Monday, March 30, 2009


  • Daily bag of Cheetos
  • Daily fistful of peanut M&Ms
  • Daily 50mg of caffeine
  • Daily half pint of beer
  • Daily serving of hormone-enriched factory meat
  • Near constant self-administration of hysteria remedy
  • Frequent Google searches for "famous ancient walls" and "dying alone"
  • Overstated belief in God
  • Quick to anger
  • Slow to forgiveness

  • Lets yellow mellow

Friday, March 27, 2009

people are nice

I wrote to the guy who sold me the Ibanez guitar (see below) and he wrote a nice email back.
Hi James,

Remember me? You sold your guitar to me for $20 off the price you wanted to sell it for, because we thought the pickups were broken. I told you at the time that if I took it to a shop and they said there was nothing wrong with the pickups, I'd pay you back the $20. Well, guess what? I owe you $20. I took the damn thing apart and put it back together before I realized that the VOLUME WAS TURNED DOWN. How silly is that?

Anyway, are you on PayPal? I lost your address so I figured it's just easiest to PayPal transfer the cash rather than mail a check. Let me know what you prefer me to do!

His response:
Hi [Bananarchist],

I can't believe neither one of us thought to check the volume control! I'm so glad it works fine. Thanks for letting me know that everything is okay. I was worried I sold you something that required a costly repair. No need to worry about the $20. Enjoy!

Sometimes people are just really nice! Sometimes money is not as important as good will!

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Olympia just sent me a link to the website of this guy who is writing and posting a song every day. He's funny and talented, etc., but what I was most impressed by is the fact that at least eight stringed instruments (guitars, banjos, and either a ukelele or a small guitar) are visible in some of the videos. Which got me to thinking that it was time to acquire more instruments. 

At one point this fall I had five guitars in my room. One was a borrowed bass that I have since returned, another was some crazy bitch's guitar that I have since left leaning in the corner of a Bavarian apartment. My room is not big, so these guitars were stacked up/shoved underneath my bed. Because this is my fucking blog, now I am going to list the instruments I have in my apartment:
  1. 2005 Fender Mexican Fat Strat, agave blue, my electric guitar. Fat bottomed Fannie, with the throaty humbucker and a strawberry sticker for sweetness. In the 2006 breakup I got the dog and the guitar. She got the apartment that became infested with bedbugs three months later. 
  2. 2006? Ibanez AEF18ETVS, violet sunburst, my acoustic electric guitar. Bought this off a fellow on Craigslist. I talked twenty bucks off his BATNA price because I thought the pickups were broken. Then after spending two hours dismantling and reassembling the guitar and its electronics, I discovered the problem: the volume was turned down. I'm gonna send this guy his $20 back.

  3. 1996 Squier P-Bass, black, my bass guitar.  My parents bought me this during my junior year of high school because of my late Renaissance PSAT score. The first song I played on it was "It's Only Love" by the Beatles, a duet with NK on her matching black Fender Strat. This was the instrument I used in my high school jazz-fusion band, the college funk band I got kicked out of (for sucking at bass), and then left mouldering in the co-op basement for three years. The pickups and pots rusted. I learned to solder two weeks ago and finally fixed the electronics. It is good as new now, which is to say, still shitty.
  4. 2008 Yamaha YPT-410, my keyboard. I got this for free. It is one of those horrible no-weight action plastic keyboards, but whatever, it was free. It makes helicopter sounds.
  5. Roland Boss BR-600 Digital Recorder, my 8-track and drum machine. How I make all those late night recordings. It kind of blew my mind when I first bought it, and it is a powerful little beast, but in the information age people don't use audio-only digital recorders - they use software with audio visualizations like ProTools or GarageBand. That's the next step for me, I guess.

  6. 1995? Crate GX-30M Amplifier, my guitar amp. Fifty bucks at a used guitar shop near my house. The pots are dirty. When you turn the knobs, it sounds like you're stepping on Fritos. But at least it's loud.

  7. Two Hohner Hot Metal Harmonicas (in A and C). I bought these last week and haven't even tried to learn to play them.  I got them primarily because I want one day to pull my harpoon out of my dirty red bandana and play soft while Bobby sings the blues.

  8. Two plastic purple egg shakers, one is missing, which I blame on Stephanie.
  9. 10" Remo Economy Tambourine. Bottom barrel prices! Unfortunately, bottom barrel sound too.

  10. Velcro sleigh bells. This was used primarily to keep a 16 month-old baby entertained. I am going to include it in my Thanksgiving song, however.
  11. Columbia Maid-Rite Washboard. I also bought this last week. I am inspired to start a jug band. The thimbles are still in the mail, so I haven't tried playing it yet.
  12. Assorted random percussion (Japanese toy claves, aspirin bottles, drumsticks)
  13. And the cheap clarinet and cheap violin and ruined electric guitar I keep in Palo Alto.
  14. I owned a drumset but I sold it last year after learning three basic beats.
  15. Instruments you can buy me (my birthday is eventually coming up): banjo, kalimba, trombone, ukelele, harmonium, trumpet, alto saxophone, accordion, cowbell, Gibson Les Paul, Fender Telecaster, Vox AC30 amp, upright bass, banana suit.

Are you still reading? What's wrong with you?

sentences today from crazy people

Chat with a friend:
X: i was agonizing this morning about a speedo i am buying
X: thinking about how i could take it to my tailor
Email from a friend:
do you know i made a collage of [Tim Geithner]??  it's hanging by my desk.  shall i scan it and sent it to you, so that you can better appreciate his beauty?
Text from a friend:
Let's retire in Santa Barbara! This place smells like flowers. And they have lots of old people. We'll have lots of lemon parties! 
#define Lemon party [NSFW, fools].

