I have a crazy ear infection in both ears. Meaning I can’t hear well — it sounds like I have earmuffs on constantly. Plus my jaw feels all locked up.The major joint in the jaw is apparently next-door neighbors with the ear, so I’m hoping that little bonus feature goes away quick-like when my ear medicine starts to work. My doctor is down the street from me in a little storefront; I called about the infection today and he saw me like two hours later. The doctor and his nurse remember my name, and I’ve only been in there a few times. These things are comforting. But also a little weird because then I’m less anonymous. And my gross bodily ailments are being taken care of by people who know me on a first-name basis and could pass me on the street (or in the grocery store! — I’m inspecting granny smith apples, Dr. Olson is sniffing cataloupe) and be like, “Hi, Lindsay. How’s that pus draining these days?”
Chicago, you seduce me every fall. I remember first arriving at Northwestern and thinking how it was possible the rest of the world was not flocking to this paradise. Every day is 70 degrees, with a honey sun and a sky-blue lake. Why do you fuck so badly with my emotions? In a few months I will curse you, I will rue the day I met you, with your biting wintry breath breathing down my back and slipping under my collar. I already DO regret meeting you and falling for your devious ways. But now, I am madly, deeply in love. I can walk down the street and hear someone practicing an aria, or some form of opera — are they all arias? And then a few houses down, it’s piano, some song filters out to the street, and then on the corner, it’s saxophone. And the whole street is its own medley of open-windowed jams. What? Are we in Paris? To what do we owe this luxury? Earlier this week my new theater group rehearsed in an immaculate art space that used to be an auto garage — with art-covered walls painted orange and mustard; the old garage door open to let in the breeze through long white silk curtains — Are we in Cuba? To what do we owe this luxury? Damn it Chicago. DAMN IT, I can’t leave you, and I hate you and I love you.
A Beautiful Sight
One drowsy day as I sat looking out of the window I beheld a beautiful sight. Up in a tree I saw a mother robin and some tiny babies. The little infants were cuddled closely to their mother with their beaks open. The mother was very excited because she had a large worm in her mouth. The sight looked so beautiful against the blossoms that I forgot to do my work. That day I even petted the cat whom I dread.
School No. 41
At Gapers Block, I just did a Q&A with filmmaker Misty Tosh, who’s been all over the world and back again to make films, sample good local foods and, while she’s at it, save babies with cleft palates. Go read about her adventures. (And last week on Gapers Block, here’s my review of the Cusp Conference.)
I was listening to NPR over the weekend, while Kevin and I drove to and from the little patch of nature I described yesterday, and learned that Nestle is pumping water out of streams in Michigan, effectively pumping them dry, and making money off of it. There’s a lawsuit in process.
I honestly thought bottled water came from… I dunno where I thought it came from. I never thought about it. Things are so much simpler when living under a rock. Though I’m sure a corporation will be along momentarily to sell my rock for its mineral content.
Maybe I’m trying too hard to live a pastoral existence that isn’t really possible in this city. Yesterday we woke up early and went to the farmer’s market, where everything was insanely expensive, though the strawberry jam is killer, it’s true. And this morning we drove to a nature preserve that was actually the grounds of the Argonne National Laboratory — dunno what they do there, something involving x-rays — and waded through the little creek, sat near the little waterfall, watched an angelic blonde toddler throw rocks at her older brother with squeals of glee. We left in search of pie. Which I imagined would be simple, stop at any diner in town; they’ve gotta have pie. We ended up driving through a generic, beat-down suburb Kevin aptly described as “cached” and finding no pie, and then getting into the city only to be honked at and bossed around by annoying city cars and again, finding no pie because I just decided to go home. I’m trying to re-create Northern Michigan. Or maybe Vermont. Though I’ve never been to Vermont. I’m just trying to get the city grit off. Even just stopping by a waterfall for ten minutes felt like a huge release of pressure. I thought I’d be a city girl forever. Apparently I’m longing for trees. And pie.
I’m reading a book by Ram Dass, The Only Dance There Is.
