Today’s bad idea

…was making canned Cream of Broccoli soup with soy milk. Beware, folks. Beware.

Notes after a weekend in the woods, delivered in the mental voice of Will Ferrell as a children’s soccer coach in Kicking and Screaming

Just don’t try to drive a Buick down a lane filled with two feet of snow. Ok? OK??? DON’T DO IT. You will FAIL MISERABLY. You will literally be stuck… in the snow… without a way to get out… at all… ever. Until you call the lady who’s renting you your cabin and she shows you pussies how it’s DONE by showing up in her Jeep, an actually USEFUL vehicle and not one made for rich old men who, in 1993, liked to drive to the country club and back — while you are LOUNGING like lazy assholes on the hood of your incapacited car waiting for help. And she will get a tow strap and hook it to your bumper and spin you around multiple times and then jam the Jeep’s bumper into yours in some psychotic attempt to free your pussy wagon and then you will realize she’s doing all of this WITH TWO TODDLERS IN THE BACK SEAT OF HER CAR. And then finally — A BLANKIE WILL SAVE YOUR ASS. She will put a fleece blanket under one of her back tires, giving her enough traction to tow your lame ass, over the top of a hill allowing you to then SLED the rest of the mile to the road, the actual road, where your ROAD PUSSY CAR belongs. AND THEN to TOP IT ALL OFF, you will end your night A) EXHAUSTED BECAUSE YOU ARE INCAPABLE OF SUSTAINING MOTION AFTER ALL THAT EXCITEMENT and B) So stupid that you left all your digital video discs in Chicago and you will be FORCED to watch Kicking and Screaming, starring Will Ferrell as a terrible children’s soccer coach, because it’s the only DVD you can find in the cabin.

Just returned

From a cabin in the woods. I will report more later, but suffice it to say, there was a moment when I wasn’t sure we would make it back by today.

A 75 year-old grocery store that died

I’ve got a new story up at Gapers Block, words written by me and cool photo essay by David Schalliol. It’s about the Hyde Park Co-Op, a cooperatively run grocery store near the University of Chicago that closed yesterday.

I spent much of Sunday at the grocery store, wrote the whole thing in about three hours, took enough of a break that I could think straight, spent another hour editing, shipped it off to the fabulous Amanda B. for another pass, and then sent it in around 1:30am. I have to say, I secretly and deeply love talking to people about their obsessions. Many people who showed up for the farewell to their neighborhood grocery store were passionately devoted to the community ideals that the store represented, at a time when so many of us aren’t passionate about much of anything.

Pandora again

Every few weeks I remember that Pandora exists. And so I spend the entire day listening to songs related by musical heritage to the White Stripes, Ben Harper, Daft Punk, Girl Talk, Aimee Mann, whoever I can of. I’m discovering new artists this way, which is the point of Pandora, and it’s made me think: I was not born with whatever gene makes you love music. Music always seemed cryptic, someone else always had more opinions about it, loved it more deeply and truly, knew what was Good and not Sell-Out music. I felt lost.

I remember these things:
My dad sung “Hey Jude” to me as a lullabye, and we danced endlessly to the Beach Boys’ Christmas album, Michael Jackson’s Thriller and a copy of a Paula Abdul tape that my uncle made for my dad. The first tape I bought with my own money was by Moxy Fruvous, a tape I listened to first in the shower and then after school, every day, until I memorized it. I got a summer job at a grocery store, which paid minimum wage minus hundreds of dollars in union dues, and could wrangle enough money for some music. My first CDs were: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’s album with their one huge radio hit on it — because it made me want to jump around, a Goo Goo Dolls CD that had “Name” on it, Beck’s Odelay because it sounded unlike anything I’d ever heard, REM’s Automatic for the People because I loved “Nightswimming”, the Blues Traveler CD with “Run Around” on it, and Barenaked Ladies’ Born on a Pirate Ship, because I heard they were a must for anyone living near the Canadian border.

I remember these CDs because I couldn’t figure them out… I read the liner notes religiously, fingering the smooth paper, clasping and unclasping the plastic cases. How did these objects come to be? I never played an instrument — it was all a foreign land; how did you know what was good, what was intellectually “good” versus what made you dance, what made you think, what made your heart burst at the seams (was music supposed to do that?)

I am learning that it’s ok to like things because you just like them. You don’t need to explain, it doesn’t need to be The Latest Cool Band or the One True Artist Who Really Gets You. You can just listen.

It’s cold

Which means I am wrapped in blankets, with coffee and burning candles all around, one must be apple-scented because it smells like pie in here, and squirrels aren’t scuffling around in the attic like usual and it’s so quiet I can finally take a deep breath, one deep breath.

Potential band names that may or may not already be taken

1) The Milk Fund

2) Rat Heart

3) Attic Squirrel

4) Roy Carlson

5) Nice Hoodie

Saturday morning musings

K: I wish I had a motto. A motto that I always lived by.
Me: You have a motto.
K: I do?
Me: Yeah… I don’t remember what it is…. Live free or die?
K: That’s New Hampshire’s state motto.


Sometimes I feel like a space alien. For hours at a time, coherent words and phrases trip merrily off my tongue and then the whole thing derails, I am vague and confused and insecure, and how did it jump the rails? When I was young my sisters and I would speak in made-up alien languages to confuse strangers at, say, Disney World while on vacation. Sometimes I feel like I do that accidentally, and I wish I could flip a switch and begin speaking Human again.

Here and sick

I stayed home from work today with the kind of cold where you sneeze every two minutes and it feels like damp white bread is stuffed between your ears and behind your eye sockets. This gave me a chance to sit on the couch and marvel at a few things:

1) The odd creativity created by the stillness of not having to be anywhere or do anything for anyone. I’d be a genius if I had a trust fund.

2) The way Kleenexes become twisty and crumply after just a few minutes held in a fist. What gives?

3) The fact that my dreams last night consisted soley of Venture Brothers characters invading my everyday life. Because I fell asleep watching Kevin’s DVD of season 2, no doubt.

I went to the Chinese medicine doctor, who said I had an attack of Wind-Cold. Which I can only imagine is true, given the 13 degree-weather outside. I’ve also read that wind is “change” and the cold is your “resistance to change” — a spiritual reason for illness. This intrigues me. I’m sure I’m mostly resistant to the change from blissful warm summer to the icy winterness, but… perhaps there’s more to it.