R and I hung out this afternoon, primarily at Joong Boo Market, where R can spend hours just fascinatedly staring at all the Korean food he doesn't understand but knows he wants to eat. In the car on the way back, with my giant sack of nishiki rice and rather smaller sack of glutinous rice flour (mochi here I come) in the backseat, R played a recording for me of his students doing a chorale concert at a downtown childrens' singing exhibition.

Children: *singing their asses off on some bridge between two tunes in a medley*
Sam: What...what are they saying there?
R: "Live your life like it's golden."
Sam: OH! Oh thank god.
R: Why?
Sam: No reason.
R: What did you think they were saying?
Sam: "Live your life like it's stolen."
R: WHAT. *starts laughing*
Sam: You know, like, drive it like you stole it. Live your life like it's stolen!
R: *crying with laughter* LIVE YOUR LIFE LIKE YOU STOLE IT. 
Sam: I think my version is catchier. I'm going to make it my new motto.  
I was over at R's tonight, so I almost forgot to post today's origami!

It's a dog's head. I know.

I was describing my recent cooking adventures to R, including the Dubious Ham Bananas that I made and taste tested. I was trying to describe it to him.

Sam: So you take some ham and spread some mustard on it, and then you wrap it around a banana.
R: Yeah!
Sam: And then you bake it.
R: I bet!
Sam: Then you top it with hollandaise and bake it some more.
R: YES. I like all of these foods!
Sam: I'm not sure you'd like them together.
R: It's like you don't even know me.
SO. R and I went to Ikea yesterday. Watching him yell about paying tolls on the way to Schaumberg was particularly entertaining.

We had a really good time, but most of the pleasure of hanging out with R is that he lives a life I wouldn't believe if I didn't know how incapable he generally is of lying (and certainly at this point, incapable of lying to me).

Apparently a few months ago he was dating a woman who was big into submission, but I can tell from our discussion of it (which was hilarious and horrifying by turns) that she did not prepare him to be dominant with her as well as a kinky person should prepare a vanilla person for that kind of activity. He was not ready for ropes.

He's feeling kind of beat up by relationships lately, I think. After his brief journey into kink, he was dating a girl from out of town who broke up with him after they were starting to get pretty serious and she realized she wanted a boyfriend-on-demand and he wanted an actual full-time relationship. He's not bouncing back as fast as he usually does.

We had a great time at Ikea though. I picked out my new bed, which I'm going to buy probably this week sometime and have delivered. R walked into Ikea and the very first thing we saw were $2 broom-and-dustpan combo sets, and he bought one of those. Then, as we were leaving, he saw a rug, so he bought that. He literally bought the first and last things we saw. Inbetween, we ate our body weight in vague Swedish fusion food at the cafeteria, and I got a birthday carrot-cake cupcake that was easily 30% frosting, so it's all good.
In some ways, R is the least worldly person I've ever met; possessions, status symbols, all of that just doesn't seem to matter to him. To the point where sometimes I need to take things away from him before he casually destroys them by accident. It's not that he doesn't respect other peoples' belongings, it's that he doesn't realize he's supposed to.

And while I do like...having things, owning things, I also pretty much own the things I want to own, like, I'm not someone who amasses stuff. So between R's almost Zen lack of worldly concern and my intentional minimalism, we've basically stopped giving each other birthday gifts altogether and instead we gift each other with experiences.

For his birthday (in July) I took him to a sauna (in September; nobody said we were prompt), and for my upcoming birthday he's taking me to a Cubs game for which he wrangled tickets because it was a makeup from an earlier rainout. I'm super stoked because I love going to baseball games and I rarely get to do it, and Wrigley's a really great stadium -- I thought R was just being a local boy about how "there's no bad seat at Wrigley" until I actually went to a game there. It's true, there's not, because it's tiny. I was used to the Oakland Coliseum, which is roughly the size of Pluto and about as warm, once you get into the late season.

IDK, it seems to be working for us. We're also signing up everyone we know for postseason ticket lottery for the Cubs, in the hopes of getting to go to a playoff game.

If we're both still single at 40 we might marry each other. At the rate we're going, whoever does manage to get married will need the other one to approve his bride first anyway. (Being fair, I should have veto power on all his dates, the man can't be trusted with his own love life.)
R's birthday is well past, but sometimes we don't see each other for weeks at a time, so yesterday I finally got to give him his birthday present, which was a trip to Red Square Chicago, a local Russian spa.

