Watch out, the world’s behind you.

I remember the first time I saw that banana. It was on a t-shirt, Rory’s t-shirt. Just a big freaking banana on a white t-shirt, underneath a pilled cardigan and a birds nest of black hair and wiry glasses.

It only spoke to me, as a 15 year old high school sophomore, because I was in the wild throes of a developing affair with pop art. I prayed to the altars of Andy Warhol, Edie Sedgwick and Campbell’s Soup cans. The unnaturally bright fruit drew me in for the artist whose name was so blatantly associated with it, but it wasn’t long after that I realized what that banana really stood for.

Soon I discovered Lou Reed, his Velvet Underground and the Amazonian beauty (and surprisingly audio dissonant singer) Nico. That banana came back to me in full force when it became one of the final physical CDs I ever purchased before succumbing to the ease and seemingly inconsequential nature of MediaFire and .zip files.

This was around the same time that I miraculously passed the New Jersey state driving test and could take the two-door red Tiburon out through the wide streets of Absecon Island unaccompanied. Then and now, I would find much more freedom in driving alone, without friends or potential love interests. I think the only reason I ever enjoyed driving was from the thrill of pulling out of my parents’ driveway, turning the corner down Atlantic Avenue and hearing Sunday Morning’s angelic intro — the sounds of peace and hipness and solace. I loved navigating the endless curves and no-entrance roads in Margate to get to Emma’s house back by the bay. It meant more time spent alone, with Venus in Furs and Heroin and All Tomorrow’s Parties. And that one summer, before leaving for college, when I would sneak off under the cover of a movie at Emma’s house, it meant driving down Pacific Avenue at 11:30 pm, on my way home from a night spent high on the thrill of almost-having sex with an older guy friend and actual pot smoking, hearing There She Goes Again and feeling like I would never be as cool as I was at that very moment. Looking back at all the inner dialogues I’ve ever had with myself (and please believe that, as a self-diagnosed neurotic, there have been plenty) this was one of the few that turned out to be 100% true.

Finding Lou was the start of a pretty critical transition in my life, musically and socially. During that limbo of high school’s end and college’s beginning, I think every 17 and 18 year old puts themselves through endless exercises in figuring out who he or she is, and whether or not that person is one they want to take into the next four years of their life. Musically, high school for me was about (publicly) weening myself off of the pop-punk delightfulness that shaped the junior high years and filtering in things from decades before my time. Starting with the obvious – The Beatles, the Stones, Cream, and moving on to more dedicated pursuits, pursuits of Dylan and The Guess Who, a newfound appreciation for Motown. I was all too young (but seemingly authoritative enough, as a budding college radio station DJ) to make declarations at the age of 18 or 19 that I’d be perfectly happy to subsist off of old music for the rest of time, ignorant to the increasingly fractured world of pop-punk I used to love, blissfully blind to this thing called dubstep that was starting to creep across the Atlantic, and OK with leaving behind the endless exasperation of keeping up with the latest soft-sung balladeer and his acoustic guitar.

Out of college and a few musical decisions later, I still (sort of) believe that I could live the rest of my life on a consistent diet of Martha and the Vandellas and The Velvet Underground and anything that happened in the 90s and feel well-nourished. And yes, a part of me does recognize, though, that without guys like Lou Reed, there wouldn’t be some of these nutty genres to juggle or to watch split into sub-genres or to fall in love with. But the beauty, for me, is always found in things so steeped in history and originality that they become immune to the skewing effects of all modern day influences. These are the songs that — unsusceptible to external forces —only have the power to change the listeners. I guess it’s one of the few and only situations, for me, where it feels ok to not be in control.

I’m going to miss Lou Reed for his music, but fortunately he’s left us with plenty to playback. But it’s because at 17, despite still not having sex or that much to drink or many regrettable but thrilling stories to tell in the cafeteria, Lou was able to make me feel and more importantly, believe, that my cool and credibility were beyond that of my sex-having, solo-cup slinging, curfew-breaking classmates — that’s why I’ll miss him most of all.

