Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pet Sounds

Today, an amazing thing happened: my bed was delivered.

There I was, having some lunch in the kitchen when the buzzer rang. What luck! The men from Bedding Experts had arrived to deliver my mattress, box springs, and frame. One minute, I'm letting them in and showing them where I want the head of my bed to be and the next I'm looking at a whole bed, put together and so far off the ground.

The air mattress I'd been sleeping on for 29 nights sat very, very close to the ground. In fact, it was actually right ON the ground. Now, I'm sitting up so high I can hardly believe it. My room looks like a real place, not a storage room for boxes and plastic drawers.

There's a part of me that feels rather silly, being so enthralled with a new bed. I could wax poetic about how this is the first bed I've bought, the first that is truly mine, but here's the thing: a room doesn't look right without a bed. Now, things look right. This is my room, and I can show it to people, and they can think, "Wow, that Beth really has it together."

I think this sense of room accomplishment is simply building on the fact that I spent Thursday night painting this tiny place all by myself. Looking at this gray paint, you can tell I was a first-timer. You can also tell that I didn't have a stepladder, because there's an uneven inch or so at the top that still shows the white underneath. I decided, being cheap and lazy, that this inch is "spunky" and so it's staying. It's staying, and it's amazing.

I also patronized the cool local record store today, buying the Beach Boys's "Pet Sounds" and the New Pornographers's new "Challengers." The Beach Boys album is to get me ready for life, and the New Pornographers album is to get me ready for their concert in a few weeks. Though I think I was born ready. Then, I went to Best Buy and bought "Knocked Up." What's a successful day without "Knocked Up?" It's Saturday night, and I'm blogging in my new bed, listening to the Beach Boys. It doesn't get more successful than that.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Old Apartment

I'm sitting out on my back deck to avoid paint fumes, and I can still smell them wafting out the window behind me. A VW Jetta full of gay men just flew down my alley, BLASTING "It's Raining Men." Yes, it only took me about 8 beats to realize it was "It's Raining Men." I flipping love Boys Town. Seriously, I do.

This story - the paint fumes and such - really begins on Sept 1, the day my roommate and I moved in. When I arrived at the apartment, she had a look of fear on her face. "Well, the bedrooms are the same size, so I just took the one with the worse paint job." I poked my head into her room and saw the lavender walls with the frothy mint green trip. Whoa. "I know," she said, "I'm going to dream of unicorns and ponies tonight."

I walked the five steps to what would become my room: navy blue. Dark, gloomy, navy blue. I threw my crap in there and went down the three stories for another load. Upon really being moved in, one of our first tasks was landlord harassment.

Finally, this morning, a painter arrives at my door. "This is you?" He's pointing to his printout, a paper with my address on it. I peer through sleep-blurred eyes. "That's me," I manage, and let him in. I scurry around, trying to dress myself and tidy the crap in my room while he's making trips to his truck to get his equipment. He comes back up, I tell him not to let the cat out (my roommate would lose a part of her soul if I lost the cat) and set off for the coffee shop.

I returned home at midday. The man - about 40 or so - has been joined by another man, closer to my age. They have cued up the iPod (mine) on the dock in our living room and are rocking out to Mos Def. I think they are Polish, and I know they are not native English speakers. I eat a sandwich on this same back deck, switch my backpack for a purse, and set out for more walking about.

I saw a lot of my neighborhood today, and when I came back, the place was transformed. The walls were all a blessed, calm, bright, wonderful white The cat was high on paint fumes, and I was overjoyed. The older man was by himself again, and I think he was listening to Sade.

This city has given me 110 new reasons to love it today, but I'm far too tired to list them all. Someday I'll buy shoes that actually have, I dunno, arch support or something.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

On the Bus Mall

I scurried from my apartment to catch the #8 in time to head south and make it to my 545pm class. I hopped gaily on the bus and inserted my temp transit card, unsure of how much credit remained.

"INSERT .50" I read (aloud of course) as I began digging through my foot-long purse for change. I quickly and triumphantly came up with two quarters. Peering hesitantly at the money collector, I fumbled with my quarters. Finally,

"Where do I put these?" I had to.
"Right there," said the bus driver, gesturing vaguely. I saw the familiar dollar bill slot, saw the card slot, but no coin drop.
"There," said the guy behind me, irritated by this point. Aha! I caught sight of what had been in front of me the whole time and sheepishly dropped my quarters in. I made it to class on time, with very few dirty looks from my fellow passengers.