If you're in Chicago and like sweating, btw, A++ would sweat again, Red Square is awesome. Apparently the women's side is not as well-appointed as the men's side, but there's a coed dry sauna, and then wet saunas and steam rooms on either side, as well as hot tubs. But the best part is they have a dining room upstairs where you can go without putting street clothes on, as long as you have your robe (which they give you). R has been dreaming of their borscht since he tried it the last time we went, and I will say the hot borscht is a meal in itself. (I had pierogies.)

I also promised R I'd bring him a book, since I'm getting rid of a bunch and might as well give them away as sell them. I brought him Suetonius' "Twelve Caesars" which is the lives of the ancient Roman emperors, and thus we spent all evening sweating while I explained ancient history to him (and occasionally a handful of sweaty onlookers depending on which sauna we were in). Romans also liked sweating, so it was apt, I suppose.

Anyway my pores feel fantastic today, and R enjoyed his birthday present however belated, so I'm feeling pretty accomplished for it only being Saturday afternoon.
I'm over at R's today, a habit we've begun to develop due to the epic amounts of college football you get on Saturdays, and how R needs his college football because we've both quit watching the NFL in disgust. But of course, conversation wanders from football frequently.

R: I'm going to a wedding next week.
Sam: Oh yeah? Where is it?
R: It's out in the woods.
Sam: The woods? That narrows it down.
R: You know, the woods!
Sam: Oh sure, the woods, you take The Road to get to The Woods.
R: It's way past West City. You know where Beaten Path is?
Sam: Don't you dare --

R and I had dinner at Maggiano's tonight, which is a nice semi-upscale Italian chain with its home base in Chicago. It was Mum's treat, to make up for me not getting to come home this weekend.

I had seafood canneloni, which was pretty amazing, and R got a steak about six inches thick, which he valiantly finished off along with the sausages and marinated mushrooms that came with it. Which led to the following conversation as we left the restaurant to stroll around the loop for a while.

R: Man, I don't think I've had a real steak like that in about five years. I used to eat a lot of red meat. I'm not sure how I'm gonna react to that steak.
Me: You're gonna get the meat sweats!

And then we got distracted by a walk signal or something. But about fifteen minutes later, as we were heading for the train...

R: Okay you're going to have to explain to me what meat sweats are, because I ate meat and now I'm sweating.
Me: When you eat a lot of meat, you get meat sweats!
R: How long do they last?
Me: Forever.
R: How can I tell the difference between meat sweats and an oncoming heart attack?
Me: Meat sweats are more like, a really full, gouty feeling.
R: Don't tell me what gouty means.

I do miss him when he's not around.
I am at R's place tonight for pizza and bad documentary television, despite the fact that it's zero degrees out, -22 if you factor in wind chill. I couldn't resist going somewhere with central air and hot pepperoni pizza.

We were watching youtube videos of famous court trials, because why wouldn't you, when we got to talking about "crime porn" -- cheesy, cheap documentaries that lovingly re-enact real-life murders, complete with detailed death scenes. I don't even pretend these have any value; they are probably a signficant detriment to society. But they're also fascinating, and Behind Mansion Walls is both the best and the worst of murder porn. It's hosted by a guy who is so douchey that by the third season he's being filmed against a green screen so they can project him into a cocktail party he's not even attending.

Every time a dude comes on the screen, R says "HE DID IT." Sad thing is, he's almost always right.

Now we're watching a documentary on the FBI breakin in 1971, and R pointed to a map that came on the screen and said "I've been high EVERYWHERE ON THAT MAP."

In not-at-all-news: J. Edgar Hoover was an asshole, y/y.
So, I went to the dermatologist yesterday, because I have reached the point in my life where I'm so fair-skinned they want me to wear SPF 50 on a daily basis. SPF 50 is some kind of post-apocalyptic shit, that's what they wear in scifi films where we don't have an ozone layer at all anymore. And now I apparently need to wear it daily.

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.
I can now cross "See John Williams conduct a symphony orchestra" off my bucket list.

Ages ago I had the opportunity to get some cheap-ass tickets to see "John Williams At The Movies", a Sunday matinee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with John Williams conducting a series of movie scores he composed. I bought two tickets intending to fly Mum out for the weekend and take her to the show, because she loves John Williams and she imparted that love to me. Motherfucking HORNS AND VIOLINS okay.

