Monday, April 24, 2006

Don't

This is the "if you take one more photo of me I'm gonna kick sand at your Canon 20D so it won't be covered by the warranty when you take it in for servicing yet again" look.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Stop

The other day I emerged from my garage to a street scene filled with fire trucks, police cars, and emergency vehicles combined with barricades from the gas company and several trucks from an environmental management company. Someone with good sense might take all that in and retreat back into the reinforced concrete security of the parking garage. No, I saw enough of a crowd to venture forward. I wanted to know what was going on. The local bank manager, normally a jovial guy, was in the midst of it all. I asked, “Did something explode?” He looked confused so I pointed to the utility trucks.

“Oh that. No.” He was very somber. “That’s not related,” he said gesturing to the other part of the scene. We watched a young woman being hoisted onto a nearby stretcher. “Someone got run over by a car.”


When new to Chicago, I was surprised to find that at the end of my block, so close to the downtown financial district, only a stop sign managed the traffic. In addition to the converted lofts that make up much of my neighborhood, there are townhomes and single family homes. For being in the shadow of the Sears tower, it has a suburbian feel to it, yet the traffic reminds us where we really live. Through this intersection, folks coming from the 'burbs race to work. They gun the lights and often slam to a stop in the middle of the crosswalk.

My daughter had just turned one when we moved here from Brooklyn five years ago. I spent my days pushing her in a stroller, walking the city, learning it with my feet - discovering playgrounds, parks, music and art. If I crossed the intersection at the end of my block and a car passed the line, I would explode into hand jestures and curses – practiced from 15 years as a pedestrian through the streets of New York. Drivers would drop their jaw, not really sure what to make of my insults. People on the street would stop and stare. Not at the careless motorists, but at the crazy, cursing lady pushing a stroller. They were staring at me.

It wasn’t peer pressure from these polite Midwesterners that encouraged me to change my behavior. It was the day when I looked down to see my sweet little girl shaking her fist furiously at a car, ranting and cursing in her baby talk translation that I realized I ought to stop. My street survival tendencies weren’t welcome in this nice part of the world. It was unseemly, unattractive, and now my kid was doing it, too.

I changed. Instead of curses, I gave curt smiles. I taught my daughter to treat strangers with respect and courtesy – learning this myself as I tried to be a stellar example. This was my neighborhood and I wanted to be accepted as a friend, not fiend.

Eventually the stop sign was replaced by a traffic light. It was supposed to be temporary while nearby construction would divert the extra traffic through the area. After two years, the light remains. Traffic speeds by, racing the light. Neighbors with their dogs, their strollers, their briefcases, cower on the curb as they await permission to cross. We are terrorized by reckless drivers. Our Alderman has asked the community whether the light should stay or go.


Today, after watching the unfortunate pedestrian being taken away, I turned to walk home. How small my city neighborhood feels – when people on the streets are saddened when a stranger is hurt. I pressed the walk button, the light changed and I stepped off the curb. A taxi screeched to a halt, stopping in the middle of the crosswalk. I shook my fist and fired off a few curses, “Hey! This is a crosswalk, ASSHOLE.”

The driver laughed as he rolled down his window to blow me kisses. “Come on, honey, I just wanted to give you some love.” He inched his car forward to tease. I gave him the finger and cursed some more while he laughed behind me. Safe on the curb, I looked around me to find stares – not at the crazy cabbie, but at me, the crazy lady shaking her fists in the streets.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Self Portrait Tuesday

I joined some friends at the Shedd Aquarium and while the girls were totally engaged with each other, my friend and I played with our cameras. I came home and to find that all the manual functions (that worked just fine only hours before) have ceased to work. Arrgh. I think I have a lemon. Damn you Canon.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A Blustery Easter Morn


This image was produced after I spot-healed the smears of chocolate and dried snot from her face - I like that tool. However, the original tells the real story of how much fun it was to hunt for eggs, eating the contents of each before moving on to the next.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Cookies

Tonight I am baking the worst batch of oatmeal raisin cookies, ever. I thought I had this recipe perfected. It is so simple, only bad butter could make it go bad. But it is bad.

Usually I don't bother with baking because my ass really needn't get any fatter. However, I was attempting a little civic duty, or kindness. Last Friday evening, as we were about to take Chloe to Ice Age 2, we were stopped in the hall by a loud alarm and strange smell. My building is almost all timber, and very old timber, so these kinds of things scare me.

The fire panel was clear, but I wasn't about to abandon my cats or my computer in such an uncertain predicament. I called 911.

Blaring firetrucks are so common on my block. The sirens are largely ignored until they stop - which usually means an alarm was mistakenly tripped nearby. (In fact, I hear one coming as I write - hmmm, sounds like it turned on Harrison, maybe.) Occasionally someone will step to the windows to check it out - then we know they are new around here. Or that someone is me because I always go to the window.

