Thursday, March 30, 2006

There were never more devoted sisters

Everyone says to me that they are so surprised my sister and are-—sisters. We look very different on first glance. She has a sweetheart shaped face and an adorable button nose, and I have a long oval face and the nose of a Roman senator. She has strawberry kissed blonde curly hair and I have the straightest dishwater blonde hair you’ve ever seen. Where we match are our almond eyes in the perfect green and our Cupid’s arrow mouths.

My friends from college once ate at an Indian restaurant in the Highlands neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. They saw a woman there who looked just like a clone of me, and knowing my sister lived nearby they both craned their necks to stare at this woman through their entire meal and speculated that she must be my sister. My friends told me this story and laughed at the conclusion when they said “so if your sister complains that when she was eating at an Indian restaurant, these two weirdos wouldn’t quit staring at her, then that was us!” I got very serious and said, “that’s great, but my sister and I don’t look alike at all.” This made us laugh even harder. Imagine some poor young woman who coincidentally looks like me being stared down during an otherwise pleasant evening out by a young married couple!

But more than our physical selves, people often say that my sister and I are nothing alike in our personalities. This is what surprises me most. I can look at our images together in a photograph and see where we look very different, but looking at her personality is like looking into a mirror. I used to just laugh along with other people and say “yeah we are really different,” but I’ve learned to say that we are like perfect opposites. Whatever is on the inside with her appears on the outside with me, and whatever is on the inside with me shows on the outside with her. For example, people think that my sister is very serious and that I am not. This could not be further from the truth. My sister is a secret goof-ball who loves whimsical things and has a quick sense of humor. I act like a goof-ball but in secret I am very intense about studying and educational activities. If I’m not learning, then I can hardly be having fun. She appears very buttoned down, but she’s really open-minded and tolerant. Me? I look like a wild child, but I’m really uptight.

She likes Sudoku. I like crossword.

What really makes us sisters is how much we love each other despite the years of grudges we could hold if we wanted to. Well, she could hold a million years worth of grudges if she weren’t such a great person. I don’t have a thing on her though. She’s always been perfect.

(P.S. Happy Birthday!)


I scare the be-jeezus out of my cat pretty regularly. It’s tough for him because he loves me so darn much that he wants to be close to me, but I’m always dropping things and knocking things over, and it’s pretty dangerous to be in my fall-out zone. Anything can happen.

I’ve got a pair of black leather, steel-toed motorcycle boots that make a really great post-apocalyptic fashion impression. But when I wear these boots, I can’t feel anything on the ground or really sense where I’m putting my feet. This isn’t the worst thing that could happen to your feet while walking in Chicago, but in my crowded apartment, it’s a pretty darn scary prospect for my cat. He’s been stepped on so many times with the big black boots that he runs and hides whenever I put them on. Poor guy. It’s tough to love me so much—I always hurt the ones I love.

Matthew calls me Chaos since I’m always knocking stuff over and breaking things. It’s not on purpose; it’s just that wherever I go I seem to wreak havoc. My joke is that Matthew knows where I am in the apartment by how much noise I’m making as things go crashing to the floor and I say “oops.” My cat knows that I am Chaos. He looks at me with the most mixed emotions you can imagine in a cat’s eyes. He longs to get close to me because he just loves me so much, but he’s so afraid of what might come falling from the sky if he gets too close. The cat knows that Chaos rests when I am sitting stationary, and he’ll come sit on my lap for that. But while Chaos roams, the cat knows to watch with trepidation.

Home geology

I actually had a tumble-down recently. A pile of clothes I have in the bathroom developed a cantilever feature where it was supporting itself beyond the structure of the shelf it was resting on. The pile had developed into an outcropping, an overhang. One day while getting ready for work last week, I wiggled a shirt out from between fossilized clothing layers, and the entire load shifted! I’d type “boom!” but clothes don’t really go boom, not even on a tile floor. I think it went “whoosh,” like an avalanche flying out of control, and I had to jump out of the way or become a pile collapse casualty.

