Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A brief history of song lyrics I don’t know

In reverse chronological order:

I don’t get really picky about the music that plays in my car, except I prefer oldies, classic rock, pop, and new wave. If I can find a station playing any of those, no matter how much I dislike a particular song, I’ll listen to that station until commercial break. The catch is, lyrics confuse me.

Take for example No Doubt. Their lyrics aren’t particularly complex, right? Wrong. I still couldn’t understand them until my sister tried to persuade me I was wrong. I later received confirmation when I saw the actual lyrics on a karaoke screen.

My version:
“I’m walkin on the spider webs...
No matter who calls,
I scream my balls off!”

These lyrics made sense to me for two reasons. For one, she was as wild and predatory as a spider, crawling across her web sinisterly. I thought this fit her image as “not just a girl.” “I scream my balls off” meant that she was tired of distracting or irritating phone calls. No matter who called her, she was frustrated by the ringing phone because it intruded on her predatory spider-webbing. Brilliant lyrics to sing along with in the car because I liked screaming my balls off too.

My illusions about her bad-ass-ness were shattered when my friend sang along to the verses on the karaoke monitor:

“I’m walking into spider webs...
No matter who calls,
I screen my phone calls!”

Screening phone calls? Walking into spider webs? That’s passive. That’s avoidance. That’s not proactive screaming and crawling, it’s nuisance stalker evasion. Lame-o. Totally disappointed in that No Doubt chick.

Now rewind to a classic rock Eric Clapton staple that confused me (until last Sunday, amazingly).

“Won’t you be my four-legged woman?
I’ll try to be your four-letter man…
Rebel man, rebel man, rebel man.”

I always wondered about the animal reference to four-legged-ness, and I wondered why he wanted to be a letter-jacket jock—that’s so high school lame. And then rebel man? How can he be a letter-jacket varsity jock and be a rebel man? And why does he want to be a varsity rebel to her animal-ness? I sang along anyway, thinking classic-rockers got to take poetic license that regular people didn’t have to understand.

Last Sunday, I was playing a radio really quietly while I worked, just to have a little company while I was alone in the library. “Rebel Man” came on the radio. With the volume way down, I suddenly heard, “forever woman,” "forever man.” Mind opening. Still a pedestrian and lame song, but at least I know what it means now.

“Won’t you be my forever woman?
I’ll try to be your forever man,
Try to be your forever man.
Forever man, forever man, forever man.”

More wacky Christine-isms later. I’ve still got two more gems.

Monday, April 23, 2007


I don't usually get the "Mondays." My work week starts on Sunday, and it always feels crappy to work Sundays, so I get "Sundays." The lord's day of rest is my day of feverish Sunday archiving. Not really fun.

But today somehow I have the "Mondays." You know what I mean, right? That weekend funover that blahs out into Monday's return to drudgery? Right? I feel that today, because it feels like I'm stuck in a trend of things going wrong.

I felt groggy and confused when I woke up this morning. I would have fallen over when I got out of bed if my dresser that is piled with clothes on top of it hadn't caught me in a soft, vertical landing. Thank goodness I'm a total slob. Then my leak proof coffee mug leaked all over me. And following that the only hard boiled egg left in the cafeteria was cracked to smithereens and soaking in standing water. OK, I'm betting the rest of my coffee and some bacon will set me to rights.

I sit down at my desk. Sinistrodextral is the way English writing moves from left to right. Somehow, my brain is dextrosinistral today, moving from right to left. I tried to type "red," and it took so much concentration to write "r-e-d" and not "d-e-r" that I wonder if my case of the Mondays isn't making me stupid. More stupid. Stupider. Dumber than usual. Mildly learning disabled. Something bad related to dextrosinistral.

This exercise in blogging (and the caffeine kicking in) is turning my brain left side to right. I think I'm recovered enough to work normally now.* Thank god my workload on Monday is always light. I can't start at the back of the papers to be archived and work my way to the front. It would be sinisterly dextrosinistral.

*I proofread this twice before I ended up with the final draft. It contained crazy mistakes, so obviously I'm still not sinistrodextral enough to be equalized yet.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bad dreams, forgotten

I had a waking dream just as I was drifting off to sleep last night about the worst job I could imagine having. I remember thinking, “Man, I am so going to blog about that terrible imaginary job tomorrow,” and then zonking out. I don’t remember any of it, except I think I had to hold pebbles in my mouth. I’m not really good at holding pebbles in my mouth, which was part of what made it the worst job ever.

