Friends stayed at my house on Friday night. I was a stopping point for their trek to a wedding further west the next evening.
We did what one should do in Chicago — eat. After a subpar experience at a restaurant with too-kind Yelp reviews and duck fritters that might have just been chicken maybe(?), we decided to walk around and wing it.
That’s always when the best things happen.
We ended up at a Thai restaurant that we smelled a block away. The weather was lovely, so the place had its sidewalk-to-ceiling windows open and the scent of spicy chili noodles, curried meats, and delicate fried crab drew us toward it. I don’t even know if we walked there or floated on the fumes, mouths agape.
The only reason we made it out of there with leftovers was because we had eaten beforehand. The next morning, I packed the cartons into a brown paper bag for my friends to take with them on their drive. I included some fruit, a few donuts, and plastic silverware I’d saved from long-forgotten takeout trips.
Before they drove away, they thanked me for taking care of them. It was nothing, I said. And really it wasn’t. It was just love by way of clean sheets and a packed lunch.
I thought of all this today as I tried to write a few lines for my grandma’s obituary, the use of which is quickly approaching.
It’s comforting that my family, like me, turns to getting work done in moments of sadness or overwhelming emotion; one might consider preparing photos for the funeral and an obituary for the newsmen before my grandma actually passes as morbid or denying in-the-moment grief, and maybe it is a little bit.
But I prefer to think we’re proactive. Realistic. Farmers. Doing this work now makes logistics easier when the real loss hits. Work is where we find solace — it’s the only thing we can control. And taking control of our own lives and experiences is a way to honor the lives of the family who worked so hard before us.
I get my callous work ethic honest.
As I do my enjoyment of hosting.
A line I wrote for grandma’s article (one of only a few I could actually muster):
“Carolyn was as quick with a comeback as she was a homemade sandwich for your journey home after a visit.”
Take me out to the bathroom, am I right? Coming at ya from Jacob’s FieldOmar Vizquel’s Castle Progressive Field in CLE.
There’s no jazz hands in baseball!
This is the menu for one of five salons within three blocks of my apartment. Gotta stay competitive. Who knew waxing could be so fun?
I’m obsessed with this city. Steady. Pulsing. Strong. Brass. Balls.
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
(mindfulness circa William Blake)
For the love of all things unholy, have you watched this Showtime series? It’s on Netflix and I finished two seasons in a week. Sultry, smoldering, steamy, and spooky—it’s got everything *and* Josh Hartnett. Plus, the beaten down prostitute Brona Croft turned femme fatale man killer Lily Frankenstein story line is EVERYTHING.
I turned the subtitles on to watch Penny Dreadful (same with Peaky Blinders) because those damn accents, and the pleasure of viewing is amplified by reading the lines. The language has transformed into a character itself as I watch. It’s hard to imagine living in a time as terrible as Victorian London, but, silver lining here, at least they had the time and sadness to memorize Yeats and Blake and Shakespeare!
The show’s recurring use of the song “The Unquiet Grave” has haunted me for days. I know that tune from my days as a kid in the Catholic church. But these were definitely not the lyrics. Shudder.
Jean leaned over for Richard’s lighter, bumping his bourbon with her breast on purpose.
“All I’m saying, is it’s no coincidence that men are the ones who name their sons after themselves and not the women. It’s like building phallic statues everywhere and putting your names on them.”
Richard caught her slender wrist and pulled her hand from the lighter slowly, as if he were pulling apart one of his wife’s grilled cheese sandwiches. He reached for her other wrist and gently pushed the cigarette onto her lips. He clicked the metal wheel and held up the flame.
“Ah, you’re taking it as an insult when it should be a point of pride. As men, we are proud of our names. That’s our heritage, our line. Do you know what it’s like to survive out here as a man? That’s worth celebrating. Passing down. Sometimes it’s all a man’s got, his name. Hell, I’ll probably give Jr. my lighter here too someday.”
Jean smirked and blew out the flame.
“Bartender, do you have a pack of matches?” she purred.
“See now there. Why do you women’s libbers get to use your femininity when it works for you?”
“Oh, jealous are we? That’s not going to do you any good tomorrow at round two.”
Richard thought about that. He and Jean were at the bar of the Ritz in Hollywood, staying the night before filming of the popular game show “Match Game.” Jean was his competition and she’d beaten him in all the practice rounds today.
He knew most of that game was luck. Sure, how could he know what some celebrity like Betty White was thinking? But no one likes losing, and he definitely did today.
“Tell me something, Jean. How do you decide what you’re going to guess in the game?”
A velvety plume of smoke trailed from Jean’s lips as she exhaled.
“You can’t overthink it. Usually your first thought is also theirs. There’s no right or wrong answer, but there’s always an obvious one.”
The phone at the end of the bar rang.
