Trial by iTunes Library


I am pleased to report that we have been invited to our first -- oh wait, SECOND! -- party in Chicago. First one was the neighbors knocking on our door and asking if we'd like to share in their BBQ wealth last weekend. I was so happy I pranced right over to their apartment in bare feet. All we had to eat that night was mac n' cheese. (Adeptly zapped in the microwave by Jason.) Only in the midst of shoveling the pasta salad on my plate, standing in the middle of their kitchen, amongst their guests, did I realize that I was violating the "no shirt, no shoes, no service" rule.
But now an invitation has been extended that will require leaving the building and wearing shoes. Part of the pride in this party comes from the fact that it was a little bit of a concern that with Jason working from home much of the responsibility for making connections to the outside world would fall upon me, the Part 1 of 2 who actually leaves the house every morning. However, it's Jason that has the open, midwestern, jovial, and friendly attitude that garners him friends wherever he goes. I grew up with more of the city-dweller, don't look them in the eye and by no means speak to them, attitude. Or at least that's what I say when people ask why I was unpopular in high school. So, what if all of our friendship potential rested on my little introverted shoulders?
Here, however is the challenge: Being a polite houseguest, I asked the co-worker host if I might bring anything to the party. He tallied off the gallons of alcohol he planned to purchase, noted that food was not so necessary, and then replied, "Do you have an iPod?" The suggested assignment was to bring my iPod with music for the party. A cool, modern idea, no doubt. However, quickly my mind fled to all the tracks that would be mortifying to have shuffle on during a party of people who I am trying to impress. Here's a selection of my most mortifying tracks, that would surely inspire all my new co-workers to turn and say, "Is this YOUR iPod- , Claire?!" Ensue the junior high flashbacks...except I didn't have an iPod in j-high, and I also never went to any parties):
- Ice Ice Baby, Vanilla Ice (...cooking MC's like a pound of bacon!)
- Crucify, Tori Amos (or any other the 19 Tori tracks featured in my library. Or any song that in any way suggests that I was ever an emotionally vulnerable liberal arts major. So nix The Story, Sarah Maclachlan, Sinead O'Connor...)
- We Built This City, Starship (from Billboard Hits, 1985)
- Wannabe, Spice Girls
- If the Spice Girls are out, so is Banarama. Yeah, I might challenge anyone to deny that they didn't watch The Karate Kid a million times, but Cruel Summer might not carry me that far.
- Pieces of Me, Ashlee Simpson (I just couldn't get the song out of my head, ok? Had to purchase it via iTunes.)
- Same for Can't Get You Out of My Head, Kylie Minogue (but it's great for the gym.)

And I don't know the crowd well enough yet to know how J-Lo might go, so I'll leave her at home too.
Are there any sure-fire, make-me-popular, songs? If so, send them my way via the comments section!

Can a Trash Can Achieve World Peace?

I love three day weekends. Two days is just not enough. This weekend was so well timed too, in that it gave me a leisurely space of time to do the finishing touches on the apartment.
Am I finished? Oh, no sir, not yet. There's a short list of new furniture and interior accessories that we have determined are necessary. We dawdle in the aisles of Target by this stainless steel kitchen trash can. Wanting it, but also wondering why we'd entertain for a moment paying so much for a trash receptacle. The online reviews are comical though... for a little trash can, it seems to have brought significant happiness into the lives of those who own it: "as soon as i saw this on target.com, i knew i had to have it! it arrived, and i opened it right away! i was so happy!, easy to read directions, and i love that i don't have to touch the trash can anymore! wonderful! it makes a great conversation piece as well! keep up the good work!"
Another Target shopper shares: "My daughter is in love with this trash can..." Oh, so sorry for your daughter.
I think we can downgrade to the version without the infrared sensor. Keepin' it real, you know.
Of course, it's really all stuff that we want, not need. Distinguishing the "want" from the "need" is a first-world problem. (Like worrying about all my clothes not fitting in the carry-on suitcase. Or being concerned that the bottle of shampoo always runs empty before the bottle of conditioner.) I should likely be working more on world peace and less on the relative merits of Target trash cans, regardless of how much happiness and wonder they appear to bring to the world.

We also enjoyed a surprise Memorial Day Weekend BBQ when our neighbors invited us over to share in their party food. Jen & Chad share the back deck of our apartment with us, and they've proven to be the perfect neighbors for those of us new in town. Their puppy, Winston, has tried diligently to play puppy ambassador to Teedie, although so far kitten's been a little like China to the advances. Some signs of openness, but then quickly back within the safe borders of our apartment, with a hiss and quick unsheathing of claws. So far, puppy is not discouraged, and like the U.N. he is faithful to his mission. (I'll try to get a picture of the pup up soon.)