Friday, April 20, 2007


This morning, on my way to work, I got one of those rare treats that only someone who’s a total bitch on the inside actually enjoys overhearing. A woman who I don’t like or respect, but whom I see all the time was on the phone, shrieking hysterically, “What? Does he think I look stupid? I mean, come on!” She was even accenting her telephone tirade with forehead clutching.

Glorious. Me, muttering under my breath: “Yes, you do look stupid.”

Then a tiny part of me felt bad because maybe she isn’t stupid, and I’ve just misunderstood her all along. Maybe I should have given her a chance to prove how not stupid she really is. And then that tiny part of me died as the rest of me—the bitchy part—laughed and remembered how stupid I really think she is.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


This makes my blahg SO much more entertaining.

My new(est) obsession

Hooping. Grown-up hula hooping. I'm taking my first class on Thursday, and I can't wait. I wish today were Thursday and not lame ol' Wednesday!

Watch some of the hooping videos on the link above. I'll let you know when I can do the hoop headstand, but don't hold your breath or you'll pass out from waiting.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Seasonal memories

My grandmother wanted me to paint yard sale signs for her. As the artistic one in the family, she thought I should be the one to make creative yard sale signs to stand out from the neighborly competition. I whined and procrastinated. I was at that age where I hated doing anything for anybody, especially something SO beneath my talent as a yard sale sign. Finally, my mom sat me down and made me do it.

They were cleverly designed signs. I planned big, block letters with jaunty slants, and I chose eye popping contrast colors to make the sign really bounce. Neon yellow and true blue. Perfect.

I was given two poster boards, which I think was actually one large poster board cut in half to save money. My aunt was thrifty like that.

First I painted the blue block letters “YARD SALE” and an arrow pointing right. Then I meticulously outlined every letter and the arrow with the neon yellow. Masterpiece. Glorious pop art yard sale sign.

The next sign I painted in neon yellow with the arrow pointing left, and blue outlining all. Pop! More artistic brilliance elevating the mundane. The opposite arrows were genius on my part, because no one instructed me on where they presumed the arrows should go. But I knew the plan was to put signs on either end of the block, so the arrows had to point in separate ways to point in to the sale. Brilliant foresight, little Christine Wy.

My aunt left to hang the signs. My mom pulled me aside, and said in her most apologetic and simultaneously accusatory voice (imagine her as precursor to Marge Simpson), “Christine, you did it wrong. The arrows point in the wrong directions your aunt said.”

Smack down on my genius. “What?”

“The arrows were supposed to point down the street, instead they point out. Your aunt just drew over them with a black marker.”

Smote my pop art signs! “But they were designed to go at either end of the street! They were designed to point in from two directions!”

“They were the wrong directions sweetie.”

Being 14 and unable to communicate rationally, I stomped off. All they had to do was switch the signs. I couldn’t believe the whole arrow concept was just gone. They patronizingly accepted my brilliant signs because they had no choice, they asked me for the sign commission, and that was what they had to work with, smiling grimly like I had messed up something simple yet again.

I worked a card table at the yard sale. I didn’t get much action. I sat and sketched in a notebook, scenes that I imagined from Pink Floyd songs. The neighbor boy had a painful crush on me. It hurt me that he followed me like a ridiculous fawning puppy, like all those stupid oldies songs I heard, “Puppy Love,” and it annoyed the crap out of me that I couldn’t shake this kid. My defense: talk so obscurely over his head with teenage angst that he’d leave me alone.

“What are you drawing?”

“A man and a woman in a fishbowl trying to get out. It means ‘fuck all that we gotta get outta this.’”


“They’re trapped in their small world and they have to escape to real life, the real life beyond all this.”

“What are you doing tonight?”

“I’m going to ‘Rocky. I can’t wait to get out of here and see my real friends.”

“Oh! ‘Rocky!’ I love that movie! Dunh, du-du-du, dunh-du-du, doo doo!”

Oh god, not that “Rocky.” “Rocky Horror picture Show,” doofus. “Whatever,” I rolled my eyes. I slammed down my sketch pad and walked away. He followed. And now he had a tail of friends younger than him following too.