But it turns out of course that due to Knee Surgery she couldn't come, so I asked R if he'd like to come instead. And we had what he calls a Friendate where we got dressed up (okay, he got dressed up, I wore tweed pants and a t-shirt and looked a lot more punk than I intended) and went to the symphony and --

Well, it's a good thing Mum didn't come because she's afraid of heights, and we were on the FOURTH BALCONY which not only is six floors off the ground but has super-steep stairs of death and she would not have been able to enjoy the concert at all. But R and I are both fine with heights and if I tripped I would just have tumbled into him, and he's a pretty solid guy, so neither of us were that likely to die. And the view was perfectly adequate, so who cares?

The concert was fantastic; John Williams was great, of course, and they had a really good violin soloist, Gil Shaham, in for much of the first half. Some of the pieces had video accompaniment, which did make me want to see Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

Film caption: Muncie, Indiana.
Sam: *elbows R, who is from Indiana*
R: I've been there.
Sam: I'm sure.
R: If it was gonna happen, it'd happen in Muncie.

We've made a plan to have a Close Encounters movie night this week or next, before I leave for Austin. But I think my favourite was the Fiddler on the Roof overture, because Shaham just nailed it and kind of danced while he did it. Watching soloists cracks my shit up.

R: *during intermission* This place is swank. They had complimentary cough drops in the lobby.
Sam: Those are because nobody wants to hear us coughing during the performance.
R: That makes sense.
Sam: You smell strongly of menthol.
R: I may have taken a handful.
Sam: Strongly.
R: I may have filled my pockets.

I was surprised Star Wars wasn't on the program, but it kind of made sense -- Superman and Jurassic Park weren't either, and it was obviously a selection of his less well-known cinema work on the whole. But then he got an ovation and did an encore, which was the Star Wars theme, and his second encore was the Imperial March.

Then we went out for sandwiches and discussed a) how R has now decided he wants to date a lady from the symphony and b) whether or not John Williams has a constant horn section playing in his head as he goes about his daily routine.

I really don't think I can leave Chicago -- at least, not for Baltimore. Maybe for Boston, but not Baltimore. Part of it is I couldn't leave R, part of it is I just love this goddamn city too much.
I'm at R's place tonight, enjoying the shit out of his new couch while we watch the Notre Dame - USC game.

Me: I feel sorry for the Spartan mascot.
Him: Why? That's a great job. He probably loves it.
Me: Yeah, and he looks good, I mean I like the costume.
Him: Uniform.
Me: Sure. But it must be kind of strange to be standing there, dressed as a member of the most macho race of warriors in the history of the western world, and you're watching other people play football.
Him: I wonder if he ever thinks about that.
Me: I sort of hope he doesn't.

R has digital streaming sports somehow, and apparently on NBC you can choose your camera angle but you don't get commentary. So he's been DJing the game for me, giving his own commentary as an ex player while he shows me instant replays and the best camera angles.

Apparently everyone should throw to the tight ends more. I don't endorse, I merely relay.
R came over this afternoon and we played Wheel of Fortune on the Wii, at which he defeated me heartily. The only puzzle he didn't get was a "place": THE BIRTHPLACE OF CIRQUE DU SOLEIL.

I ended up solving it, and he turned to me with this wide-eyed look on his face.

R: Is THAT how you spell it?
Me: ...yes. Have you not heard of Cirque du Soleil?
R: PFFT NO I've heard of it! I thought it was spelled differently.
Me: Like how?
R: I've been wrong for years. *long pause* I thought it was Circus Ole.
Me: Circus Ole.
R: Yeah, like....OLE!
Me: *falls off couch laughing*
R: So it's, tell me again, it's...
Me: Cirque du Soleil.
R: *really flat twang* Cirque...du...Soleil.
Me: Could you sound more midwestern right now. My god that was a faceful of Indiana.

He nearly got defeated by BOLOGNESE PASTA SAUCE too, because as he explained to me, there are really only two types of pasta sauce: red jars and white jars. You just go to the red jar section of the grocery store and pick the one that says MEAT on it.

And then we watched the Cubs and the Padres, the two lowest ranked teams in the league, go head to head for FIFTEEN INNINGS.

Me: What happens if they go to sixteen?
R: Human sacrifice.
Me: Who? There's nobody left in the stands.

Fifteen innings. Nobody even scored until the thirteenth. It took stamina just to watch it.
I think R senses I am having a rough month; he texted me yesterday with a Plot To Infiltrate Bucktown.