Progress Update


Unintentionally, this blog has turned into a way to keep my three dedicated readers apprised of the move to Chicago. (Ok, two of you, since Jason knows all too well what's going on.)
Here's a little snapshot of progress from our "sunroom." The smallest room and therefore probably the easiest to complete. I'll admit that I tossed the cat in the "After" picture to give it a real finishing touch. He was willing since there was a plant that he thought he might nibble on. Our cat eats plants and flowers. I never knew, before Teedie's arrival, how many plants can be toxic. Happily though, the list of non-toxic plants is longer.

Work, Luck, Connections


As we stopped at a red light on the busy Chicago avenue, the Indian cab driver (with whom Jason had been happily chatting since we'd hopped in) asked if he might pose a question to us. Jason, his mom and I all said sure, wondering what might come next. The driver explained that he liked to ask this question to a number of his passengers: did we think, that simply by working hard one could become rich? Why yes, we all readily responded, although I know my answer trailed off towards the end; I was already reconsidering before I'd finished my sentence. As Americans, all of us the near-offspring of immigrants, certainly we had to believe that hard work will bring wealth. The American dream? And a little bit of luck was the afterthought I'd entertained. And maybe it's also who you know... at least in Chicago politics. (You get 43 articles when you search the Chicago Tribune site for the word "patronage.")
He worked 14 hours a day and the driver explained that even working this way for years and years, he would not be rich. Ok, maybe it's about being successful and happy, not the guarantee of wealth.
It was interesting to be confronted with the disspointments of the American dream so unexpectedly. It made it seem like maybe that whole 'work hard' axiom was something invented by the human resources department of a large corporation, seeking to incentivize employees to be more productive, without ever making a plan for how the rewards might be given.

The Ice (Cream) Man Cometh



Moving to the city has meant numbing our ears to the floors that creak above us as our neighbor moves about, blocking out the sounds of people walking up the alley to their apartments, and the laughter of next door neighbors playing with their puppy. One of the urban sounds I had forgotten about was the sound of the ice cream truck, making its dusk rounds, luring children to the street. It was surprisingly familiar and comforting. A sound that I had missed, without realizing that it was missing. I even had a favorite truck that frequented our neighborhood when I was home from college; the bell sang with random duck quacks, dogs barking and a cute little voice that now sounds a lot like a cell phone ringtone. "Hello!" it gleefully sing-songed as it sat on the corner of our block.
What's funny is that I don't remember ever purchasing any truck ice cream: bomb pops or drumsticks. The ice cream treat that brings on the memories are ice cream sandwiches, which we used to get at the pool in the summertime. Nothing tastes the same... must have been the chlorine.

Day 15: We Venture Out



With Jason's mom being our first official out-of-town guest, we were driven outside to show off our new hometown. A good thing too, as I'm not sure how long it might have taken us to get our tourism done without the prompting of a guest. (Although I do have my King Tut tickets ordered! I hear Oprah was there just last week.)
Today's adventures included the architecture cruise (where they mentioned about 12 times that the whole town had burned down years ago), a strut down Michigan Avenue, and popping up to the top of the Hancock Tower, via the fastest elevator in North America, for a view of the city (see photo above.)

We learned about how the current of the Chicago River was reversed after 5% of the town died from cholera one summer. An engineering feat accomplished only one other time in history, somewhere in Russia. We were advised that Lake Michigan is a great big melted glacier. Lake Michigan impressed me even during our initial house-hunting visits with its expansive size and its beautiful blue-green hue, unlike the color of any lake I'd seen before. Our drinking water is from Lake Michigan, and the pretty color probably makes that fact a little more palatable.

Part of today's education included a recitation of this poem, which captures Chicago's gritty industrial past as well as its stance as a city standing out on the prairie:

CHICAGO by Carl Sandburg

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
luring the farm boys.

And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it
is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to
kill again.

And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the
faces of women and children I have seen the marks
of wanton hunger.

And having answered so I turn once more to those who
sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer
and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing
so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on
job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the
little soft cities...

Bonus Blog (For Friday Enjoyment!)


True, without Jason I might not have learned about mash up's until 2007, so he'll likely take credit for the fact that I think this link is really cool.
A hip-hop/swing dance mix, just right for Friday. The dancers are Al Minns & Leon James, but I really just learned that through some deeper web diving.

