Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I'm lonely for you. I'm lonely for someone I can really talk to. Maybe I should call you tonight or tomorrow or some day soon. I need someone real I can talk to who knows all the history and the bumps and bruises.

I miss you.

Shopping at the fringe

I heard on NPR recently that shopping the perimeter of the grocery store leads you to the only dietary essentials you need (not the exact link for either case, but both make reference to the practice of perimeter shopping). The argument is that if you make a circle of the store, you hit the fresh produce first where all the leafy green vegetables and nutrient rich fruits should make up the abundance of your purchase. Next on your perimeter route, you reach meat and then dairy. Voila! Many healthy meals purchased without venturing into the aisles.

Pretty much all grocery stores are set up this way, though the NPR explanation of why they are set up that way eludes me. In the aisles you find chips, carbohydrated breakfast cereals, sugary jams and “health food” sections. Most of these can technically be skipped, since, when you shopped the perimeter, you picked up the most vital food groups. (The only food group you skipped was the protein bar segment. Very important.)

But after meat and dairy, my grocery store works hard to disprove the perimeter shopping theory. In fact, in my grocery store, only half the perimeter meets the healthy food group shopping criteria.

After dairy, we exit necessary foods, transitioning into encased meats (hot dogs), which, to me, are vital to the food guide, but are medically unnecessary. After encased meats come way over-chemical-ized pre-sliced lunchmeats and heavily processed cheeses. I can’t stand that stuff and easily avoid it--it gives me gas and tastes like artificial “liquid smoke additive.” Next—ice cream. A row of ice cream vaults. My husband and I literally avert our eyes and say, “Look away! Look away!” And, finally, after ice cream, wine, beer, and liquor.

While the health benefits of red wine (and maybe Guinness) can be debated, really, it’s not necessary to food health. We don’t live in an era where potable water is virtually non-existent, thereby requiring imbibing brewed or fermented beverages for health reasons. I’d even argue we have a surplus of potable water, considering all the $1.49 12 oz. bottles of designer water I see on store shelves. Shelves--not on the perimeter of the grocery store--shelves in the aisles of the grocery store. A location which takes us full circle to the original argument: necessary and healthy foods are on the perimeter of the store, not the aisles.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Underneath the banana tree, my honey and me…

M: “What are you eating?”

C: “Goat cheese and dates.”*

M: “Hm.”

C: “Oh rats, I forgot to use that zucchini to make zucchini bread again.”

M: “Yeah, I reminded you about that twice.”

C: “You did? That was nice of you.”

M: “How many of those kiwis did you throw away?”

C: “From this last purchase? I ATE EVERY SINGLE ONE! HAH! In my lifetime, who knows?”

M: “You waste too much food.”

C: “I’ve gotten better.”

M: “What about those black bananas in the kitchen that you haven’t eaten?”

C: “They’re red bananas; they’re supposed to turn black before you eat them. And there’re only two left! I’ve been eating them!”

M: “What about that avocado you bought? You know, the one after you threw away the last two?”

C: “I took it to work.” Whispering: “Where it’s still not getting eaten.”

M: “And what about that brown lemon in the kitchen?”

C: “It’s only brown on the outside. On the inside it’s still juicy and fresh. And besides, I can’t remember what I bought it for.”

M: “That’s it. From now on, you’re only allowed to buy project produce on the day of the project.”

C: “From now on, I’m taking my fruit to work to throw away!”

M: Muttering, “Oh god you’re hopeless.”

*Tasted good, gave me terrible farts.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Shhh, crickets

I'm sorry I've been so quiet. I have about five half-written stories I've started and haven't finished. You see, I took a second job. Remember Satan's root canal that cost me four month's rent? I needed a second job. It's also supposed to be my "fun" job, and it really is, but in truth a job is still a job.

I know that every time I slack on posting I lose readers--and I've lost a lot--but there's just no gas in the tank. I've been very tired, and all my mental energy has been used to push through the second job adjustment period.

So, I'm working on it folks. I love you all, and I'll get some steam behind my pistons, and we'll start cranking again. For now, I'm idling in the station until I've got energy to unload the cargo.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

When the cat is away...

My husband is out of town. While his absence has many implication for my behavior, I mostly like to do things I can't get away with when he's around.

For instance: Blanche was watching me chop vegetables for a stew. I saw that in my packet of grape tomatoes, one was less than perfect. "I bet the dog will eat a tomato," the five-year-old voice in my head said. So I held out the tomato, and, like a good girl, she sat on the floor and gently took the tomato with her front teeth.

Matthew would yell at that. So I laughed, knowing I'd totally just gotten away with murder. But feeding the dog a tomato had an unexpected consequence: odor.