I stood staring at the former shelf-pile as it laid on the floor thinking, “this is not happening.” Just a few days before I had remarked to Matthew that the clothing pile in the bathroom was taking on architectural features that defied gravity. I guess I jinxed myself, like when I say, “Good dog, you haven’t puked in the car once today!” And then “BLECK!” it all comes roaring down in a pile.

The formerly shelf-bound pile gave me a new wardrobe option though. You just have to keep an open mind to pile accidents. My philosophy about piling is that if it’s important enough, it will circulate back to the top of the pile given enough time. Objects in piles have their own currents, like water or hot air, they cycle through varying layers of depth. If a butterfly flaps it’s wings in Mexico, does the t-shirt I’m looking for reappear at the top of the pile? Maybe not when I’m looking for it, but eventually it will.

By the way, I didn’t actually clean the collapsed pile. I just scooped it up and mounded it better to create more architectural stability. The pile’s integrity was significantly disturbed by this recent event, so I eye it suspiciously every time I walk in the bathroom. When the seasons change for the warmer in Chicago, I’ll clean it up; I have to find my summer t-shirts eventually.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


I found my blogoshpere soul mate. His name is Piggles and he’s a guinea pig. In our complete profiles, we list that our hobby in common is “making messes.” Awh! It’s so cute to have another soul I can relate to! I also identify with some of Piggles’ other hobbies. (If you read his profile on Blogger, see if you can guess which of his activities I like too.)

Piggles and I probably also keep house in a similar manner: spread the things we like all over the room so we can see everything at once. Unless Piggles is neater than me. Which is possible. I am known for being a piler. It starts out that I place something I want to come back to later on a flat surface. Later something else ends up on top of that item. This multiplies until the flat surface—say, a coffee table—collapses under the weight of the pile, at which point I continue to add more things to the pile, and it eventually becomes a pile of piles. I straighten approximately as often as Victoria’s Secret has their semi-annual sale.

My sister, my mom, and my husband all say in relation to me: “She covers every flat surface.” Those exact words, no matter the situation. I find it amazing that they universally refer to my ability to cover “flat surfaces.” “Why those particular words,” I asked my husband. “Because that’s what you do. You cover flat surfaces.”

When we were little and we still shared a room, my sister got very upset with me once and pushed all of my things over onto my side of the room, of the desk, and of the dresser. Like a bulldozer rolling back the earth. She then took masking tape and ran it in a straight line down the center of everything. One side said “C” for me, and the other side said “S” for her. I later learned there’s an “I Love Lucy” story just like this, but my fed-up sister created this idea on her own. I still love it when I go to her house and she says, “I’m sorry it’s so messy.” If anyone should know by what standard I’m gauging her messiness, it’s her.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Going for the one

It’s amazing to me to ride on the train and hear people’s ipods blaring music so loudly that I could sing along if I knew the words. Most people listen to what they look like. A Latino punk listening to the Clash. A young office-working guy listening to Modest Mouse. I like the surprises best though. One time I was standing near a young woman who was listening to her ipod at a truly eternal ear-damage level. She looked like she was on her way to college classes--very young art student. The first song I heard was by the Pixies. I tried not to bob my head and sing along, but when I wasn’t cringing from concern for her eardrums, I enjoyed it a lot. What happened next was definitely a shuffle moment. A song by Janis Joplin came on, and the girl turned up her ipod’s volume even louder! While I love Bobby mother-effin McGee almost as much as Janis did, I almost died laughing at innocent art girl.

Here was a song I associated so heavily with my high school years, when I pretended to understand what it meant to be a hippy, screaming from the earbuds of a girl who looked more techno-rave than tree-hugger. And she was jamming out on the packed morning commute train, standing near the doors with her art portfolio. What a cutie. Her anachronistic appearance and love of Janis Joplin made me smile for hours.

I just plugged in my new earbuds for the first time, despite mounting evidence that all of us ipod addicts are going deaf quickly. Apparently earbuds tire the auditory nerve more quickly than traditional headsets, which causes the listener to turn up the music louder and louder as their ear bones grow weary of transmitting sound. That said, my new earbuds are amazing. God bless Sony and their amazing acoustic technology. I feel like I’m listening to a tiny Yes concert in my head to the exclusion of all aural insults in my environment.

