Friday, October 2, 2009

The P Word

There’s this habit that I’m really good at—that lots of people I know are good at. It’s such a common thing, almost a joke most times. It’s procrastinating. “Oh, you know me, I never get anything done on time.” “Well, I work best at the last minute.” These lines aren’t even funny, because they’re so clich├ęd, so overused. We hear “procrastinate” and we think immediately of deadlines, of long nights filled with coffee and blaring screens and the sleepless drunk that settles on a room full of students/workers/creatives when a project is due.

But the procrastination I’m thinking of is a different beast. It’s the supposed-to kind.

I like keeping a blog, or I wouldn’t have started one. I obviously set no specific deadlines for myself. Some friends I know want to post once a week, or three times a month, or even once a day. They set themselves goals and they generally meet them. Sometimes I meet mine. But most times I don’t. There’s this strange self-doubt that creeps in on something so simple as writing a meaningless blog entry (to be seen by, at this point, maybe only five people). Who cares? I tell myself. Why doubt myself on such a moot point? It must be a symptom of something greater.

And indeed, this step-by-step process of excusing the supposed-to’s crops up often in my daily life. I can’t write a blog because nothing funny happened to me today, because I’m too tired, because I have to get ready to go out, because I have nothing positive to say. Each step presents its own logical reason. I can’t take out the trash today because it got too dark and now it’s cold. I can’t apply for that job because my cover letter needs a fresh set of eyes. I can’t finish those dishes because my stressed out body won’t take another second of being on its feet.

The main problem, I’ve realized, is that I ALWAYS have tomorrow to take out the trash, to wash the dishes, to give that cover letter another look. Being unemployed does strange things to people, and this endless wash of time has made me lazier than I’d believed possible. If I’m only supposed to do something, if it should get done today but could probably wait til tomorrow, I’m in big trouble.

Because here’s the thing about procrastinating: once you start, you cannot stop. The trash will sit perfectly well at the top of the outside stairs today because it did yesterday. That job went unapplied for yesterday and another day won’t hurt anything. Then, two weeks have passed, and even though you got the trash in the dumpster, the cover letter still doesn’t exist. And by this time, the job has been posted for a month, and why waste the energy applying for a job that is probably closed by now? Just like that. You are still on your couch, and another job will appear on the website for you to apply for and never hear back from.

I have gotten lucky. I had one interview, then another. A ripple in the routine is always a good shock. And now I have this collection of words, the first one I’ve bothered to create in awhile. I’m lucky on this one because I had someone call me out directly—get back to your stupid blog. (Well, she didn’t call it stupid, but I did. Stupid is OK if it gets you typing.) Now if I could only get back to yoga, I think I’d really be in business…

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Graduate

I could apologize for my long hiatus from blogging, but we all know it wouldn't matter. Most people can't be minding too terribly that I've been two months absent.

This coming Tuesday, a mere 48 hours from now, I will be sitting through my last class of graduate school. I don't know what to think about this, I really don't. On the one hand, I'm terrified. That, I'm sure of. I have no real job and no reply from the seventy jobs I've applied for this spring. When school is over, I will have four days a week of temp work and only my social life to look forward to. My social life, and pending loan bills. But on the other hand, I'm elated. No more guilt for every minute I spend watching videos on the Internet instead of reading stylistics or composition theory. No more professors who love nothing more than the sound of their own voices. No more days that begin at 8am and end at 9:30pm. And, for chrissakes, I'll have a Master's degree. When you look at it like that, it seems pretty awesome.

When I moved to Chicago, when I signed on for those student loans and long, school-driven days, I didn't picture it all ending like this. I pictured internships, intimidating offices, page upon page of portfolio wonder. From the comfort of 2007, I saw jobs lined up and salaries that made me realize just how little I had made at the nonprofit in KC. Not data entry, not advertising copy-bitch, not recession or its impending doom. But here we are.

The thing is, I think I'm having the best spring of my life. It must be, because the days have fled so quickly that tomorrow it will be June. Two weeks from today, I will be in a rented gown, sitting through a hideously long graduation ceremony for a school I feel very little attachment to. I can't really say how I got here, and I know I can't tell you how I got here this quickly, but here I am. Here I am, and I know things are OK because I'm counting my graces: four days of weekly temping are better than eating lots of peanut butter and begging my parents for money. The sun is out longer each day, and the windows stay open in my bedroom. I have three amazing months to enjoy living with my dear roommate in this house with the backyard and the open kitchen which are perfect for parties. When my family arrives for graduation, I have a host of wonderful new characters to introduce them to. The whole family is coming, every last one of them, and that includes Emmy!

So even on this sleepy Sunday night, I'm keeping the panic at bay. It's ok that I can't picture what the next year will look like. I was wrong about the last two, and they've successively been the best yet.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

[Miss]ouri

Just one short week ago, three friends, one Yaris, two guitars, an amp, and some other equipment-crap set out from Chicago to end up in the wilds of Northeast Missouri. Yup, we went to Kirksville. In the name of the founders of Truman's strangest fraternity, an eclectic group of reunion-happy alums gathered in various dirty hotels to see if Kirksville was as good as we remembered.

