Sunday, November 23, 2008


OMFG in less than 24 hours I will be HOLDING BOO!!!!!

BOO!!!!!! Doesn't he look like a cat?

These were some of the first photos I ever took of him!

Doesn't he look so skinny and stupid and cute??

What a guy!


miracle at st. anna

I met up with MJTW the IV this week for a movie. Like I said, he's on the SAG Awards nominating committee so he gets to attend free screenings of the awardiest films. I sat with him for half an hour before the screening and we exchanged some small talk. "Do you have brothers or sisters?" or, in this case, "Do you have a 23 year-old son?"  (Yes, and yes.) I feel weird about all the feigning of interest required for my new utilitarian approach to social possibilities. Blogs are for discretion, so let's meet for a drink and I'll tell you the extremely unsordid details. 

We saw Miracle at St. Anna, Spike Lee's newest. The more I think about it, the less I like it. The story (spoiler alert): In 1944, a band of four black WWII soldiers get stranded in an Italian village while bringing a sick Italian orphan to help. The sick orphan is the only survivor from a gruesome massacre of civilians by Nazis in the town of St. Anna. Nazis and a backstabbing Italian Nazi-collaborator eventually bring three of the four soldiers and almost the entire village to their deaths, but not before the soldiers have stayed in the village a few days and reflected upon how well they have been treated in a place that is not the racist American South. In 1984, the Italian backstabber is murdered by the surviving soldier. Police, who don't know the backstory, are perplexed, and an enterprising young (and extremely poorly cast) journalist extracts the 1944 story from the soldier. It's told in extended flashback. Then there's an arraignment for the murder conviction, a ridiculous courtroom scene, and then the soldier is bailed out, and presumably spirited away to a country that has no extradition agreement with America, by the same orphan whom the soldiers rescued in 1944, who has since grown up to be a billionaire inventor of safety belts. 

The 1944 story is touching, and is primarily about how a few personalities mix together under intense circumstances for a few days that culminate in tragedy - the Spike Lee of Do the Right Thing is at work here. But almost every one of the multiple frames he puts on top of this story fails. The journalist is a gimmick to tell the story in flashback. John Leguizamo appears half-naked for one scene in which his lover mounts him and launches the morning newspaper he is reading out the window in the throes of passion. That paper lands on the orphan's cafe table and informs him that the soldier has killed the backstabber - really, that's John Leguizamo's only function in the movie, and you never see him again. The courtroom scene at the end is comically fake. There's a last-second substitution of the soldier's fuddy-duddy attorney with a bosomy no-nonsense dealmaker who announces to the courtroom that the $2m bail will be paid "in cash," to gasps. And there's a recurring statue head that the soldiers carry around and rub occasionally for luck, and it seems to have supernatural powers, as does the orphan boy - but the movie is not quite in touch with its own weirdness to explore either of these things.

Opening credits is a field of white crucifixes that turn red one by one. A nice, harrowing effect. Closing credits are written with crucifixes in lieu of "T"s. God, churches, prayer, crucifixes, and coincidences are everywhere. But you get the feeling watching the movie that Spike Lee isn't a religious person at all, and that the movie is about secular humanism. The titular "miracle" is ironic; what happens at St. Anna is a massacre, not a miracle. The orphan survives it not because of a divine intervention, but because of the goodhearted acts of a few people - that's the real miracle. There are American, Italian, and even Nazi heroes and villains. Nazi heroes in an American movie! I love your generosity, Spike Lee. 

But the movie is uncomfortable with its secularism, and I think all the frames exist around the 1944 story because of this discomfort. The frames are a second stab at the "miracle." The second "miracle" of the movie is the series of freak coincidences that occur in 1984 that bring the backstabber to the soldier, the soldier to the newspapers, the newspapers to the orphan, the orphan to the rescue, and eventually, the soldier to the orphan. Maybe all of these coincidences are meant to suggest God's presence, but the movie treats this not as a solemn divine intervention but as a jaunty caper. There is actually dancing pizzicato caper music under some of these scenes. Spike Lee, WHAT THE FUCK? Half of your story is about a MASSACRE and RACISM and BETRAYAL and DEATH and the other half is a tiptoeing caper about funny coincidences? Spike Lee, WHAT THE FUCK? 

And if the whole story was engineereed by God to be a miracle, what is the point? God's justice is a bloodthirsty vengeance, and the purpose of the miracle is to allow the soldier who murdered the Italian backstabber forty years after the war to flee criminal persecution?  Is the message xenophobia? Because the you don’t see the Italian backstabber in the intervening forty years but can imagine: he left Italy in shame; moved to America to start a new life free from a shameful personal history, like so many immigrants have done; lived quietly for forty years; became American? Is there no hope for redemption in the unlikely story that is America?*

I mentioned some of these things to MJTW the IV. He responded, “I liked it! Was that a true story?” It was one of those moments where I really, really missed my clever ex-girlfriend, that fucking bitch.

* Although it is true there is no room in the unlikely story that is America for the Radovan Karadžićs of the world, there is room for the Pavels, right?

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I discovered the reason my room is freezing fucking cold every single day. The window well is improperly sealed. There is a 20 degree gust blowing on my hands right now. I am freezing. I'll chaulk it tomorrow.

This evening I went to my gym for only the second time. It's a quick four block walk in the 20 degree wind to a brand new gym where they hand out apples. The treadmills are brand new and have television screens, so I schlupped my buns for thirty enjoyable minutes while enjoying an episode of 30 Rock. I love the year 2008.

After coming home from the gym, I turned on my keyboard. I've been paralyzed with this one big band-y song that I have in my head but not within my musical skills, so I haven't tried recording anything recently. "New York in Springtime" is my Chinese Democracy. To develop my skills, I pulled out my Scott Joplin piano rags book. That shit is fucking impossible but so fun to attempt. 

And to understand. Joplin wrote a primer called "School of Ragtime" that has seven very basic etudes that a beginning ragtime piano player can practice with. They're each four measures long. They are syncopation exercises, but I was more interested in the chord progressions than in the rhythm. Ragtime is distinctive for those two reasons: (1) rhythm, where you essentially play only eighth notes with the left hand (hopping between the tonic note and the rest of the chord) and play syncopated eighth note dissonant chords with the right hand, and (2) chord progressions, because you get all sorts of weird diminished chords and minor sevenths and stepwise chord movements that sound really pleasing but are sort of hard to understand musically. 

I got hung up for about twenty minutes just trying to figure out the chords for one of those four measure etudes. The chords are:
F / F#dim7 / C / A7 / F#dim7(b5) or Am6 / G6 with a passing tone or G7(13) / G7 / C
Let's just look at one small example of why ragtime is such complex and appealing music to listen to. Now, I don't know if you know any music theory. I don't know too much myself. You don't really need to know music theory to know that F#dim7 is a ridiculous chord as written out. But it is not a ridiculous chord to play, because it's just four minor thirds stacked on top of one another! It has three dissonant notes and two tritones - but get this - they all resolve on the C chord. The F# resolves up to G, the A resolves down to G, and the D# resolves to E. What this means is you have incredible tension (a feeling that two notes really should not be played together, like the first notes of "Chopsticks") followed by a perfect resolution to the root C chord. Maybe this means nothing to you in writing, but if you listen to it, you'll feel as WOWZA as I do. It's very relieving, like sneezing or coming. 

And for crying out loud, this is only one chord change! This four-measure turnaround has seven distinct chords, each of which build or resolve tension in a unique way! Your average rock song has three or four chords, and those chords are probably A, E, and D. All the rock songs I write end in with boring-as-shit perfect cadences, which is the musical equivalent of eating gruel every single day of the week. It is boring-as-shit and fails to move your bowels. A more challenging form of music, like ragtime, is the musical equivalent of Song of Solomon 5:4:
My beloved put his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.
I will take a photo of the etude I'm talking about because I want to share it with all of you. I hope this post was not horribly boring to read, or that you stopped reading at "apples." But isn't it awesome that humans have the capacity to make and understand such unlikely things? Tomorrow: an exploration of epoxy. Night.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Let me just point out that this is the subway exit (featured in the Times today) that empties out right in front of my office building. The corner of the building you can see halfway up on the lefthand side is the Dirksen federal courthouse! And this is the view I have when I lock up my bike in the mornings! And that's my subway line!

