Friday, December 30, 2005

I resolve not to make resolutions

I am never drinking again.

How many times have I made this resolution? And equally, how many times have I broken it? Well I swore this again to myself this morning, as I hauled myself into work after 3 hours sleep. A big night on the town with one of the new guys at work, and a foolish reunion with my arch nemesis, Jack Daniels. A hazy, crazy evening and very red eyes this morning. Not at all pretty, but at least my boss is off sick with a dreadful headcold and isn't here to see me crawling on the floor to the ladies room every two minutes.

And the fact that I'm 28 years old means I should know better, right? But how does that saying go? Old enough to know better, but young enough to do it all one more time.

I'll drink to that.
But seriously, with New Year's Eve tomorrow, resolutions are on my mind. Should I make one? I am not going to fool myself into giving up chocolate or drinking, or vowing to lose weight. I never keep those corny resolutions and then I berate myself for months afterwards for not sticking to my plans.

So perhaps for 2006, I will simply resolve to keep blogging. And perhaps staying away from Jack Daniels for a while. He is a bad, bad man.

Happy New Year to all!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Do you hear what I hear?

Lexie tells me that someone was knocking on our front door last night at around 11.30pm. Given that I am an old woman, I was fast asleep way down the other end of the house, and consequently heard nothing. But she was frozen stiff in her own bed, listening to the thudding of her own heart and the tap-tap-tapping at our chamber door.
I have valiantly agreed to construct an elaborate fortress in our apartment this evening and am presently drafting a blueprint in my head. On the weekend, when I ran out of quarters for the dryers downstairs, I constructed what looked like a fort (or cubby house) out of wet bed sheets and dining room chairs. So I figure I am well qualified to barricade us inside the house and defend us against whatever nasties are around.
I don't believe for a second that we were visited by thieves last night. For one, thieves don't knock. And I told Lexie that. But given that the only other tenants in our building (on the ground floor) are still away for the Christmas/New Year break, the only other person that could get into the main door of our building is the custodian, Fred. And if he was knocking at 11.30pm, then that goes above and beyond the call of his janitorial duty, wouldn't you say?
So rather than sit up in the shadows with warpaint on my face, and kitchen knife and the ready, I am going to make sure our door is solidly locked tonight, and give Lexie a big glass of Scotch to knock her out (because she's too old for a night light of course!).

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Please Mr Postman, look and see...

Pict3898 Christmas Backgrounds
Originally uploaded by HippieDude.
When I turned 18, my friend Naomi promised me that every birthday from then onwards could legitimately be made to last a week. She reasoned that it was the prerogative of all legal adults to maximise as much celebration time as possible from such events.

And tradition can stick its "12 Days of Christmas" as far as I'm concerned. I think the Naomi Theory of Celebrations suggests a more concentrated and hard-core approach to celebration that appeals to me a great deal more.

So I have decided to stretch this yuletide celebration out, and the US Postal Service has done its part by sending me two huge boxes of gifts from my family. Sure the gifts arrived late, but the tardiness has only served to help me in my mission to maximise the Christmas spirit and extend the holiday.

And boy did I score well this year! Thanks to my sister, I even have a New Year's Eve outfit all stitched up! This gift was a particularly hit, because it proved to me that clearly Jems subscribes to the Naomi Theory of Celebrations too and for that, I am happy.

But as any sugar-coated Christmas television special will drum into you over and over again, Christmas isn't about what gifts you get. And at the risk of turning this blog into a kamikaze mission of bleeding-hearted soppiness, I have to agree. The hands-down best part of my Christmas break was staying up until 4am Chicago time, talking to my family back home. I didn't even mind being passed around like a hot potato on the phone. I got a chance to work the room, and all I had to do was lie on my bed in my PJs and chat. Fabaloose.

And though I didn't have a White Christmas this year, I did have a good one. And I'm really glad that even though I was miles away, my family managed to make me feel like part of their day too. And I will remember that for every day of this week, as I continue my efforts to keep the Christmas spirit high, Naomi-style.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Everybody's waiting for the man with the bag

Happy Holidays!
Originally uploaded by whitneybee.
Well it's that time again and Chicago is celebrating. There aren't many people around the City today, but those that are have big smiles on their faces and pleasantness abounds.

And I am suffering the after-effects of last night's pleasantness at Caroline's Christmas drinks. UGH.