In the Yaris, the three of us played "in my suitcase, I packed" and waited patiently to drink our High Life 40s as it grew darker and more Missouri-like. It's strange to sink back into the familiarity that ruled your life just four years ago as you drive north on that stretch of Hwy 63 with town names like Macon and LaPlata. It's strange and it's bizarrely comforting--here is that Comfort Inn, the one across from the drive-in that never seems to be playing movies. There is that trailer restaurant outside the Amtrak station in LaPlata, the one I missed out on. Here is the billboard with the binoculars, the one that reminds us of The Great Gatsby.

But I think the best part of the drive was the burning fields. Growing up in a city, but one that most people associate with farms, is funny. I feel an affinity toward farms, toward rural life, but I know relatively little about them. One of the things I do know about, though, is burning the fields in the springtime to clear them of dead plant life and ready them for planting. For whatever reason, we hit it right last weekend, and were repaid with the sweet, smoky smell of burning fields. We could sometimes smell it even when we couldn't see the telltale billows or the black char in the highway's neighboring fields. Another familiar comfort.

The weekend was full of drinking on the cheap. We had people from Kansas City, Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, and St. Louis, and everyone enjoyed the college-town approach to beer prices. We haunted the bars that we called our own for a few years, looking scornfully at the incredibly young patrons now bellied up. But not too scornfully, because after all, that was us. We went to parties at the dirtiest frat house in Kirksville, and left too early to witness toilet-smashings (toilets unattached to plumbing, of course) and three-hour covers of "Slow Ride."

Kirksville did have a few new curves to throw. Our favorite Mexican restaurant has closed for mysterious reasons (serving to minors, perhaps?). Staying in a hotel when you used to know the renters in every house around campus was a strange experience to be sure. Staying in the Days Inn out on the south side of town was even stranger, and by "stranger," I mean "flat out disgusting." One room of girls had a vendetta with hotel personnel after remarking (accidentally) in earshot of a clerk that the place was a "shithole." Don't ever do this, as it will result in an unrequested 7am wakeup call and the refusal of all services, including clean bath towels.

The new buildings on campus and the fancy remodels were all a bit of a trip, but perhaps the best curve that the Ville had to offer was Geno's 70'S [sic] Club. I mean, we were all surprised to see that the number one dive for dancing, Toons, had been renamed Wrongdaddy's (wtf does that even mean?), but a brand new entity on the Kirksville club stage? Wow. When a friend came into Woody's hailing the light-up checkerboard dance floor, we knew we had to see it. After a generous man purchased some lunchboxes for the willing (or begrudgingly willing, a chug shot is the last thing the writer was ready for at the downhill of a crazy weekend), we walked a block and a half to the dance end of the square.

Before getting into the marvel that is Geno's, let's just take a minute to appreciate a town where every bar you want to go to is within a one-mile radius, where all your friends were living within probably a two mile radius, where parking everywhere is plentiful and always free, and downtown streets are slow, empty, and uber bike-friendly. Is it any wonder we got nostalgic for such a place? And now, there is Geno's.

We walked in past a most interesting bouncer, all showing our IDs and straining to hear the song that was playing. Music was temporarily forgotten as we entered the bar area and saw the spectacle. Tales of the light-up dance floor had not been exaggerated -- it was the focal point of the room. Reds, whites, blues, and greens were all neatly in squares under the feet of a wide array of Missouri's finest townies. The DJ (I begged my friend to get a picture) reined over all in a raised booth at the head of the dance floor. I can't remember the details of his mullet, only that it was awesome in the haze of the smoke machine. We wasted no time in joining the crowds to bust our sweet moves to AC/DC, Michael Jackson, and other staples. Wow.

Floors were slept on, bars were owned, eyes were burned by foreign solution, professors were visited, Java Co bagels were eaten, a stranger's bathroom was used, a friend's band was debuted, and all of a sudden, it was time to go home. We left fairly early on Sunday, checked out of our godforsaken hotel by 11am. (I'm not kidding, this place didn't even use fitted sheets! They just tucked flat sheets into the mattress. Often STAINED flat sheets. Gross.) We stopped at Sonic on our way out of town, as for some reason, Chicago proper hasn't caught on to the magic that is Sonic. The trip home never seems as long as the trip there, though this trip had its fair share of sleep dragging. I would like to say that we didn't follow up the Sonic breakfast with a Steak and Shake lunch, but then I'd be lying. We made it home in one piece and admitted that, despite promises of retiring in the Ville during the car ride there, we didn't actually think we would ever be back. Some things are best left remembered.

ps - catchy-title-punctuation credit goes to E, of course.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Pinheads



A quick giggle from me to you. I'm working on a final project that involves, among other things, liberalism. In light of this, I figured Bill O'Reilly deserved some name-dropping in my piece. I googled his name to be sure I had it spelled right, and, after watching that hilarious video of him freaking out on Inside Edition, looked in briefly on the man's homepage. In my scan, I noticed a most ridiculous typographical error. Please note the way that Italy is spelled in his O'Round the World section above. Hilarious. A crusader of truth, a lambaster of liberals, and a man who can't be bothered to spell correctly the name of a country that is arguably one of the birthplaces of Western society. I mean, it only has FIVE letters. Italy??!!?!? Two Ls?!?!?!!? What is wrong with him?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Meatloaf Cupcakes and Everything that Followed

I had a dear friend in town this weekend. It being Chicago in February, we did what any sensible fun-seekers would do: we ate. Uncontrollably.