Bucktown/Wicker Park are two melded neighborhoods that are the central hub of all hipsterism in Chicago. I have never felt so out of place in my life as I did standing on a streetcorner in Wicker Park while wearing business casual. I was surrounded by people in skinny jeans, unflattering shirts, ironic trucker caps, and terrible beards.

But Mucca Pazza was playing at the Wicker Park Fest, and R really wanted to go see them, and I have to admit I do like street fairs.

R: But we have to go incognito.
Me: Incognito?
R: Don't wear a suit. Or board shorts.
Me: Uh.
R: Wear your best hipster camo.
Me: I have some...chucks...? I can't get a full-sleeve tattoo on short notice.
R: Do you own a trilby?

So we got dressed up in hipster camo (he wins hipster camo; he has a beard, and while it's not terrible it is considerably more hipster than my face) and went to the Fest. We toured some of the stalls -- Judge Mathis had a stall, we're still not sure why, and after watching R's dog take apart a heavy-duty Kong toy we disdained the dog toy stall as "not durable enough" -- then went to Nori for dinner, where R ate more sushi than I've ever seen anyone eat in a single sitting. They have this pork-wasabi shumai thing that's amazing, and their godzilla roll is pretty good, and they do tempura avocado, so A+ recommended if you find yourself on Milwaukee Avenue for whatever reason.

We managed to waste time in Nori until Mucca Pazza was up, then went outside to watch the show. I thought Mucca Pazza was going to be some kind of latin band, which was weird because while R's musical intake is massive, I never really pegged him for like...salsa dancing. As it turns out, Mucca Pazza is an awesome jazz-rock band masquerading as a marching band. They had a sousaphone AND a beatbox. It was pretty entertaining.

But I did get home late, and now I am exhausted, so good adult decision-making, me. :P
My exploration of Chicago's farmer's markets continues apace. Although I have to admit today was almost completely by chance; R was going to meet up with some friends at the Green City Market, which is a very well-known and largish market, and he stopped to see if I wanted to come along. I scored some excellent Indiana cheese. (It's like chevre and brie had sex. With your mouth.)

I don't know if I've mentioned here, I think I have, that R and I are considering getting a place together again. He wants to move out of the condo his mother owns, partly to get out from under her and partly because his new teaching job is on the south side. I need to move that direction anyway when work moves, and we know we can live together tolerably. Plus he's grown up a lot since we met, so I trust him with things like "paying half the rent". I mean, the man teaches eight year olds now.

Apparently this past weekend he won a shooting competition. At a bachelor party. At a cabin in the middle of Nowhere, Wisconsin.

Me: I didn't know you shot.
R: I didn't really know either. I mean, I haven't since I was a kid.
Me: You shot rifles as a kid?
R: A lot went on in my backyard, Sam.

The prize was the gun he was shooting. So now R owns a rifle.


I went out to a movie tonight, a rare showing of Pocket Full of Soul, which is a documentary about harmonica music that is more or less impossible to come by. I had emailed R to ask if he'd drive us to it if I bought the tickets, and he said "YEAH! LET'S BRING THE SENIORS."

The Seniors are an adorable octogenarian couple, one of whom has played the harmonica for sixty years, the other of whom barely tolerates it. They are amazing. The entire car ride from here to Skokie, where the film was playing, was nothing but harmonica music and backseat driving. When we got out of the car the Seniors FORGED AHEAD, and R and I just looked at each other and busted up laughing in the parking lot.

The documentary was good too. It had its flaws, mainly that it was a LOT of white dudes talking about a musical genre generally dominated by African-American musicians, but it was enjoyable nonetheless and I learned some history, like how ABRAHAM LINCOLN played the harmonica, and how it's apparently huge in Taiwan.

A bunch of the movie was filmed in Chicago, so at one point I realised I had BEEN where those dudes were talking.

Me: *whispering* Is that Kingston Mines?
R: *whispering back* No, that's BLUES, you philistine.
Me: It's across the street! I was close!

There followed a mild shoving match, with much spilled popcorn. Then R had to stifle our harmonica-playing guest, who declared THEY ALL SOUND ALIKE really loudly. (That they all sounded alike was the point, to drive home how most harmonica musicians sooner or later try to impersonate Little Walter.) I think we would have gotten in more trouble for all of this, except between R, myself, and the Seniors, we knew about 3/4 of the people in attendance.