After all these long-ass verses

As someone who once referred to herself, or hoped to call her future self, a “writer,” it’s equal parts life-affirming and devastating when someone else builds a sentence or two that immaculately conveys that feeling you’ve been feeling for so long, the thought you’ve been haunted by night after night, and yet were too preoccupied or tired or lethargic to put into your own tangible words.

One person, familiar to me only through the soul-sucking, anxiety-inducing vacuum my work and personal life has come to depend on – Twitter – gave me that life-affirming jolt. Rather, I found it myself during one of my thousand pauses to make sure I wasn’t missing out on anything particularly interesting on my newsfeed — lockdowns due to shots fired, bomb threat evacuations, Kardashian family musings, journalists complaining about people like me (Public Relations “people,” that is.)

Instead my eye was drawn to her latest 140 character callout. Her profile picture screamed all things Hermione Granger (toward the end of the series) and Winona Ryder’s expression on the cover of a “Girl, Interrupted” VHS tape. And of course she had a personal blog which of course I had to see. Because when you’re a writer who gives up writing, or a writer who gets interviewed for a job and is told by the potential employer “I went looking for your blog, but I didn’t find one…which was surprising,” you resign yourself to living vicariously through the sometimes decent, sometimes trashy, but always OK enough to make you feel more unaccomplished, writings of others.

And there, on a post not even a month old, were the two sentences that epitomized my past two years of living:

The past year and a half has brought many challenges and opportunities my way, for which I am eternally grateful. But in all of the glory that is the nine-to-five desk job, my passion for writing has become stagnant.

It’s terse and it’s unadorned and it’s everything I’ve known to be true for longer than I care to admit to myself.

How long can you weigh the pros and cons of a healthy salary, a health plan and a 401k versus dwindling emotional and physical health, deflated self-esteem and a burning cognitive dissonance that you’re not doing what you know in your heart to be right?

Is it a disgustingly-telling trait of my generation to feel plagued by unrelenting self-disappointment? Probably. But I can’t help but feel like I’m a liar when I say “I’m a writer” and don’t follow it with an “at heart”  addendum. At some point, you realize that when you haven’t done something for a certain period of time, it becomes a part of you in an inward, reflective sense, rather than an outwardly identifiable reputation.  I’m not yet at the point where I can be OK with considering writing as my own inside joke. I still want to live up to the modifier I claimed (perhaps prematurely) and I want there to be no conflict or confusion around what I love, what I do and who I am.

What I’m about to say is an unquestionably disgusting generational trait: I don’t know quite what it is that I want.

And I’m not completely sure of how to reach whatever it is I end up wanting.

Like the recurring thoughts in my head (that never seem to make their way into real, written words), I toss around vague ideas, scenes of the things I could and should and maybe someday will have the gall to do. They just haven’t translated into real actions yet.

Maybe this, writing down the uncertainties, is enough of a start.

I wanna see you dance again

That feeling before a new beginning. That pre-excitement. That instant ambition.

Hopeful. Feeling incredibly and possibly falsely hopeful. Unreasonably optimistic. Am I teetering on the precipice of old life, looming far down into what may be the abyss of a new life? Is the dividing line between that novella and the next nearer than I ever thought it could be?

Maybe. Days could tell. Hours, moments. 

Rather than feeling plagued by the worst sense of inertia, I finally feel that things might be (could be) —> moving forward. Maybe this is what proaction feels like.

Next week I go home. The real home. The old home that, no so long ago, felt like a new home. It’s a humbling feeling. Dreaming of street corners and pieces of sidewalk and certain patches of grass that were once so familiar and were so quickly just a mental memory. Next week, those things get to be real again.


You came and you took control

A Chicago-based NY Times literary critic had this to say about Chicago, 

‘Poor Chicago,’ a friend of mine recently said. Given the number of urban apocalypses here, I couldn’t tell which problem she was referring to.

and now all of Chicago is crying tears into the river over it. Which they should really stop because apparently every local body of water is still recovering from last week’s 1-day period of rainfall, so any extra liquid could put us in a hunker-down with your Italian beef situation. Seeing as I never have and never plan on dealing with a desire for soggy beef, I’m going to hope that Chicago stops crying. 