Caro's parents are over from the UK and last night was the first time I'd met them. Her father is an anaethesitist so you would think that he would be a bit more moderate in his wine dosages. But hell no. With a shrug and a sage "It's Christmas", he kept filling and re-filling my glass. And I obeyed doctor's orders. But I hate him now.

This Christmas weekend should be full of fun and food. I am getting my hair cut, I'm cooking roast lamb, and I'm visiting Caroline and her parents (sans wine this time) on Christmas Day. Oh and plus, my home phone is connected so I can talk to my family on the big day too.

I would give anything to be Down Under this year but, since I can't be, I am glad that Chicago is giving me good weather and happy citizens, and that sounds to me like a great weekend line up.

Happy Christmas to All xox

Thursday, December 22, 2005

What do you propose for the girl who has everything?

Pastel presents 3
Originally uploaded by moonborn.
As I get ready for work in the morning, I listen to a radio station that pretty much plays all the easy-listening but contemporary music not designed to make your ears bleed before you've even had coffee. It's hosted by two boring jerks that feebly try and outdo each other in the 'wit and wisdom' department. But as Christmas Day approaches, the morning show has been asking listeners to phone in with their views on the art of gift giving. Because as we all know, getting a Christmas present right is a real 'gift'.

I've been listening to wives rat on husbands who allegedly 'forgot' it was Christmas and swung by the gas station to buy cheapskate flowers; then boyfriends that bankrupted themselves buying diamond tennis bracelets for their new 'loves' (insert spewing noise here); and there seems to be a real prevalence for giving gift cards this year. I always thought vouchers were a cop-out, but apparently they are the latest 'thing' and everyone loves them. And I suppose as shopping becomes more frenetic, it's easy to buy a gift card because at least you know your recipient can use them to buy something they'll like - at their own pace too. So bring on the gift cards, I say. Contact me for my home address and I'll clear out the mailbox in preparation for the onslaught.

But back to my story. I was walking to work yesterday morning, and turned up Randolph Street to walk past the Cadillac Theatre, where I saw "Hairspray" the other night. As a matter of course, I look up at the theatre sign to see the "Coming Soon" features. But yesterday, some busy little bee had been working late in the night to install the letters "Eden - Will You Marry Me? Adam".

And I couldn't help it - I did a goofy little smile. Hopeless bloody romantic, I know. And just at the right time, I locked eyes with a lady coming towards me, and I realised that the same message was on the theatre board facing the other way, because she was giving ME an equally goofy smile. Kindred hopeless romantics, it would seem. The sign is still there this morning, but I tempered my goofy grin this morning, to a rather I'm-happy-for-them smirk.

I do hope Eden said yes, because at least you can return a gift card without breaking a person's heart.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Hey, how ya doin', sorry you can't get through

Back When?
Originally uploaded by sunshine soulplayer.
When I moved into the apartment, I was fortunate for many reasons. Not the least of which is the fact that all the utilities were taken care of, and all the appliances were in full working order. And still are, last time I checked.

But I have been giving serious thought to connecting the phone line, so that I can make and receive decently-priced international phone calls. My flatmates can call their friends and family on their cell phones and talk forever relatively cheaply. After all, Wisconsin is only over the back fence, relatively-speaking. But my situation is a different story altogether.

So I rang the major telephone service provider here in the US. I shall not name it, for fear of any sort of retribution - legal or otherwise. But I spoke to a vacant woman who I also refuse to name. But let's call her Julie. Okay, so I named her. She won't read this blog anyway so ner.

Chatting away to Julie, I explained that I wanted to know whether an existing phone number was still connected at my residence. Given the prominence of phone jacks throughout the apartment, I had the inkling that a previous tenant was a rather prolific user of phone equipment. And I told Julie this, sparing no details.

Julie was silent for a moment, presumably tap-tapping away at her keyboard to investigate the abyss that is the American phone account archive.

But I was wrong. Julie was approaching some sort of catatonic coma, from which I jolted her with a well timed AHEM.

She explained to me that she couldn't tell me whether there was a phone number connected just by searching on an address. Wait for it, I would need to tell her a phone number to search on.

So I told her that I didn't know the phone number; that I didn't even know if there WAS a phone number, and that was the whole reason for my call in the first place.

She agreed. Yes, right, I know what you mean. But we can only search on phone numbers so it doesn't really matter where you live. Cheers, Jules.