“I have work to do,” I growled at him, and stormed inside my grandmother’s house via the back door.

I didn’t sell anything. I had a horrible time. Nothing went the way I imagined. I imagined being the creator of brilliantly arrowed signs and charming customers as the bohemian girl with long hair and peasant skirt. I wasn’t any of those things. Instead I was bitter and angry and hid in my grandmother’s toy room reading children’s books.

After all, I was a teenager. In the words of Bart Simpson, “Making teenagers depressed is like shooting fish in a barrel.” I was one sad fish.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Too sweet to be cold

Visiting the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in 2003, the Demeter fragrances exhibit captivated me. I smelled grass, I smelled mildew, I smelled tomatoes, and I read the story of how each fragrance was inspired and came to be. What subtle genius would take the most fundamental smells of my childhood and create essences that fired memory neurons I had long forgotten? I remembered my father’s failed vegetable garden that continued to sprout wild tomatoes after we abandoned it. I remembered the corner of the basement where my grandfather built his tool shed and workshop where I smelled mildew. And the smell of freshly cut grass brought back more memory than I can list, like watching clouds and listening to the neighbor mow his lawn.

In the gift shop, I wavered between buying the scent Gin and Tonic and Snow. I decided Gin and Juice was too naughty for a southern gal like me, and settled on Snow.

Snow was never quite right for me--though I liked the smell well enough--it just wasn’t snow. Snow smells crackly like ozone, it smells cold, and it smells like the absence of scent because it drapes every scent-giving thing in fragrance-retarding ice. To me, snow smells like absolute zero, a fresh scent palate.

Demeter’s Snow was sort of ghostly sweet and gentle, but not frozen enough for me. Oddly, when I sprayed it on, the scent evaporated quickly, and I smelled like regular musky me again. I thought it must be a joke, that snow is ephemeral and melts quickly, but then I thought I’d been duped by a museum fragrance that couldn’t withstand real wearing. And after living in Chicago for so many years, I know that the zero smell is what is really ephemeral about snow, and that quickly it smells like oil and dirt and garbage--probably all are Demeter scents, but not my preferred olfactory stimuli.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Vanity, thy name is caffeine

Anybody out there have any recommendations for an espresso machine that doesn't cost $400? I think I want to use pods, but if it's a great machine, I guess I'll do ground. What is $2.32 x 5 days? $11.60. x 4 weeks? $46.40. x 12 months? $556.80? I really spend too much on coffee. That's a lotta tattoo money.

Chicago: "The Wasteland" edition

I lived my life in warm Kentucky until age 21, spending even my college years not that far from home. There, in college, I first read TS Eliot’s “The Wasteland.” Like the adage of March, “In like a lion, out like a lamb,” I didn’t really feel the opening line, “April is the cruelest month,” until I moved north, to Chicago.

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

April pulls with desire for summer warmth, lures with promises of spring sweetness, but taunts with weather still cold and rainy. In April, one wants the hyacinth as a promise of respite from winter, but for TS Eliot, it was also a reminder that life goes on for the living, though grieving for the dead. Shades of the dead walk past the narrator in the poem, dragging him into their sadness, while April teases with early flowers. The narrator fears taking pleasure in life at the expense of grieving for the shades of those passed.

To me, April is the cruelest month because I yearn for rebirth in green buds and birdsong, but the weather torments me. It torments because the promise of spring is so near after surviving yet another taxing Chicago winter. Winter saps all my patience and tolerance, leaving me wicked and testy, whereas spring replenishes me and summer restores me. April taunts, “Almost time, Christine, but suffer still.”

Today, April 11, 2007,* it is snowing and raining and sleeting all at once. April spurns me. April rebuts me. “Life is hard, Christine,” April says, “get used to it.”

* 4-12-07, the tormenting weather continues.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Strawberry memory

Growing up in Kentucky, we eagerly anticipated strawberry season because all the local produce shops would be brimming with fresh-picked fruit grown just up the road. Every day, my sister and I ate bowl after bowl of strawberries, turning our lips red and our fingers sticky. My doctor even pronounced me allergic to strawberries, but I didn’t care, no fear of sudden death would keep me from strawberry season.

My sister and I used a plastic tool that scooped the top of the strawberries off, plucking away the cap of leaves and pulling out the hard part in the center. We scooped until our bowls were full and then we covered them in sugar.