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

so much hatred in one little comment

One of the "Editors' Selections" comments from the top story in the Times right now (Hillary Clinton's trip to Mexico and comment that U.S. drug use fuels Mexico's drug gangs problem):
March 25, 2009 8:33 am
As a starter, the US needs to (1) end the war on drugs, (2) create a guest worker program, short-term, no path to citizenship, (3) jail those who knowingly hire the undocumented to a large extent (think Iowa kosher farm), and (4) repeal birthright citizenship. Mexico needs to (1) effectively tax its oligarchy, so that its tremendous wealth is more equitably distributed and its people less likely to flee, and (2) realize its people are its responsibility, not ours.

Unfortunately, I doubt any of these will happen.

— DavidH, New Jersey

Let me translate this for you. Let's have a temporary visa program that permits employers to pay imported workers extremely low wages but guarantees them none of the labor rights they would have if they were Americans, and let's make sure these people don't become citizens so they can help us meet our demand for low-cost produce without receiving any political rights that might one day be used to change political systems that allow us to create these schemes to deprive people of their political rights because our produce prices might rise as a result. Next, let's repeal "birthright citizenship." In practice, this means that brown kids born in this country are not citizens - but we must make sure that white kids born in this country are! Thus we will set up bureaucracies to determine whether a child born in the country is American enough to get citizenship automatically, or instead must live in political oblivion - born without citizenship in any country! Also, in case you missed it, I hate Jews.

I don't even disagree with the "end the war on drugs" or the "equalize Mexican income disparity" arguments this person makes. But then he sneaks in these extremely hateful (but reasonable-sounding) arguments into the rest of his comment. And then 218 readers "recommend" this comment. Ugh.


I have a few things on my mind tonight. Many of them are nice things, but some of them are not so nice. One nice thing is that a dear friend from ages ago, with whom I'd fallen out of touch, wrote today! She is in a far-flung part of the world but she was thoughtful enough to take the time to write! I almost cried! But instead I peed and didn't answer her email for 12 hours.

She is in Nepal, which sort of ties into the not so nice things I am thinking about. Yesterday, for the first time since I've started clerking, I made a decision I was really not at all certain about. The law did not clearly dictate an outcome, so the parties bickered. I came to a decision. I won't say too much more here, except to say that when the law does not compel a result - which is what the law, being in theory perfectly rational, ought to do - then irrational factors start to creep in, and for no particular reason I was thinking about RR, a friend who banished me in 2006 for failing to take her post-college mental health issues as seriously as I should have, as part of my decisionmaking process for this case. 

I uploaded the files right before leaving for my bike ride home. And on my bike ride home I could only see evidence everywhere that I had made a decision I would regret. I felt so awful about it that this morning I called up the deputy clerk and had her pull the files off the electronic case filing queue so that I could think about it some more. I am extremely bad at decisionmaking, and this was a decision that could really affect someone else's life! 

I still don't know how the case will turn out. All I know is that yesterday I felt that horrible feeling of regret that I have only felt with any real conviction a few horrible times in my life. 

To bring this back: one of those times was in Nepal. I still think about this person, and I thought about him yesterday, so it's funny or prescient or God's will that a dear old friend living in Nepal would choose today to get in touch with me. His name was Pedro Jorge, and he was from Portugal, but he was in prison in Nepal. I saw his name and the address of his prison posted at a Buddhist monastery in Bodinath, and an invitation to visit him. I had nothing else to do and I was at the end of my stay in Nepal, so I went. I walked away from the tourist hovel I had been staying in for seven weeks ("Mom's Guest House," $1.14 per night) to the real-people part of Kathmandu, to a little prison with lax security.  In the main office, there was a three-column chart. The first column stated the prisoner's name, the second his country of origin, and the third his crime.  It was MURDER, MURDER, THEFT, ASSAULT. The row next to Pedro's name said simply, "VISA."  (This was all in English for some reason.) 

I told a guard that I wanted to visit Pedro, and he led me to the open-air visitors center, where it was sunny, warm, and dry. Pedro came out and we sat on benches, him on the bench proper, me raised up on the back of the bench. He was probably in his mid-thirties, thin, hard tanned, smoking cigarettes. He wore a dirty old loose t-shirt and dirty half-length pants - they weren't shorts, they were just ruined pants.  We chatted, and he told me his story: he had left Portugal to seek spiritual enlightenment in Nepal, and he found this monastery in Bodinath that really called to him.  He stayed on in the monastery for a spell of years, allowing his visa to expire. He would have had to pay some money to renew the visa, and he didn't have it. So he stayed on without documents and without money. The details are unclear, but somehow the police discovered that he was staying without documents, and that he owed the Nepalese government $1200 dollars. If he could pay the money, he would be freed. He was in debtor's prison.

I asked him why nobody in Portugal had paid his fine, thinking maybe that he didn't have a way to get in touch with his Portuguese family and that I might be able to help him in that respect. Pedro shrugged and said simply that he had nobody in Portugal. 

I stayed maybe an hour, and we chatted about what it was like in the prison. I didn't talk much, but he seemed to enjoy, or at least not to mind, chatting with me. He told me the conditions were poor. He slept on a mat on the floor in a room with twelve other prisoners. It was cramped and dirty and it could be violent. He had been in prison for eighteen months and had another year to go. One thing they did have was badminton. He asked me for some money so that he could buy a new shuttlecock. I had 80 rupees in my wallet, but I gave him only a 20 rupee bill because I didn't want to empty my wallet for him. It was really a selfish thought - I could have walked back to the guesthouse for free instead of taking a rickshaw, and in my room I had plenty of cash, so it wasn't as if I needed those other 60 rupees in my pocket. I just didn't want to go through the hassle of finding a vendor willing to change my 500 rupee notes. The exchange rate in 2001 was 80 rupees per dollar, so I gave the man $.25. 