Just as I started to wonder when the Candid Camera crew were going to leap out of the air conditioning duct, I figured it was best to instead demonstrate to Julie just how adept I am at using Alexander Graham Bell's device, and I hung up.

How deep is the rabbit hole?

It is a fact universally acknowledged that I am completely bereft of a sense of direction. Instead, I rely on a well-established route to and from work, and do my very best to keep the leisurely meandering to a minimum.

But whether it was the fresh air, or the Christmas promise just hanging in the air, I thought I'd take a different route to the cinema last night for the final film in the Marilyn Monroe festival.

I walked and I walked, and I ended up somewhere near Pennsylvania. Or perhpas it was Transylvania. Out that side of town it was hard to tell the difference.

But the weirdest thing is that they say Chicago is a lot like Adelaide in terms of layout. ["They" being those people with a much better sense of direction than me; i.e everybody]. The streets are allegedly built on a grid and, with the exception of a couple of rogue streets that have the audacity to curve around corners, Downtown Chicago is meant to be one of the easiest places to navigate. So how, I ask you, did I get it so wrong?

Maps and compasses are useless to me, so I didn't stop and consult my little flip-out street directory. And I have it on good authority that looking like you're lost makes you a perfect target for muggers and rapists. And I didn't feel like attracting anyone last night, much less those local undesireables. So I followed the crowd and walked back in the direction of Michigan Avenue, because I knew the direction that was, I just wasn't certain how many blocks it would be before I found it. I figured that if I could find my way to Michigan Avenue before my legs froze off, I would forgo the movies and just jump the first bus home.

But just as I started to feel like Alice in Wonderland, I had a revelation. Somewhere between Nowheresville and No-name Street, I crossed State Street - the very boulevard I had been looking for all along. So I turned down State Street (or did I turn up it?) and kept walking confidently and purposefully, in what I hoped was the direction of the cinema. Just as I was about to give up, I saw the twinkling lights of Marshall Fields, that much-loved bastion of consumerism here in Chicago. I am sure I would have wept with relief, had not the cold wind frozen the water in my eye sockets.

So I sought refuge in the warmth of the cinema, and took comfort in a large popcorn and even larger coffee. There is just something nice about sitting down with these refreshments, having the cinema lights dim immediately, and enjoying the "20th Century Fox" music as the film begins. It was almost like the cinema had been waiting just for me to arrive.

And while the movie wasn't as great as I'd hoped it would be, I had a great night out and was pleased to leave the cinema and resume my well-established route home, arriving safe and sound (and sure of my geograpical position) about 30 minutes later.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Here's a tip for you

Bridal Bun
Originally uploaded by ladyb.
As the Christmas season approaches, and people around me spend a fortune on gifts and parties, I found it amusing to read an article in Chicago's "Red Eye" (the equivalent of "The Messenger" ), about holiday tipping.

Now the custom of tipping is something that I'm slowly getting used to. I understand that in a cab, you take the final fare, round it up, and then add a dollar. A restaurant waiter should receive at least 15% of the total bill in tips. And the newspaper article made it clear that, at Christmas time, customers should be a little more generous than usual with their tips. After all, it said, "it's Christmas".

Fair enough, say I. So I read the article's guide with interest. But when I read in that same article, that you should tip your hairdresser 40% rather than the usual 15-20%, I nearly choked on my venti non-fat latte from Starbucks.

Because I know that the usual practice is to tip your hairdresser and your colourist separately. That revelation itself nearly killed me, particularly when I realised how much coiffing my hairdo costs in this country! And at the time of my last appointment, I thought it would only be right that I make a return appointment for Christmas, so that at least my holiday photos look pretty. But this whole "tip up to 40%" sounds a bit steep to me. What facial expression do the financially bankrupt pull?

So I'm going to have to think about whether a 24 December hair appointment (just a cut, no colour this time) is such a good idea. I can afford a 40% tip on top of my cut fee, that's not the problem. Unless my hair is going to be cut and then set to resemble a Christmas tree to put New York's Rockerfeller Centre pine to shame, then why should I give in to pressure and tip any extra than I normally would?

Sensible suggestions please (it's too cold to shave my head, so that's not an option....Dad)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Eat and Be Merry

Gold Globe
Originally uploaded by Tiffany Ernst.
I had my work Christmas party at the Consul-General's residence yesterday afternoon, and it was really nice. We had a huge buffet with Australian wines to wash down all the delicious food.