After we finished the strawberries, a pile of sugar remained in the bottom of the bowl. Mine was always red and sweet with strawberry juice, and I’d scoop it out with a spoon to eat every gooey drop. It tasted sweeter and fresher than a melted popsicle, more perfect than a liquid lollipop.

My sister’s bowl never turned out like mine. She ended up with a pile of dry, white sugar crystals. My sister whined that she wanted hers to be like mine, syrupy and red with strawberry essence. I devised a method of crushing up a strawberry bit into her sugar, but it never came out the same as mine. Mine was just goo, but hers came out chunky and pulpy.

She cried to have sugar like mine, and my mom would give in and say, “Just give her your sugar, Christine.” It broke my heart to surrender my precious sweet, but in the end, it was easier to give my sister what she desired most—to be just like me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Recent odds and ends

In hockey:
Overheard at the last home game of the season at the Chicago Blackhawks: “Sharp is kind of a sissy.”

Game winning goal shooter in sudden death overtime: Sharp.

In Japanese soft drinks:
Visiting our favorite sushi joint, there was a new soda on the menu I had to try because it was so enigmatic: “New! Japanese marble soft drink!” What did that mean?

It turned out to be Ramune, a Sprite-like soda. What made it remarkable was that opening the bottle released a blue marble into the oddly shaped neck of the bottle. It was only 6.6 ounces, so it was a little less than satisfying, there was little carbonation, and the marble sometimes got in the way of drink flow. Overall review: great as a novelty act, disappointing as an American beverage staple.

(Coincidentally, one website claims “Ramune” is Engrish for “lemon,” since it’s a lemon-type soda.)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Hands off

When I visit a museum or a gallery or any exhibit, I always end up in a loop with the same people. Groups of people moving at the same pace through a show, clump together, follow the same path, read the same signs, and, essentially, share the same experience.

I’ve been on double-dates where our two sets of couples don’t have the same pace, and the visit feels awkward to me, like we didn’t connect as deeply as we should. Invariably, Matthew and I are the slower couple, because if we’re not learning, we’re not having fun.

I’ve also been to exhibits at the Art Institute and The Field Museum where I felt extremely connected to random strangers because we were all interested in the same educational and enjoyment experiences. We walk leisurely, taking in all the historic objects that gratify our egos by osmosis, and we share that moment. I’m all for the communal experience transcending the individual.

And then, there’s the Touchers.

The Touchers are the people you can’t shake. You don’t want to walk the same pace as them—something about them bugs you to your core—but you just can’t get away. Take a turn around a corner of the exhibit, they’re there again. Speed up, they catch up. Slow down, they stop to gawk at beauty. Something happens, and they’re always there with you, dragging you down.

I call them the Touchers, because I’ve noticed that the people who irk me most are the ones that touch exhibits inappropriately. Even if the object is under glass, they’ll stroke the glass case, leaving greasy smeared finger prints like the KFC Finger Lickin’ Good Monster just sashayed through.

Today was a Toucher day. After three days of sweatpants and free HBO preview, I was hankerin to get out of the house and DO something. It had to be a THING, you know, not just go to the store, it had to be an EVENT. So, I picked a flower conservatory. Either Lincoln Park or Garfield Park, I told Matthew, whichever he chose. He chose Garfield Park because parking is easier.

At Garfield Park Conservatory, we discovered that—Oh my God—It’s Easter Sunday. I don’t think either of us really remembered all that religion biz. Many families were out strolling the Garfield Park Conservatory, enjoying the lilies and azaleas. We’ve been to Garfield Park at the height of visitors, during the Chihuly glass exhibit, and this was hardly a big crowd. We hoped to be mostly alone, so we were a little surprised to see that everyone had our idea, but this was nothing compared to Chihuly.

What did put us off were the Touchers. We ended up behind a whole family of Touchers. The Toucher Family. Toucher Family found it incumbent of themselves to crumble off dried edges of leaves. To caress everything they laid eyes on. To twiddle leaves and even poke cacti. And we couldn’t shake them.

“Toucher Family is going into the children’s garden. Hurry, turn right, and we can get away from them!”

But as we admired the agave plant (a cactus since it grows in the Americas), we lost track of speeding along the path and Toucher Family caught back up to us. Rats.

