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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Customer Service

With our upcoming move to a bigger place has come a need for more furniture. Which means that we spent a chunk of our weekend going from furniture store to furniture store and being assaulted by salespeople. We went to the place Brooke Shields pretends to get her furniture for, the place that sends the giant ten-volume catalogues that infuriate my greener friends, the place that got name-checked in an episode of Friends. But the best place of all was where we met our friend Elise.

My first impression of Elise was that she might be a homeless person, but then I realized she was too nicely dressed for that, so I thought maybe she was just a crazy person. She accosted us outside the store in that sheepish, confessional way that people have when they are about to ask you for money. It turned out that she worked there, though, and wanted to help us with our search. She told us not to worry, though, because she wouldn't "hover."

For the next forty-five minutes, we could not shake Elise for more than a minute at a time. She followed us through the living room section, handing us post-its and measuring tape we hadn't asked for, and giving us information about upholstery we did not need. We managed to elude her for a few minutes by feigning interest in a bedroom set and heading to a different floor, but she caught up to us eventually. And gave us a fascinating history of the ottoman.

When we finally decided just to leave, she not only gave us her complete contact information, but also offered to come to our new place with us and help us "design our room." She assured us that she would give us her wallet and keys when she came in, in case we were nervous about having a stranger in our house. She also promised to loan us dozens of design books from her collection. When we got into the car, I half expected her to pop up in the back seat.

The best part of all of this is probably that we're actually going to buy a couch there, so Elise has a big commission coming her way. She certainly earned it.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Boxing Day

Even though we are not moving until early July, we decided to get started on packing this past weekend. It really does make some sense, if you think about it, because there is so much stuff to pack and the end of June and early July are always super busy times. Plus, easily half the stuff we own we will not miss if it's boxed up for the next month and a half. Will I urgently need my CD copy of Hootie & the Blowfish at some point in the near future? Come to think of it, why do I still own that at all? I mean, we can't deny that we as a nation lost our collective minds and went through a Hootie phase right around the time everyone was wearing high-waisted jeans and getting The Rachel, but most people did a drop off at the Salvation Army sometime after that. Will I want my American Legal History textbook in the next several weeks? That one I stand behind keeping, as the Colonial methods for trying witches alone make it worth a deeper read.

Anyway, that's what we're doing. And we already have about twenty boxes stacked up in the living room. To be clear, they are fairly small boxes, but they do make us look like squatters. Which frankly is a look I don't mind. At least it's not Crocs.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Capital Steps

This week I had to go to our great state's capital, Springfield, for an oral argument. I've always enjoyed Springfield, ever since we went there in middle school to learn how weird the 1800s were. I remember that there was a lot of butter churning and the people slept in shorter beds that sort of required them to sit up. Also that Mary Todd Lincoln was very fat. Oh, and some kid got his shoelace stuck in the escalator at the Illinois State Museum and we were delayed in getting back by like an hour. It almost endangered our Hardee's trip; that's how serious it was.

This time, I did not get to do any sightseeing, although I did enjoy an amazing cheese-drenched dish known as a horseshoe. It's an open-faced sandwich with French fries and cheese sauce on top, and pretty much every place in Central Illinois claims to have invented it. As though anyone had to invent slathering things in cholesterol in Central Illinois. I certainly did enjoy it, though.

The argument itself seemed to go quite well. Not that that means anything. My best argument ever was for a case where we ended up losing 7-0. I think sometimes they pretend to agree with you at the argument just because they feel sorry for you.



Saturday, May 07, 2016

Holy Mother

Mother's Day has never been a huge deal in my family. My mom just doesn't really want the attention that much, or maybe she just prefers being a martyr by telling us she doesn't want the attention. Of course, my grandmother loved the attention, or probably just loved going out to eat at reasonably-priced family restaurants, so I have been to more than a few Mother's Day brunches in my time. But now we frequently do nothing at all; Ian and I just took my mom to dinner last week while we were in Quincy and designated that Mother's Day. I had the Sonora Chicken Pasta.