It was freezing cold outside, but the fire raged in the fireplace and it just added to the Christmas feel.

Then after the lunch/early dinner, I headed to the ESPN Zone sports bar Downtown to watch the Bears play (football).

One of the girls with us knows a waiter at the bar, and he gave us free use of the VIP room, which normally costs $150 per hour to hire. So we were curled up on leather sofa chairs, in a soundproof room, with table service drinks and a waiter at our beck and call.

Seriously how the other half lives.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

No, but "Baby Fishmouth" is sweeping the nation!

I went out last night for dinner with two friends of mine, Brad and Nele. I hadn't seen them for a while and I won't see them again now until after Christmas (Brad's off to the south and Nele's returning to Germany to see her family), so it was the perfect weekend to get together for a meal.

On the recommendation of work colleagues, we went to "Coobah", a really neat little Mexican place on Southport. This street is absolutely full to the brim of funky bars and restaurants, and I know it will take me the rest of my time in Chicago to visit all of them. But owing to good traffic and a leadfoot taxi driver, I arrived at the restaurant early. Settling down at the bar, I enjoyed a margarita - but a traditional one - no frosted glass or beach umbrella garnish here. This margarita was served in a regular water glass, with rustic salt around the rim, and chunky bits of lime making sour but welcome surprises throughout the bitter drink. Oh it was delicious but, on reflection, perhaps a rather ambitious choice BEFORE a meal.

Never mind. When my friends arrived, we adjourned to a table at the back of the restaurant and enjoyed a delicious meaty-cheesy entree followed by some really tasty chicken for main course. The service was great, the portions were well-sized, and I very much enjoyed the Corona beer with my meal. Plus I was wearing my new emerald-coloured Donna Karan chiffon top (eat your heart out Jems!), so I was feeling altogether the part.

But Nele and Brad were both really tired after a rather boozy Friday night, so I was left looking at my watch at 10.30pm, wondering what to do with myself while the night was so young.

Fast forward to my apartment, where I arrived home to find Lexie and two of her friends (plus a Chicago native they all know) in the loungeroom having a similar debate about what to do and where to go. Helpfully, I advised that it was bloody freezing out there right now, and perhaps the evening should continue somewhere close by.

So it was agreed that we would share a cab to "Guthries", the bar we had been to before with the Wisconsin visitors. You might recall me mentioning it once before - you can play board games there out the back.

A rather heated game of "Pictionary" commenced, and we got to play with the set that had never been opened before. We were very chuffed with ourselves. And my team won, though I doubt it was because of anything I did. I had great difficulty trying to graphically represent "pounce". No one understood my clear illustration of a smiling lion creeping up ever so cunningly on an unsuspecting giraffe. Oh well, at least my other team mates dragged this lame duck over the finish line victoriously!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Being Diplo-aromatic

HUGO energise
Originally uploaded by ramener.
Working at the Consulate, I've been learning very quickly the intricacies of public diplomacy. Basically, I need to remember that my first duty as a consular officer is to protect fellow Australians living and travelling in the Midwest.

Now before you get shades of vigilante style justice being waged from downtown Chicago, I'm hardly that militant. You would be surprised the impact that an Aussie accent and a big smile can have on an unsuspecting American.

So with this in mind, and given the fact that I forgot my novel this morning, I was on the bus contemplating whether or not the man next to me would appreciate being told his aftershave was DEFINITELY working for him. I would have said it diplomatically, in my best Aussie accent, and flashing my most winning smile. I'm quite sure this man wasn't an Australian that I'm obliged to look after, but what the hey? I was in a good mood and he did smell rather nice. And given where I live, he's probably not entirely into girls either, but what did I have to lose?

I did the daggy thing and role-played in my head. What would I say? What would HE say? If it went badly, and I had to throw myself off the bus, how long would it take me to walk to work?

But of course, he was a cute boy and therefore OF COURSE I didn't end up saying anything to him. And on reflection, I'm rather glad for it. Because no sooner had I resolved to remain quiet on the subject, did he start sniffing. But not just periodically, but on EVERY SINGLE BREATH. What's up with that? Tissues aren't expensive in this country and in any case, if it was his own aftershave making him sniff, it's his own sodding fault.