The truck arrived. The firefighters boldly marched in, bypassing me (even though I'm the one who called) to talk with my husband, the MAN. We found it was the CO alarm in the basement - and boy was it hot down there. After taking a quick reading, they returned in full gear and gas masks. Yikes.

Now, I know that I have truly grown as a person when I could tear myself away from a group of hunky firemen and some good drama. It was simple, really. Daughter? or Firemen? "Come on, Chloe, let's go get a cookie."

A few moments later, my neighbor walked into the coffee shop with his kid and cat. "Mom, what about Lucy and Edwin?????" So I went back to get the cats. By that time, they were just opening up windows and asking us to stay out until the air cleared and the gas man showed up.

No problem. Dinner and a movie.

So why am I attempting this batch of cookies? Because deep down inside, I can't let go of this opportunity to swing by my local firehouse with some neighborly lov'in. That, and I have this thing for firemen. Not that I would actually want to touch one, but, you know, they are the image of heroic in their big boots and all that clunky gear. When I used to go jogging in Prospect Park, it would make my day (my week, month) when I timed it right with the neighborhood fire department. They would jog in a pack, trailing behind the truck. Pant, pant, pant. It was total entertainment to get stuck behind them in line at the local grocer. George's uncle, the fire captain, once led us on a tour of his station. He took out a ladder truck and raised us nearly 100 feet above Mesa. I was in my thirties, but felt like an eight-year-old all wide-eyed with excitement.

Chloe has to come with me to deliver the cookies - to complete the picture. She asks, "Mom, can't you do this when I'm at school?" No. You have to come and see the firetrucks. You'll love it. Maybe they'll even give you a red helmut.

I might have to pick up something at Whole Foods, though. I'm no June Cleaver.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Self Portrait Tuesday

This month's Self Portrait Tuesday theme is along the lines of April Fool's Day.

Let me introduce you to my very lovely sister-in-law, Janna. I was in New York on vacation - which seems a little of an oxymoron for me... New York - Vacation. Sounds strange when said together when for over fifteen years I was just another slave of New York dreaming of those very few vacation days when I could plan my escape. Living there wasn't always that rough, it was just a long adrenaline rush. Moving to Chicago was kind of like going into rehab - not really realizing how bad the coke habit was until it wasn't there anymore.

Janna planned an evening out that included dinner and an off-broadway show that was worth a few laughs (thanks for the tickets, sweetie). The joke is, I took this photo while we stood in the street, trying to get Times Square in the background. For the life of me, I would avoid that area like the plague when I lived there. Here, I am a tourist, trying to photograph myself in front of one of the nation's ugliest landmarks, and I couldn't even get the framing right.

As the photo shows, the best part of the evening was time spent with Janna. It was just her and I and we could have been anywhere.

Disclaimer: I would still move back in a second if the opportunity was right.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Reading


I don’t read much – I generally prefer naval-gazing and entertain myself with my kid, cats, and self. I’d like to be considered a well-read person, but frankly, I lack the focus and the discipline. Magazines are my preferred medium – I like the pictures. Chicago Public Radio comes in a close second. I like to see images, hear voices, and catch the subtle meaning only a face or voice can betray. Occasionally, though, I indulge in text. This morning, while consuming my daily brew, I read yesterday’s New York Times.

I’ve been in Chicago for nearly five years and I still subscribe to the Times. I tried the Chicago Tribune for a few months while my husband protested much. Then NY was struck by disaster and I couldn’t stand my dependency on the networks to bring me the information I craved. I switched back, never fully immersing myself in local news, issues, politics or culture. It struck me during this last local election what a loss it is not to read Chicago. All the delicious popularity wars I missed out on – I was a clueless bystander.

Newspapers, especially the Times, seem to present the world’s greatest contrasts. Inequalities. In the same Sunday magazine that I read about the genocide in Darfur, I read whether childcare is work or leisure (for me, both, the hardest work I’ve ever done, yet easily the most enjoyable), and how pomegranate juice may save my life. I can peruse ads for some of the world’s most expensive apartments, vacations and jeans that at $950 a pair, are called denim trousers. Finally, I realized that I had passed hours and hadn’t paid any bills, washed any clothes, dishes, floors, nor myself. Indulgence, indeed.

PS: Barbie is really a brunette.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Sit. Stay. Play.

On his last day in town, my Dad took us all out to brunch. We left one crowded joint for another with a shorter wait. The only table available was small and just a little too close to the wall, so I made Chloe sit on the wall side.

"But Mom, I don't want to sit there," she protested.

"Yes Chloe, you're the smallest one. Please sit there."

"I am NOT small. I am as tall as your boobs." She shouted in that tiny, crowded restaurant.

Hmmm. At least she didn't say she's as tall as my tits.

Yes my darling, well-spoken offspring. "You are tall enough to reach my CHEST. But you're still the smallest one here. So please, sit and stay."

"And Play?" She asked.

Yes. Good dog.