Chicago! Chicago!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The precatory theme of this blogpost is Pleasures.  Not the small-p of little delights, but the big-P of Estée Lauder's sheer, spirited, and shimmering scent.  NK has worn this it least since we were sixteen, and I love nostalgia almost as much as I love NK, so no matter how objectively unpleasant the smell may be, I love it nonetheless. 

That's the theme, and let's go with it.

First, I worked until 10 p.m.  I also did not arrive at work until 10 a.m. because I took an Ambien last night and lay like a gutted fish in my bed for eight unconscious hours.  I like my job though I stayed for twelve hours today to finish up an incomprehensible motion for summary judgment on the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  No matter how objectively unpleasant the smell may be, I love it nonetheless. 

Second, I biked home at 10 p.m. The windchill brought the temperature down to 24 degrees, but I've devised a layering system - sticky t-shirt, doublethick wool sweater, polyproplene sleeves, windbreaker, balaclava that is so encrusted in my dried spittle that it smells like a vagina when I pull it over my face, ski gloves, ski socks that go up to my knees, sneakers and a newish pair of thickish jeans - that seems to cut out the cold okay. If it's 24 degrees in November, what happens in January? But I like the commute home. I like to bike in cities. I commuted less when I lived in New York because I thought it more pleasant to hold hands with my lover on the L train than to schlep up the Williamsburg Bridge by bike. Here in Chicago, no such threat. I exit the Dirksen building onto a stunning view of a forty-foot Alexander Calder sculpture set in front of a dizzying skyline. 

That's really what it looks like when I leave my workplace.  When I leave late I get this entire scene to myself. Obama's offices are just to the left of the Flamingo so the whole post office (the big glass box in the picture above) is barricaded off now. And then I get a chilly bike ride through mostly quiet streets, and my nose runs and I get home sweaty and thirsty and in fifteen minutes and I make my balaclava even more vagina-smelling in the process. No matter how objectively unpleasant the smell may be, I love it nonetheless.

Third, I have a profile up on an online dating site and I am making plans to "date" some people - all men; remember, the thought of some hairy foreign clam roils my bowels, even more so than the thought of smegma-stuffed sausages; let's just stop there, shall we? - and in fact I am going on what may be a date (let us pray it is not) with the seven thousand-year old con artist I mentioned a few posts back. He's the one who cornered me at Kafka on the Shore and told me he was a voice actor? I am going to see Spike Lee's newest movie with him tomorrow because (1) why not, I'm straight and single and who cares if he's fifty-five million unattractive years old? (2) he said he was on the SAG Awards nominating committee and was going to see the movie as part of the nominations series, so it would be a new experience for me and why not?  Dating when you're crushed with loneliness is pretty much awesome, because you have no standards. No matter how objectively unpleasant the smell may be, I love it nonetheless.

Fourth, Shaw had a dinner party last night. You will recall that Shaw is my roommate the professional chef. She was just promoted and will be the managing chef of Rick Bayless' forthcoming third restaurant, name TBD. So she's pretty handy around the kitchen. The other day she suggested that I make black bean gruel instead of the chili-based gruel I usually make, and she suggested a recipe, and then as I haplessly butchered the unbutcherable boiled black beans recipe on the stove, she swooped in, stirred things, added a fistful of salt and whole cumin seeds, and made my week's gruel delicious! On the menu last night was bacon-wrapped pork loins (family reunion!) with a cherry-based sauce, green beans roasted with crushed almonds, and fingerling potatoes chopped up into the size of chopped-up babies' fingers, and dessert was a 10000% chocolate that Shaw had made with cacao beans she roasted herself with pecan wood. OMFG. She invited some friends of friends, whom I instinctively despised because they were all over 5'10" but who were generally nice enough, and I invited my co-clerks who did not come because they are (1) observant Muslim, not into the pig-wrapped-pig entree, and (2) observant pescatarian, not into the pig-wrapped-pig entree, and CJ's awesome friends BM and RI, who did come over and outlasted the Amazons and stayed until late drinking wine and talking about San Miguel's fantasyland architecture and incestuous community of ex-pats, and Dolores Olmedo Patiño, Diego Rivera's nasty old patroness. RI did his impression of Mike Ditka, which involved him saying, "You're just such a good kid. I can tell you're such a good kid. You're a good kid" with his chin tucked down against his chest. We talked about Chicago pride and the blue-collary, down-to-earthy, sports-loving, not-too-vain attitude that so many people here seem to have. It's a nice place to spend some time! No matter how objectively unpleasant the smell may be, I love it nonetheless. 

That sentence has nothing to do with the dinner party or Chicago or anything else, but this post uses epistrophe so it had to be said. That's also the title of the first jazz song I ever thought worth listening to.  Thelonious Monk had it right - jazz songs are epistrophes, because they always return to the head at the end of the solos! (Why don't you click through the link and have a listen? He plays it solo piano in this clip, with a charming ragtimey hop on the left hand.) Jazz is a Pleasure too.  No matter how objectively unpleasant the smell may be, I love it nonetheless.

Ok, nevermind the theme, it doesn't make sense. RC asked me to watch Obama's 60 Minutes interview and write some thoughts about it, and because I love RC (maybe) even more than I love Obama, here goes: I WANT TO BE THE WHITE HOUSE DOG I CAN SHIT ON THE LAWN PICK ME PICK ME PICK ME. I generally have nothing intelligent to say about Obama. Policies? Sure moderate whatever! Politics? Do whatever it's all shrewd! My response to him is purely visceral. He makes my viscera feel calm and protected and perfectly pitched to. I LOLed and LOLed when Michele talked about the hole in young Obama's car, and I nodded attentively when Obama mentioned some unpleasant realities about Detroit's future. RI said last night that when Obama campaigned in Green Bay, he opened his speech by telling all those cheddarheads "I'm a Bears fan," to rounds of boos, as part of his theme of telling the great industrial north things that were true but that they probably didn't want to hear. Effing genius. So sorry RC if you were expecting measured commentary, but I'm still a rabid fanboy two weeks after the end of the damn election, and all I can think is I WANT TO BE THE WHITE HOUSE DOG PICK ME PICK ME.

And finally, my band had its first show on Saturday. Guess what? We rocked that shit.  I was being all euphemistic pessimisty in my last post about it, but I was just being a crazy neurotic bicht. Before the show, I was worried that we weren't learning the songs quickly enough or well enough, but in the end it didn't matter. First, the sound at the Mutiny was godawful anyway - it wasn't the engineer's fault, something was wrong with the bass amp so that it sounded like there was an airplane engine in the room - so it's not like practice would have changed that. Second, it didn't matter because we had awesome attitudes and we rocked that shit. The other three acts were great in their own right, especially Kim's husband's energetic band of lunatics, but they were also all brooding punk/indie boys, so it was easy to be bubbly, upbeat, poppy girls in contrast. It also did not hurt, for better or worse, that there were six gazongas onstage. 

Anyway, I think the crowd liked us. Which was to be expected, since we invited the crowd. I played lead and sang on my songs, and Steph played lead and sang on her songs, and Kim rocked steady on the drums.  Our first song, which we will open every gig with, is called "Sally Crumb" - our band is called Salacious Crumb, although we were billed as "Falacious Crumb" and then called out as "Fallacious Cum" - and is a screamcore metal song with Kim on the guitar, Steph on the drums, and me very calmly, very unscreamcorily laying down the low end.  Steph's songs sound like Breeders songs and are very catchy.  Girls in the audience shouted at us to take our clothes off, and we shouted back "You first!" During the part of one of my songs where I sing "Giddyup!" eighteen times in a row, one young thing started slapping his thighs and holding imaginary reins out in front of him. The stage was set up funny so that whoever was playing bass was across an aisle from the rest of the band, so when I played bass, I tried not to be noticed but hopped up and down a little bit in the corner. My cranberry juice (teetotaling because flu, sleepy, nervous, Chinese) spilled on my setlist and then BM brought up some napkins up which got scattered around and stuck to my shoes, so during the last song I looked very cool and rocknroll trying to play bass while unsuccessfully attempting to remove Kleenex from my heels.  My feet looked like piñatas and I saw the same girl who had shouted at me to "Take it off!" pointing and laughing in an not-mean way at/with me. 