Anyway, if you get a chance to see it, I highly recommend it. Even if you don't go with a mob of unruly blues musicians.

I went out to see R's gig tonight. R has a very specific way of asking for things which it takes a while to translate. "Do you like this rug" really means "Do you want to help me move some furniture", for example. So when he asked if I wanted to get dinner before the gig, I correctly deduced he meant "Do you want to come help me unload?"

Which is fine; I knew it was coming. :D And really his gig setup is mostly stands and mics, so it's not a lot of heavy hauling. And the food was pretty good, plus I got a free beer. CHICAGOANS: TRY GOOSE ISLAND GREEN LINE. I have no idea what kind of beer it is but it's really good. Also, what a cool name.

I hung out with some people I kind of know, including a woman I think R is trying to set me up with, which is sweet of him if rather hopeless given my track record. Still, fun. Best line I heard all night:

"So there I was, naked, on a sled..."

R knows some interesting people.

He thinks I should do some spoken word performance, because I do have a decent reciting voice, but I like being Designated Audience Member. I am aces at applauding!

And now, all the bedtime.
R and I have been WHEELING like maniacs.

Like most video games, Wheel of Fortune has little awards you can unlock, like different sets you can use and different clothes you can put on your players. We've decided what we'd really like is to be able to unlock a code -- it can be a tough-to-unlock thing, it just needs to be there -- where when you tap a specific series of buttons, your player turns to the player next to them and just puts them on the floor.

It would be so satisfying to be able to turn to the other players and punch them in the face. I don't know how people on actual Wheel of Fortune restrain themselves.

I did get declared Crowd Favourite several times. Y'all know why.

(It was the fly green hoodie I unlocked.)
Well, the soup yesterday was definitely a success.

And it was nice to have someone else around to make the stuffing; plus, both of us got to leave R with the dishes. :D R called it his Orphanksgiving, which for some reason just kept cracking me up.

Over actual Thanksgiving R went home to Indiana to hang out with his family, and he took his Wii Wheel Of Fortune with him.

Me: Can you explain to me how you ended up with a Wheel of Fortune Wii game but no Wii?
R: My ma gave it to me.
Me: Was she unaware you didn't have one?
R: No, she knows I don't. She has one, I think she wants me to visit home more often.
Me: Fiendish.
R: It's a subtle but irresistible trap.

He said it really gave him some perspective because apparently he had to stop playing after he continually smoked everyone else who challenged him. I have to admit, it's different when you're actually playing versus when you're chilling on the couch just trying to solve the puzzle before someone else does. He is a canny bastard when it comes to Wheel of Fortune.

I'm wrapping up The City War's blog tour today over at Nyx Book Reviews, talking about the process of writing. Last chance to leave a comment and possibly win ten dollars in credit at Riptide!
I survived Black Friday!

I think there's actually a Black Friday lull. All the real dangerous action happens at like, three in the morning when the stores open, and then there's a dead zone RIGHT WHEN I SHOWED UP from about 8am to 11 am. Because the stores were pretty much dead; Target had more store attendants than store attendance. GET IT, STORE ATTENDANCE. :D

Anyway, R actually picked me up from downtown after I was done shopping, which was nice, and we stopped by my place to get a sack of potatoes and an immersion blender. Don't all the best stories start that way?

So now we're making soup with a fire in the fireplace and Eddie Izzard on Netflix on R's giant television, with the promise of Wii Wheel (WIIHEEL) in the near future. R's friend, the other Sam, is making stuffing like a fucking pro. And we are drinking manhattans, apparently the best manhattans in Chicago according to R. I'm willing to believe it.

Trying to explain an immersion blender to R is an exercise in hilarity. No, it's for THESE potatoes, but not ONLY for potatoes. That's what the potato peeler was for. Yes, I know it looks like a sex toy, but do not use it as one. Trust me.

My blog tour stops for no soup! I'm at Joyfully Jay today, talking about pro-publishing for the first time.
R always seems to end up here when Jacques Pepin's cooking show is on. Either that or there's a channel on local TV that plays nothing but Jacques Pepin. It's possible, he's popular.

R: So who would you pick to play Peepin?
Me: You mean like, in the biopic?
R: Yeah. Who's your pick?
Me: Daniel Craig --
R: NO!
Me: -- in twenty years.
R: Acceptable but wrong.
Me: Who are you so sure would play him?
R: William Shatner.
Me: ....I concede.


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