“Excuse me. Are you Mr. Richard Henley?” called out the bartender, the phone receiver pressed to his chest.
“That’s Mr. Richard Henley Senior to you, sir,” Jean said, smiling.
Richard raised his eyebrow at her and got up from his stool. He took the phone and turned his back to Jean, watching the bassist on stage play quietly as he listened to his wife tell him about little Richie’s home run earlier that day.
“I miss you too, dear.”
As he sat back down, Jean gave him an inquisitive look.
“Tell me something, Richard the First. Do you really love your wife?”
No one had ever asked him that question before. Richard really liked Jean. She was brave, the kind of woman it felt OK to lose to. She could make it in a man’s world, with or without any match game.
“You can’t overthink it,” he said, pulling his hand from hers. He put money for both their drinks on the bar and headed upstairs to go to bed.
There’s a little Indiana town I always drive through on my way to and from Ohio.
It looks like all the other little Indiana towns, which look like all the little Ohio towns, which probably look like all the little towns in the midwest. I’m assuming. I’ve never driven through them.
But it’s sweet and quaint. Green with life and dotted in small sheds, gas stations, food stops and dusty well-meaning billboards. The working-man homes pop up like stitches on an embroidered quilt, passed down from generation to generation.
I don’t know why I note it on my drive, back and forth back and forth, but I always do. Probably because it’s called Warsaw.
It was named after *that* Warsaw. So titled in 1836, in homage to the Polish capital, a place with a history that dwarfs everything about this one.
On my last trip home, “A Horse With No Name” came on the radio while in Warsaw. Maybe this is also why I mentally tick off when I’ve hit it during my drives. Its oldies station is a bright spot in a long trip of landing my radio dial on songs I love only to be hit with an accompaniment of static right when it gets to the chorus (always the best parts to sing with the windows rolled down).
I wait for the song to end before I pull over for gas.
I park my car and think why don’t I live somewhere like this?
The thing about small towns is that they’re really lovely. Mine is just not a soul that sings best in their bounty. I like the city. I particularly like this Chicago city, blue collar grit with grassroots culture—a place where I can be a horse with no name as I figure out what I want to do next.
But I get the appeal of small towns. I grew up in one and I miss it sometimes. Small town communities and all they represent were long the American Dream for a reason.
I lean on the hood as fuel chugs into my little car, my baby blue horse for the day. An old man in overalls waves and wishes me a good day. I light up and give the same in return. With my particular background, I can be a chameleon. I can fit in at a rave or in a hog barn. I know how to handle both, and some part of me longs for both lifestyles. And I really do enjoy all the different situations—city or country—I can be placed in as long as I can leave both whenever I want.
There was a grieving I went through in my twenties after college. A loss I sensed of a childhood home I knew I’d never go back to. I am fortunate to have the choice and ability to land wherever I want, but it’s still a loss to know you may never have a big backyard for your own children to play in or that you won’t be able to hop over to a sibling’s house to catch lighting bugs just because why the hell not, it’s Wednesday. No matter how close I am to my people at home, there will always be a distance and some part of me, the part that basks in the glow of concrete and skyscrapers and the potential for something new and exciting to happen, will always feel removed… understood and cherished only by me.
In that distance I’ve learned a lot about what it means to make a space for yourself where you know no one. And because of that, I know my chameleon quality extends beyond my personality and life experience. It can also be attributed to my gender, my age, my whiteness. It’s easy to fit in everywhere when you are trusted immediately. What a gift. A gift that so many people don’t get to experience. A security, safety and peace that so many will never know.
Today I’m back in Chicago. I don’t know my neighbors and I don’t really want to because I have work—creative, life-affirming, must-get-it-out-of-me work—I want to focus on without distractions for a while. We’re stacked on top of each other. It’s hot and it’s tight and it’s fucking brilliant.
I like to go and sit on the harbor and take a break to watch the water sometimes. It strikes me how I can see this huge body of water bouncing rhythmically like some apocalyptic force is moving underneath it, yet only hear the lapping of the water right beneath me.
Life feels like that today. Sometimes we get too lost in ourselves and our own experiences. We can’t hear the rest of those around us, even though we’re all moved by the same force. We don’t consider those who don’t live like us because it seems so far away.
Human history is all of ours to consider. It hurts, but we need to hear it. We need to keep listening even when we’re exhausted. Right now, my experience in America is getting to live in a place where I willingly have no name, where I don’t want to be known as I work and I know I’m probably safe regardless.
But others don’t have that.
We remember their names — names like Warsaw, like Alton Sterling — for a reason.
So this movie doesn’t even belong in the line to register to take the Bechdel Test, but no matter. It’s a holiday and that means your brain and social responsibility can take a vacay.