Amen. Or, should I say, Ahhhh men.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Much Ado About Shakespeare

beautiful birthday flowers
Originally uploaded by flaurella.
Last night's performance of "Much Ado About Nothing" was just top-shelf and I loved it. The sets, the costumes, the acting - it was all so great.

But the theatre at Navy Pier? Oh my God, that place is incredible! I wasn't expecting the production to be like Mrs Fuller's Year 12 drama class, complete with cardboard sets and crepe paper costumes. Not at all. But a read-through of the program before the lights went down showed me that there is a hell of a lot of money invested in the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre!

Corporate Sponsorship packages of up to $100,000 are on offer and there are a lot of businesses in that category.

But the money had been spent wisely, because everything - from the sets to the costume to the PR - is all done in-house, and so it is a truly local production.

The audience was an interesting mix of young and old, but everyone laughed and enjoyed themselves.

Lexie even said she'd give me another free ticket for the next show since I had such a good time. I must have been on my extra special best behaviour!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Sing It, Don't Spray It!

Originally uploaded by lorilea.
I have always really enjoyed live theatre, and last night's performance of "Hairspray" simply confirmed it. I have never before paid for tickets to a show I knew nothing about, but given that Lexie had seen the production four times before (in New York, not here), I figured that was a pretty good indication that I would find it enjoyable too. And in any case, the newspapers here have been positively raving about it, so that was also a good sign.

If you haven't the live version or the movie, "Hairspray" is set in 1960s Baltimore and is the story of an overweight but highly energetic girl named Tracy whose one dream is to dance on a TV show with all of her young, thin idols. When she achieves her dream, she learns quickly that the show is segregated and therefore her African American friends have no chance of joining her onstage and onscreen. The story is about her dogged determination to change things, and win the affections of her hearthrob co-star at the same time. The movie "Hairspray" became famous because a large man (Divine) played the part of Tracy's mother. And in all the stage productions, this tradition has been upheld. The male actor that played Tracy's mother in last night's performance was superb and had the audience in stitches during a song with Tracy's father. In fact, both the actors ended up laughing in the song, but the audience just applauded even harder. It was great.

When the show ended, the curtain closed on another performance, and the illusion was over. Going out into the fresh cold air, my fellow theatregoers were raving about the show we'd just witnessed. Some gay guys at my bustop were belting out a rendition of the opening number (and not too shabbily either to be honest), and so spirits were high even though it was nearly 11pm.

Tonight I'm off to Navy Pier to the Chicago Shakespeare Company's performance of "Much Ado About Nothing". This is no amateur production either, and I'm really looking forward to it. Lexie works for the Company in their box office, so I've got great seats and a free ticket, so that's a double-whammy bonus!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Chicago's Social Scene

Originally uploaded by herroyalmaj.

I have been quite the social butterfly this week, and it's only Tuesday.

I have already commented once before on this site that Chicago at Christmas time is ultra festive. Though there is always something to do here, this seems to be extra true during the Silly Season.

Last night I went and saw another Marilyn movie (very cool); tonight I'm going to a farewell party for a guy from work and then going to see "Hairspray" with Lexie; tomorrow night I'm seeing a Shakespeare play at Navy Pier; Thursday I've got free tickets to the the movies to see a new film about an Irish transvestite; and then Friday I'm going clothes shopping with Melissa.

I am tired just writing about all that!

But I have to tell you, sitting inside warm theatres, restaurants, and cinemas is about all that is worth doing at night times if you ask me. The night time chill is a bit nuts right now and the wind has found a way of smacking me in the face even though I have my furry hood on AND a scarf wrapped around my mouth. Go figure!

If I find I'm up to getting out and about, I need only refer to a weekly periodical that I have subscribed to, called "Time Out Chicago". Delivered right to my mailbox at home, the magazine gives me great ideas to build a week of fun and games, so I never have to stay home and be bored. So I get to rug up, and step out. And not slip up.

So if I keep referring to Time Out (which has not led me astray thus far), at least for the foreseeable future anyway I hope that this blog brings you just that bit closer to my big, weird world of Chicago nightlife.

[This all implies I don't get stuck in a 10cm snowdrift that is scheduled to fall tomorrow. My boss joked today that I should wear a hat with a large flagpole and Aussie flag on the top - just in case they need to find me. Sicko]

Does Ramsay Street ever deal with this?