When I sang I tried to stop my habit of tilting my head to the left, but, according to the photos that Kim posted on Facebook, did not succeed in that effort.  I did not fuck up too badly on my guitar solos! It was very, very fun. 

Here's Kim and Steph. We weren't paid but we got free drinks, so Kim had two of these huge Amaretto stone sours before our set. She's an awesome drummer though, and didn't miss a beat. She's also a fantastic person, as is Steph - I got lucky with this band. 

The club looked just like this: dingy, dark, full of holes. The first band played in almost complete darkness. I don't know how Neil could even see his fretboard. They turned the lights on for the other bands, but two of them blew out during the show. When we arrived to set up, no one was in the bar except for single old men and the bartendress.  I saved money and took the subway up with my heavy guitar case and then walked half a mile from the stop to the bar, which was a terrible idea because my forearm cramped up from lugging the case and I couldn't unfurl my fist for about half an hour - not good for playing guitar! Also, I used the men's room and found a coffin-sized urinal inside. Honestly, why did someone design a urinal to be this large

Possibly the best part of the night was meeting people before and after the show. It's a rare time in Chicago when I'm not feeling like an unclever, uncharming alien. But people were being so friendly and I was so high on performing that I felt relaxed and happy and like my clever self. Kim's husband and his bandmates were effusive and complimentary. People were so decent! I shouted loudly for their band because they were technically flawless and also had a great act - their lead singer was a nerdy pudgy guy who wore glasses and a hoodless sweatshirt and worked his Telecaster like Yo-Yo F'ing Ma and screamed "I'm gonna fucking kill you!" at his hecklers/fans in the crowd, not in a violent way, but in a funny way. They were worried about going last (at 1 a.m.) but a big crowd of their UIC friends came out to support them after all. 

Before we went onstage, Steph told me and Kim a story about a horrid bitchy ex-friend who bitched her out at a party for seemingly no reason, refused to apologize afterward, then tried to apologize, then flipped 180 again and bitched her out again. We shook our heads and said, No more, no more, no more people who are bitchy and mean for no reason. It was a theme that night for me. It was a night for decency and friendliness and supportiveness and music. I smiled a lot and clapped a lot and tried to flirt with everyone. Not for purposes of sexiness, but to make people feel loved. You know those nights? I had one of those. 

Now I have gone and written too much. I also have some stuff to say about heartbreak, loneliness blah blah, not mine but other people's, but it's late and I have jury instructions to write tomorrow morning. Good night!

Sunday, November 16, 2008


I saw that a Facebook friend had posted a new picture of herself with her new tattoo, and it got me to thinking again about whether I should get an American flag tattoo. (The answer is still NO NO NO NO.) So I Googled "should I get a tattoo?" and one of the first hits was this, a website from the Jehovah's Witnesses advising youth that "If you are a Christian, you would certainly not want to make markings on your body—even temporarily—that smack of paganism or false worship." Teehee.

I think I've mentioned it before but I'll just say it again. So I used to be pretty devoutly Jehovah's Witness, when I was much, much younger. They roped my parents when they first moved to America, and I got stuck attending weekly Kingdom Hall sessions and having a Japanese-American woman named Bernice come to my house every Wednesday after school to eat strawberry-flavored snack wafers and teach me and a dull girl named April Lopez lessons out of the New World Translation of the Bible. That's the Jehovah's Witness version of the Bible, though I haven't paid close enough attention to figure out how that's different from the NRSV. I didn't like our sessions because all we did was read passages aloud, and April read very slowly, and I was impatient. April was a very girly little nine year-old. When Bernice said things like, "What's a different word for 'mankind' that doesn't talk only about men?" April would blanch, and then a minute later say, "Ummmm...'peoplekind'?" with an upturning inflection. And I would sigh heavily and say, "Humankind." I was a little tomboy bitch.

The Jehovah's Witnesses produce books for teens and preteens, since the New World Translation is a little opaque. My house was filled with these embossed hardcovers, and I was a hungry young reader so I read all of them. My favorite was a palm-sized sky blue book called "Young People Ask," which was designed for a teen audience. It introduced me to such concepts as homosexuality (illustrated by two topless men wearing Chippendales bowties embracing) and masturbation (illustrated by a teen boy kneeling at his bedside in prayer, asking Jehovah for the strength to resist the solitary vice). The chapter on the latter was so euphemistic that I could not divine what the vice entailed and for years afterward thought that "masturbation" was just a Jehovah's Witness's way of saying "selfishness." Resist selfishness: who could argue with that?

Anyway, happening upon the Jehovah's Witness's tattoo advice brought me back to those simpler days. I particularly liked the photographs accompanying the article.

This photograph says: if you get a tattoo, you not only have terrifyingly bad style (and a future filled with muscle shirts, eyeliner, crumpled felt trilbies) but you are also a gaywad and you like feeling a man's bristles against the sensitive part of your flabby shoulder.

This photograph says: "[Bananarchist], your cruel thin mother and Margaret Cho will revile you for the black blob you injudiciously decided to tattoo on the back of your hand. And then you will soak your shoulder pads with tears."

This article moved me closer to getting an American flag tattoo on my hand.

Friday, November 14, 2008

my afternoon

My judge walked into the room just as I was scrolling through a Google image search for "bodybuilder bodies."  I could not minimize the screen because my pincers were lightly dusted in bright red "Flamin' Hot Cheetos" cheese powder. My judge said nothing. I stammered, "I...I...I'm sorry!" then attempted to initiate a conversation about bodybuilding. The judge looked bemused. "You know, there's a big difference between weightlifting and bodybuilding?" he said.  "Wowza!" I said, showing off my bright red gums with a smile.

Worst. Federal. Employee. Ever.

[hangs head in shame]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

kafka on the shore

I ushered at a performance of Kafka on the Shore, adapted for the stage, at the Steppenwolf Theater last night. In 2005, I read and jumbled its plot up in the swampy area of my brain reserved for Haruki Murakami's whimsies, complicated ice cream-based desserts, and early twentieth century Russian music - i.e. the place where nonsense goes to die - so my memory provided no guidance for me as I watched. There's a fifteen year-old runaway, a library, a cat-killing Johnny Walker, an old dunce, a trucker, and lots of faked sex. The stage was spare and almost all deep blue. I haven't seen this many Asian actors on a stage since David Henry Hwang's Yellowface. I'm not sure I got anything out of the play except for a sense of Murakami's weirdness. The alternating story lines made almost no sense together in the adaptation. But I don't care, I still liked it because my reaction to theater is usually just visceral: I like seeing makeup on your face!

I met some characters too. Not characters in the play, but characters in the Beverly Cleary "Gosh, he's such a character!" sense of the word. I stuffed programs sitting next to a funny young man with an angular face who wore a suit. He told me he worked in a spy store. I said, What the hell is a spy store? He said, Think of something a spy would have, and we sell it there. I said, Shoes with daggers that come out of them. He said, Well no, we're a kid-friendly store. Turns out he was talking about the "Boring Store," which is a place about a five-minute walk from my house. It's the storefront for 826 Valencia's Chicago off-shoot. This young man, Patrick, said he tutored kids in creative writing and was applying to graduate programs in creative writing himself. He also said he moved to Chicago from Indiana to try to be an improv actor. He wasn't obnoxious like the improv actor who subletted a room from AS - that guy just got stoned and drunk with his 22 year-old friends every night to prepare for "psychadelic improv" and would do things like fall asleep sitting upright on the couch with his mouth wide open, cradling a two-thirds empty jug of Western Beef brand whole milk. Patrick was friendly and funny, and he tore tickets while I passed out programs and said, "Watch your step! Enjoy the show." over and over again. He had funny mannerisms that endeared him to people. I studied them. He said, "Howdy!" really loudly when taking their tickets and gesticulated in slapstick ways (e.g. he flicked the ticket with an exaggerated motion of his index finger when telling patrons where their seats were located)and most people walked away from him with a smile. We sat together during the show, and then I left during the post-show Q&A and I'll never see him again, but it was nice to have made his acquaintance.