He was nonetheless happy and grateful for it. He said it would pay for a few shuttlecocks. I told him I would return with some badminton rackets for him. We shook hands, and I left.

I had a week left in Nepal, but it was a busy week for me, so I never got around to finding a badminton racket and delivering it to Pedro. It bothered me so much that I hadn't given him the remaining $.75 in my pocket, which would have meant nothing to me but possibly could have bought Pedro some needed amenities in prison. My guilt fed on itself, and grew and grew such that at the end of the week I was considering walking to the Portuguese consulate and paying Pedro's fine myself. It just happened that I had exactly $1200 in my bank account, which I had dutifully saved by spending only $6 each day of my $35/day travel writing salary. So by the time my Royal Nepal Air flight lifted off the ground and I said to the country shrinking in my window, Fuck you lonesome, I am never coming back here, I was burdened by not only the guilt of the $.75 I didn't give to Pedro out of selfishness but also by the much more irrational guilt of the $1200 I didn't give to Pedro to bail him out of jail. 

In the end, I did nothing. I didn't go back and give him 60 more rupees, or badminton rackets, or $1200. You may think I am a rube for feeling guilty about any of this - maybe the story was all a lie, maybe he was not a good person, maybe he deserved it for coming from a country of privilege and not acting more responsibly, and what do you really owe a stranger, anyway? - but even eight years later I still think those are small-minded thoughts, and that I should have paid his fine and given him a year of his life in freedom. I spent $709 this fall on a fucking bed, for God's sake. 

We all make mistakes. The other ones I've really regretted all have to do with me hurting my partners in spectacularly hurtful ways. The decision I uploaded and then canceled today was maybe a mistake, or maybe not. I still don't know. But at least I will take some more goddamn time to think about it so that I won't be wondering eight years later whether the person I see on the street is the person who my decisions as a 28 year-old ruined.

You are the first person I have told this story to.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


The girl I mentioned a few posts back as the girl I thought I could develop a crush on has an unfortunate habit of using IM speak in text messages. U know that a relationship with a person like that can only go so far. Still I flirted gamely with her and wondered why even with the spring thaw my interest in womenz has been holding steady at zero since last July.

On Friday, I won a t-shirt at a local bar that holds turtle races (it is exactly what it sounds like) for having a ticket for the turtle that came in dead last. Her name was Jolanda. I ruined my voice screaming "MOVE JOLANDA!!! MOVE!!!"

On Saturday my practice with the doo wop band was canceled when the two other members, who are married, got in a little marital spat. I said, "Hm, I don't mind if you just drop me off at home!" when they picked me up bickering in the Yaris.  Ten minutes and a trip around the block later, I was back at my front door! Oh dear, married bandmates! We shall see how long this experiment lasts for!

I met a new awesome person this weekend (thanks SB for the friend connection) who is both incredibly accomplished and incredibly modest - she sits attentively through your stories of piddling heartbreaks and very chance accidental meetings with Natalie Portman and never says a word about 1) the fucking Emmy she's won, 2) having seen Ashley Judd peeing, 3) hanging out with Oprah at the gym. I was sort of bowled over by this person's charisma a.k.a. ability to make you feel way more interesting than you actually are. New Awesome Person also had second row center (HFS!) seats to the Chazz Palminteri one-man show that is running in Chicago this week because of her connection to Oprah, and she offered me the second seat. Wowza! BFF tells me not to blow it with this potential friend by being too desperate-for-friends seeming. Thanks, BFF! I'll try!

It was 65 lovely degrees in Chicago yesterday and I sat immobile in the sun for two hours waiting for the gelato I'd eaten to finish triggering serotonin transmissions in my brain. 

Today I left the house only to walk to a nearby fruit market with Olympia and buy $.98/quart of WTF SO CHEAP SO RIPE strawberries. Olympia is a policy analyst and she was working on a paper this weekend, and I am a clerk and I was working on an opinion this weekend, so we set up our apartment like a library and I studied at the kitchen table while she studied at her desk. We shuffled around each other making tea and eating toast, and then every hour or so we'd take breaks to chatter. This went on for twelve hours. It felt kind of like college! I was going to write graffiti on the kitchen table! I made her strawberry and Nutella crepes at 6pm and then she made me chicken curry at 11pm for dinner. I really like my new roommate, come to Chicago and meet her, she's so great!

Today LF told me that she had fallen in love for the first time in six to seven years! With a yogi! And then she described in great detail the four steps of nonviolent communication, and confessed her secret love of self-help books. But do you know what? It shouldn't be a secret! I read some self-help books this year! And I think I am finally old enough to nod vigorously at instead of rolling my eyes at the touchy-feely lovey-dovey. Because all the aphorisms are true! Your life is too short and precious to tolerate mean people in it; it's best to communicate in "I feel" statements rather than snapping and yelling; being nice to a person makes that person and you feel better; God is love, etc. These lessons are simple and universal and I am embarrassed to admit that it wasn't until this year, these past six months of freezing cold lonely sadness, that I really started to learn them! I should thank that stupid fucking bitch for dumping my ass because I think it's made me into a kinder person. That wasn't meant to be so ironic!!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

ja gerne

Just recorded another song. It's my first attempt at writing doo wop (I'm in a doo wop band! And mysteriously, I am singing lead!) and my first attempt at singing in falsetto. I am clearly in need of a lyricist, too - the song is currently a song for furries - so if you have any ideas please write me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

just as well as i do

I put a new song up on my MySpace page.  A rough recording, but it is my first country blues song, so what.  I am forcing Olympia to learn fiddling so maybe I'll put up a second take sometime.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

devil in a woodpile

I biked in 70 degree weather tonight to a little bar near my house to hear this band. Everything from this record label I've liked. If anyone would like to teach me how to play the washboard, please write.

