a shaker of MSG in my backpack.
So now I am home with a new hat, a giant sack of popcorn, all the German Kitsch, a week's worth of protein bars from Trader Joe's, and a shaker of MSG.
Winning at Saturday!
It's been a mixed blessing, my little third-floor eyrie here. On the one hand, I've weathered mice, wasps, and a peculiar breed of spider I've never encountered before. On the other, it's large, well-heated in winter, and it's been a good shelter for me for the past six years. It watched me do an awful lot of growing up. I'm going to miss the neighborhood, Byron's and the bodega and the leaf-lined street, and being able to just run down the block to R's place when I wanted to hang out and/or bask in central air conditioning.
R and I have hatched a plan to keep in close touch, though. He shops regularly at the Trader Joe's near my new place, so it's likely that instead of meeting up at his place after work, he'll swing by mine on his way home. After all, I'll have cable television. :D
The new place is a lot more expensive, rentwise, than the eyrie, and it comes with a lot more social obligations, like a doorman and a condo association. But it's closer to work and newer and self-contained, and appropriately enough, this being the fourth, it feels a bit like freedom.
So this happened:
A giant statue of actress Marilyn Monroe was dumped at a garbage collecting company in Guigang, China. The almost 30-foot tall stainless steel statue, which weighs about eight tons, was made by several Chinese artists over two years, based on the famous scene from her movie “The Seven Year Itch.”
The statue was transported to the garbage collecting company early this week for unknown reasons after being on display outside a business center in the city for only 6 months, local media reported.
OH MY GOD YOU GUYS I AM HAUNTED FOREVER BY GIANT MARILYN.
For those of you who weren't here or don't remember, I had a longstanding grudge against Forever Marilyn, a sculpture in Chicago of an iconic NEW YORK cinema scene (as one editorial of the era said, “Did we lose some kind of bet?”).
I hated everything about her, from the creepy rapey way she was installed to the fact that someone thought this was actually “art” to the frat boys who were there EVERY DAY photographing each other pretending to lick her panties to the fact that because it drew tourists it drew pickpockets to the fact that the filming of this scene inspired her husband to beat her so badly the neighbors called the police. I hated this statue with a passion.
And apparently they made one in China, too! I don’t know whether the Chinese artists were copying Seward Johnson (who also did a shitty, derivative “sculpture” of American Gothic, because he has no original ideas) or whether he ripped them off (likely) or whether the idea just came into being in two separate places at once.
On the one hand, I’m thrilled that it’s been thrown out (though the Seward Johnson version that defaced Chicago for a year still stands in Long Beach as far as I know). I would see every statue of Marilyn Monroe’s Upskirt destroyed. On the other hand, it’s hard to celebrate her being dumped in the trash, because it’s a continuing commentary on the commodification of womens’ bodies, and the disposal thereof when they are no longer deemed attractive or useful. So it’s hard to see the sculpture, but hard also to celebrate the above image.
Those of you who have been on the journal since 2009 may remember Hal Sanitarium, a location caption which popped up on Google Maps just outside the Clark & Division red line station in Chicago. Hal Sanitarium did not actually exist in 2009, and when I went looking I could find nothing about it. Eventually I concluded it was either a "trap location" -- a fake location meant to catch other map websites if they were ripping off code -- or an error in data entry. There was no record of a Hal Sanitarium, or anything like it, at the location.
For quite a while my posts about Hal Sanitarium were the first results that came up when you googled, so I would get a lot of random comments from other people searching for information on the mysterious Sanitarium on the Google Map. It was a bit like the first twenty minutes of a horror film.
Then yesterday, an anonymous commenter found a missing piece of the puzzle. Witness the obituary of Robert B. Hollingsworth, who only deepens the mystery.
Hollingsworth, who died in 1993, was an artist who ran his own ad agency in Chicago -- and then somehow became co-operator of the Halco Sanitarium, an alcohol treatment center which was located just north of Clark & Divison and which closed in 1972. Why a former ad man took over the management of the sanitarium with his mother -- why they were involved in it at all -- are new questions to answer.
But we have a name, now, and a firmer location for the Sanitarium. When I get back to Chicago I'm going to do a little more digging.
If I am eaten by the ghost of a mad inmate of Halco Sanitarium, know that I died as I lived, recklessly and gleefully putting my nose in where it doesn't belong.
I used to be able to tan. I don't really anymore. I just freckle hard until I look tanned from all the freckles, and then it goes straight to debilitating sunburn. Thanks, Nordic-Irish ancestors!
On the way back from the dermatologist, who in my case is at the University of Chicago Medical Center, I passed a little plaque randomly set in the edge of a parking lot. Apparently it marked a childhood home of Ronald Reagan.
It was a terribly surreal moment; for one, a plaque on a parking lot, and then bam sudden Ronald Reagan, and then it wasn't the birthplace or even the childhood home, it was just a childhood home. Someone not only had to know that he lived there for a single year in 1914, but had to care enough that when it was knocked down, they arranged for a plaque to be placed there, on what is now a University of Chicago parking lot.
Once in a while humanity is just baffling.
At any rate, I am broadcasting to you today from R's place, my former apartment, where I am hiding from the plumber who is fixing the toilet at mine. R dropped off his keys on the way to work, and I came over here about half an hour later. Then we texted.
Me: Thank you for the keys! I had to pee really badly.
R: No problem. Wish I was there! For hanging out, not peeing.
Bless his heart.