Anyway, none of this should be viewed as a lack of enthusiasm for my mother, or for mothers in general. My mom spent the better part of two decades knee deep in shoebox dioramas, viola recitals, and extra credit papers about alchemists for me. She even let me get away with eating pretty much nothing but buttered white rice for a few years there. She's served as a ghost writer, an accompanist, and a staff photographer, in addition the usual motherly occupations as chauffeur, tutor, and chef. She's great! And I'm even excited that she'll be living with me part time once we move into the new place; isn't that every 38 year old's dream?
So happy Mother's Day! Call your mother. Unless she's Mia Farrow; the line will probably be busy all day.


Wednesday, May 04, 2016

From the World of Dog Science

Our vet put Aubrey on doggie anti-anxiety meds a few months back and it has utterly transformed her life. No longer do we return home to find her barking, shivering, and scratching at the door. Nor do we find the tattered remains of some poor entertainment media or other scattered across the bedroom floor. Rather, we find a calm, happy dog, who still tears around the living room like a madwoman for about ten minutes, but only in the most life affirming of ways. This is how I remember dogs being! Well, not dogs owned by me specifically -- they've generally been insane in some way -- but dogs I've seen on TV and stuff. Apparently, the widespread destruction isn't necessarily part of the package.

Anyway, this is kind of a good news/bad news situation, as we've been told she shouldn't be on the meds for more than a few months. Even though I know plenty of humans who've been on theirs for years. But maybe she's just magically normal now? I prefer to live in denial for as long as possible.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Charmed

Through no fault of my own, I have started watching Southern Charm. I had always dismissed it as lesser Bravo, like a People's Couch or Workout if you will. But a couple of my friends had spoken warmly of if, and it happened to be on when I had left the remote on the desk and didn't want to get out of bed one day. And then the magic happened. Such a wonderful array of characters! By which I mean clinically insane people. Kathryn, of course, is the true star. Pretty much nothing she does ever makes any sense, which does not prevent her from doing it with maximum emphasis. And in the grand tradition of Bravo, it is impossible to believe that she actually has children. But I'm also fond of Craig, who has turned failure into a compelling art form, all slathered in gallons of hair gel. As someone who got a JD and then actually became a lawyer, I can fully endorse his plan of just kind of repeatedly forgetting to take the bar exam. And I'm fascinated by Shep, who appears to be a cartoon rooster come to life. He's skeezy in a kind of harmless-seeming Joey Tribiani way, and he rarely seems to climb out of bed before afternoon. In other words, he is my spirit animal.

As for the rest, Cameron and Landon are pretty; I'm still not fully clear on their purpose. And what's will all the gender-swapped names? We've got a male Whitney as well, who has a questionably close relationship with his mother and is "dating" a woman he sees like once a month. Is that it? Oh, Thomas. Apparently he ran for Senate against Lindsey Graham? (Another gender-swapped name. I guess it's just a South Carolina thing.) Thank God I don't have to vote down there. I probably would have just written in a vote for Kathryn.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Film Forum

I've been catching up on my movies lately. I finally saw the new Star Wars, for one thing. I've never been that super into the franchise, but I thought it was pretty good. They did a good job playing on the fact that Adam Driver is super punchable, and I thought the plot moved at a nice pace. It as comforting to see Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher in something that didn't reek of desperation again, and the new characters avoided Jar Jar Binks levels of awfulness. I'm still kind of wondering why they can't come up with a plot that doesn't involve the need to destroy some giant weapon, but it's not like I really turn to CGI space fantasies for script innovation, anyway.

I watched Carol on the airplane coming back from Europe, which was especially interesting when I realized they weren't going to edit out the nude scenes and there were, like, five year olds all around me. It was a good movie, though! I've never been the biggest Mara booster, but I have to admit she gave a really good, lived-in performance. And of course the Blanchett is always solid. I was afraid that it would be one of those kind of musty, boring period pieces, where everything is set designed within an inch of its life but nothing really happens. It was actually really compelling, though. Fun sexy times.