Throughout the show, a man seated in the aisle seat of the back row - therefore, the seat closest to the position from which I was handing out programs - kept making eye contact with me and smiling. I smiled the smile of a diligent usher back at him. At intermission, he stopped me and said, "Do I know you?" I said I didn't think so. He said, "Are you an actor?" I said, "No, I'm a lawyer, which is pretty close." (I am repeating it on my blog because I thought I was pretty clever for saying that.) He said, "You have such a nice voice!" I said, "Well, I'm sick," and then returned to my seat. (I am sick. I have a flu or a cold or something. My voice is hoarse and low(er) right now.) The man was probably fifty and was trying to con me. After the show we chatted some more. He demanded to know my occupation and my educational pedigree. Eyebrows were raised at the latter. Then he handed me his business card, said he was a voiceover and stage actor, and invited me to a screening of an MFA thesis short in which he played the starring role. I demurred. When I got home, I looked at his website. He is indeed a voiceover and stage actor. I'll never see him again, but it was nice to have made his acquaintance.

Ah, more of the same. These days I have been thinking lots and lots and lots about my crushing loneliness. And this is not a call for compassion, since I don't feel too terrible about the crushing loneliness. I am treating it as an experience, which is how I get through everything, because experiences are always good to have. Also, I am not alone in my crushing loneliness, as almost all of my close law school friends have scattered themselves far away from one another and feel, I think, as bereft as I do, except for RA who could not give a toot because she is warm and happy in sunny Chiang Mai, God bless her. One side effect of the crushing loneliness I've already written plenty about: feeling happy about making even passing connections with people. I met Patrick and Mike, and then I biked home in a rainstorm somewhat happy to have some more weird people to think about to fill my night.

Another side effect of my crushing loneliness is my renewed readiness for adventure. It seems to me that if I have the opportunity (and the funds) to have an adventure, I would have only regret if I did not seize that opportunity. So I had the opportunity to visit my Bavarian man this winter, and I just bought myself an extremely, extremely expensive ticket from Chicago to Munich that lands on Christmas day at 9:40 a.m. He is spending Christmas day with his sister's family, which means I will be wandering around Munich by myself on Christmas from 9:40 a.m. until 8 p.m. after not sleeping on a ten-hour flight. It's either going to be a nadir or an epiphany, or just really boring. As an angry preteen, I fantasized about spending Christmas alone - Home Alone really resonated with me for this reason. In this fantasy, I would sit on a bus bench in a drizzle and would watch the shapes of lonely people emerge and recede into the fog. And then one of those shapes would become Eddie Vedder, and he would be mysteriously stuck waiting for the same suburban bus as me, on Christmas, and we would fall in love, and it would be passionate and epic and obscured by sheets of rain. You think I'm joking, but this was my actual fantasy. Anyway, I get to live it in about six weeks in Munich, except with Harry instead of Eddie. Which is a little petrifying, but it's not like I can think of anything better to do. Harry, the Bavarian, is 36, a civil engineer in the medieval town of Regensburg, a post-hippie, a Jimi Hendrix fan, an avid bike-commuter/-tourer, and a Luddite in the extreme. He smelled so bad after his bike rides that I could not stand to be near him when we traveled together in Ireland. On my last full day in Ireland, in Letterfrack, it rained most of the day but cleared up for a sunset that was a majestic sweep of purple and pink across the western sky. Harry paused us where we were and stared at the sun - straight at the orange sliver of the sun - five long minutes until it dropped below the trees. I chastised him for the sake of his retinas, but that's just what he liked to do. I am excited to be going to Germany.

A third side effect of my crushing loneliness is that I am taking more pleasure at the economy of being alone. For example, I like to make a pot of gruel at the beginning of each week and store it in individual serving containers and slowly spoon my way through the gruel throughout the week. My co-workers make fun of me ("Gruel again?" they say, as they head out to pick up Potbelly sandwiches for lunch), but I like knowing that each meal costs me about $1.20, and I have plenty of patience for eating the same thing every single day. Gruel, by the way, is usually chili or pea soup or lentils or some other healthy legume boiled to mush. I am absolutely certain that the eight-pack of paper towels I bought in September will last me until next September. My things are compact and tidy. I know the image of an old single granny pushing around her cart filled with single-serving meals is just about the most pathetic thing one can conjure, but I am not that old yet, and it's not that pathetic yet. Check in next year.

Other news: I got an Ambien prescription and, despite my distrust of psychotropic medications, am taking the first one tonight. My band is playing its first show on Saturday at a punk club in Logan Square and I have been practicing all week for it. I have some misgivings, but I have learned that it is best to keep negativity off this blog; so I will rant to you next time I see you about the disconnect between appearance and reality vis-a-vis Salacious Crumb. A case I am assigned to is on trial right now, and it is making me think that employment discrimination law is just about the dumbest, fakest shit ever. Was he fired because he was white? Or was he fired because all his employees didn't trust him [because he was white]? One is permitted if what is in the parentheses is silently understood, the other is not. Is one outcome any better than the other? The weather was up last week, then way way down, and has stabilized this week at cold and wet. A black man is president, I bought a space heater, and my mother writes to say that my dog is too stupid to move from the lawn when it rains.

ruthless knits

RW's handiwork on display. This one was made for me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

in love making love

The song I mentioned a few weeks back is finally up on my MySpace page. My friend Will D. wrote it and sang it, and I produced the music for it. The guitars sound cheesy and the dynamic balance is a bit off but I'm still pretty pleased with how we were able to work together with him in Oakland and me in Chicago. It worked like this: he did a rough recording with just voice and acoustic guitar on Garageband and sent me the MP3 so I could hear the song, the rhythm, and the chords. Then I did the instrumental parts on my eight-track based on what Will had sent me, and emailed him an AIFF file without vocal parts. Then Will lowered the pitch (because I'd recorded in a key that was too high for him to sing) in Garageband and recorded his vocals over it. And then he emailed me the MP3 of the completed song! How exciting is the Information Age?!

If you know Will, you should send him an email complimenting him on his amazing Barry White voice because he's a perfectionist and never thinks he does good enough.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Still on amazingly poor sleep schedule, 5 a.m. bedtime (I get in bed hours earlier, but simply cannot sleep). I am assigned to a case that went to trial today, so I couldn't come into work late. The brain goes first. Lots of near misses on my bike. I realized today that at this stage of sleep deprivation what is lacking in my thinking is nuance. It was extremely, extremely difficult today to compare prices for flights to Munich - I got lost in the permutations - I couldn't make decisions - I can't keep track of options - I can't weigh competing values . . . Likewise biking is getting on impossible. Nearly ran eye-first into some rebar rods sticking out of a pickup truck today because I wasn't paying enough attention. Crikey. I simply cannot hold anything else in my brain except whatever is immediately in front of it.

I got to thinking that this is what moral certainty must feel like. Let me explain how I got to this line of thought.  I sit in the part of the office where the receptionist would go if the judge had a receptionist.  Part of my job is letting people in when they buzz the chambers doorbell. There is tight security around here, especially these days since I work in Federal Plaza and Prezelect Obama's transition offices are in the Dirksen Building across the street - DHS SUVs are parked along every inch of the curbside across the street. Security is tight inside my building, too.  A couple of years ago, a white supremacist murdered an N.D. Ill. judge's husband and mother in the judge's house; a few years before that two marshals were shot and killed inside the courthouse by a criminal defendant attempting to escape at the end of his trial.  From my desk, I monitor three surveillance cameras. 

At the end of the workday today, a white man, about sixty-five or seventy, buzzed to get into my office. I let him in, because I let everybody in. I am supposed to weed out the shooter-looking people, but I'm not really trained to do that. Once a woman filed her papers upstairs and then came knocking on the chambers door begging the judge for help; she was Irish, her ex-husband was American, and he had absconded with their children months ago, and she believed the judge could resolve this matter before lunch on the same day. It was sad to turn her away, but the point of the story is that shooter-looking people don't often come to the door. Today the man I buzzed in made me nervous. 