I don't know what my neighbours look like but I don't really care. All I know is that their efforts to beat us in the great unspoken Decorations War of 2005 are rather lame.
Our apartments are mirror images of one another, and our Christmas Trees occupy identical spaces in the sunrooms that face out onto Grace Street. Mine is, and I say this without any trace of bias, superior in shape, decoration, sparkle intensity, and purity of Christmas spirit.
Our neighbour's tree, by contrast, is dull and its adornments are nowhere near as luminous as ours. I have also been surrepticiously peeking at the other decorations adorning the neighbour's front room, and have been smugly laughing to myself. There are no stockings, no Santas, no Christmas baubles, no festive photo frames, no yuletide candles. Unlike my house.
I wonder if my neighbour knows that he is party to this Christmas battle? Probably not, but it matters little to me. I'm too chock-full of the spirit of the season to care about others right now!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Memoirs of a Weekend Gone with the Wind in a Goblet of Fire

Tales from the hen
Originally uploaded by Hobo pd.
Okay that was a rather lame attempt at combining some movie titles to turn your attention to the world of cinema, which occupied Sunday's waking hours.

Saturday was basically 'chore day' (and slipping-over day, as you would recall from earlier post). My thanks to those who emailed me privately to ensure that my butt wasn't too injured. And here's an update - I'm just fine. No more headache neither.

On Saturday night I stuffed and roasted an Amish chicken for myself and Lexie to enjoy for dinner. I only mention that the chicken was Amish because the packet promoted this fact quite liberally so I imagine it is an important distinction in the world of poultry.

Never having before seen a whole chicken prepared for roasting, Lexie was slightly put-off by my hand disappearing up under the chicken skin to delicately flavour the flesh with butter and herby goodness. Even my protests that it was Jaime Oliver's idea didn't calm her fragile nerves.

So distraught was Lexie that the Amish chicken was henceforth christened Franny, to personalise it before the consumption could begin. I would have thought that being Amish, the chicken would have approved of Ruth or Sarah, but who was I to get so personal with the chicken, when I was already contemplating where to stick the lemon wedges and garlic cloves?!

So Franny was stuffed and trussed and deposited into the oven for just over an hour. And boy was she tasty. The garlic roast potatoes were delicious too, if I can say so much myself.

Sunday morning was fairly unremarkable, insofar as it involved me draping myself artistically across the couch in a hungover condition (pre and post-Franny champagne was required the night before you see).

By late Sunday afternoon, Lexie and I were ready to face Downtown, and so we hopped a bus to the cinema to watch the latest Potter instalment. Pardon my French but "kids movie my ass". I wasn't frightened, I hasten to add, but there were some pretty creepy moments in this Goblet of Fire saga.
JK Rowling has created some evil nasties and they have been brought to life fairly creatively by the special effects gurus. I can imagine some little ones in the theatre with us yesterday had some restless dreams last night.

For a complete change of pace, we then crossed town to see a charity premiere screening of "Memoirs of a Geisha". I loved the novel, but admittedly had forgotten the specifics of it. Still, that made the whole movie-going experience quite enjoyable. At the risk of sounding wanky, the cinematography was beautiful and the costumes in this movie were just superb. Okay that's enough of that. But to be honest, see the movie when you're feeling alert. Coming down from a hangover was an invitation to sleep - not to watch a pre-WW2 Japanese epic, filmed in English with Chinese actors. Phew what an emotional rollercoaster.

And so here I am at my new working week. One flat mate in Florida for work; the other house sitting her mum's friend's place about 15 minutes from our apartment.

Living the solo life with no champagne left and no chicken either - Amish or otherwise. Sigh.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Going AOT in the USA

Street Musik - Slip
Originally uploaded by Art Criminal.
I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. This morning, I took my first fall on the icy footpath.

And not to do things by half-measures, I fell straight onto my bum.

In front of people.

On a major road.

AND a girl held out her hand and helped me up.

But I recovered quickly from my kamikaze turn, and waddled, wet jeans and all, to the bus stop. I didn't even curse. Not once.

The weirdest thing out of all of this? I fell so hard on my butt that I got a headache. How is that possible?

But before you express too much concern for me, I am okay. I would like to think I fell gracefully (at least that's the way I'm going to be telling this story for the foreseeable future).

And I have adopted an equally graceful - and I like to think attractive - way of stamp-walking. It's not a shuffle; rather, it's a stomp-stomp kind of manoeuvre that will hopefully make it impossible for me to exhibit a repeat performance of today's intimate encounter with the pavement!