Yes is one of my guilty pleasures. Like the girl in the train car, I don’t think I look like a Yes fan. A Yes fan looks like a skinny middle-aged guy that has never been on time with fashion. If I were as unconcerned about my ear health as the young art student, I would jam to Yes on the way to work as everyone sniggered because they were suddenly reminded of that one Yes song that was popular when they were young. They’d try not to bob their heads and sing along, but they’d want to. I hope they’d smile as they thought of me blissing out to Yes.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

More sushi smells

What is it with me and bad smell luck at my favorite sushi joint? We sat at the bar last night. I don�'t mind sitting at the bar, but it'�s not my favorite place to sit. I usually like it because we can count on being fairly alone and not crowded in with lots of close-sitting tables. Friday night was too busy though, so we ended up with lots of folks sitting beside us. Lo and behold, the woman seated immediately to my left smelled awful. What a bummer.

The first thing I noticed as she breezed in was the odor of stale cigarette smoke. Strike one. Next I realized that she smelled like she needed to go to the dentist very badly. I honestly thought she smelled like plaque. Foul ball. But then she started talking with her companion about a very complicated lesbian love triangle. Line drive base hit! The gist of it was that stinky girl has the misfortune of being in love with someone very wishy-washy who claims to not be sure who she'�s really in love with. It ameliorated my desire to relocate, but was too teen-angsty to really be a great story. It sounded like wishy-washy girl isn'�t going to stay a lesbian for very long, but she likes all the attention she'�s getting right now. Poor stinky lesbian. She has no idea how much she'�s wasting her time.

Matthew missed the real fireworks though. While he was in the restroom washing his hands, a very loud, twitchy woman jumped up and demanded to know why the table next to her had their food already and she didn'�t. Oh! A public scene that makes everyone uncomfortable! Of course, this is a Japanese restaurant and their culture seems to preclude any exciting Chicago-American style clashes, so it didn'�t end as thrillingly as it began. But boy oh boy was she loud and irritated for a few seconds there! Matthew was really sad to have missed out on the fun. I was sad that the restaurateurs didn�t engage her in a real Chicago-style shouting match. However they handled it, it was quiet and polite, and I missed all the drama.

In the end, it was a fabulous meal. The last time we ate at that restaurant we were both very disappointed in the quality of the fish. Last night, everything was perfect. Absolutely delicious. Now if next time we can combine perfect fish with perfect un-stinky seat location, I'�ll be on cloud nine.

Collectable and juciey

I love word games. I love seek-and-find, I love word jumbles, I love Hugger-Mugger, I love Scrabble. Love, love, love! Few people like to play Scrabble or Hugger-Mugger with me though, because I usually beat the pants off them, and I have such a good time playing that it seems to make other people feel bad that they can�'t compete with my linguistic prowess. I hate to sow unhappiness among my friends, but usually the desire to Scrabble wins out over any pity I feel for them.

Matthew and I dined at Red Lobster in the suburbs on a Friday evening not long ago. We had a long wait ahead of us, so I got a children�'s placemat and a packet of crayons to entertain myself. It turned out there was a word game on the placemat! Yay for me! The game says, �"How many words can you spell from the letters in the words �HUMPBACK WHALE?"�� Chalk, heal, bleak, black, bleach, bump, whelp, walk, blame, camel, amble, blue, humble, help, haul, chump, peach, cabal, pale, leap, bale, lack, chew, whack, wham, clean, banal, canal, capable. Pretty good, huh? I even omitted a few obvious words to make the challenge harder. My two favorites are humble and capable.

There�'s also ample opportunity for word entertainment walking down the streets of Chicago. Today I saw a sign that advertised "�Juciey beef."� I loved it. Matthew said, �"Wow, that�'s spelled so incorrectly I can'�t even remember how to spell �juicy!"�� I reminded him. I even tried to photograph the sign surreptitiously (the employees could clearly see me), but it turns out that I don�t have the proper cell phone account to e-mail my pictures. The hilarious sign is trapped in my mobile. At least its memory can make me laugh, as I shop for "�Collectables and antiques.�"

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Fret one, fret three

I recently made a huge commitment: I cut the fingernails of my left hand index, middle, and ring fingers to the quick. “But Christine!” you cry, “You have long been known throughout the land for your stunning natural fingernails!” Ah yes, it is true. I do have amazingly healthy fingernails, but there are sacrifices that need to be made for our art. I am learning to play guitar.