Chicago is in the dumps, but then again, so is America. No one is safe and no one is happy (except maybe those who got to see Dr. Schlomo @ Coachella), and everyone is critical and judgmental and, honestly, for good reason. We’ve proved that none of us are capable of trust.

This morning, some young corporate noob was getting on my bus route and (for the second consecutive day) his fare card was invalid or inactivated or incontinent or something. Today, unlike yesterday, the bus driver did not let him hitch the 8 minute ride. I spent my entire 8 minute trip wishing I hadn’t sat so far back and was able to pull some bullshit where I just throw $2.25 in the fare machine (it’s one of those rare days when I actually carry singles) and then he goes and tells his coworkers about the decency of strangers on public transit. 

Maybe tomorrow I’ll get the chance (if I don’t use my singles on candy or a croissant or something. I make no promises.) 

At the movies

It’s only 43 degrees today but it’s bright enough to pass for 60. I can get on board with that.

This week’s “Modern Love” column was by a young woman from Highland Park, with the initials “m.s” and a WordPress blog theme identical to this one.

I didn’t write it, and for that, I self-loathe.

So self-loathing is drowned in overpriced doughnuts and leftover pizza and the dream of a good workout and a good smelling kitchen.

Roger Ebert passed away yesterday and I’ll admit that I don’t have concrete memories of watching him on television, but I read his more recent reviews and always thought he was a type of Garrison Keillor for the movies. A complete cultural anomaly, completely too elegant and too level-headed and too poised for the twenty first century. I’d like to believe that the outpouring of millenial sadness for the late critic that filled Twitter to over capacity last night came from a sincere place. I’d like to believe that fitting “RIP” and “see you at the movies” into a 140-character quote uniquely your own was an exercise in true grief and bereavement, not in cleverness and self-promotion (an act that will go down in history as the millenials’ beautiful/terrible contribution to the world of marketing.)

I will miss him not from a matinee point of view, but from the writing world’s loss. Journalists today are not the journalists of Ebert’s day. Many are millenials, or are at least at the beck-and-call of millenials, and are thus working under a different M.O. They’re reluctantly blogging and calling themselves “journos” (again, because it better accommodates the whole 140-character limit); they’re tweeting their stories to prove worth to their editors and serializing web reports to prime them for the day they become ebooks that people can buy with bitcoins for a dollar or two, and devour over some kale juice and a flax bar.

Ebert was in it for the words and for the people. He believed that reviewing art of any caliber was a justice to the public, and he was right. And we love him for it. I recently learned that he embraced technology, Google most notably, so he wasn’t utterly tied to analog. But he was tied to connecting people through long-form. His reviews were wordy, often to a fault; but each word counted. And none was an acronym, or an abbreviation, or a hashtag. He never felt pressure to let us know if the latest Juliette Binoche film was a flop or a display of Franco-snobbery in 140 words. Paraphrasing what he said about films themselves, no complete review is ever too long.

Professors and great writers and great critics have always touted the art and skill of saying what you need to say in as few words as possible. (And it is certainly an art and a skill, to whom we’re all indebted to Ernest Hemingway.) But Ebert’s love of length is and will always be equally commendable. For not everyone can keep readers hanging on through a three column review of an action flick, let alone leave them wanting more after the jump.

RIP Roger. Thanks for the words.

We’re Loose and Neat

Do you know what a “trixie” is?

It’s actually the word I’ve been looking for for almost 2 years now. 