Let me just interrupt my own telling of my story to say that this story does not end in horrible tragedy or violence or anything else except paranoia . . . like I said my brain is too stupid now to regulate what I'm writing so the narrative lacks coherence. The engine of this train is a violent whirring machine but the caboose, I promise, is just a smooth-rolling cruiser. I will get to the personal essay-esque reflection upon the thing, wisely reflected upon while one does another thing, shortly.

Anyway, the man who came in today wore a tan trenchcoat and kept only his right hand tucked into the front pocket of this coat while he agitatedly demanded to see the judge. He said he had an appointment. I told him the judge was not in the office (he wasn't), and then I invited him to sit down. He had some sort of six-point sheriff's badge embedded in a leather patch clipped to his chest, which didn't make me feel any better since I am suspicious of urban law enforcement generally. His eyes were small and blue and his face was covered in rosacea blooms, or was just ruddy. I imagined he was of Irish stock and because of that, my hand inched closer to the panic button underneath my desk. (The button summons the marshals immediately to the office. They come with guns drawn. I know this because the outgoing clerk told me this story: he had spicy Thai food sitting at his desk, got the runs instantly, bolted to the chambers bathroom, knocked the panic button on the way out, and listened from the toilet as marshals charged into the office demanding to know what had happened to the man who pressed the panic button.) 

The man sitting in front of me was not a shooter. He was there to visit my judge. He was garrulous and pushy and he sat in the row of chairs in front of my desk and said to me, as I scrolled lazily down a Westlaw screen, "You're Chinese, aren't you?" Since he was visiting the judge, I could not be my rude self. So I said, "Yes, yes I am."  "Nee how maw," he said. "What a nice accent you have," I said. "I have three Chinese granddaughters," he volunteered. "Oh? Why?" I said. "My daughter adopted them from China. Wushing, Dong Ling and . . . something else. I love that name, Wushing." "Well, too bad I got stuck with a name like Mandy," I said. "You're not from here, are you?" he said. "I was born in San Jose, California," I said. "I'm from West L.A.," he said. 

We got to talking, and I told him I went to school out on the East Coast. Why? Because I was seventeen when I made the decision and I wanted to be as far away from my parents as possible. He said, "There are plenty of good schools out in California. Except for Berkeley." I said, "What's wrong with Berkeley? It's a great school." He said, "Yeah, but they're always trying to overthrow everything. Start a revolution." I laughed politely and said, "I agree with them sometimes." He said, "If they want to start a revolution, why don't they just leave the damned country? It's the greatest country in the world. I love this country. If you want to change it, leave it." I said, "Well, I think a lot of good has come out of young people trying to change the world. But I love this country too, and especially after what happened on Tuesday." He didn't hear that last part, which was probably good. I said, "We should not talk about politics because I barely know you, and I think we'll probably disagree about a lot of things."

He continued talking about politics. I asked him what he did. He said he was an investigator in the U.S. Attorneys office. "Since you're a lawyer, you should become a U.S. Attorney. Or anything is fine, as long as you're not defending the criminal scum."  He was wearing a badge because there was a funeral today for a cop who had died on the job; he was shot in the head seven years ago and lived in a vegetative state until last week, when he finally died. The man sitting in front of me opined that the person who shot the cop should get the death penalty, except that moron Ryan made that nearly impossible in Illinois. I should have shut up, but I am feeling very true American (a.k.a. amenable to civic discourse), so I said, I understand why in some cases, like the one you're describing, people feel like the death penalty is necessary. But those are the easy cases. The hard ones are where you have confessions extracted by the Jon Burges of the police force and you have lawyers falling asleep and you have inmates being exonerated after twenty years on death row.  He said, "That hardly ever happens. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the guy leaves something behind. A hair. A fingerprint. You never hear about people getting exonerated anymore, with DNA being what it is today." I kept up the argument with him until the judge stepped in and shut us up. 

The judge and the man vigorously shook hands. "Happy birthday," the judge said. "Happy birthday," the man said, "Happy Marine Corps birthday." I said, "What? It's your birthday?" The man looked at me like I was an idiot. "It's the day the Marine Corps was founded. You ever heard of the Marines?" he was sneering, a little bit. I said, "Yes, of course." He said, "Well, you wouldn't even be here if it weren't for the Marines," he said, "You'd be speaking Japanese somewhere." I thought this was a strange thing to say. "I guess we would all be speaking Japanese," I said. He and the judge went into the judge's office and I changed into my jeans and biked home, nearly impaling myself on rebar. 

I suppose this exchange was sort of unpleasant. It really wasn't as unpleasant as it seems in the retelling. Up until the end, we were being civil. I felt very proud of myself for engaging with an obviously very conservative man and not hiding my opinions, because usually I tend to clam up or nod politely, even if I disagree. I've been socialized as a woman! But BO has me thinking this week that it's my right as an America-loving American to let my point of view be known even if I'm worried its outside of center, so I was happy to chat up an unpleasant man about unpleasant topics.  

I guess the point of my story is that I am trying to liken the state of mind one achieves by sleeping only 32 hours in seven days (I counted!) to the state of mind one inhabits as a person who wholly believes in the infalliability of his own beliefs. Both are a form of insanity. Good night!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

let's face it

The loneliness is crushing.

27 degrees

...windy, and snowing in my town. WOWZA AND WHY MEEEEE?

Saw "Changeling" with Jason 1 and JL the Obama campaigner (graduated from Stanford Law in May, started volunteering for Obama after the bar, has no job as of Tuesday, is planning to moveto DC and take his chances) yesterday night. It is a 150 minute torturestravaganza.  The plot: Angelina Jolie's kid is kidnapped, and the cops are too corrupt to care that the child they return to her is not actually her son, and instead think she is crazy, and lock her away in an asylum.  If you liked the parts of "Duck Tales" when Uncle Scrooge chases Huey, Dewey and Louie through a hallway of doors and HD&L are always one step of Scrooge who is checking all the wrong doors, and you as the viewer know better but are helpless with your knowledge, then you will love "Changeling"! I saw "Gaslight," from which the term "gaslighting" emerges, and felt the same way. Spare yourself the torture.

Hung out with Jason 2 for six hours watching football today. I waited 35 minutes outside in the freezing snowy weather for a crosstown bus to take me the three miles to see him because Chicago is designed for unidirectional movement toward the hub (the Loop) and has failed to create the wheel that connects those spokes. 

I went to some art galleries yesterday morning.  Then I compiled this list of living-well pointers on a napkin: 
  1. If the workweek is spent being deductive, be inductive on the weekends. 
  2. Gaze upon a large body of water at least once a day.
  3. Have the courtesy to sweep your pubic hairs off a public toilet seat.
Blah blah. Sorry for this post of utmost boringness.

leave me alone

New song up on new MySpace page: I maxed out the song limit on the other two pages.

Don't worry, this song is not about you, it's about the other you.  I've gotten into the habit of writing songs in ten minutes, not rethinking the cliches in the lyrics, and then recording them without giving much thought to the instrumentation. Great way to write music!  At least I figured out how to record vocals in stereo.  I'm still soliciting suggestions for song topics since I'm sick of writing love songs.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Having some major sleep problems, what with continued general elation over President Obama's election and continuing addiction to news. That Onion video? Too close to home. Periodically I wander into the living room, where Shaw has draped her YES WE CAN towel over the couch and where I can gaze fondly upon my American flag. I want to lay that towel over my face so it's the first thing I see when I wake up in the mornings.  I feel like a luge! I feel like a runaway balloon! I feel like a firefly, all lit up from the bottom! 