As often happens, somebody decided he wanted to talk me tonight, which I didn't mind. That's one nice thing about being more or less single, not minding when people want to chat. I squeezed onto a barstool between him and an old man at this little bar, and settled in to watch the band. When I sat down, I caught his eye and said hi.  This sort of greeting is something I do quite regularly now that the economy is so bad that it makes me think that natural disasters or terrorists with Kalashnikovs or roof collapses could happen at any time, and it's always better to acknowledge strangers so they feel less inclined to trample you when it comes time to rush for the inward-opening exits. He was wearing a single earring in his left ear that was five pieces of chain maille linked together. It was also our entry point for conversation. He offered me a beer, I politely declined, then I asked him if his earring was chain maille. He didn't seem to understand that I was testing for the medievalist geek connection - I did after all spend an afternoon last week browsing websites for war hammers; I am in the market - and instead said he'd had the links in his ear for twenty years. It still didn't give me a clue to his age, since his face was youngish and bright and he wore a black cowboy hat that hid all (if any) evidence of hair loss. He said he owned the photography studio that did all of Crate and Barrel's catalogue photography, and I made some stupid crack about coffee press glamour shots that was mercifully swallowed up into crowd noise.

We got started talking about bikes and you know where that always leads, for me at least. He had recently purchased a low racer recumbent and a three-speed English cruiser from the estate of an Internet bike personality whose website I've often visited. So I listened to this man explain the mechanics of an internal gear hub in that patient and patronizing way that men talk to women whose brains they don't want to hurt. It wasn't offensive; it was just interesting to observe from a half Corona hazy distance this thing called masculinity. It also wasn't entirely undeserved since I made some stupid comments about post-and-beam construction and then referred to sprockets as "thingies." I liked him, anyway. 

My favorite story of his involved his job long ago as the caller for pig races at county fairs.  I only knew what he was talking about because I happened to see a pig race this fall:

He said that he had traveled around with this county fair and taken care of the pigs. One day one of the pigs got sick because it had eaten up a bunch of woodchips with its slop. The pig got bloated and cried, and was obviously in pain. The only way to help the pig was to (he said this euphemistically) reach into its lower intestine and pull the woodchips out. So he did. And then, "because like dogs and people, pigs die alone when they're sick," he slept in the shed with the pig for three nights. After that, the pig followed him everywhere, like a dog. Once it sat in his lap as he sang karaoke. At the end of the job, he left the county fair.  The pig was transformed into bacon. 

We got to that slushy point where you lay your hand on someone's arm to emphasize what you're saying but you're not really doing that because what you're saying needs to be emphasized.  I decided to leave because I was not prepared to explain to the man at the bar why I was not willing to get beyond that point.  About 3% of the conversation had involved me talking about myself, mostly about my occupation, so it wasn't as if I was ready to discourse about my recent aversion to pussy/interest in only Germans/accumulation of emotional impedimenta and my long-abiding paranoia about the oral transmission of herpes. These things, suitors, are the dragons you slay en route to your broad-shouldered princess. Nor was I prepared to explain in Denglish to a Bavarian man what "It didn't mean anything" meant. So I drained the lime pulp from my Corona and left before the second set. I said, "[Bar Man], it was nice to meet you but I am turning into a pumpkin" and a left with the vague promise of taking him up on a $5 bet to ride his low racer recumbent. He was disappointed that I didn't stay longer, and then he gave me a powerful hug that reminded me of when I was on the boy's wrestling team in high school and accidentally matched with the 265-pound sophomore who bent my elbows in the wrong direction and compressed me like a panini into the Ensolite.  Bar Man is on Facebook, so maybe he'll join the other 343 people whom I barely know but whose profiles I can view. 

The air was chillier for my bike ride home and I nearly got swiped by a black SUV.  Despite this, I got to thinking that Chicago won't be too bad when the weather finally heats up for good.  The live music is cheap and nearby, the pool down the block will have adult lap swim hours every evening, and I have dropped the personality-clashing band for another, better band exclusively devoted to doo wop covers.  I think I found a bike gang and maybe even a girl to, in time, have a crush on.  (A different story.)  Maybe now is the time for the thaw. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

all rise

I just went into the courtroom to deliver the jury list to the courtroom deputy. She thought I was the judge coming into the courtroom so she announced, "All rise!" when I walked in. And everyone stood there for me. When the deputy realized that it was just me, she said, "It's [Bananarchist]. Well, y'all can rise for [Bananarchist], too."


Monday, March 09, 2009

[Bananarchist] likes to

[This is my 666th post on Bananarchist. I was hoping to find something more diabolical to write about, but oh well...God is love! Here's a recent document RK sent me listing the top 10 Google hits for "[Bananarchist] likes to."]

[Bananarchist] likes to mountain climb and dance all night; if you're lucky you may come across this wildflower on the dance floor.

[Bananarchist] likes to do this in front of some of her girlfriends who sometimes take it in turn feeding him, which embarrasses him terribly.

[Bananarchist] likes to eat, / Dishes odd, like candied cod and peanut buttered beet.

[Bananarchist] likes to party hard.

[Bananarchist] likes to maintain harmony in the relationship and treats peers in a fair, sincere way.

[Bananarchist] likes to share her experience in to show like-minded creative people to use the best tools available to make their dreams materialise.

[Bananarchist] likes to read when she has the time.

[Bananarchist] likes to invent culinary delights for her boyfriend, Jonny; whine about her declining fitness; do viral marketing projects for her favorite apparel company, Vanderkitten; and make jewelry.

[Bananarchist] likes to shake her ass all dirty 
and shit-right in yer face fartin' up tha 
jams wylde style!!!