It’s not just the Fourth of July on which this tale of Russia v. Rocky/USAUSAUSA is appropriate. Nay, this is a fun romp for all the biggies: Christmas, Easter, Halloween and New Year’s Day.
1) While it would seem to any mere mortal who hasn’t watched this movie at least 10 times that this is just a boxing movie about avenging a friend and healing two countries’ wounds and ending Communism in a one-two punch, they would be giving it too much credit but would also not be wrong. It’s also a movie about personal ethics, personal power and personal growth delivered on a gold platter crafted from Dolph Lundgren’s manically chiseled sweaty abs. God bless America.
2) There’s a robot! Not just any robot: a robot that appears to babysit the children while all the adults are away. And not just any children: the child of Rocky and Adrian AND his friends. Like… how did that happen? Did the parents just drop off their pre-teen sons to a robot in an apron and say, “I’ll pick him up after the child in your care’s father is beaten to a pulp half a world away, Robot. We’re going to Chi-Chi’s.” Isn’t that silly? Answer: It is. And it was put in the plot with no real explanation and approved by hundreds of people who make movies for a living. The robot is just a device for humor-kind-of and nothing about it beyond that was really thought out.
This. This is the world we live in and it is absurd. That is comforting confirmation of all of the ridiculousness you feel is taking place outside your living room and second bag of Doritos; comforting confirmation by way of a sassy robot with no real purpose. In the movie biz, we call that an easy pill to swallow on holiday.
3) Montages. So. Many. Montages. The best is the training juxtaposition of Rocky doing the old-school, hard-knocks method and Drago jamming and juicing in what looks like a soviet laser tag arena. The scene is set to a sweet little diddy called “Hearts on Fire” by John Cafferty. Literally the whole song. That’ll boot the holiday tunes that have been on repeat since fall right on out of your pretty little head. How many montages are too many? None because this is America but also Russia but also the world and that matters and that’s what we learn in the end. Confused? You’re not alone. NONE OF US ARE ALONE.
4) James Brown sings as Apollo dances in a top hat and sequin jacket. Then he dies. Spoiler.
5) “You cut him! You hurt him! You see? You see? He’s not a machine. He’s a man!” I genuinely tear up every time Duke delivers this line in the final fight. Whatever is happening tomorrow, when it’s time to take your PJs off and act like a “real” person, you too can conquer the world. Or at least a 6-foot-five doped up Russian. Which, let’s be honest, is what the first day back to reality always feels like.
No new tchotchkes, kittens, magazines, books, planners, planners for next year, journals, salt and pepper shakers, couches, love seats, air plants, gourmet lotions (?), gourmet candles (??), gourmet cooker sets, records, photo frames, posters, pillows, shoes, clothes, lamps.
Hey wait. What’s this?
Does it appear gaudy?
Would three out of five people call it “too much”?
I’ll take it!
No. Put the crush velvet macramé dream catcher down.
Go home. Get to work.
What do you want to do? What do you want to make? How do you want to spend your time?
Hey, did you know your life is slowly being ripped away from you? Every second some piece of you dies in a territorial trudge toward decay?
No, wait, sit down at that computer! Get out from under those covers.
Don’t let all this nothingness scare you away from getting started on making everything you ever *really* wanted happen! We meant that as motivation!
All we’re saying is that stuff has become a distraction. What did you buy. Oh how cute. It is. No I really think so. Here. Take a pic. Use this filter. Look what I got. Saved so much! Saved everything but myself!
Too many things to eventually give away. Too many things that own you when you’re trying to find new ways to own yourself.
“No new stuff” is rooted in focus.
… Or is it rooted in freedom?
You’re part of a generation that doesn’t need a lot of stuff. There’s a store that sells all you need.
As seen on TV.
Even if a zombie came a-knocking on your door, you could just run over to the CVS for a knife kit and Gatorade. No need to borrow sugar from your neighbor or pack up the blankets for next winter. The onion cellar is obsolete when the big box seller is right next door.
If you can’t bring yourself to cut down the amount you own, just take it to mom and dad’s. This is what the Baby Boomers fought for, after all.
Your life is better than theirs in so many ways. You feel safe and surrounded by enough to not have to store empty margarine containers under your bed just in case a Great Depression happens again and you can’t afford Tupperware. You, young adult in 2016, can free up your space, which means you can free up your mind.
No need to put water in your bottle of Pert to help it last longer. You’ve made it in America. You are free.
“No new stuff” is rooted in independence.
… Or is it rooted in guilt?
Is this just how we starve ourselves? A strike motivated by helplessness as the whole world gurgles and gasps under a pile of trash.
On second glance, maybe that’s why the zombies knocking on the door look so familiar.
How do we make this better? They howl with a hunger no amount of corner store cellophane foodstuffs could ever fill.
Yas. Mr. Knuckles bringing the word power. I’ll remember his name because of that saying more than yet another sticker of a Sailor Jerry-style pin-up.