Courtesy of Le Urban Dictionary:
(Lincoln Park) Trixie:

A 20 or 30-something female found in Chicago, IL. Their migration patterns, though originating in Lincoln Park, include Bucktown/Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, Gold Coast, Wrigleyville, Lakeview, and, increasingly, the West Loop. They are easily identifiable by their fair skin, blond hair (or at least with highlights), good purse, manicured feet/hands, and Starbucks cup. They are born in the midwest but have found Michigan or Ohio to be so passe so they moved to the big city. The preferred form of transportation is the VW Jetta or Honda Accord. They have typically graduated from large state universities with good football teams and mediocre academics. Trixies tend to live and work in Chicago but hate their job although they will tend to stick with it as it accommodates their “urban” lifestyle. Trixies have nice belongings (clothes, shoes, purse, car) but tend to be cash-poor as they must maintain their standard of living. Trixies are typically attracted to midwestern, frat-boy types: 30-years old and still wearing baseball hats backwards and rugby shirts with horizontal stripes.

Luckily, the only ounce of my being that fits this description is the bolded line. But I’m apt to believe that such sentiment goes for 20 something ladies most everywhere (except maybe Paris, because you could a subway operator in France and probably still love life), so I’m not concerned.

Now I can say educated statements like, “The right side of my office is TrixieVille.” Or, “Ugh, I’m so over this corporate Trixie culture.” Or, “No, I would never get drinks there; it’s riddled with Trixies and the DJ only caters to their musical tastes.”

Etc. Etc. 

Oh Trixies, you silly naïve little creatures. Now, if only there was a masculine version of the word to describe the other half. Oh to be young and, well, un-Trixie. 

Not as intriguing as pixies or Manic Pixie Dream Girls. As colorful as Trix, but not as satisfying in the morning (and, if I had to guess, at night too.) 

I want some warmth and some pillows and a Sleep Number bed. Living off flour and vanilla extract too. At the very least, I’d settle for an excuse to use the abominable amount of flax sitting in my kitchen. 

Give me something new to do everyday and less of this faux Trixie lifestyle. 

Sometimes, I just really wish strangers spoke to each other on CTA busses. 

I don’t care and nor do my ears

I’m making time to write this with the hope that I’ll still have time to get out of this office for maybe 10 minutes before 5 p.m. One of those days when you start doing one thing only to lead yourself down a rabbit hole of 5 separate things that need equal attention.

I’m having an ugly day week. When your hair is wrong and your skin is worse and your XX chromosomes hate you and your bra slides down all the livelong day and you’re wearing a sleeveless dress in December. Ugly week. When all you can think of is the doctors appointments you should be making and the “Self Assessment Presentation” you need to schedule with your boss in the near future.

Am I supposed to honestly confront issues like, “Where I’d like to be next year” and “What I ultimately aspire to be/do,” to my supervisor? Am I supposed to candidly let slip that none of my future plans involve this place or this industry or this business model? Should I glibly put that next year I’d like to not be participating in a bogus reflection on my qualifications and dreams?

OK, I have until Monday at 3 p.m. to gather my accomplishments of the year and my disappointments and what I’ve learned and the relationships I’ve nurtured. Does keeping a desk plant alive count? I think it should. Metaphors can count.

Does not taking a vacation day until the third week in December translate to a strength? Does giving up what’s left of my eyesight to 9 hours a day in front of a laptop mean anything? Color coordination certainly must have been a real game-changer.

Bigger question — how awkward can this get? How uncomfortable can a self assessment presentation in front of someone who has no close clue to my “self” be successful?

It’s probably won’t be too painful. What’s painful is when the people you assume know you inside and backwards and out let you down. When they miss the mark, then you’re really in trouble.

At least over half of the holiday shopping is done.

Kendrick have a dream

It’s almost time for tryptophan and eating pants, potatoes everywhere and pie season. (It’s already pie season. Galette season if you’re in my apartment.)

But it’s a whorish kind of cold out. The kind of cold that even new, robust tights and wool berets can’t even suppress. The kind of cold that forces me to keep my coat on inside the office, two hours after my arrival.

It feels strange to be “home” for this. I’m supposed to be scrambling with study guides and nursing a two-week anxiety before my flight back. Instead I’m in an office, with little work to do, forty minutes from the Thanksgiving mealtime gathering spot, writing a column about where I was this time last year.

Circular and strange.

