There’s an “us” in “bus”

I am going alone on a bus to Cincinnati. I will not lie – this is not my favorite idea ever. But the ticket was cheap and my friend Kirsten is suffering away in Ohio. I must go. I return on Monday morning to the shores of Chicagoland. Wish me well.

On beautiful days

On beautiful days, my motivation to do anything remotely productive just slip-slides away. This Sunday, it was 80 degrees, which meant walking around Andersonville in a short skirt, sipping homemade smoothies, stopping in the Mexican bakery for churros… it was waking up after a long cold nap to see the neighborhood splitting at the seams with people who’ve been inside far too long.

Writer I like

Anne Lamott is one of my favorite writers, in part because she writes things like this: “Left to its own devices, her mind is a fat hummingbird flitting
through leafy trees of anxiety, apology, sorrow, excuses, and dreams
of grandeur, dreams of humiliation. Sometimes she watches it run off,
and it makes her laugh and shake her head. It’s like a video game.
Bright fast blips of worry and anger come at her, and, after fending
them off, she’s attacked by the huge lumbering Czechoslovakian blobs
of tiredness and broken-spiritedness which break into small, faster
missiles of regret when she fires at them. What a half-baked species
we are, she thinks, and does what she can to make her insides more
habitable. ”

She’s coming to Writers on the Record, which was sold out by the time I called for tickets. Sigh.

Better than expected

I’m listening to Elliot Smith right now. It reminds me of college, sitting around in our big living room with the wood floors and ratty couches, sipping cheap red wine and waiting for the end of the world. Kevin has some friends in from out of town who are still in college and in Chicago on spring break. They were fascinated that he found someone to date outside of college… it reminded me of how life outside of college used to seem like a huge, swirling mass of grown-ups in ill-fitting suit jackets. Glad that’s over.

Stories and wine

Come see me on April 28th at Serendipity Theatre Collective’s 2nd Story Festival: “2nd Story is a hybrid performance event combining storytelling, wine, and music that is produced by the Serendipity Theater Collective as both a Monthly Performance Series and an Annual Festival. A typical 2nd Story evening goes something like this: you hang out with your friends at Webster’s Wine Bar and eat and drink and make merry, and four or five times during the night, the lights go down, a spot comes up on somebody—maybe the person sitting next to you!—and they tell you a story. It’s a great time, and our hope is that if we do our job right, you’ll leave telling your own stories.”

I’m appearing on a night with the theme of “Fight the Power.” My story is about teaching and being laid off within six weeks of starting. It’s uplifting.

Buy tickets. Hang out. Drink wine. Mmm.


Leonard Cohen said that if your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. Things are burning well, clove cigarettes on a 70-degree night… pass me that lighter… take a match to that candle. Last weekend I roadtripped to Wisconsin and bummed around a tiny farm town. We hiked around Devil’s Lake and over abandoned train tracks, stayed in Linda and Steve’s mini-cabin of stuffed owls and giant tree murals, drank free coffee in the morning, ate bad Chinese food in the afternoon, walked around Madison for a day, spent an hour walking down Williamson St. and found a flea market in an old movie theater where we could get popcorn with real butter for the walk back to the car. I haven’t found the bigger picture yet; I’m just collecting little bits of ash and flame while they last.


There is now a Judy Garland album on the doorframe next to the Def Leppard album. The records appear to be multiplying. Like gremlins.

My own mix

I have been a hoarder of mix CDs for years. (Tapes, you were before my time.) With my first real boyfriend came the dawning of the mix CD, where I’d spend hours searching for the hidden messages between the lyrics, playing the same mix over and over while thinking about who’d made it, placing those songs forever into their own category of You Are Here. Each mix I’ve received is its own time capsule — or really, capsule. I think of those old Dexatrim ads that showed the little yellow and red miniscule beads of medicine pouring out of a gel cap. Recently I made my very first mix CD. I mean, not just a bunch of songs that I thought the other person would like but a crafted mix with tonal shifts, attention to genre and volume, and song choices that were cryptic but not too cryptic. And I finally understood the lure of saying something with music that you loved and wanted to give to someone else.

Objects I can see from my desk

A plastic brontasaurus. Three thoughtful postcards from a donor to the Neo-Futurists who lives in Pennsylvania. A styrofoam coffee cup from the Jewish deli down the street. A bottle of wine. A coil of rope. A stuffed dog. A desk fan. An electric heater. A clock with a paper Santa hat on top. A Def Leppard album (Pyromania). My coat. A headshot of Ryan Walters. A piece of paper with a pig drawn on it that reads in child’s handwriting, “Arella Vargas is Extremely Cool (not dorky) and unnaturally good at drawing pigs.” A pack of Oreos with six cookies left in it. Another electric heater. A dark room timer. Two dying viney plants. A tupperware container of tiny plastic salamanders. And 22 Post-It notes.

Not a quiet place

I found some of the most peace I’ve ever experienced in Copenhagen, where I studied during my junior year of college. Lately, due to protests over the city’s eviction of youth who lived in a downtown building, it’s been anything but peaceful.