[Bananarchist] likes to hang around with her friend Pandy, a wise but fun panda bear from China.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


I am reading Obama's second book. What a mensch! It may be the case that he is not actually as temperate and empathetic as his book makes him seem, but what an attractive persona he has created. I am about fifty pages in right now. The stories I like so far are (1) young Barack learning that it was better to abide by his grandfather's nonsensical rules in order to make the man feel respected in his own home, rather than to use his gift for rhetoric to argue the old man into knots, (2) newly-elected Senator Obama not being able to take care of himself alone in his new bachelor apartment, and having to huddle against the wall when taking a shower on his first morning in DC because he forgot to buy a shower curtain and didn't want to flood the bathroom floor. So far the overriding message of the book is: YES WE CAN be nice to one another.

On the one hand, I feel very inspired to be nice to other people. It makes other people feel better, it makes you feel better. And sure, it is a utility calculation too, because e.g. drivers are less likely to mow you down in a rage if you wave thank you from your bicycle, customer service reps are more likely to help you if you speak softly and control your temper, strangers are less likely to disembowel you when you accidentally press the emergency button on the subway if you smiled nicely at them when you first boarded the train. Republican Representatives may even someday vote for your legislation if you personally serve them enough oatmeal cookies at enough Superbowl parties.

On the other hand, I am feeling not so nice right now. At the moment, I am having mean thoughts about a mean girl who once posted a mean comment on my blog, several years ago, after I had just broken her best friend's heart. The comment went beyond mean. It was cruel and invasive and it threatened violence. I was pretty sad about it at the time, but it happened three years ago and now I just feel weird and a little angry whenever I think about it. Just now, I entered "When I have the opportunity, I will destroy you" and "When your time comes, I will destroy you" and "I will rain ruin upon you" into Google, just to see whether others have had these same obsessive thoughts. And then I engaged in this little flight of fancy wherein I am some powerful person and the mean girl is in a vulnerable position - seeking employment, stranded at the side of a desert road, running for public office - and then I blow lightly on her face and she disintegrates like seeds lifting off a dandelion head.

"How I can be a better person?" is going to be my next Google entry.

This is my #665th post on Bananarchist. I should've saved this thought for #666.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


[I started this post last week but didn't get around to finishing it until tonight! Not that anyone cares.]

I bought a lottery ticket at O'Hare Airport on Thursday night. The lottery kiosk was right next to the newstand where I stood reading People, Us Weekly, and Entertainment Weekly cover-to-cover while waiting for my flight to DC, so I thought, Why not? And threw my dollar away. I played five numbers all somewhat related to Bavarian Boyfriend; the lottery was to serve the dual purpose of making me rich and helping me know whether God wants this bizarre intercontinental relationship to continue. The draw was on Friday night. I WON!!!

No, I didn't win. Nobody ever wins, I know that, but that knowledge did not prevent me from laying sleepless next to CH's perfectly inert sleeping body on Friday - thanks for being the best, most motionless sleepover companion ever, CH! - and daydreaming for long hours about what I would do with $120 million. I decided that I would take care of my parents and brother, of course, then set aside 98% of the income for future security and for cloning myself and piano/dance/fine arts lessons and midsection liposuction for the clones, but then with the discretionary 2% I would start some sort of farm or colony that produced just enough income through beets or alfalfa or chickens etc. to pay for property taxes, WiFi, instant ramen, and peanut M&Ms, the things one cannot grow. There would be plenty of land for my friends to build huts on when they wanted to abscond from their incomes and careers and join me in scratching out a safe little life of good hard labor and nice people. It would be good for snowy walks in cold weather and swimming holes in warm, and everyone would play a percussion instrument and smell like the first day of summer all the year round. I guess what I really want to do is start a community center? I kept myself sleepless thinking about this next to inert CH for maybe five hours, before finally shutting off my brain near 5 a.m.

I just got back from a most lovely weekend in New York. It's always hard to return to Chicago after these short spells away, not because the second city sucks - if I can't say anything nice I will say nothing at all - but because of how much I have to leave to come back here. I return and my utopian fantasies get more urgent. I will be probably be useless at my job for the next few days. How can I concentrate on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act when all I want to do with my life is make good people meet and like each other? Can a life be made of this? Before we started dating, I asked one of my exes what she wanted out of her life, and she responded so: she always wanted to be surrounded by people who inspire her to do the right thing. Maybe it seems a little cheesy in the retelling, but I believed then and still believe now that there is no better answer to that question.

What did I do? On Thursday, I flew into DC for my seasonal board meeting for the nonprofit board that I (accidentally, through no merit of my own) sit on. MM met me for drinks at the Fox and Hounds on P Street, and she told me how her boyfriend narrowly escaped death this year, after three heart surgeries, and she advised me on how to turn to friends for banter/wit when one's partner is stoic, Germanic, older, and perfectly content to not talk at all. The television alternated between images from the Tour de California ("Excuse me," MM said when her attention lapsed, "But I cannot resist men in spandex.") and stories about Octomom and the chimpanzee that had torn a Connecticut woman's face off. Friday I attended my meeting and learned what happens to organizations during economic depressions. (Furloughs.) The chair of the meeting thanked the outgoing student members for their contributions while everyone else, including the student members, grinned through that bald lie. My only contribution to this board thus far has been my boundless appetite for miniature croissants.