I spoke to a friend of sorts last night for the first time in a long time. He’s doing ok for himself, perhaps better than expected had you known him eight years ago (how frightening, to be in the position to say you’ve known and retained some type of relationship with someone other than family for that long), and even he has a five-year plan. That includes buying – not renting – a home of his own.

I instead, am looking down the barrel of a 1 year lease, with the hope and intention (but no formulated plan…yet) to relocate by the end of it. I’m also weighing options. Career paths. Work environments. Salaries.

And instead of making significant strides toward achieving these things I want, I put them off. I quell the lingering dissatisfaction by immersing myself in reruns of off-air sitcoms, following recipes, keeping an immaculate living space.

When I was leaving high school and entering college, I had the most idealistic dream. Inspired by all the Kerouac and Thompson I was consuming at the time, I envisioned a post-graduate self roaming the country by car, a road journalist of America. I figured this would be a way to get back to the writing that made this country so historical, to pay homage to the words that made me want to pursue this as a hobby and a lifestyle. And, selfishly, it would be cathartic to make my way from coast to coast. To revisit the places that I knew at such younger ages, and experience them now. What would have come out of this, I have no idea. But it would have been an experience.

I talk like I’m 70 with no way to pull this off anymore. Foolish on my part, I know. Are there residencies or fellowships for this kind of project that I don’t know about? With funding I’d gladly drop everything and go.

Maybe I’ll find time to research this and other stale dreams while scouring the Internets for holiday gift ideas.

I know all the words

Happy National Boss Day – to all you leaders and slaves of leaders.

Shower your supervisor in reduced fat cheese crackers, raw nuts and bitter chocolate – it’s the sincerest form of appreciation.

I wonder how Obama and Romney’s respective campaign staffs are complimenting their managers today – prepping them with down-to-earth quips and pop culture references to make them seem the most likable during tonight’s Town Hall debate, I’m sure.

Let’s talk about the election and how I have no idea what bubble I’m inking. The ballot’s been sitting on my freshly built Malm dresser for days, next to that mock turtleneck with the armpit hole that needs sewing, in the pile of things to put off for when I have more focus.

What I’m focusing on is how to wield coupon’s to my checking account’s benefit at the grocery store tonight, what to eat for dinner, how to learn to eat less despite being hostage to food blogs and late night prime rib cravings, and what to do to curb my post-lunch workday hunger.

The U.S. might do better from stealing a page from Europe’s old way of doing things – siestas around 2 p.m., fresher ingredients, fewer workdays and a communal appreciation for old things. Let’s slow down and nix the Outlook invites and the hashtags and status updates and checking how many people viewed your LinkedIn profile. Let’s get back to cheese-making and homemade candle dipping and endless wine and crusty, naturally (not artificially) fibrous bread. Let’s abandon working for your sick days and flu shots and chugging Airborne to make it til tomorrow’s meeting.

I’m still finding my way to somewhere other than here. I want the kind of life that’s busy and stressful for all the right reasons and none of the wrong ones.

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We’re the kids in America.

I was never one for Sunshine Committees.

Or planning Christmas festivities in early October.

Or mass happy hours, turkey burgers and squealing about the new words I just learned.

Then again, I never paid hundreds of dollars a year to be in a Greek Life organization. Instead, I’m paid $34,000 to work for a sorority in sheep’s clothing and stress out about work-facing tasks and my work-related social dilemma.

I value people that are on-time. That don’t make a show of working out before 9 a.m. on a workday, or taking that quick pilates class on their lunch break. I value people that put their actual to-do lists above December’s social/alcohol budget. I value an environment that doesn’t have to make a distinction between “drinkers” and “nondrinkers,” or FCC gym-attendees and non.

It’s a problem when I have to come up with excuses not to attend this week’s flag football game, or to skip out early from this week’s beer pong tournament in the office kitchen. It’s a problem when the one person I got along with on a friendly basis was eleven or twelve years my senior.

When did America’s office culture transform from classy to post-class libations? We used to be better than this. I think some of us still are. I’d hate to see the last few get lured in by those shiny red cups and clip-art adorned email invites.

There is more to life than RSVPs.

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