He’s a former psychotherapist who — after an initial LSD-fueled spiritual awakening in 1961, became a hard-core spiritual practioner in India — and began to give talks about what he’d learned. The book is mostly transcriptions of his talks, and it reads like a rambling dinner conversation with an old friend who has just discovered something he considers miraculous.
I’m also re-working a play that mentions my time as a public school teacher. And I just went to a conference of super-geniuses and ultra-achievers who are designing income-boosting well pumps for small farms in the third world, creating ground-breaking modular homes to avert a redux of Katrina, drafting laws to stop the rampant poisoning of our rivers and oceans.
There’s a lot I want to do before the curtains close and I’m turned into ashes and dust, so this all converged into an interesting paradox. Ram Dass writes that one must first work on oneself, in order to effect change:
When I was in India in the temple… I was meditating and I felt this great feeling of well-being and calmness and I thought, ‘What am I doing here? Why aren’t I back on the front lines? … Why aren’t I back doing what I believe, you know, protesting against injustice and so on? Am I copping out? Is this like a rear battle rest station?…’ Then I began to see that staying alone in that room at that moment was confronting me with an internal battle which was much fiercer than any external battle I had ever fought before. And until I had found some way to get through that internal battle, all I could do was get sucked into external manifestations of it in such a way as to perpetuate them. Right? I began to see that it was absolutely imperative in terms of socially responsible, effective behavior that I work on myself sufficiently so that I could look at any human being and see that place in them behind whatever their melodrama is, be it Nixon or a hippie or Mao or Hitler or Schweitzer or Mahatma Gandhi or whatever the person’s trip is… Until I was centered enough, till I was in that place myself, i couldn’t really know that place in other beings. I saw that, finally, my responsibility was to work on myself.
And after much consideration, I agree with him. I think I was too scattered and stressed out to be effective as a teacher. I’ve worked at organizations where the leadership was so entrenched in their own psychological issues, the entire staff structure had to devise elaborate interpersonal work-arounds instead of fulfilling the organization’s stated mission. I think the people I saw at the conference were so successful because they lacked great self-doubt or the laziness that comes from self-doubt — they jumped at opportunities without internal strings attached. And I’ve got strings. Oh, do I. So it’s time to work on those.
Take two packages of tempeh — slice into strips and fry with barbecue sauce from a bottle, sliced onion and sliced sweet peppers. Serve in tortillas with Greek yogurt and cilantro, with corn on the cob on the side. Have dinner guest make mojitos for everyone. Dessert = mini-brownies and strawberries with Greek yogurt topped with brown sugar. Recipe is not complete until you add some sitting on the back porch.
Invite Caleb over and put him to work chopping tomatoes, spinach, cilantro. Fry cubes of tofu with half a jar of salsa. Add canned black beans. Fill tortillas with everything they can hold. Again, add back porch.
Stir-fry cubed tofu with broccoli. Cover in marinade from the Chinese market, leftover lime from the mojitos and lots of black pepper. Serve over rice when Kevin is too sick with a cold to eat anything. Eat whole thing yourself.
Take one package brownie mix. Add egg, oil and water. Realize you left brownie pan at old apartment. Substitute pie pan. Undercook by ten minutes. Eat with spoon.
Find leftover tortillas in fridge when it’s 11pm and you are starving. Fold one in half and fill with cheddar cheese, corn and canned black beans. Fry and cover in sour cream and salsa.
Wake up really late. Like really late. Watch Kevin create pancake mix from a box while your eyes are too bleary to really focus yet. Rummage around for a hoody, a tshirt, skirt and sandals. Stumble down the street toward Dunkin Donuts for coffee. Arrive home to find pancakes and veggie sausage and an omelette waiting for you. Eat immediately.
I ran across this post at Almostfearless.com: Ten Unexpected Costs of Owning Things. Kevin’s bike was stolen last night and for a few hours, (though this was not my bike) I fell into a vortex of worry and anxiety over an expensive object gone missing. Kevin found it later in the day by walking around our neighborhood. It was locked up outside a homeless shelter a few blocks away. He called the police to say hey, the bike I reported stolen is here. And the cops cut it free for him. Kevin loves his bike like hell because he rides it everywhere with passion and heart. But any other expensive item, or any other item, in our lives could disappear in a moment, things can pinball out of our lives –zing, slam, whirr — at any time. And then back in. After a scare like that, I am interested in owning even fewer things to lose and fret over.