My Two Political Questions for This Month


1. Why is the FBI wasting its time looking for Jimmy Hoffa? Maybe I don't care because he disappeared the year I was born...thirty years ago! Keith Oberman of MSNBC drew my attention to the fact that it was the Discovery Channel's MythBusters who concluded that JH isn't buried under Giants Stadium. I suggest we let them take charge of the operation at this farm in Michigan. They can fund the effort by selling commercial time and DVDs and the government can focus on finding people who are alive, like say... Osama bin Laden. If the terror alert level was green, maybe we could have some fun with goose chases in places called
Hidden Dreams. And since I do watch enough Cold Case, all the families whose loved ones are missing must be feeling a mixture of confusion and infuriation to see a 50-person taskforce up on a farm talking about moving a building to get Hoffa, when the cases concerning their brothers, sisters, daughter, sons, husbands and wives grow colder.
2. Why is GWB talking about putting troops on the Mexican border? Once again, committing troops to a mission with an indefinite end. Just a short opinion on that topic.

The Remains of the Move


Is the last part of the job always the hardest part? Now that everything's been pulled out of its respective box, it comes down to finding a home for every object, painting, or pillow in our new home.
The issue of the number of pillows was a recent debate. Jason playing the part of Goldilocks, "This one's too small, this one's too hard, this one's wimpy." Helpful suggestions apparently meant to direct me in deciding which pillows to cast off to the guest room or closet. When I was 7 I had the dream of owning a million pillows. This might have been inspired by the fact that at that age we lived in Japan and had only near-pancake-flat futons as a "couch" (a very generous definition) so pillows were an important supplement. Like old folks who grew up in the depression and maintain a pantry full of canned goods to last the next twenty years, maybe I've been a pillow hoarder ever since. And pillows are so impossibly easy and tempting to acquire. I wanted a couple of thesefrom Target, but restrained. It would have looked nice on the bed with this one in robin's egg blue which I spied on the store shelf. But these two-three pillows remain homeless, left waiting on the shelves of the Evanston Target, hoping for adoption into a good home.

A v. cool sidenote on the apartment decorating topic: I learned that the writer of the Chicago arm of apartmenttherapy.com lives in our neighborhood!

Choo-Choo!

I returned to being a train commuter yesterday, taking the train to work for the first time here in Chicago. Train commuting has its pro's and con's.
Pro's:
- It's easier to wake up wicked early in the morning when there's the promise of a nap on the train. Not an option in a car.
- Friendly to bookworms. I was very impressed when Uncle Paul reported that he'd read all of Shakespeare's plays during his train commuting days. Maybe I'll be able to get through more cover-to-cover Economists.
- Less concentration required when you're not in charge of the vehicle. More time for daydreams.
- Maybe lower car insurance when I can honestly report to the insurance company that I drive so little.

Con's:
- No longer in charge of my schedule. The train comes and goes at 7:42 am, whether I'm on it or not.
- Running for the train when you're late is so publicly humiliating. Everyone knows and watches to see if you'll make it or not.
- The weather actually matters when you're walking to the station and standing on an unprotected platform awaiting the train. I might reconsider my shoe collection accordingly.
- The privacy and peace and quiet of one's own private vehicle is lost. Yesterday I listened to a inane phone conversation by a chatty girl for nearly the entire commute. I knew it would be bad when she boasted to the person on the other line that she knew the cellular dead spots on the ride so well that if she shut her eyes and was only on the phone, she'd know exactly which station the train was pulling into. Although I was a little pleased when her phone cut out twice when she was not confidently expecting it. She insinuated to her friend that since she had been complaining about the phone company, maybe they knew and had intentionally cut the service. Like someone's listening... of course, with the latest NSA news, maybe someone is. But if they are like me, they only cut the line because her chatter was so irritating. (Actually, could you imagine if the government's spying goes deeper and there's an NSA analyst whose job it might genuinely be to listen to America's cell phone calls? A million, "Hey hon, just wanted to let you know, I'm on my way home." or a trillion, "Where you at?" and "What are you doing?" "Nuthin."'s)
I tried so hard not to listen, but only realized that I was obviously a rookie for boarding the train in the morning without my iPod.