Fast forward to five minutes after 9pm, when I'm crossing the street to hit the slowest McDonald's in the city. I need to change out a $5 bill so I can ride the bus home. I wait in the longest line any McDonald's has seen at 9pm for $1.10 worth of french fries. I would've gotten ice cream, but the wind is starting to stick, so fries it must be.

I take my tiny bag of french fries and plot a packet's worth of ketchup in its bottom, just to make sure things are as messy as possible. I feel as gross as I used to feel walking down the streets in Sevilla while eating: people don't do that there. They walk down the streets and smoke, they don't eat.

I cross the street, licking salt and ketchup from my fingers as I approach the bus stop. A girl, about my age and about my same social background (read: middle class and white), is standing at the bus stop at the most bizarre angle. I pause to look up from my feed bag and realize that she is, in fact, kissing someone. So you've got me, eating fries from a McDonald's bag, and you've got this couple so in the throes of young love that they've got to kiss even while waiting for the mundane effing bus.

I proceed to finish the fries within probably two minutes, crumpling the paper bag in my hands, trying to hide its origins. The couple is looking antsy, wondering "Where's this bus? Where is it?" Eventually they leave, arms linked round one another, and I see him put her in a cab. Suckers. Five minutes later, I'm on the bus, and that girl is sighing her love in the backseat of a cab. I think about the bowl of cereal waiting for me at home, and sigh my love in the bench seat of a bus.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Campus Connection

With my friends pointing me in the right direction, I packed a bag this afternoon and headed for my first glimpse of DePaul’s campus. It seems strange (really strange) that I’ve paid tuition to a school which I haven’t even seen, but here I am.

I walked north on Sheffield street, making a quick stop in Bank of America to open an account. This will be my Chicago bank. David Facio was my customer service representative, eager to learn all about me. He recommended a s’more shake from an ice cream place which I’ve already forgotten the name of, though he said it twice and I repeated it after him.

After getting my temporary ATM card and setting up my internet banking, David let me loose on the city. I continued north on Sheffield, relying on my directions to walk until I hit campus. I walked along, passing kids just getting out of school, and signs that said “Single? Try” I stopped in a 7-11 to buy band-aids for my blistering heels.

I walked and I walked. I began to worry that I had gone too far, had somehow missed campus, when I saw a DePaul U bookstore. Relief.

I hit campus a block or two later, and walked by all the housing buildings until I reached the Student Center. I figured I’d wander through there and maybe get my student ID, if I had time before my orientation.

The Student Center was FULL of students, undergrad students who aren’t old enough to drink in bars. I walked in, a bit shell-shocked, and wandered through seas of “You are toooo sexy,” and “I just told her STOP and ohmygod, it was so funny.” I looked around at them, at how young they were and how they were all acting brave for their first college appearances. They had the air of owning the place and being totally lost at the same time.

I breezed through the milling crowds to the Student ID Services. Crowded. I peeked in at the line to pick up your UPass. Way crowded. I gave up, needing to check my email and confirm the start time of orientation. I decided to look for the place where all the big kids were hanging out.

In my search for the library, I first walked past Schmitt Academic Center. This name sounded familiar to me, as perhaps the site of my mysterious orientation. I popped in there to see if maybe there was a schedule, to bypass the internet and go straight to the source.

I peered in auditorium rooms, no schedule to be found, and watched more milling crowds of undergrad students. I went out the way I came in and continued to wander amongst the big buildings, feeling certain I was getting close to the library.

There it was, right next door. The girl at the Reference desk helped me connect to the library’s wireless, and told me “Welcome to DePaul.” We laughed, and I walked my computer over to a corner desk by the window.

The familiarity of the library is incredibly comforting in the face of so many changes. Everything in my life right now is unfamiliar: my new bedroom, new bathroom, new kitchen. Coming to campus, seeing the faces of the undergrads feeling more un-anchored than I do, is comforting. At least here I know what is going on. I know that the library will have corner desks by the windows. I know that the Reference section is the place to get help, because those desk workers never have anything else to do. I know that no matter how silly I look wandering around lost, no one else will notice because they are doing the same thing.

I’m back.