Art is used here in a very loose sense to describe my guitar playing. Since I haven’t figured out how to tune it and I am teaching myself, I described my chords to a friend as “as acoustic bleeding ear assault.” She thought this would be a good name for my future band. She might be right, but she’ll have to be a member because she’s the one who tunes my guitar!

I am now able to play eight notes on three strings, and sometimes they go together in ways that sound like songs. I was initially proud of my first callous and thrilled with my progress, but since I only practice 15 minutes to an hour every night, I have sort of plateaued at my eight notes. I have also committed myself to a better discipline of finger position on the frets, hence my need to reduce or eliminate fingernail beauty on my left hand. Form over function. Sigh. It makes me want to find my old college roommate and tell her, “I understand.”

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

In like a lion, out like a lamb

Dear, Dear, Miss Weston. Our lovely fourth-grade teacher. In grade school, we decorated a bulletin board in our classroom every month for a particular seasonal theme. March was always “In like a lion, out like a lamb.” We took the March adage for granted for many years, just assuming that the March theme would have drawings of lions and lambs, just like the April theme was “April showers bring May flowers.”

By fourth grade, we were ready for answers. The April observation may not be true in Kentucky (March was usually rainier and flowers were bustin up by April), but it was pretty straight forward. But March? What did lions and lambs have to do with anything? Was this a Catholic thing like Daniel in the Lion’s Den and Christ the Lamb of God? It didn’t seem like it since we didn’t draw Jesus and Daniel on the bulletin board. It was strictly a secular animal drawing. Poor Miss Weston didn’t know.

Our class came to consensus that this was the year we needed to know--fourth grade, we were big kids that changed classes now—and we posed the question. Miss Weston actually said, “I don’t know.” It was the most honest and straight forward admission from an adult, let alone a teacher I think I’d ever experienced. I swear Miss Athens our third grade teacher made up an answer and said “’Cause that’s why!” to everything. (She also frequently said it was because she was from Indiana and we were from Kentucky.)

Many years later I moved to Chicago, never forgetting the mysteries of “In like a lion out like a lamb.” It seemed like no one knew what it meant and that everyone took it for granted. Until my first spring in Chicago. And then I discovered the true meaning of March’s bulletin board. March starts out as horrible as the rest of Chicago’s winter--freezing temperatures, terrible gusty winds, possible snowstorms—and ends so beautifully and sweet that you’d have never known about the interminable winter.

Chicago in March, the sun finally comes out and shines so beautiful. In March the tulips finally push through, and some of the summer’s perennials start to think about greening. In March, everyone dry cleans their winter coats for another short summer of storage. In March, everyone washes off the last of the road salt and the streets have colors again as the cars lose their gray coating.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Probably a running theme

Smells really freak me out. If everything didn’t smell so bad or overwhelming to me, I’d go to perfume school in Paris and be world renowned for my amazing olfactory abilities.

Instead, smells freak me out. I don’t enjoy any perfume or cologne (please please please never buy me a scented gift to be nice!), and just being around them feels like a nasal onslaught. There is a woman who works in my friend’s office, and I can smell her perfume from three cubicles away. This is like a nuclear fall-out zone to me, utterly uninhabitable. Every time I get within sniffing range of her, I wonder, “What would I do if I had a desk within smell reach of her?” Sometimes I speculate on complaining to her boss to have her banned from wearing perfume as a public menace. Sometimes I think about complaining to my imagined boss and moving my imaginary desk. Sometimes I imagine not being so uptight about it.

One time Matthew and I went to my favorite sushi restaurant in Chicago, and a young couple walked in right behind us. I think they must have been on their first date, and the boy was trying so hard not to mess up. He was wearing way too much cheap cologne. It was too much of any cologne, but he was wearing a particularly inexpensive smelling brew. What luck, they were seated right behind me! I went nuts. “Matthew, can you smell that cologne? Matthew, gawd it’s terrible. Matthew, I can’t enjoy sushi while I smell this!” I came up with the genius plan to ask to be moved to the sushi bar. Brilliant. Except there was a stinky fish smell there, but even that was far preferable to stinky smelling date guy.