Let's Just Skip to the End


Yeah, the previous title made it seem like I might offer a narrative trilogy of our move to the Windy City. I might have done, if I had one of those fancy Verizon Wireless internet cards for my laptop. But no such luck and don't you know that I have been without internet for nearly a week due to the move? I missed you so, worldwide web.
Our road trip to Chicago took just about 6 1/2 hours. I'd prepared myself for a longer trip, but the delightful surprise of the journey was that Indiana's speed limit is 70 mph! Jason and I employed the thoughtful gift from Hugh of walkie-talkies to communicate during the drive, since we each had a vehicle to relocate. (Huh, this is the second post where I've noted a thoughtful and useful gift from Juliet and Hugh. Part homage to their considerate gift-giving, and maybe just a little encouragement to embrace and continue the tradition! Thanks for the housewarming gift too, by the way.) Every hour or so Jason radio'd over, "Wow, this is going great! We are making great time!" Indeed, we did. And along the way we saw the RV Hall of Fame. This was a special and distinct occasion to radio each other. It was under construction though, so we didn't stop. But since I had a drugged kitten in the passenger seat, it was probably better. Poor little guy could only meow meekly and plaintively, seeming to ask, "Why are you doing to this to me? I haaaate cars!" The drugs may have been what kept Teedie calm when he met his new neighbor, bull mastiff puppy, Winston. Two animals named for historical world leaders. If only we'd named Teeds for the later Roosevelt, and there was a third animal named Stalin (maybe a rat?), we'd have an animal recreation of Yalta.
Driving through Indiana, we hit the city of Gary. So not the town of Music Man fame. It was stinky, industrial, and the most curious thing was that we seemed to find ourselves in a storm of dirt. At first I wondered if it was a gravel truck ahead of us, or maybe rain that just looked dark because we were reaching the evening hours. Nope, dirt. Dirt blowing all around us, as though it was falling from the sky, for a good mile.
By tomorrow we will have been here for one week already. We had an energetic burst of unpacking initially, but the progress seems to have slowed now that we have the essentials available (bed, couch, and for Jason: flat panel monitors, computers, wireless mice, headset, and other techno gadgets.) Tonight we enjoyed our first Chicago pizza, a much heartier endeavor than the thin crust C-bus style pizza. Over an inch depth of solid cheese. Full after just one to two slices each, we have put the remainder in the fridge, and may not have to go out again for food for another week.

Moving Day! (Part 1 of 3)

Today I am trying my very hardest to be unobtrusive. I'm quickly being surrounded by boxes, packing paper, and rolls of tape as my movers assess each item of my home for its ability to fit into the nearest open box. I'm here ostensibly to oversee and manage, and answer questions like "Is this going into the master in the new apartment?" or "Is this an antique?" and "It's a third floor walk-up that you're moving into?" But really it's easy to feel kind of useless. I sit and watch three guys work. Let's not forget that I am also keeping an eye on our moderately freaked out kitten. He's staying in the basement now, with occasional cautious forays upstairs to look the movers up and down warily. Today is Day 1 of what may be at least a three-day move adventure. Day 1: Pack. Day 2: Load. Day 3: Unload, Unpack. Of course, I just supervise.

But why is it today that my cell phone decides to launch no higher than one little bar? I'm thinking of going to Verizon tonight and trading up. I'm eligible for the new phone anyway, but I was planning on waiting to see if a Chicago number made sense. I'm inclined to keep the C'bus number. Whilst some folk keep their numbers for the panache of the area code, or the emotional tie to home, keeping mine will be a practical choice. If Jason keeps his longstanding 614 digits, I don't want a long distance call every time I'm calling to say I'll be late.

According to a report referenced in the afore-linked NYT article (above) twenty million wireless subscribers have ditched their land lines. They call us "cord cutters." But the bummer is that when that little cell phone decides to throw a tempter tantrum I go from extreme of being very well-telecommunicated back to the dark ages of wondering where there might be a payphone.

Once a Week, I Get Smarter

Airplanes and a subscription to The Economist (thanks to Juliet & Hugh) make me smarter. The airplane only because it offers the time to truly digest the noteworthy publication. Each week, when at home, I make an honest effort to get into the articles, through the Americas, Asia, Europe and sometimes even to the Middle East Africa (the contents are organized geographically.) And even after that there are the sections on books, arts and science, which I usually only reach if I decide to read from back cover to front. There's just so much to know in each skinny little issue!
I was surprised, but also a little impressed, when The Economist endorsed Kerry in our last election. (I waited with suppressed glee for the next time that my former boss, and proudly obstinate Republican, brought up the election and his primarily economic rationale for the voting preference. Regrettably, the opportunity never arose.) One of my "favourite" Bush critique covers is shown above. British spelling a nod to The Economist. Note where the "hot air on WMD" arrow points to...
Although last week's issue put the endorsement context, that "this newspaper narrowly favoured Mr. Kerry's incoherence over Mr. Bush's incompetence." So sad for America.
One relevant fact I learned from The Economist today, a Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 57% of American teenagers create content for the internet. (This can be as in-depth as creating videos or maintaining a blog or as minimal as posting an album review or comments on a book from amazon.) This fact was delivered in the magazine's comment that media has become far more participatory than years past. I wondered if they include dialing in for your favorite American Idol contestant. Which I've never done, swear.
 

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