It turns out that a dog eating a tomato has a smell all its own. Sure, you've smelled tomatoes as you've eaten them in salads, maybe you've even noticed the smell when other people have eaten a tomato, you've probably smelled tomatoes cooking. But when a dirty basset hound eats a tomato, it smells like a fresh salad made from rancid garbage.

Two things that require visual references, one sad, one funny


An acquaintance and a friend were talking about Bears football jerseys.

“I hope they don’t wear those orange jerseys,” says friend.

“Oh me too, they are so ugly. Blech,” says acquaintance.

“Really, I like the orange jersey,” says me.

“They’re embarrassing, come on,” says friend.

“I think they’re cute,” says me.

“Well you’re not from Chicago; it’s a Chicago thing,” says acquaintance.

“That’s right, you’re from Kentucky, you have no taste,” says ex-friend.


There is a new chronic pain control device for migraine and spinal cord injury sufferers that implants shock delivering electrodes into the brain or spine.

This makes me kinda nervous first because I wouldn’t want someone going into my brain or spine. But I understand that if this were the only thing that worked for someone suffering from chronic pain, then I sympathize with their need for implantation.

The second reason I am nervous about the new device is that it is operated by a remote control. Imagine--me with a remote control that activates electrical impulses in my body:

“Ow! I turned it up too high accidentally! My leg won’t stop twitching!”

“Crap, I lost my remote control again. Any idea where I put it, Matthew? I feel like garbage and I really need it. I guess it could be anywhere since I lose everything eventually.” (Insert mental image of my haphazard apartment.)

“Awk! Why am I getting zapped? What’s happening? Oh my God, the dog is standing on the remote control! What the hell, she’s killing me! Matthew, get the remote control from under the dog!”

Three terrible scenarios, mounting in horror, each totally plausible based on my actual life. I also imagine the cat batting around the remote control under the bed like a catnip filled mouse toy. Zap! Zap-Zap!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lord of karaoke

Berryoke Jan 2007 019 b

Don’t be like Kim

Over breakfast, I said to my husband, “I think it’s funny when me and my two friends make Simpson’s jokes and Kim Jong Il* doesn’t get it. I love it when Kim Jong Il gets left out.”

Matthew laughed, “Yeah, I can see where that would be funny. That would make him so mad.”

“No, wait,” I said, “I shouldn’t have said that. I’m supposed to be working on sympathizing with Kim Jong Il so I don’t feel so flooded with anger at him when he’s around.”

“Yeah, don’t go somewhere and turn out like Kim,” Matthew said.

What I heard was, “Don’t YOU go somewhere and turn out like Kim.”

Instant tears. Over breakfast. At the diner down the street from our house.

“Honey, don’t be upset.”

“You just told me not to become Kim Jong Il.”

“No, I meant that like you’re learning to sympathize with Kim Jong Il, I’m learning that the lesson is to not let yourself or anyone else get so bitter and desperate that they turn out like Kim Jong Il.”

“That’s not what you said. You said, ‘Don’t you turn out like Kim Jong Il.’”

“I’m so sorry; I didn’t mean that. I said it wrong.”

Since this was me crying, and not some emotionally stable or rational person, I couldn’t stop crying for the next half hour. It’s over, apologies were made, explanations were given, apologies were even accepted (gracelessly). But nothing would stop the tears. Except a tall caramel macchiato from Starbucks. Caffeine and sugar generally fix anything.

* This isn’t really Kim Jong Il I’m talking about. Obviously, names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


My heart beats a little faster, and my chest feels full. “OK, I know I should be doing something productive with this.” But I don’t.

I felt low, unmotivated, so I went for the espresso latte, and now I’m eager and ready. But I don’t do what I should.

I should be cleaning my closets, folding my laundry, organizing my computer software—anything that accomplishes a tangible goal. But I don’t.

It’s the curse of caffeine. Now that I’m drugged, I want to do something fun like play online video games or e-mail my friends, maybe write a story for my blog, but definitely not do the dishes or run to the washing machine.

Now that I’m buzzed, I want to read a novel or call my mom. I want to bake cookies, not whole bran muffins. I want to tell stories to my dog, not walk her.

And then I come down off the buzz, the caffeine crash, and all the chores still wait for me, needing my attention. I slog through them like an automaton, not thinking much, only, “When will this be over so I can get my next coffee?”

Monday, January 15, 2007

Below the pear tree: writing about home

At the bottom of a tall steep hill too high for anyone but children to want to climb, my cottage stone house sits on a windy street. At the top of the hill above the windy street, walnut trees and a pear tree grow at jaunty angles. All summer long, the fruits and nuts drop from the trees and roll down the hills. Squirrels and bees and birds clamber all over the hills to eat the feast scattered on the ground. In the summer, the smell of sweet fermenting pears fills the whole yard.