I have to say I'm a little surprised at this feeling. Maybe I was naive. I really thought the election was about meritocracy vs. gerontocracy, obvious talent vs. crass politicking, mensch vs. stench what have you. For me, the election was about qualifications! What a stupid thing to say! I didn't really focus about the symbolism of Obama's candidacy literally until three days before the election. Why? I don't know. Even when McCain gave his concession speech, I thought he was being patronizing by talking about the historical significance of the first African-American president. But then seeing people cry all around me, and seeing the world react as it did - WOWZA. I particularly relished an morning-after text sent to me by second-generation Korean-American BH:  "My mother called me last night to tell me America is a great country. [Bananarchist], America stands for something again! Something good! Something great!"

It was not long ago that patriotism in America looked like this: 

But two days ago we saw masses of people - people who are not all scarily monochromatic and aggressive - singing the Star-Spangled Banner in the streets, together, harmoniously, spontaneously, happily! OZ writes today to ask, "What can I do now? How do I get involved?" I confessed to Stern that I considered, for a moment, getting an American flag tattooed on me so that I would not forget what this moment felt like.

The tattoo is unlikely, since I continue to believe it's better not to give law enforcement the opportunity to track you by permanent markings on your body, though it's possible that a tattoo on the web between one's big and second toe or on the roof of one's mouth or in the most inaccessible fold of one's backfat would go undetected, but that's not the kind of flag tattoo I'd want, I'd want to get a flag sleeve or flag forehead banner or flag tramp stamp WTF AM I SAYING IT'S SO LATE I HAVEN'T SLEPT WELL IN SO LONG BANANAS I'M BANANAS WITH NUTS FOR OBAMA! 

Well, whatever. I read the Internet today, and then I refreshed it fifteen minutes later and reread it again. Here are some amusing things from recent days:

- More on Sarah Palin's clothes. The story is old news, but the images are always so revealing.  Here is seven year-old Piper Palin outfitted with a $1,300 Louis Vuitton purse:

- Some heartwarming home video footage of celebrations on 

- Eat it, Europeans. It's nice to see them jealous, unable to compete, shamefully gazing at their Old World navels. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! 

- Why the hell not? The Pointer Sisters, singing "Yes We Can Can," apparently a very long time ago. I am feeling so not cynical right now it's hard to know how to deal with it.  The lyrics would have made me gag a few weeks ago, but now they just seem so precious and prescient and perfect: 
We got to make this land a better land
than the world in which we live.
And we got to help each man be a better man
with the kindness that we give.

- Chicago is in love with itself.  I wanna brag: It's a good time to live in this city. Grant Park 11/4/08, bitches! 
Across the metropolis, the sweeping presidential victory of Chicagoan Obama was being celebrated as a moment of intense parochial pride and opportunity for a city that historically—and quite literally—has been at the crossroads of our ever-evolving nation.

Chicago becomes an instant international showcase as the architects of the next American agenda gather here over the coming months to build their new administration. The worldwide attention could enhance the city's prestige and influence and even give a boost to its 2016 Olympic bid.
- This Onion video about Cindy McCain is an oldie but goodie. "His outer shell has not even yet calcified."
- TMZ-style photos of President Obama exiting his gym in his shades and slinky pants. (But how alarming - is it this easy for a paparazzo to hide behind a car and access him?!?)

- Thanks to OZ, who unearthed some Obaminformation hidden in the Automotive section of the New York Times.  Five inch thick windows! 
For example, television clips showing George W. Bush entering and exiting the rear doors of his limos indicate that the windows are at least 5 inches thick, nearly twice the depth of what was used on presidential limousines in the 1980s and ’90s.

While I do not know what type of weapons such thick windows are designed to guard against, a half-inch of transparent armor is enough to stop a .44 Magnum round at point-blank range; at a thickness of 1.25 to 1.5 inches, the same material can withstand higher-velocity bullets fired from military assault rifles. Were an attack to occur, the ballistic forces of bullets fired into the windows would be absorbed within a succession of glass and plastic layers, after which a flexible inner coating known as an antispall shield would keep glass from entering the passenger compartment.

- Why is it that I don't care what I'm reading about, so long as it is analyzed through an Obama-lens? Sports, for example. White Sox thrilled about a fan in the White House. Obama drafts a fantasy football team two weeks ago with an ESPN reporter, bromance ensues. 

He looked at me like I'd stuck my elbow in his soup. "Man, this is more important than politics!" he insisted. "This is football!"
- Obama's doppelganger nearly born in Grant Park during his speech
Obamapalooza was a memorable experience for anyone who attended, but it's even more memorable for attendees Erin and Mawi Asgedom. The couple were watching President Elect Obama speak when Erin went into labor. She said, "Before we went, we realized that our contractions were about seven minutes apart. We decided to take the risk and witness something that was very historic." The couple left and walk nearly a mile to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where Erin was admitted and gave birth to a healthy Sawyer Tewolde Asgedom. Father Mawi, an immigrant from Ethiopia, said, "I feel like I've had the best 12 hours one can have. I got to witness a momentous moment in the history of democracy, Barack Obama, and then now I have my son here, who can be anyone he wants to be."
Inappropriate Hottie Rundown of Obama's potential cabinet. 

Janet Napolitano - Attorney General? Another butch attorney general named Janet? Waco us up, we must be dreaming! Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano is one Italian Stallion we'd like to ride into the Tucson sunset. Like her democratic AG predecessor, Napolitano has the rugged good looks of a lady who isn't afraid to sick the ATF on your ass if she wants to get a look at your concealed weapon stash, if you know what we mean (we mean genitals). Points off for having a name that puts that "Joey" song back in our heads. 2.7 out of 4 Ed Meeses.

Barack Obama has been president-elect for two days yet my cancer isn't cured- WTF?

I hope this post entertains you for the first hour of your workday, before you go back to glumly refreshing Politico waiting for news about RFK Jr. and Caroline Kennedy, or Larry Summers, or Janet Napolitano, and still checking FiveThirtyEight even though the election has already been won.

President Obama's (man I love writing that) transition website is up. It's nothing fancy but there are a few things that caught my attention.

The resolution on my monitor looks a little funky but you can still see the continuation of the clean, clear Barack Obama school of design - Prairie School of Graphic Design?? The page is modular and predictable. The banner at the top has not only the title and Presidential seal but also a simple way to sign up to get email updates from the Administration-elect (almost wrote "campaign" there). The rest of the page is a 70-30 split between two columns: squibs on the left, links on the right. The eye is drawn where it should be drawn - to the substantive information in the wider column. The second article asks for suggestions from citizens on how to improve government - a nice gesture and WTF it's new America with a corporate identity! The blue background on this page is a deeper hue than the campaign website, for solemnity, I guess. The designers seem to have abandoned the "change" font (Gotham) for the more a more Presidential serifed font that I don't recognize but I guess is the official font of the President since looks the same. I'm not a fan of the crimson box that is currently at the top of the page, though. This is not the most gorgeous or innovative website but I am impressed that (1) there is a website at all (Transparency in government! What a nice change.) and (2) that it conveys lots of information without being too cumbersome. I have done drank the Kool-Aid.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

daily violence

A friend's new blog.  Lovely!

the monde

Okay, I'm still not sleeping (5:30 a.m.) but instead reading comments in Le Monde translated by Google Translate.  It's pretty hilarious! "En, they had an old man, flanked colistière an unpredictable, and a legacy to assummer disastrous."

React to the event the election of new president of the United States and give your first impression.