I took a nauseating Peter Pan bus up to Port Authority in time for dinner with CH and SL at a Vietnamese restaurant. We talked about how I would beat SL by six minutes at the next day's 5k race, CH's fondness for plain white rice, and the optimal number of traveling companions (one or three, since two just encourages 2-on-1 bullying). CH was leaving in the morning for a weekend getaway to the Baseball Hall of Fame, because she is just that awesome. SL encouraged me to eat more of my pho even as she pecked at her bird's meal, which I correctly saw as her effort to sabotage my race time. CH and I retired to CH's apartment to play several rounds of Rock Band. She played guitar at the "Expert" level; I played the drums on "Medium." She insisted I not bring my dirty clothes into her bed, so I changed into freshly laundered running clothes and then lay next to her inert sleeping body for five hours daydreaming about winning the lottery and feeling anxious about my bizarre and unfulfilling yet still romantic intercontinental flight of fantasy. The poster of George Washington that CH keeps on her bedroom wall (!) looked down upon me with disappointment. 

I was such a wreck in the morning that I left a bunch of important possessions, including my glasses, on CH's nightstand. I worried that I would be too dizzy to demolish SL in the 5k.

My worries were unfounded, because I demolished SL in the 5k. It was 28 painful degrees on the walk over to Prospect Park, but at least we had the companionship of SL's hilarious round co-clerk, his custom designed running shoes, his tall deadpan boyfriend and his friendly Midwestern friends. At the starting line, as a cloud of dust obscured my already blurry form, I pointedly shouted over my shoulder to SL that the weak suffer what they must. And then I creamed her, finishing at 23:59, or a 7:44 mins/mile pace. Not too shabby, all things considered. SL finished only three minutes later. I didn't tell her this at the time (because CH had told us about the Obama Effect the night before, where visualizing your success actually helps you become successful, and I didn't want SL to be successful at beating me), but SL's speed was totally astounding given that she has been jogging only five months. I am secretly afraid of a rematch because I think she's going to win. But this time around, I demolished her, then stood waiting for her at the finish line and feeling my sweat evaporate into hypothermia while watching the crowds of trotters, now gnawing cold bagels, file by. SL and I were only reunited with the unexpected assistance of our most beloved clinic professor, who was there to cheer on her teenage daughter.

We ran from the chill back to SL’s Park Slop apartment. All I wanted to do was inspect every decoration, design decision, consumable object, storage system, secret space, and book that she kept in her tidy leasehold estate for one. How was the face soap chosen? Is the toothbrush always laid at that angle, on top of that thing? If only one half of a lemon is only used for the veggie roast, does the other half shrivel dry in the dry goods bowl before there is another chance to use it? What is the ugly framed beach scene doing hidden behind the bed? What holds the other curtain back, if there is only one blue sash? Why these photography books, and not others? What is in the “IMPORTANT” file? Does one memorize the capital of Burundi while on the toilet? There was not enough time for these questions to be answered. Why is it so gratifying to know a person down to her fillings? I fell asleep as a tidy tray of vegetables roasted in butter and honey in a tidy little toaster box.

BFF picked me up an hour later, after her Bikram yoga class. SL pledged to devote her afternoon to Younger abstention, which nobody in the room believed. I met BFF on the street, where she immediately declared that she was in her “atrocious” outfit and that she had sweat clean through the shirt she was wearing. She was wearing a blue Brooklyn Industries coat (she confessed that she likes to talk to strangers who own the same coat, but they shun her), black tights, hot boots, and Jane Fonda 9 to 5 glasses:

In short, awesomeness. We decided to cut through Prospect Park to BFF’s apartment. She repeatedly tried to carry my duffle bag for me, but my grip on my butch identity is already so tenuous, given recent events in Bavaria, that I couldn’t bring myself to allow it.  We walked to the Audubon Center, by the lake, which BFF said had recently spearheaded an effort to count all the birds in Prospect Park in one particular moment, employing hundreds of volunteers with binoculars.  BFF speculated that the only way to get an accurate count of the birds would be to kill them all.  In the Audubon Center, we bought hot beverages and walked around trying out all the kid's exhibits - the child-sized bat and mourning dove wings, the 15' "nest" in which BFF pretended to bite the head off a stuffed bat - generally preventing kids from trying them, went upstairs for a screening of the Planet Earth series but did not even stay long enough even for the DVD to load, and then left to sit (BFF) and accidentally sit in mud puddles (me) by the lake sipping our teas and ciders.  

At BFF's apartment, fifteen minutes later, I was too much of a zombie to do anything except toast her wheat-and-spelt free rice flour bread five times in sequence (rice flour bread does not toast! and has the consistency of tamales!) while BFF sloughed off her Bikram grime in the bathtub and BFF's roommate compared people we knew in common who had attended Stanford between 1995 and 2000. (Answer: none.)  I heated and ate six vegetarian chicken-like nuggets and then BFF served us heaped up lentils in tiny bowls the size of maybe dollhouse satellite dishes.  BFF's roommate told us about a sale at Duane Reade on Valentine's Day peanut M&Ms, $.59 for a big bag.  We could not resist this, so after lunch we went shopping. The first stop was the finest $.99 store in Windsor Terrace, where the floor-to-ceiling merchandise almost convinced me, in a consumerist tear, to buy a completely useless tube of cocoa butter. BFF saved me from this purchase, although I did buy the $1.99 set of dominos and almost bought the 18" pen that was shaped like Disney's Cinderella, a $3.99 wisely saved. At nearby Duane Reade, we bought M&Ms and earplugs. On impulse, I bought a brown sugar and almond face mask that later caused me to break out into cauliflower face everywhere it had touched. The M&Ms, being not $.59, and not peanut, and pink and white, were likewise disappointing, but BFF forced me to bring them to the bar later and they were devoured by the end of the night. BFF showed me all the weird and wonderful knick-knacks she had collected in her thirty years of being a crazy lady, but even miniature Japanese living room sets and plastic axes ("It's a LABRYS! What kind of a dyke are you?" she admonished) could not keep my eyes open. I napped.