We don’t eat the fruit and nuts. Walnut trees have a tangy odor that clings to your hands when you touch them, so picking nuts from the trees is unpleasant. When the nuts fall to the ground, the squirrels get to them well before the residents of the little cottage house, and only bits and pieces are left.

Many many years ago, before we moved into the little cottage house, the pear tree had thick vines of poison ivy growing all over the trunk and branches. My daddy used an axe to chop through the vines and sprayed the roots with poison to kill the ivy. “Just in case,” Daddy said, “we can’t eat the pears just in case the poison got into the roots of the tree and into the fruit.” Instead we feed the birds and the bees that visit our yard and feast on the sun-warmed sticky fruit.

Three tall Kentucky coffee bean trees grow on the hill, leaning over so dangerous and low. Whole fronds of branches fall from the trees when the winds blow high and we use the branches to make little pretend huts. When the seed pods fall, full of brown hard pebbles like roasted coffee beans, we imagine that they are food in our little pretend huts.

The hill, so high, makes homes for so many little creatures. We have cardinals and chipmunks and rabbits and robins and moles and even garter snakes. The chipmunks are my favorite; I love their stripes and spots.

But each year the summer has to end. No more swings on the swing set, no more skin the cat on the jungle gym, no more pears and coffee pods and make believe houses. Each year is back to school, where we wait for the fragrant orange blossoms and the forsythia on the bushes to tell us soon will be time for pears again.

No good deed goes unpunished

Morning dog walks are mundane affairs—there’s a little pee, there’s a little poo, there’s some sniffing—about all a dog (and her walker) needs at 7am. Oh, but not today.

Overnight we had a wintry, rainy, icy slush fall in Chicago, and the sidewalks this morning were all slicked over. Somehow, the cold slush energized my lazy dog, and she wanted to run and hop as fast as she could drag me. She’s often considerate of my bipedal instability when she pulls me onto icy patches and tugs me as fast as she can go. I’m amazed I’ve never broken an ankle while walking her in the winter.

But really, Blanche was super-charged this morning. She was pumped about something, and she eagerly sniffed a few unusual spots then ran to the next surprise destination. I soon found out why.

Standing in the middle of our quiet intersection, a deaf or speech disordered person waved an orange snow shovel at me. I guess she was out shoveling walks for money, but since I rent and expect someone else to shovel our sidewalk, I tried to keep on walking and refuse her services. Instead, she murmured in that way that deaf people have, “Dog lost.” Her eyes were very concerned and she strained to talk to me.

“What?” I asked, really trying to understand.

“Dog running,” she mumbled.

She didn’t have a leash, and it was unlikely that someone with a shovel would be also walking her dog, so I deduced it wasn’t hers. She pointed down the street, “Dog lost,” she said again.

I said, “OK,” and headed down the direction she was pointing.

Honestly, I didn’t really care about a missing a dog. There are several off-leash dogs in our neighborhood, and I think it’s truly despicable. I’ve seen an off-leash dog get hit by a car on the same street the speech-impaired woman was pointing toward. A dog owner’s negligence isn’t a problem I can solve since I can’t bring a lost dog into my apartment and won’t be knocking door-to-door looking for the owner.

What I had in my favor, though, was Blanche. A dog is great bait for another dog.

We turned down the street, and I saw in the distance a small yellow dog running around erratically. At first I thought it might have been hit by a car already. Injured dogs can be dangerous, so this made me wary to get very close. We persevered anyway down the street in case we actually could help.

Just as the dog saw us and came running toward us, a woman stepped out of her house on our left. Blanche and the mystery puppy played chase and scampered around, so I had the chance to ask the woman if this were her dog.

“No,” she said, “I’ve never seen it.”

Great. Now I’ve got a tuned-up yellow puppy working my dog up into a frenzy and nothing to do to solve the problem. The yellow dog is sure to follow us home now that Blanche is its playmate.

Then the woman says, “Oh wait, that’s their dog,” and points to her next door neighbor. Good news. Yellow dog has a destination.

“Can you get them for me, and I’ll hold the dog?” I grabbed the puppy by the scruff and held it in a submission pose. It may not have enough discipline or care at home, but for the two seconds I was in control of this dog, it was receiving proper training.

The woman tried the fence of the house where the dog lived, and said, “It won’t open.”

At that moment, the dilettante owner opened her front door and said, “Oh you found my dog.”

No, “Oh thanks, we were so worried!” No, “Oh, this is my child’s dog, and he was so upset!” Not even, “Oh my goodness, I don’t know how he escaped!” Just, “You found my dog.”