I wrote this morning the symbolism of American films disasters or pdt U.S. was black and that he saved humanity!! for once the reality joined fiction. The joy flaps are still present among some players in the world, pity for them! black to white house!! democracy bravo!
Michel J  
I'm not sure the Republicans are so unhappy with their defeat: they will not manage a crisis is happening. You said cynical?
I love American People I love this new world
God that our beloved France seems small, dull and narrow, if chick going in momentum and hope ...
I am delighted! America is again a source of inspiration for the rest of the world - Obama shows us that barriers and prejudices can be overcome with intelligence, courage and will.The American people have believed in the possibility of change, and the dream becomes reality. What a great leap for mankind towards tolerance and acceptance of difference!
Mary Levene  
What a great day! I feel I am American today. Let's hope this election is not just Hollywood shit and that this man stay alive ... My two main fears need responses. For now I just enjoy the day ... Barack Cheers!
Unquestionably a step forward for the world. It is a mixed at the head of a country with a colonial and racist past. Do not listen to these depressed that you would say it is too dark or too pacifist. Except obscurantism, this day will be in all county school books in all countries for centuries to come.
And it heal lepers in imposing their hands until it is? The frieze on the mièvrerie anyway, Obama is not the Messiah!
OBAMA bears the hope of the world, and all peuples.Son election gives me a lot of emotion.It will take at President OBAMA lot of courage, perseverance given the immensity of the task ahead. I hope I can say in some time: What a wonderful word!
Michel KOCH  
With Barack Obama, Americans have opted for a young man, intelligent and dynamic, capable of directing their great country in the very serious crisis it is facing traverse.En, they had an old man, flanked colistière an unpredictable, and a legacy to assummer disastrous.Obama therefore wish good luck to him, his country and ours because we should not forget that the crisis we are facing, it is Bush that we owe very much.
So many centuries have seen so many great civilizations / nations who, having dominated the world, collapsed in a "finger snap ".... The United States reacted in time. After the worst, they now have means to go better. They open on the outside on the world and the world will not change without them. Welcome back to the world! Democratia to welcome back!Congratulations!
Yes it's true I am very happy too the outcome of elections States. I admit that the Americans give us this time a nice little moral lesson to us franchouillard pontificate. First human qualities and then the color of the skin. Now it remains to be seen saying "the dark side" even when it is young and seems nice but happens to be the height to carry out front a country like the USA especially with the current problems ... FORWARD.
Yes! They can now needs President Obama is up to the hopes placed in him not only by the American people but also by much of the world. Good luck Mr. President! Yes you can!
... And more beautiful it is.
Anwar Hachemane  
A beautiful message of hope! Finally the United States began to marry their ideals with reality. It remains to be seen foreign policy of this administration. For fear of being disappointed, let us not be too enthusiastic! Time will tell if Hercules was reincarnated in Obama. We see only that America is more racist, look ... January 20! In the meantime, hope this new president will be in the image of our hopes. But first: Congratulations!
Thank you America! Thank you to restore the U.S. image that we respect and love. And for us French is a fresh wind, which I hope it will accelerate the necessary changes to a country that recognizes and rewards the richness of its differences, to the highest level. I also appreciate the speech rallying beyond party (a small echo Bayrou?). ... Hope we can dream of.
One word: huge
After the Bush years, and a pleasant time to live and share with the whole American people.Finally a man who was elected for his skills and qualities as for his skin color. This is fun anyway.
Fox lady  
Congratulations to Barrack Obama! But although not Republican, I believe that those who sing today déchanterons tomorrow ... Huge job, Mr. President, if you want to do only the third of your promises ...
bravo the world is black we are all black and full of hope for a world open to new colors

president obama in grant park

President Barack Hussein Obama.  President Barack Hussein Obama.  President Barack Hussein Obama.  I got to see him in his first appearance as President-elect tonight in Chicago - bless this city, and bless America.  This is how I spent the day. 

No, I didn't vote today. I voted three weeks ago, by absentee ballot, in California.  I peeled the sticker off my bulletin board and proudly wore it around today. You will note this action is permitted under the fifth canon of judicial ethics.  

I tried to sleep in until the first polls closed, but failed to do so. I worked half-heartedly in the morning but spent far more time fretting over the news than I did working.  I had the funny feeling in the morning that I was falling in love - like there was something wrong with my stomach. I couldn't keep any food down and felt nauseated the entire day. I refreshed FiveThirtyEight and Andrew Sullivan and DailyKos and TalkingPointsMemo and Gawker and Wonkette and Politico and Huffington Post, my drugs of choice as of late, approximately three times each per minute, and hung my hopes on the anecdotes and photos posted on blogs. Again it was a beautiful Chicago summery day - got up to 75 degrees at some point - but I couldn't tear myself away from the infostream until 3:30, when I walked to the hipstery heart of my neighborhood to get my guitar fixed up. I kept thinking I'd see long lines in the street, or I'd lock eyes with strangers and we'd feel some democratic camraderie, but that didn't happen. Instead I saw store after store empty of people - I guess it's to be expected midday on a Tuesday, but it only impressed upon me further how fucked the economy is. No one's buying, no one's selling, and these stores are gonna be closed in a few months. I stopped in a couple stores to try to buy an American flag today, but couldn't find one anywhere.  I even went to Kmart! I did the same thing last week, in a different part of Chicago, but was likewise fruitless in my flag hunt. 

Anyway. I thought I would kill time before heading down to Grant Park by jogging off some excess energy, but I couldn't bring myself to do even that. I made an omelette, stuffed it in my face with my left hand while Google chatting my hysterical left coast friends (sucks to be on PST on Election Day!) and refreshing blogs with my right hand, and then literally ran to the subway to get to Grant Park. 

I exited the blue line at LaSalle and Congress and came out of the subway with a crowd averaging twenty or so years old.  The exit was about five blocks from Grant Park, and even then, and even at the relatively early hour of 7 p.m., I saw crowds streaming east toward the lake.  People wore Obama shirts, smiled at each other, and walked with light steps. I kept my MP3 player tuned to Chicago Public Radio and listened with an earbud in one ear, and I wanted to shout when Pennsylvania was first called for Obama.  But I'm not that kind of person, so I just muttered, "Pennsylvania!" over and over to myself hoping that others might overhear. 

On the walk to Grant Park, vendors lined the sidewalks hawking all sorts of Obama-inspired items.

The man I bought this button from said that the buttons were free but mandatory tips were $5. His way, I guess, of "fooling" the Chicago police officers that stood about ten feet away from him. I think the police had other things they were worried about. I choose this button out of all the others because it was the only one that did not have offensively bad graphic design (i.e. Obama and Biden photoshopped badly in front of the White House, script fonts, ugh) and it is patterned after the Chicago Cubs logo (but that means that the button, unfortunately, claims victory for Cbama).  I also picked up this doozy for five clams:

Obama on a handtowel. I asked the vendor, "What happens when you wash it?" before remembering that I would not have occasion to wash the towel because I'm not actually planning on using it as a towel. I would not wipe my hands on the face of our next president. Maybe my face. Only my face, though. With light, gentle strokes. 

There were police and barricades everywhere but security was surprisingly lax. I had almost decided against going to Grant Park because I was, as I noted a couple posts below, worried about getting blown to smithereens by an Eric Rudolph type of maverick. In fact, and I can say this now that it's over, I was nervous the entire time that President-elect Obama spoke that I and the 80,000 people around me would witness a high velocity round tear through the man's body. I was relieved when his sixteen minutes of speechifying ended and he started moving his head around. Morbid, I know. Sorry.

Once I got past the barricades, which seemed to serve no purpose except prevent pedicabs from rolling into the park, I was in the carnival proper. There was less revelry than I expected, and more purpose-driven milling, but this might have been because I got there after dark. Here's a shot of some of the buildings around the park:

There were some anti-Bush protesters distributing pamphlets about the war. They seemed really out of synch with the mood - for the first time in eight years, I wasn't just going into an anti-Bush something, I was going to a pro-America celebration! I'm still against the war and still against Bush, but it was just nice for once to be up on something too. Anyway, I thought this poster was sort of funny:

In the distance, I could hear the beat of some arrhythmic bongos.  Many people were taking pictures, shouting to one another, acting giddy already. I really liked this banner:

Say it aloud - it has one more syllable than you'd think.  There was a Metra stop right nearby, and people shouted as they emerged from the exit.  Their shouts echoed in the stairwell. 

I got there ninety minutes before the field opened up, so I found the back of the queue (two blocks away) and started waiting. I got stuck behind two very drunk identical twins who chain-smoked and solicited high fives from people walking by. It was sort of fun in a fratty way, even though they were at times obnoxious and I had to pretend to be texting so that the unbearded twin would not tell me anything more about his hard rock/funk band, Assimilation.  Incidentally, all the text messaging made me feel so modern and American and awesome - I was doing a tit-for-tat exchange with friends: you give me updates from the polls, I give you updates from Grant Park - but once I got inside Grant Park my phone mysteriously stopped accepting texts and phone calls. I thought it was some sort of security conspiracy but apparently it was just AT&T's shittiness.