We didn’t let Toucher Family ruin our experience (see the March pictures on my Flickr site), but they gave us plenty to talk about. Maybe they enriched our lives by giving our generalized rage a focal point. A common experience that transcends the exhibit, bonding us as we travel through the education experience.


My 200th post. I always miss milestones, so this one's important since I remembered it. Blow out the candles on the cake!

Did someone say "cake"?


I have a little habit that some have tried to dissuade me of, and that my husband just tolerates. Or maybe he’s surrendered because he knows it’s useless to fight me.

I check out. Mentally, physically, I give myself a little break from living. I reach a certain tolerance point for life, and then I just take some time off.

Checking out for me involves an outrageous amount of sleep, even though I don’t feel rested. It involves the barest minimum of movement, precludes toothbrushing, underwear optional, and dirt sweatshirts mandatory.

I checked out this weekend. I didn’t do dishes, I didn’t cook meals, I didn’t even throw away garbage. I just laid on the couch or in bed and lollygagged.

The problem is, none of this is actually as restorative as I imagine it will be. I’ve been checked out for three days now, and I feel worse. I always feel worse. I feel stagnant and cramped from not moving. My neck hurts from sleeping on the couch, and my left hip hurts from having the dog lay on me for such long stretches of time.

What makes me check back in is when I become so tired of stasis that I have to function again. In the meantime, I’ve failed to meet obligations, I’ve avoided all communication with the outside world, and my house has gotten even dirtier than it was to begin with.

I missed an April 5 deadline for something that was supposed to be a fun craft project. But it felt monumentally mountainous, so I used it as part of the avalanche of reasons to check out.

I’m ready to come back now. I threw away my Kleenexes from watching so many weepy movies this weekend (I even cried at the ones without sad bits), and I made a dry and overcooked stew (Keira Knightley was on HBO, I didn’t care about cooking times).

I’m moving again. I wrote this. I’m on my way back to the surface. I hate checking out, and I never feel better, but, each time preceding it, checking out feels like the answer to all my problems. Really, it just creates new ones.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Best advice

I read advice columns. A lot. I don’t know why, exactly. It must be escapism or a voyeuristic thrill because I certainly never learn anything that applies to my own life: “Happily married dog-lover seeks advice on being more satisfied with her cooking.” That would be my headline. That’s about all I need from life, better cooking skills.

The theme I see over-and-over in the dozen advice columns I read is either: “she/he broke into my e-mail and now I don’t trust him/her,” or “I broke into his/her e-mail and now I don’t trust him/her.”

There’s a whole lotta e-mail breakin' in goin' on. Alternate versions include “discovering” text messages and cell phone records. Let me tell you how much I trust my husband: he knows all my passwords.

I recently read an advice column that said two friends had exchanged “password wills” so that someone could get access to all their necessary information after their passing. That’s brilliant, and it’s the only good advice in an advice column that’s ever really engaged me. But it’s still not advice that I need.

I’ve given Matthew passwords to my Netflix, ebay, Paypal, you name it, he’s got it. He even knows the password to my e-mail, but I know he doesn’t use it, because he just never would.

Phone records? My cell phone is always on the coffee table and includes suggestive calls like “Mom and Dad,” “Sister,” and “Best Friend.” There’s nothing to hide, but even still, I know he’d never look. That’s how much I trust him and know that he trusts me.

I read so much un-trust in advice columns. Think about it. I know you read advice columns too. How many trust violations do you see? Today’s was: “he was acting weird so I found his password to his e-mail and then listened to his voicemail.” Her distrust in him caused her to act distrustfully and violate his trust in her. Trust equals negated for both parties. No one’s trusting anyone in this relationship anymore.

Instead of talking to an advice columnist, why not talk to your partner about your trust issues? Don’t dump his call logs or hack his e-mail, just talk.

And that’s my advice column for the day.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Life annoyance barometer

Here’s how much I don’t want to be in my current mental state: I thought today was Friday. I mean, I was so convinced it was Friday, I couldn’t figure out why my favorite co-worker wasn’t here.

Example: “Where are you Lily? I miss you! I need to talk to you! You’re the only one I can talk to!!!”


As of 3:23 pm CDT, I have just realized that it is in fact Monday, and that Lily never works Mondays.

Yes, I’m that brilliant. Yes, I’m that cognizant of the passage of time. Yes, I’m that desperate for Friday.