I handed the puppy over, and Blanche lost her little temporary friend. But the puppy left a reminder of its escapade with me. The glove I used to scruff the dog smells like the worst dirty dog sour filth I’ve smelled. And it was only a puppy. I feel sorry for the little dog, giving it back to a home where it lacks the care it deserves. But, honestly, I’m sorrier I have to wear dirty gloves all day.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman

Thank you, Cha Cha

Friday, January 12, 2007

Everyone would be in love with me...

I've had hot dogs the last three days in a row. I consider this an accomplishment, because I love hot dogs like nobody else. The only people who could love hot dogs more than me are starving children in third world countries who long for American nutritional values.

Today breaks the cycle. I could have had a Polish sausage for lunch, but that isn't my favorite encased meat.

As Hot Doug has writ on his wall, "There are no finer words in the English language than 'encased meats,' my friend." Amen Hot Doug, Amen.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Swim lessons

Everyone was so much more sexy and graceful than me in middle school. My friends' bodies developed faster than mine, and my social graces lazed behind with my chest until much later than theirs.

Everything my best friend in eighth grade did charmed and beguiled. She lacked both common sense and intelligence, but no one cared because she was tan and smiled pleasingly. She oozed cool effortlessly, just breathed and exhaled cool like it was no big deal.

But it was a big deal: cool was everything in eighth grade, and social lives blossomed and died based on cool. Who were you seen with, what was the logo on your uniform white shirt, how short did you roll your plaid Catholic skirt? All standards for cool.

Gretta, my best friend from eighth grade, had a pool (cool). She was allowed to wear skimpy bikinis (cool). She had a Louis Vuitton purse (cool). Her older sister drove her around in a BMW (cool). She chose not to smoke but could if she wanted (cool).

I never knew why Gretta chose me as her best friend in the eighth grade. All of my cool points registered way in the negative, but I devoted myself to her as well as any trained lap dog. Gretta could have told me to do anything and I’d have done it.

The coolest thing Gretta did was hang out by her pool; it was sacrosanct, like her sacred temple. When it was Gretta’s time to dip her foot into the pool, it was the cool time to dip her foot in the pool, so I did it too. When it was Gretta’s time to walk around the pool, it was the cool time to walk around the pool, so I did it too. When it was Gretta’s time to recline in an oversized swim tube, it was the cool time for swim tubes, and I did it too.

Gretta’s coolest water trick was to tip over the side of her swim tube so that she went from upright to horizontal to the water, then flip over entirely so her legs were in the air and her head below water. She’d hover for an anxious second, cross her legs at the ankles, then slide down through the tube and glide up to the surface like a mermaid emerging from the water.

I loved when she did the graceful tip and dive, but I never understood when it was the optimally cool time to try it. I’d do the flip and swim at random intervals, hoping I looked as cool and amazing to her as she did to me. She never seemed to notice, though, so I knew it wasn’t cool.

One day, at the end of summer, just after classes had come back into session for our eighth grade year, I nearly drowned trying to impress Gretta. The day was almost cool, but the sun was still hot, so I insisted on swimming. We floated in our tubes, wearing our sunglasses, her looking amazing in her white and orange flowered, ruffled bikini, and me trying to be cool in my thrift store green and orange bikini that never fit quite right. Gretta flipped over her inner-tube with her sunglasses still on, and drifted to the surface as unflapped and perfect as a teen pool party movie starlet.

“Gretta did it, it must be the right time to flip,” I thought. So I did. But for some reason, I over-thought the tip and glide process, and I got stuck. Suddenly, my size zero tiny little girl hips wouldn't fit through the tube, and I was stuck, head below water and legs uselessly sticking straight up.

“Oh god, I’m going to drown,” I thought. I’d done the turn and swim a million times, half as many as Gretchen, so there was no reason for anyone to guess that something went wrong this time, but nonetheless my hips were stuck.

I pawed frantically with my arms under the water to pull myself through, but I wasn’t budging. I held my breath tight knowing this might be the end of me and I needed to hang on as long as I could. I tipped my legs back hoping to flip myself upright again, but I couldn’t do it, my arms didn’t have the strength.

Then I realized, “I need to relax.” I exhaled, I crossed my legs at the ankles like I’d done every other time, and my body narrowed and glided straight through the tube. I popped to the surface, and Gretta said, “I started to worry. I wondered if you were OK.”

Never mind the near-drowning panic, Gretta noticed me. I got back in my tube and floated, smiling, “she would have helped me, even though I’m not cool.”

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Fallin down like a domino

I slaughtered The Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian" at karaoke last night. Hog-tied and butchered. They didn't deserve that. Their revenge: I can't get the damn song out of my head.

Monday, January 01, 2007