I also enjoyed Spotlight. Again, I thought it might be slow, but it wasn't, which is kind of amazing, since its subject matter is basically people doing a lot of research. Everyone gave solid, understated performances, even though Rachel McAdams doesn't really look like any reporter I've ever seen, even if reporters still existed. And I thought they did a really nice job conveying the horror of these molestation cases without being exploitative. It was the feel good Catholic church scandal flick of the year.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Afternoon Amongst the Damned

So I had to go to FedEx Office today to scan some documents for my mortgage application. Now, you may ask, who still goes to FedEx Office? Don't most people have access to scanners/copiers/fax machines now? And the answer to that is yes. But I am so highly ethical that I didn't want to use state resources to scan these materials at my job, and also I was afraid I'd get caught. And though I do have a scanner at home, I didn't really feel like placing the documents on it a page at a time. So FedEx Office it was.

And of course I ended up scanning the documents a page at a time, anyway. Not sure why they don't have a scanner/copier with a document feeder set up like, well, every other place in the world, but they don't. So I spent half an hour (at 38 cents a minute, no less!) scanning W2s and bank statements. But while I was there, I encountered the most fascinating people. (Not to be confused with Barbara Walters' Most Fascinating People.) There was an elderly lady who was struggling mightily to design a business card she could use for her dog and cat walking service. There was a guy who looked like a serial killer who apparently was there solely to use the internet. And there was a woman who was apparently such a regular at FedEx Office that she knew the names and back stories of all the employees. It truly is an amazing place to spend an afternoon.

Not sure how I'm going to top it, frankly. Maybe I should just go to bed now and try again tomorrow.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Money Matters

Apparently, they're going to change the $20 bill so that it features Harriet Tubman instead of Andrew Jackson. I am all for this move, particularly because I wrote an essay about how Harriet Tubman was the person I most admired in junior high. To be fair, the person I probably ACTUALLY admired the most in junior high was probably Batman, but I knew enough not to put that in the essay. I'm not sure that I really admired Andrew Jackson at all in junior high. Although I probably knew a lot more about him than I do now, since my US history class was a lot more recent. Certainly he had a terrible haircut.

I'm hoping that, while they're at it, they make some other fun changes to our currency, since right now it's kind of ass boring. Maybe add some colors, a little celebrity gossip? Wouldn't it be great if every dollar bill had a "Stars: They're Just Like Us" photograph on it? I personally would love to be reassured that Eva Longoria pumps gas just like me when I'm buying beef jerky at the 7-11. In fact, I'd like to see the whole operation outsourced to TMZ. Though I am ready and willing to serve as Treasury Secretary, should the subject ever come up.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Moving & Shaking

So I sort of bought a new place this week. I say sort of because we don't close until July, and there are still plenty of things that could go wrong, but we do have a signed purchase contract. It's a three-bedroom townhouse in Old Town and I kind of love it. It's got a nice private roof deck, all kinds of cute built-ins, and a walk in closet with a window. And an attached garage with snow removal, so I may never even know it's winter again. I'm kind of jazzed, in a "nervous something could go terribly wrong at any minute" kind of way.

I will be sad to leave Lakeview behind, in some ways. The pizza-by-the-slice place on Clark exposed me to some wonderfully weird things that taste great on pizza, and it's nice to have three dozen bars to stumble home from in a two-block radius. Aubrey will miss the proximity to the dog beach, although I will not miss having to literally drag her back from it. And of course it will be strange taking a train to bacchanals like Pride and Market Days. But Old Town is really a return to my roots, since I lived about a block away from the new townhouse for my first three years in the city. I ground a lot of half-eaten jello shots into the carpet there. And I'll certainly be happy to be near Second City, Corcoran's, and the Old Town Ale House again. Why are all of my happy feelings about my neighborhoods related to food and alcohol?