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Day of the Triffids

When I was in Year 10 (not so long ago that I can't remember it, thank you Goal Attack!), I had to read John Whats-his-name's work of arguable literary genius, Day of the Triffids.

Not my favourite book studied that year by any means, but was most memorable for the fact that my teacher had a delightful Scottish accent that made the murderous extra-terrestrial plants sound like frolicking leprechauns. It's the Trrrriffids, girrrls, the Trrrrrriffids! Ah, memories.

Anyway, back to my point. When I emerged from my apartment this morning, I couldn't see the steps down to the footpath. People were prodding mountains of snow with shovels, certain that they'd parked their car around there...somewhere. In snow up to my ankles, I trudged through the muck towards my bus stop. Walking through the softly-packed snow is a lot like wrestling uphill in a sand dune. Kinda fun, but a weird sensation at the same time. And you have the distinct impression that you're never actually getting anywhere.

And I wondered whether I should take another look at my calendar, because there was no one around anywhere. Because except for the murderous plants preying on blind people, Chicago really was like a scene from The Day of the Triffids. It was eerily quiet, there was no wind at all, and hardly any people on my usually-packed bus. Was I supposed to go into work today?

Last night's snow storm isn't likely to be repeated now (at least for the forecastable future), and I'm glad for it. I wondered what it would be like if all that snow was to melt en masse. It is slippery enough out there now. Any major meltdown and it will be a veritable Slip 'n' Slide out there!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A date with a doona

Dusting of snow
Originally uploaded by Lapis Leslie.
The snow has been falling (and falling) here in Chicago since about 3pm today. And already there is about 5 inches of snow outside on my side street.

The snow ploughs won't get there till late tomorrow, so it will stay like that all night and though I find it beautiful, it's not too much fun to trudge through it to get to the bus stop.

Speaking of which, the bus ride home normally takes me 20 minutes. In tonight's weather (and subsequent gridlocked traffic), it took nearly one hour! No one complained though, and at least I had a seat the whole way there.

Chicago is pretty like this, especially from my perspective on the couch with a blanket over me. Bliss!

Hang Em High

Originally uploaded by Miss Gab.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care...

along with the rest of Gab's Chicago photos, that are stored on Flickr for friends to review....

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Going Postal

Me manda uma carta quente!!!
Originally uploaded by Luiz Castro.
The United States Post Office is a real microcosm of American society. Or so I am now given to believe, following my first visit to such an institution yesterday.

Standing in line, waiting patiently for my turn (and for a disgruntled ex-employee to burst through the door brandishing a shotgun), I observed my fellow customers.

Most were carrying Christmas presents bound for distant friends and relatives. One guy was scratching his head, presumably wondering whether he had left the gas on back at his apartment. But the lady in front of me took the cake.

Actually, she didn't really take the cake, but she DID take a fistful of pamphlets and posting slips from the brochure stand near the line. And stuffed them straight in her pocket.

Why did she do such a thing? No idea. But I was afraid she was concealing a shotgun on her person, so I didn't tap her on the shoulder to ask.

But I loved the lady from the Post Office who walked down the line, grilling each prospective customer in the manner of grouchy Army Sargeant to rookie cadets:

What are you here for?
Do you have everything you need?
Why are you here today?
State your name and business, maggot.

I resolved that, if pressed by this woman, I would dob on the kleptomaniac in front of me and make her empty her pockets and incur the wrath of the postal service.

But it didn't come to that. The purpose of my business was to purchase international postage stamps. How boring. And fortunately for me, NOT a sentence punishable by shotgun death, so I emerged bullet-free and stamps in hand.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Bring Out Your Candy!

I congratulated myself on surviving my first American Thanksgiving, and not making too big a pig of myself either. And there I was thinking that the next big celebration to come is Christmas.

No one - not my room mates; not the newspapers; not even Hallmark Cards - thought to inform me about the 5 December visit of St Nicholas!

I always thought that St Nicholas and Father Christmas were the same person. But to the Americans, they are clearly not. Oh there are some similarities, though. Both visitors are nocturnal and, to my knowledge, fat old farts with beards.

But where Father Christmas specialises in depositing gifts under trees resplendent with twinky lights and candy canes, the sole mission of St Nicholas is to visit households in the dead of night and leave leftover Halloween candy in the stockings that have been hung by the chimney with care.

