water in my head
Today I began a short tai chi course at the student center. Most of the other people in the class were NU students. One guy had obviously taken a martial arts class before, because at random intervals he did some kind of karate-style kick. The only non-student was a woman, 40-something, who looked slightly appalled at everything we were asked to do. Our instructor was a short, skinny man with chin-length stringy hair. He sounded like Mel Brooks, if Mel Brooks had just rolled out of bed, drunk. We did a bunch of movements intended to massage our internal organs, which I enjoyed (it’s not every day you get to caress your kidneys), but I really only remember one of them. We had to imagine we were standing in front of a large body of water, looking out at the horizon. Which was funny, because we were. The wall in front of us was all glass, and the building sits on the edge of Lake Michigan. Then we were supposed to rise our hands up as though the water was rising with them. Fortunately this did not coincide with reality. Then, once our hands were over our heads, we pretended there was a hole in our skulls and we were pouring the water in, letting it drain down into the balls of our feet. It sounds a little loopy, but it was actually quite relaxing. You’re supposed to do it at least three but no more than nine times. I asked what happens if you do it more than nine times. He said it was like taking a shower. You want to wash, but you don’t want to wash your skin away. So true.

bob gone wild
The deli down the street is the neighborhood time warp, a little shop that sells sandwiches, soup and cookies from, as the hand-lettered sign on the front door says, “11-4 every day but Wednesday, when we are closed.” Two brothers run the place. They are as reserved and distant as people could possibly be while still interacting politely with the general public. Everything is a formal gesture. Imagine my surprise when I see a sign written in marker on a piece of typing paper that says the deli will be closed for three days. Bob is going to a college reunion. Though is face is young, Bob’s hair is completely white, and he wears glasses with thick black rims. He looks exactly like this. (Please wait for that page to load; it’s worth it.) So, I said, you’re going to your college reunion? Yes, he said. He graduated in ’71, but hasn’t been to a reunion since. “I’m organizing this one, so I’d better go,” he joked.

He and a friend have rented out a bar in Tampa, Fl., near where they went to school. He left a part of his life behind when he graduated, he said, because most of his friends stayed in Florida. He dreams about one day walking into their favorite bar (which served two drinks: a large Budweiser and a small Budweiser) and seeing all his old friends.

The reunion falls during Gasparilla, Tampa’s version of mardi gras. So, Bob says, knowing him and his friends, it’ll get pretty crazy.

a girl and a dog
Eliina and I start walking to campus. We get no further than half a block, when we round a corner and there’s all this commotion. First I see the dogs, three or four pit bulls wriggling and tangling into each other on the grass between the street and the sidewalk… four people are tackling the dogs, pulling them back by their skin, basically, and a girl in a plaid pleated skirt is sobbing hysterically on the sidewalk. She’s holding the leash of a skinny black dog that’s keeping one paw gingerly off the ground. One woman pinning the dogs on the grass tells her to go home, go home, take your dog to the vet. All the girl can do is whimper that it’s not her dog, she’s walking it for her neighbor. Eliina offers to walk the girl home, but she doesn’t hear. She turns, still crying, and leads the dog away with the help of another girl who’d been passing by.

what’s your glitch, man?
My e-mail has been down since last night. And I have a sore throat. Blah. … On a happier note, I got a cup of free coffee today.

after dark
I love swingsets at night. Last night was oddly warm, so Eliina and I wandered over to the park a block away and played on the swings. I love swingsets at night because it’s danger and safety, childhood and feeling old; all at once. Plus there’s the whole swinging thing, which is fun anyway. We tilted our heads back and kicked at the bright moon. There was also a wide halo of light in the sky that night, with the moon a little glowing ball in the center. Eliina thought it meant something bad was coming. I thought it meant something good. In any case, we found an uprooted No Parking sign on the way back, so of course we carried it up to the apartment, where it awaits dismantling.

true story
Anybody else been watching the Real World? (Just-because-it’s-set-in-Chicago-I-swear!) One of the girls hooked up with the lead singer of some band, and MTV blurred the guy out because he wouldn’t consent to be in the series. So who’s the band? Luckily, that’s what journalists are for: Big Head Todd and the Monsters.

deep thoughts
“I’m cleaning my room. I’m gonna throw lots of crap in a box and hide it.”– Eliina
“There’s nothing sadder than an unused page-a-day calendar.” — Eliina

For some reason, the story of the one-eyed lion dying got me all emotional. … Partly because I’d never thought about the Afghans having anything as mundane as a zoo — so suddenly their reality seemed a bit closer to mine. … Partly because the poor lion lived without an eye for all those years, and how resilient is that. …Partly because he got so old someone had to move him into his favorite spots. And because one of the people quoted in the story was still talking about the lion in the present tense. Awww…. George, build them a damn statue of their one-eyed lion, that’ll be more useful than the food drops that no one’s receiving.

welcome to chicago
I sensed impending doom the moment Eliina and I stepped off the el. We were suddenly surrounded by swarms of little people (the youth of America), who were screaming, jumping and wearing black smudges under their eyes like miniature, black-lipsticked linebackers. They wore t-shirts reading, “Welcome to Chicago Motherf**cker,” which is clever, because wearing the real name of the song probably would get them sent to the principal’s office. The concert was Kill Hannah, plus three other opening bands. The openers were great, the floor had plenty of room to kinda-jump/dance-but-not-really, and there was even nice air circulation from the ceiling fans. Still, I felt something brewing under the surface, perhaps because every time the opening bands said things like, “Thanks to Kill Hannah for letting us play,” the entire crowd went crazy. Finally Kill Hannah came on, and the whole floor turned into a a single-celled organism morphing around. Hmm, I thought. This is interesting. Then, a whirlpool of people pushing. Since I’m not exactly skilled at moshing, I thought, why don’t I just filter toward the back. Well, there wasn’t a mosh pit, it was more like a mosh floor. So there was no escaping. At first I was like, and why do people do this, again? Then I realized it’s a whole lot of fun, as long as someone pulls you up when you fall down. “It’s all fun and games until someone loses a kidney…” Unfortunately I can’t comment on the music because I was too busy trying not to fall over. Oh well.


I read Cruising Blues a long, long time ago, in high school, and it means much more to me now than it did then. How being alone and feeling empty makes for surprisingly good memories — and why unfamiliar environments breed creativity. Ignore the typos in this copy.

the power of suggestion
Today I signed up for counseling at the health center. It’s no big deal, it’s just something the university offers, and I’m stressed out so I could use some advice. But I began to realize the thin line we walk between sanity and insanity.

Receptionist: How does 12:00 on Monday sound?
Me: That sounds fine.
R: Good, would you like a reminder card?
M: Sure.
R: (handing me a card) Here you go. I wrote down 1:50. Be here ten minutes early.
M: Oh. I thought you said 12:00.
R. No…. I said 2.
M: Oh. I can’t make 2.
R: Well how about Wednesday. And you know, we do have walk-in hours every day, so if you need help right away…
M: Thanks.

“Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck.” — a kid named Ricky, on how to make a marriage work

“Isn’t this what is so wonderful about the internet – its power to connect us across physical or cultural barriers in such an intimate way that it feels like talking to ourselves but better!” — posted at The Obvious? And I agree. That’s what I’m doing here. Kinda talking to myself but not really.