Anyway, the twins were very drunk. I got a high five from one of them, and then I meekly said, "Hey, did you know that Pennsylvania went for Obama?" and he shouted, "WHAT? You're from Pennsylvania?! REPRESENT! What other states do we have here? Missouri? Iowa? Who's from Iowa!?" and he turned his attention away from me. This Operator problem repeated itself about an hour later, after HM joined me in line, when drunk twin #1 shouted, "Hey! He's from Ohio!" and the women standing behind me misheard and shouted, "What?!!! WE WON OHIO!??!"  She then immediately declared that she was for the first time not ashamed to say that she was from Ohio, and she called three people on her cell phone and shouted to the listeners on the other end that Ohio had been won.  Ohio was ultimately called for Obama, but not until much later! But that was the mood of the moment: talking with strangers, mishearing strangers, having a little bit more hope than we'd previously thought prudent. I peered over somebody's shoulder at his Sidekick, and chatted it up with a hair stylist from Evanston who said she had to kick out a client to catch her train down to the event. 

I just thought the above picture was funny. Michigan Avenue southbound was slow-moving traffic, and some brilliant promoter realized that he could drive his billboard advertising a gentlemen's club slowly down it, past a captive audience of tens of thousands. Other cars drove by, including a white convertible with "OBAMA '08" painted on the side and four bouncing ladies inside, and we all cheered.  I overheard some conversations. One woman left her friend saying, "Goodbye! I'll see you in New America!" I texted that to NK in California, and NK said she cried.

HM joined me around 8 p.m.  I bought two flags (jumbo for me, less jumbo for her) and we waved them like idiots. We thought they were appropriate within the strictures of canon #5. I have never waved any flag more vigorously than I waved my little flag tonight! I shook it like I was being electric shocked! I got crunk with my flag! It was like all my love for America was channeled into that flag and it was too much for the flag to bear and the flag trembled violently from the passion of my love! Oh, I didn't mean to sexualize/anthropomorphize the flag that way. 

We finally started moving around 8:45 p.m. At this lighted sign, a canned female voice directed ticketgoers to the right and advised us to throw away our food and drinks. Apparently there were up to a million (NO! Really?) people without tickets at the park, but I didn't see them because I was among the select. For the select, there were large piles of horseshit on the walk to the field and because the crowd was so thick, many people did not see them in time to avoid them, so you heard shouts of "Aw, I'm standing in horseshit!" We laughed. I narrowly avoid the horseshit. 

The first line of security merely checked our bags for food and drinks, though not very well - my explosive peanut M&Ms got past these folks. Then we flashed our IDs at the next corral, and proceeded to the big ol' field where Obama was to speak. It was ginormous. Five states worth of bar examinees could have taken their bar exams on that field. (Why is that my point of reference?) HM and I got on the field late and had to take positions way in the back.  There were people in all directions, and I could not see the stage - I couldn't even ascertain the direction of the stage from any vantage point accessible to me.  We sat for a while and watched CNN playing on the Jumbotron. It was the boring part of the broadcast where various heads talked and the polls were slow. During commercials, the sound crew cut off CNN and piped in old school R&B and soul, and people got up and danced or nodded their flags and heads in time with the beat. appeared as a "hologram" on the Jumbotron and we were all very confused. 

Around 10:30 p.m., things started happening very quickly. CNN started cutting over to shots of Grant Park and, as HM pointed out, it became this amazing feedback loop. We watched ourselves on the Jumbotron and shouted, and the more we shouted the more the Jumbotron showed us shouting, so we shouted louder. I jumped up and down with my arms and legs fully extended, waving my flag over my head.  The shouting paused for a second, and the CNN announcer said, "Ok, we're ready to call this one. Virginia has voted for Obama!" and the crowd ERUPTED. This was a smart bunch of folks. We all knew what it meant that Virginia went for Obama. I don't think anyone was expecting the announcement to be so abrupt, so we appeared to be taken by surprise. I gasped! I screamed! I jumped! Seriously, the whole crowd just threw up their hands and howled.  Primal screams, guttural screams, whoops of joy.  Seconds later, CNN called the election for Obama and everyone went crazy all over again.  I could not stop saying "President Obama. President Obama. President Obama" and beaming at everyone around me. 

CNN went back to its business and the sound check for Obama's speech concluded. The sound checker said, "Final sound check for the microphone for the next President of the United States of America," and the crowd erupted again.  

McCain came up on the Jumbotron and gave his concession speech. For the most part, the crowd was quiet and respectful and grateful for his closing remarks, though some heckler behind me kept shouting, "LOOOOOSER!" and "Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out!" And I'll admit I groaned audibly when McCain gave a shoutout to Palin. But no one applauded louder than was appropriate when McCain finally exited, and we were all excited for Obama. 

A pastor came onstage and gave a prayer. I bowed my head. I have changed my views about religion and religiosity generally and am ready to do things like bow my head and close my eyes when people talk about God. I think I'm (almost) ready to believe that God is not only a metaphor for all that is good in us but also something supernatural and awesome. Does this make me sound like Dennis Kucinich on UFOs? Sorry. 

Back to the point. A unknown came out and sang the national anthem. She swapped some words ("gave proof through the times" rather than "gave proof through the night," etc.) but that was okay. Instead of singing the final line stepwise descending, as it is always sung, she ended with "brave" on a high note, which I felt was totally appropriate for the occasion.  Okay, I just had to Google "define:occasion" to see if I had spelled that word correctly. It's almost 5 a.m. and I'm not even to the part where Obama comes onstage. 

"Signed, Sealed, Delivered" started playing, and we all knew what that meant.  Obama then came onstage. 

Nuts were went.  As you can see, I was not only a million miles from the stage, I was a million miles from the Jumbotron, and the world's tallest man and the woman with the world's frizziest hair stood directly in front of me, so I couldn't even really see the Jumbotron. I stood on my toes and shouted "PRESIDENT!"  The view behind me: 


Obama gave a wonderful speech. Quarter of the way through it, my face screwed up into a walnut and I cried like a gentle Irish rain. Halfway through it, Obama began working. I mean, the man was just elected, and he started working immediately. He started talking about sacrifice and the task ahead and started preparing the country to get to the job of cleaning this mess up. I really hope he continues to find ways to address the nation as president, because his words are not just pretty but productive also. 

His speech ended. The Obamas and the Bidens came on stage, and some weird orchestra score played on a ninety second loop that built up to the same crescendo over and over again.  Half the crowd pushed forward, half the crowd pushed back, and I stood on a hill watching Michelle Obama walk around in that lovely dress.  HM and I left after fifteen minutes or so.

This was the crowd looking back on Balbo Drive. As far as the eye can see.  There wasn't any dancing the street, like NG and OZ report happened in Oakland. There wasn't any more hysterical shouting, though a few "O-ba-ma!"s punctuated the air occasionally. It was near midnight, and we were simply exhausted and elated. 

My Bavarian man called me as I walked back to cell phone range and congratulated me. It was 7 a.m. his time, and he said he woke up at six just to check the news. At home, I found a message in my inbox from HLK in London: "My dear American friends, Congratulations to you all. America has finally got it right and picked someone decent to be in charge. I'm so happy and so is the rest of the world. Well done, guys." I don't base my self-esteem on European popularity contests but it's still very nice to feel that the world is behind America on this one.

Here I am with my proudest possession.  Look. I am an overeducated gay Chinese-American blue-state atheist woman whose parents are immigrants.  The point is not that I am more oppressed than thou, it's just that it's hard for me not to be cynical about American politics. I know many of you feel this way too.  We're aliens, and the story of America never seems to quite match the hype.  But today I carried around a feeling - that funny nauseating feeling in my stomach - of being in love with my country.  I bought that flag. I waved that flag in the street, in the field, in the subway, and even in my house, a little bit, when I got home. I wanted to call my parents and tell them that they had made a brilliant decision thirty-one years ago to come to this place. I am so, so happy. Dare I say it? Yes. I am filled with hope.