I dream of putting my proboscis to good use, for the benefit of society, creating unique haute couture scents that improve everyone’s lives. I long to have my nose celebrated as the most acutely aware in the land. There should even be ticker-tape parades in honor of my nose. A small town in France that grows lavender should celebrate my birthday as “Nose Day.” Instead I sneeze. One of the only smells I can stand is my grandmother’s face soap; otherwise, I prefer odiferously neutral.

My keenest instrument though is also my keenest insecurity—my nose. Fighting my nose’s destiny has been a theme of my life. Its unusual shape has often gotten more attention than anything else about me, and I resented that. I staunchly claim that the size and shape of my aquiline nose has nothing to do with the way smells affect me, but what if it does? What if the breadth of my nose is also its breath?

Consider a blunt-nosed dog. The pug is not known for its skills as a scent-tracking animal. Neither is a bulldog. But the long-snouted German shepherd and the bloodhound both have important roles in law enforcement and rescue as smell-chasing experts. So what if my nose is more German shepherd than pug?

Accepting that my nose’s peculiar sensitivity has to do with the bloodhound’s physical propensity for his skill means to admit the biological role my nose plays in my life. I have accepted my nose as an attribute of my face, but I’ve never accepted its role in my lifestyle, smelling things that irritate me. Complaining about smells to others only necessitates careful study of my nose. There may be no scientific evidence to support the idea that nose size has any bearing on smell perception, so I may be off the hook. In the meantime, I’ll probably continue denying that my nose has anything to do with how I smell.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Lincoln, Lincoln I’ve been thinkin’

I’ve been thinkin’ a lot about what I want to put in my blog, and it’s hard to think of stories that don’t embarrass someone who I have no call to embarrass. I can embarrass myself all day long because that’s funny, but some of my best stories happen with other people.

But here’s an observational gem for you: I’ve got a vein on the back of my right hand I can make wiggle based on how I flex my hand. My left hand doesn’t do anything cool. Actually, since I’m right-eyed, right-handed, and even right-footed, a friend of mine started a series of jokes about my left side that my husband still continues today. I hope that doesn’t sound too mean. If you knew how untalented my left side was you’d understand.

So back to the back of my right hand. This vein, it dances. It’s great. It’s an utterly useless talent, but it shimmies like a belly-dancer from side to side. The rest of me lacks such grace. If only bodily skills were transferable.

That’s my favorite limerick by the way:

Lincoln, Lincoln I’ve been thinkin,’
What the heck have you been drinkin’?
Is it water? Is it wine?
Oh my gosh, it’s turpentine!

Genius. You have to do it with the William Shatner dramatic interpretation though.

I also like:

Moses supposes his toeses are roses,
But Moses supposes erroneously.

This one you have to put the emphasis on “erroneously” in a mock serious second-grade teacher way. I also like to open my eyes wide and tilt my head just so on “erroneously” for additional impact. It’s not as hilarious as Lincoln though, which will crack me up every time.

I’m gonna go look at the back of my hand again now.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Film commentary “on”

I got Netflicked. It’s cool though, it didn’t hurt too bad.

My friends played a game in high school where you imagined that if someone were going to make a movie of your life, who would the director be? It seemed way too deep and complicated a topic for me--I had no real opinions about movies and I don’t think I could choose any director by name. I just smiled and nodded and said stuff like “Someone really weird.”

In college people played the movie game again, “Who would the director of the movie of your life be?” I finally had an answer. David Lynch.

This answer always impressed my fellow game-players. I always got ohhs and ahhs over this answer as everyone was duly impressed with how clever I must secretly be. I still didn’t really know much about movies, but I understood the game now. I had to pretend to be impressed when other people named a director I had never heard of, and I had to ask why they felt this director captured some insight into their lives. The “insight” part was the interesting thing ‘cause it really showed what people thought of themselves.