Anyway, things are happening! I'm sure I'll provide updates as the madness progresses.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Endless Photos IV

I think these will be the last of it. Whew?



This is part of the Hofburg in Vienna. They have horse shows there. Yes, this is basically a gold-plated stable.


They have all these weird statues along the ceilings of the Natural History Museum. These are in the part that deals with fish and reptiles, so they're like water angry water gods or something.

Here's the castle again in Salzburg. It is a long walk to get there. I'm pretty sure I lost several pounds due to sweat alone.


And this kind of gives you a sense of how far down it is. Why no one has thought to set up an extreme zipline and charge fifty euros a trip, I have no idea.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Endless Photos III

We're back, with a minor change in location to Salzburg. It was about two and a half hours by train from Vienna, and we're not talking some shitty CTA car that stinks of urine here. They were double-decker trains with really comfortable seats, fast Wi-Fi, and cool dining cars. Of course, I wholly humiliated myself by proudly presenting a ticket for a different train, but it turns out that, like most embarrassments, it could be remedied by taking out a credit card. Anyway...


Here's the interior of the cathedral. It actually didn't blow me away as cathedrals go, but I'd probably overdone it on looking at old churches by that point.


And this is the outside of the cathedral. Say what you want about religion; they know how to build some attractive god houses.


This is the interior of the castle. It was really fun and medieval, kind of like Medieval Times, but without the food. And you pretty much weren't allowed to touch anything.


Here's the view from one of the fortifications. This is why the castle is such a hot spot on Redfin: location, location, location.


And here's the approach to the castle up the hill. I'm guessing they secretly watch from above and make fun of people as they struggle to climb up. I know I did.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Endless Photos II

And our journey continues. Let's start out with some gratuitous Klimt. They pretty much have Klimt everywhere in Vienna. It's, like, Klimt toilet paper with a side of Rubens tampons.


So that Klimt was at the Museum of Applied Arts. (Not sure what the "applied" part of that is, but maybe the painting is good at math?) They also had the crazy inflatable monkeys below. Good inflatable monkeys are so hard to find stateside.


Next we have a gratuitous tiny beer picture. This restaurant is super old and they sell tiny beer and tiny open-faced sandwiches that have like herring and stuff on them. Better to stick to the tiny beer.


Also: I was stuck on top of the cathedral for a spell. There's an elevator that takes you up, but that elevator apparently stops working sometimes. And then you realize that you're about fifteen stories up and that you don't speak very much German at all.


I did get down, thanks to a crafty security guard who opened up the stairway for us. Then I went and saw this amazing old library that's part of the Hofburg complex there. They do not allow you to run up and down the stairs, however.



Saturday, April 02, 2016

Endless Photos

There is really so much to say about my trip. But pictures are worth a thousand words or more, even, if the words are coming out of Ann Coulter. So let's get started.


This is the interior of the Karlskirche. The scaffolding you see they will actually let you climb. It is quite terrifying, to be honest. The stairs just keep getting more narrow and the platforms seem to kind of bend under your feet. And there's a sign that says "occupancy by more than 15 people prohibited," right before you see about two dozen people climbing up ahead of you. But I lived through it, so that's good.


This is the Votivkirche, which is still undergoing renovation, as it was the first time I was there in 2013. Now it's got a kickin' ad for orange juice on its front, though. Suddenly I am very thirsty.


The Austrians regulate their dogs quite strictly, as it turns out. Much of the parks were "hundeverboten," but this was a "hundezone," which this little guy seems to be enjoying the heck out of.


This was part of a contemporary art installation at the Museum of Applied Arts. The bottom part asks "How happy are you?" in German, and people were supposed to take the appropriate gumball for how happy they were on a scale of one to ten. Apparently, ten almost always runs out first, although I find that hard to believe having met many of the people of Austria. I did not take a gumball at all, so I guess I don't have feelings?


This is a recreation of a prehistoric bird at the Natural History Museum. Pretty intense. I would love to make a career as a prehistoric bird recreator, but I don't want to retake the SATs.  


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