The first stop in all this fun was the Bucktown Pub, which doesn't serve food but has a trivia night on Thursdays. I lured my friend with the promise of PBR and free popcorn, and the hope of the tamale guy. We were not disappointed when he appeared with his coolers, peddling homemade tamales with tiny, serving-size containers of red and green salsa. Greasy napkins and empty corn husks are always good balm for a loss at trivia.

But truly, this eating craze started a few months ago. I received an email alert for a new restaurant in town, The Meatloaf Bakery. A new meatloaf lover, I forwarded the alert to the friend who converted me. Elated, she said we would make a visit during her visit in February. As two women who pride themselves on fulfilling promises, we woke up on Friday, watched The Office and 30 Rock in bed, and then headed to the Promised Land.

The place was pleasantly designed, a tiny little storefront on Clark with a big, sunny window and bright, accent pinks and oranges to liven up the white walls. But these details were almost lost on Allison and myself when we approached the counter with the day's wares. This bakery boasts eight (?) different types of meatloaves, and three different serving methods. You can order a whole loaf, but they're not really lunch ready. After the loaf size, the option falls to a cupcake. A meatloaf cupcake. This creation is about the size of a large muffin, and in place of icing, covered in mashed potatoes. Not to be outdone, the tiny "loafies" made a name for themselves by being served in pastry shells, like little meatloaf tartlettes. YUM.

We ordered flights of loafies, a spicy one with chorizo and peppers, an Italian one with parm and tomatoes and angel hair pasta on top, and a burger one with cheese and bacon, and the smallest bun anyone has ever seen. For our cupcake, we split a traditional Mother Loaf with a demi-glace. I will not admit whether or not we went back for round two with some more small loafies. I will say that it was delicious and we walked out cackling about meatloaf.

After a brief art-viewing interlude and some false homework time, night fell and it was time to meet more friends for dinner at my favorite place in Chicago. Thankfully, Icosium Kafe specializes in savory crepes filled with fresh and (mostly) light ingredients. We drank wine and enjoyed bell peppers, goat cheese, pine nuts, spinach, carmelized onions, and a few million other ingredients that I'm forgetting.

Saturday involved brunch (quiche and juevos mexicanos and omelettes, oh my), a trip to the Garfield Park Conservatory, hot dogs, and a gourmet dinner at home--French onion soup broiled with baguette and jarlsberg, and a mediocre brownie sundae. Oh, and I think a McFlurry or two was eaten over the course of the weekend.

Just writing about all this food makes me simultaneously hungry and contented. This winter, I've found myself an insatiable eater. "It's the weather," my roommate and I tell each other. It's cold, and we need to keep up our energy. But with less and less work available to me, and days when I do work so full with work and school that I want to collapse, I wonder if I'm excusing too great of an indulgence. With February more than halfway over, I guess I'll just wait for spring to tell if it's winter blues that's fueling this tasty self-medication.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Battle Wounds

There's a killer bruise on my right thigh, right on top. If this were shorts season, it would probably appear when I sat down. I got it Sunday night, trying to exit the Damen stop with a rolling suitcase, a duffel bag, and a messenger bag. I'm just terrible at schlepping things, and in my effort to push through the turnstile while managing all the bags, I misfired and nailed my thigh.

It's one of those bruises that I secretly love. It started forming immediately, and has changed colors each day. Yesterday, at its start, it showed all the colors: yellow, blue, purple, grey. Today it's a stormy blue-grey, to match the weather. I think I'm drawn to the colors of bruises, and to the instant gratification. Yes, I got hurt, and here is the proof, the mangled colors of muscle and blood and fat and whatever other tissue. I can feel the way my leg has changed, hardened, in that spot.

I registered yesterday for the last classes I need to complete my Master's. In June, I will be done with school and out of excuses for not working full-time. My diploma will be a bruise, a display that my brain muscles have changed, molded in spots. My student loans will be the proof that it hurt.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Beth's Favorite Things of 2008, though they may not have come out that year:

Bon Iver's For Emma
Blitzen Trapper, Furr
Shearwater, Rook (mostly the concert, but the album too)
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (seeing her read too)
David Sedaris reading in January at the Steppenwolf, and his personalized book inscription
Cloud Cult, show at Schuba's in the spring and the "Meaning of 8" album
Hand-me-down coats, new down coats, and sales coats from Belmont Army
Brock O'Laughlin
Speed dating and all ensuing stories
The pink sandals I bought for $10 and wore all summer
Our housewarming party in Sept
Marrying off some of my besties
Dressing up as the Village People to go see Hercules and Love Affair
August vacations to Denver and the ever alluring Lake of the Ozarks
Visits from the fam
Every moment of the summer
Tall boots
Cooking and baking
The reinstatement of fried chicken and champagne
The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith
Freaks and Geeks