At 6:30 it was time for BFF to go off to work and for me to walk the 2.2 miles to RK's house. I circled the word "gay" in BFF's dictionary and left her apartment. My walk through the park was chilly, brisk, dark, quiet, and laden with luggage, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I was late to meet RK. We walked over to Flatbush Barn with RK telling me how a cost-benefit analysis had led him to choose the cheaper, worse, and more enthusiastic banjo teacher over the more expensive, more professional one. RK is very analytical like this.  We met IB, his girlfriend C, and SL at Flatbush Barn. C and IB were panicking because C's wallet was missing, and it looked like they were so anxious that they might not be able to join for dinner, but they soldiered on and ordered beers. SL and I enjoyed weighty burgers - eat more, SL, eat until you are too fat to outroll me! - but RK mistakenly ordered a $9 platter of birdseed and pecked unhappily and hungrily at it with his aquiline nose and handsome Groucho Marx mustache. 

Some folks joined up with us after dinner.  AO showed up and told amazing stories of moving to Colombia to do research for her dissertation and instantly becoming a "social node" in that country's community of hip young things.  CY and AY came, and CY got deeply involved in a conversation about graphic novels with RK, and then told me how having a dishwasher and washer/dryer in the house has dramatically changed the way he lives.  LL broke off the firm manacles for a few precious hours and brought his talent for talking about everything. I learned that TF and LL and SD are too immoral to pass their upcoming moral fitness evaluations, and then I lectured them senselessly about bar exam preparation techniques. It does not seem possible but TG's cheekbones were even higher and more stunning than I recalled them to be. BFF came around midnight and endeared herself immediately to my friends, pounded three glasses of white wines and took forty pictures of the inside of her pocket, the ceiling, or her index finger while attempting to take pictures of the pushup contest that RK won by a landslide. DR succeeded in doing only three, but excused her feeble attempt by saying that she had only done enough to sucker the rest of us into getting on our hands and toes on the filthy floor.  C announced with delight that her wallet had been found and turned over to NYU.  People came, and then they left, and then it was just me and RK and BFF in the bar taking photographs of RK's chest hair while BFF lolled her drunk head on his shoulder. I looked up and noticed suddenly that all the chairs had been stacked on the tables around us, and then it was time to go. 

I stayed the night at RK's - I mean, of course I did, we are bed brothers, I bought the exact same bed that he bought - and in the morning I said goodbye even as RK half-dozed on.  Then I caught the G to the 7 to the Q33 to LaGuardia to O'Hare to the Blue Line back to Division and Milwaukee, and walked the last four blocks to Cleaver Street.

Oh, I miss all you lovely brilliant weirdos, and wish you were all with me at all times. I have a nice new concrete-hard bed that fits at least forty. Please come, and come quick! That is all.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

some things

When I looked out the window this morning, snow was blowing horizontally at about 20 mph down Cleaver Street. It was so cold and so windy that nothing stuck to the street until about noon; it just kept blowing away. Sideways snow is not so weird. It consistently snows up on State Street between Adams and Jackson, what my office looks out on. Canyonland weather patterns, I guess.

So I stayed in the whole day, spending 4.5 hours making the "meat pie" (is there no better name for this?!) recipe from last week's Times magazine. I left the house today only to buy more meat for the "meat pie." I broke my own rule and trusted the Times and ended up with THREE POUNDS OF BEEF to "serve six." WTF New York Times are we cooking for GIANTS?!?!! One serving of meat is a deck of playing cards, not a car-washing sponge!! There is an entire lasagna tray of leftover meat pie. I am hoping Olympia, my new roommate, will eat all of the leftovers because if somebody's colon must be blocked, better hers than mine.

Despite the beefsplosion, I had a pretty good weekend. Friday I went down to 79th and Ashland for a musical put on by a consortium of black churches. It was called "Unconditional Yes," and it was about godly people (with nice clothes) vs. evil people (who wore gangsta clothes). There was lots and lots of excellent singing, and some very rousing gospel numbers.  It tells you more about me than about the event that my closest point of reference for this is its parody in The Blues Brothers. There were maybe 700 people in attendance and exactly two Asian people, me and Olympia, and maybe a handful of non-black people, including Bridget, my community organizer friend who heard about the play through one of her community contacts, and her fiance Raul.  It was a world - South Side, black community churches, evangelical fervor - I don't know if I'll ever see again. Except in skin tone it was not too different from the Billy Graham revival I had gone to in New Orleans; it was a spectacle of music and histrionics, it was entertaining, and it made me uncomfortable in the same ways, with the moral absolutism of good Christians against caricatured forces of evil.  And at the same time one thinks, Oh, but it is the second Great Depression, and things are falling apart, and what is given the uncomfortable name "evil" is genuinely destructive violence and criminality in the black community, so it makes a lot of sense that people find guidance and redemption in organized religion. And you can't really begrudge that. And then this line of condescending, judgmental by way of saying "let's not be judgmental" kind of thinking carries you to what Barack Obama said about bitter people clinging to guns and religion, and then you are in hot water.

Yesterday I did yet another lonesome self-guided tour of Chicago's free art, first stopping in the photo and design galleries at Columbia College, taking a break to eat an avocado with a dagger just outside the Columbia College computer lab, and then going to the Art Institute, which is free for all of February, so it's totally okay to go just for twenty minutes and run directly to that weird 16th c. front-on portrait of a woman by some Flemish painter that the curation says is supposed to be "arrestingly erotic" or something but just looks kind of weird. When art is cheap you don't feel obliged to stand in front of the Renoirs nodding knowingly (while secretly suppressing the urge to vomit...why did I pay for this...splotchy paint...motion sickness...). At night Bridget and Raul and I reunited for a show at the Hideout that the Chicago Reader billed as awesome dance music + political dub/punk but was actually none of those things, and instead just drums and bass playing in synch and then one crazy man shouting nonsensically and arrhythmically and atonally over it, and sometimes singing in an operatic baritone. The opening act was electronic music. Who thought it would be interesting to watch a person on stage click a mouse once per song?? I will be so happy when this dark stage of music the 2000s is as historic as the rap breakdown in the middle of the pop song by vaguely ethnic singer that was so popular in the early 1990s.  (Thanks to Raj for completing the second half of that sentence. He goes on: "like in bobby brown songs or 'mc scat cat' or whatever in the paula abdul song. it was like an effort to lend cred to the pop star, and that part of the music video would inevitably involve footage of said star folding arms in MC fashion and nodding. i think michael jackson did this in at least one song, too.").