You know who didn’t hit empty? Whoever wrote this.
I’ve been feeling the seventies lately. I recently watched the CNN series about the decade on Netflix, but I think a lot of my obsession can be attributed to how perfect music from the seventies is for summer weekends spent trying to not give a fuck. I love this Google Music playlist, “Boogie Nights Pool Party.” The description about as fun.
I heard this on a long car commute recently. It’s one of those songs that you forget about and then when you hear it again you think, “Why does this never make my mental Top Ten Most Favorite Songs of All Time/ Jackie’s Life list?” The lyrical cadence takes me to another place entirely. A memory maybe. The best kind of memory.
Here’s another obscure hit I adore for its lyrical ability to transport me somewhere sweaty. Happy summer, lovers.
Overheard at Belmont Harbor
Free to a good screenplay about a curmudgeonly octogenarian who walks with his wife by the water every Monday to feed bread crumbs to the seagulls.
“It’s terrorism. But it’s relatively far away. The average American doesn’t know about it. We’re the only people who read three newspapers every morning.”
I generally think professional sports fandom is kind of dumb.
Just kind of dumb.
There’s a difference.
My watching of every Pretty Little Liars episode is kind of dumb.
My old flame for Perez Hilton (dot com… circa 2009) is stupid.
Sportz! I don’t understand why people care about it all so much. It’s not like those players come from the town they play for.
So do they really represent your people or your city or state? Your struggle?
They’re just the outward-facing arm of huge corporations taking your money based on selling you a dream that isn’t yours to have. And sometimes they hide terrible truths so you keep cheering and filling the stands and buying $7 hot dogs.
Maybe I’m just jaded.
I’m maybe definitely jaded.
But justifiably so, right?
Have we not learned you can’t really trust your heroes? They’re desperately human too. Tiger. OJ. Cosby. Clinton. Clinton. Jackson. Martha. Etc.
But I just watched LeBron and the Cavs break a 52-year championship losing streak for a city in my home state. The sultan of scoring has dribbled his sport’s silly little way into this cold, listless heart.
The best part of this story is that he was a Northeast Ohio boy. Born and raised and prodigal sonned. It doesn’t get much better or relatable than that.
However, I think my favorite part about sports is how reliant they are on structure and time.
There are rules and penalties for breaking them.
It doesn’t matter how hard you played or how far you came back or what you scored.
If your number isn’t higher by the time we get to zero, you lose.
The answer is clear.
Man, in today’s ambiguous world, that shot clock’s exactingness is some straight up poetry.
Marketing a fish restaurant would be so fun! There’s so much you could do with it. Sink Swim’s take reels me in. Sophisticated but cheeky. Love it — and that little sailor hat logo. The chef is a Kent State grad, too, which means we used to swim in the same school? Eh?
This Ontario band has been my jam lately when I need to not jam. Ambient and chill as a creek in a long-forgotten woods, Alaskan Tapes’s music has been perfect lately when I need to calm down and focus… or calm down and zone out. DON’T TELL ME TO CALM DOWN.
I found this song, through Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist, which updates, you guessed it, once a week. Spotify curates the list well. It’s on point for delivering deep cuts for genre surfers like me. It’s like someone picking the best of every city’s local scene and putting it on a playlist for you. Every week. I can dig it.
“OJ: Made in America”
Oh my gawd. Have you been watching this? Get to it. Stat.
“OJ: Made in America” is a five-part series on ESPN about OJ Simpson’s career and absolutely unprecedented historic crash and burn.
It is incredible just in terms of the way the documentary delivers his pre-trial and juxtaposes his denial of his race at a time and in a place where racism was literally making things explode. This is outstanding storytelling.
OJ’s life hits on everything that is still relevant today.
Systemic and soul crushing racism.
Domestic violence that turns into murder.
Athletic entitlement and hero worship.
It’s disheartening how similar many of these cases of racism and power privilege are to ones we’ve seen in recent years.
This series asks viewers to consider transcending your Otherness and how best to do that or if it’s even possible. Do you fight for the cause, for your people, for yourself? Or do you ignore it in an attempt to have everyone else, including those who are oppressing your and your people, ignore your Otherness too?
It’s important to fully understand what was happening around this case. I still have to finish the series, but I’ve been most surprised at how big of a star, renowned by the media for his “character,” OJ was (as a ‘90s kid, he has always been that OJ) AND how little I actually know about the specifics of the racial horrors happening at the time and the murder victims of this case.
I also hope this documentary sheds a little light on why women stay in domestic violence situations, what it can lead to, how abusers so often dupe outsiders, and how other women perpetuate the problem (his first wife, who is probably righteously angry at Nicole, brushes his violence off in an interview snidely, that it’s something she’d never let happen to her…).