When people asked why I chose David Lynch, I was ready with the best movie-of-your-life game answer ever, “Because he would see the unusual connections between events and objects in my life that I feel.” Pretty cool huh? I didn’t crib that answer off of anyone, and to this day I still kinda believe it.

This game came up again in grad school somehow. This time I think it was my friends’ time-waster instead of one of those college-aged insights into personal philosophy. The grad school incarnation of the movie-of-your-life game was “Who would play you in the movie version of grad school?” Wow. Now I have to think about directors and actors? I don’t think I even tried to guess. Actually, I did pick someone, but I can’t remember who. What I remember was my friends’ answer, “No, that’s not right. You’re played by Thora Birch.” I was amazingly flattered that my friends had thought so hard about me that they come up with my mirror actress, but I admitted I had no idea who she was. “Ghost World” they told me. That I remembered, and she was perfect for me in the same David Lynch-ian way.

Now Netflixx is playing the exact same game with me, and it’s kind of messing with my head. Since Netflixx gnomes are so advanced, they understand what movies you like and recommend movies based on that. In my perpetual media naiveté, I blithely click on these movies and add them to my queue. And then they come to my house and I wonder, “Why on earth did I pick this movie???”

Enter Luis Bunuel and “That Obscure Object of Desire.” Woah. I think Luis Bunuel might be my new David Lynch, except Bunuel might be a little too scary. I watched “That Obscure Object of Desire” twice, the second time forcing my husband to watch with me so I could point out every cinematic clue and shout my hypotheses at him. At the end of the movie I finally confronted him and demanded to know what his interpretation of Bunuel’s symbolism was. He said, “Your ideas were fine. I don’t really like French Surrealism.”

I’m not exactly positive what that meant, but in the spirit of the movie-of-your-life game I nodded in appreciation of the depth of his answer.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Like it's on rails

I have a beautiful blue bicycle. I put out the word to a friend of a friend that I would like a small framed, vintage beach-comber style girl bike. He found me Bluie. For the exorbitant cost of $35 (gasp!), I got an old Schwinn Suburban. I think it’s about 30 years old, my husband says it’s at least 40 years. I haven’t researched it, unlike how I would normally research anything that enters my collection, because I don’t care, I love it the way it is. I don’t need to love that bike on a cerebral level, it just makes me happy.

Bluie didn’t make me happy at first. The Suburban had this funky sticking point when I turned the wheel left and right, and the derailleur was wonky. If I hit a big bump, it would shift gears for me. And if it was very cold out, it got stuck in a mid-range gear. Fortunately this was a gear I could stand to ride ‘cause I’m a super wimp. As you may be geographically aware, there are no hills in Chicago. However I struggle riding up the inclines that lead to bridges spanning the Chicago River. I know that’s sad, but it’s true.

After a few months of mentally wrestling with the sky blue Suburban, I surrendered and put in the effort to take it to my pal at Kozy’s Bike Shop in downtown. He was reassuringly impressed with how great my bike looked and said it “would make a great restoration project.” He said this in a way that was simultaneously hopeful and that let me know he wasn’t restoring it for me that day. After the investment of new tires and inner-tubes, hand grips, some other stuff, a good polish and lots of grease in sticky places, Bluie was re-made into a pleasure-cruisin machine! Yay Bluie! Yay Kozy!

The very first day I took the blue Suburban out for a test ride on my lunch break downtown, someone walking on the sidewalk actually stopped me and asked if I were the original owner of the bike! I told her that no, it was older than me, but she assured me it looked beautiful. As all gracious compliment accepters do, I admitted it had just been polished the day before and rode away into traffic.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Don't just stand there

The first audio-cassette that I remember buying for myself was Young M.C. Do you remember that? “Stone Cold Rhymin’”? What a great album. It was so fun and light on its feet without being fluff. Nimble. Even the cover of the album was great—a grainy portrait of Marvin Young looking very classic jazz. Of course, I also owned a Genesis cassette and a Whitney Houston album of indeterminate origins, but I choose to count Young M.C. as my first.

That album gave me butterflies in my stomach and made me want to dance, and this is exactly how I feel about my blog. I don’t have aspirations to be as classic as “Bust a Move,” but this is something new that is moving me.