Anyway, I saw some lovely things this weekend I would like to share with you. 

Bettina Hoffman at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. This is such a simple but fascinating idea. I am not good at describing art so let me just quote the pamphlet accompanying the piece: "Bettina Hoffman uses a slowly panning video camera to present multiple points of view on human subjects who are absolutely still.  As the camera circles the periphery of the people, the effect is one of traveling through the space of a two-dimensional photograph. It is as if the space of a still photograph has opened up for the viewer to navigate from multiple points of view, while the subject themselves remain frozen in time." (Kudos to curator Karen Irvine for writing such simple, unnauseating prose about art!) It really is mesmerizing and cool! Click the link above to see some samples.

Lorna Simpson. Again from the pamphlet: "Simpson used James Van Der Zee's photographs as her inspiration for 9 Props (1995).  Made while she was an artist-in-residence at Pilchuck, a glassblowing school in Seattle, Simpson had artisans re-create the elegant vases that appear in Van Der Zee's pictures. She then photographed the glass objects and printed them onto felt accompanied by simple texts" [and here the curation fails to describe that what makes it so great is that the "simple texts" are just her literal descriptions of the original photos. And that James Van Der Zee's subjects were affluent African-Americans on the bubble. The effect is that the vases come the represent the entire scene of rising prosperity. It's not just a simplistic critique of consumerism because the felt fabric and the directness of the texts makes you feel a little wistful, like this is something that was once good and has been lost. At least that's how I felt.]

The text: "A man stands on the far left of the room with a pipe in his mouth. He is dressed in a smoking jacket with a shirt and tie, with his right elbow resting on a dresser and ring on his finger. The bed has a satin cover with a small stuffed animal positioned on the center of the pillows. Behind the bed hangs a rug, off the backboard of a fringed lamp, and above hangs a chandelier.  In front of a curtained window, a standing lamp shines on the portrait of a full figured woman. On the right side of the room is a dresser with an ashtray, small boxes, a candle, and a vase."

John Coplans' photographs of his old naked body. Nothing too spectacular, but I liked the composition of this tiny little photo (maybe 3" square) and his grossness. It looks like a slug!

Graffiti in a bathroom at Columbia College. It is just standard bullshit: "Pooping in public bathrooms feels embarassing [SIC, stupid!] but eating in public feels normal. Why is the exit of waste less acceptable than the entrance??"

The question is funny to me because I have never heard anyone describe eating as "the entrance of waste." But what made this graffito so great is one of the many responses to the question:

If you can't see, let me transcribe.  First, the writer wrote: "A#2: because your butt is often a sex organ." And then perhaps thinking it through again, the writer underlines "sex organ" and writes in "connected to." As in, "your butt is connected to a sex organ," or "your butt is a sex organ connected to"...? Then there is a second revision, adding this final, most plaintive thought: "You uncover one you uncover the other." What??!

Here is a nice little sign that was funded by Chicago's public art coffers: "My love for you is a like a shiny heart-shaped metaphor about the sea."  Synesthesia and recursive metaphors, courtesy of the city of Chicago!

Here is a nice marquee for a dry cleaners just down the block from my house. It's not a clear shot because I was on the Milwaukee Avenue bus when I took it, but you can see how impressively well-maintained the lights are, and how interesting the typeface is. 

Here is a pregnancy test on the sidewalk outside my front door.  The garbage cans are on the backside of the apartment building, 200' away. So how does a pregnancy test find itself on the sidewalk? I imagine someone wanted to get it out of her hands in a hurry (an adulterous wife? an evangelical teen hiding her boyfriend from her parents?) and just chucked it out the window, which means I could've been struck in the head with this urine stick if I had been walking by. The label says "Clear Blue," but the indicator strip must've faded out because there were no blue lines or pink dots or anything else.

This is just an ad I ripped out of SkyMall.  I just don't get it at all. 

It's selling Yahoo Mail. The caption "Your inbox understand some of your friends only speak IM." The picture is of a pretty girl in glasses kneeling in front of a credenza. She is typing on a laptop and there is a cup of espresso nearby. In the background is a living room, possibly hers. She is a poor decorator, choosing mismatched dark floral patterns and antique radios, decanters, and a Rolleiflex camera for her space. There is an empty espresso cup and a tabloid newspaper on a coffee table behind her.  The bad floral print of the furniture is echoed in the girl's garish fist-sized flower pin and what appears to be a monarch butterfly or quail wing stuck behind her ear. The composition of the photo is imbalanced so your eye travels left to right, first panning the furniture and the espresso-drinker who is not there, before reaching the girl, who is looking down at a screen, with her hands (and your attention) converging at the lower righthand corner on a laptop that is not even in the frame of the photo. The brightest spot in the photo is the girl's right temple. The text above the photo is topheavy and hangs above the girl's head. All of it makes you feel like someone is behind her, and it makes you nervous that someone might pounce on her. The caption below (describing Yahoo features, such as "chat" and "email") is no help either. Designer friends, help me. What is this ad supposed to make me desire???

And that is all. I hope this post has made your Monday a little more bearable.