For the past few years, I’ve lived in a very local way. I walk to work. My doctor is around the corner. My coffee shop of choice is a few blocks the other way. Friends live within a 20-minute walk radius. I’ve been thinking of swinging in the other direction. Not immediately. But within the next few years. Lately I’ve been feeling very out of sorts, really busy, really reactive to the perceived urgency of every situation, of others’ strong emotions, of deadlines and dictums, the telephone and inbox.
Some inspiration for unplugging:
Bigsweettooth.com: Misty Tosh’s chronicles of vintage trailer and sailboat journeys, making indie films and starting her own NGO.
Almostfearless.com: A 9-5 couple heads to Europe to write and travel.
Dean: My friend Dean is on a Second City cruise that’s taking him all over the world.
Janelle: The beautiful and wise Janelle takes Taiwan by storm and teaches the children.
Matador: Travel site with ideas for the dreaming and the planning.
I threw out a lot of my possessions in this most recent move. I said goodbye to boxes of college stuff labeled “sentimental” and shoved all together — papers I didn’t throw away when they came into my life and, due to a packrattiness in my blood, held on to them until they were old enough to seem significant. I threw away my bookshelf from my childhood bedroom, the iron and wicker one that could’ve been harboring little insect friends from our last apartment. I threw out readings from old college journalism classes, anthologies of my heroes’ stories and my (failed) attempts at imitating them. I threw out the 90 sets of clips from the Daily Northwestern, and the piece of string that lived around the doorknob of one of my dorm rooms, and the scrap of tissue paper from that surprise party. (But not the paper star from our apartment in New York. I couldn’t.)
I don’t miss any of it. In fact, I woke up this morning and looked around our totally clutter-free apartment and it seemed like my whole sense of being had done a yawn-stretch and could finally spread out. Except! I’ve had dreams about the stuff I threw out. My bookshelf appeared in a dream last night and was talking to me about how mad it was at me. I’m serious. I’ve angered the objects. And now they’re after me.
I knew there was a reason I kept things.
I think it’s Thursday. I mean, it seems very much like a Thursday. Everyone else is going around saying its Thursday, all the calendars say “Thursday” — my cell phone even declares it a Thursday. The week has disappeared around me. Maybe I hit the edge of a black timehole while I skidded across the surface of the everyday. Maybe I lost the other days on the beach with Oriana on Labor Day (two hours felt like a week of sun-addled daydreams) or maybe I lost the other days in the boxes, the endless unpacking — or maybe I lost them like I lost my cell phone yesterday, in the back of a drawer (I had to borrow my new upstairs neighbor’s cell phone so I could find it)… Maybe Gandhi stole those days. Kevin rented the movie of his life. He was pretty badass. I bet some fragment of my consciousness is still holding on to India and became unable to register the passing of time, being distracted with India and all. Maybe I’m eating those days right now, in this bowl of veggie chili at the townie coffee shop down the street, where two aging hippies are taking about ward politics, an elderly Chinese man is shaking out his umbrella, and a business man is saying, “How long is a piece of string?” How long is a day? How long is a piece of string?
The new apartment feels like home. There are more right angles. The ceilings are high, the floors feel sturdy, there are multiple rooms (and an office!) and there is a door on the bedroom. In fact, on our first night in the apartment, Kevin asked if I liked to sleep with the door open or the door closed. We’ve been living together for a year, and so the basic nature of the question, plus my extreme exhaustion from moving, sent me into hysterical laughter. I haven’t had to ponder this question since I lived alone in ’05. And I don’t remember what I did then.
We kept the door open the first night and closed it the second. I think I like the door closed.
Plus there’s a kitchen that looks out onto our back porch. Last night I brought the floor lamp into the kitchen, the one that throws gold light onto everything, put on some good folk music (Jay Farrar) and cooked rotini with pasta sauce and tons of parmesan cheese. I haven’t been able to cook anything in about a month, because we were either traveling or packing for most of August. I just about died of bliss.