Oh okay now that I write that, I understand the next line of that the hope that St Nicholas soon will be there. But am I correct friends, in recalling that the rhyme is called Twas the Night Before Christmas? Do you think that's because Twas the 5th of December sounded crap? Because it does, you can admit it. I won't tell anyone.

Anyway, St Nicholas did leave me some candy in my stocking - so much so that it collapsed from its perch on the mantlepiece and instead was resting on the coffee table.

I do love St Nicholas. I just hope that Father Christmas was watching, and can see the high standard that has been set for him.

Monday, December 05, 2005

STOP PRESS: Beanies cause deafness

So I get on the bus this morning, and am all primed to scan my Chicago Card like a responsible little patron. Imagine my surprise when, on assuming the usual card-scanning position, the card scanner was not there.

It was then that I realised exactly what the bus driver had been yelling at me since I climbed aboard his bus: CHICAGO CARDS ON THE LEFT

And indeed, when I looked around the corner of the bus to my left, I found the Chicago Card scanner.

So what had I been hearing him say instead? SHOPPING CARTS ON THE LEFT

Nope, it didn't make any sense to me at the time either. Stupid woollen beanie.

The blonde that gentlemen preferred

Marilyn at Film Museum
Originally uploaded by liisa!.
What is the collective noun for snow? I know that there is a 'gaggle of geese', and a 'murder of crows', but how does one correctly refer to the inches of snow that fell from the heavens over the weekend? It wasn't a trickle; it wasn't a dusting. It was a dump.

So there you have it - a DUMP of snow. And all the money my parents spent on my education too...

I was fortunate enough to be able to hide from said dumping by closeting myself away at a Film Center downtown. I joined about 30 other cineophiles to enjoy Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes".

I tried very hard not to belt out "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" but I couldn't help humming - particularly because the women to my right were doing it. At least I did it in tune, but that's by the by.

I have committed myself to watching a few more Marilyn gems as the special Monroe movie festival rolls out between now and Christmas. All in the name of escapism of course.

Speaking of which, once the movie had concluded, I emerged to the freezing cold State Street and stopped into the Marshall Field's flagship store. The place is beautiful. For Adelaide readers, try and picture what the David Jones store used to be like in the Mall - all marbled, glitz and glamour. Okay, you got it? Marshall Fields is nothing like that. Haha only kidding - it IS like that. The store is an institution in Chicago and, every year, has Christmas window displays that attract young and old to view them. Some of the windows look a little tired if you ask me, but I don't suppose I get a say in this, so I'll butt out.

In any case, Marshall Fields becomes a Macy's store as of February 2006 which has Chicago divided - is it a good idea or not? I'm on the side of NOT - and that's mostly because Macy's conjures up New York for me. Chicago is Marshall Field's town. But as I said, I don't get a say in this so I'll butt out.

So if anybody needs me, I'll be at a Marilyn movie.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Just you wait, Enry Iggins

I telephoned home last night (my time) and chatted to a work friend I hadn't spoken to since I left Australia. The first thing she said to me was, "oh you're getting an American accent!".

Am I?!

The last thing I wanted to do when I came here was to adopt one of those plummy hybrid foreign accents made infamous by Kylie, Madonna, and Nicole. But if Clare is detecting some unfamiliar tones in my voice, perhaps my efforts have been in vain. I certainly don't sound as American as my new 'countrypeople' (to be all-inclusive), and I'm well aware with each interaction that I speak differently to them.

That said, I do have to admit to doctoring my speech slightly in order to be better understood here. The following is a list of new words I have had to adopt in order to get what I want in this great big land. I confess right now that I cringe when I say some of them - I'll leave you guys to speculate which ones:

java jacket (poxy little cardboard thingies that go around take-away coffee)

Actually I just threw that last word in because of the weather today - a crisp MINUS 9 DEGREES CELCIUS this morning, and so it's the first word that springs to my mind. I don't want to talk about it though, with ANY accent!

And so I sit here contemplating all the other things I've started to say 'funny'. I am conscious of rolling my 'r's all the more now - because when I order 'water' at a restaurant, I get a blank look. Then I realise they've actually heard the word "worta" and the blank look is entirely explicable. So I have to repeat myself, and articulate the r at the end of my word.

Eliza Doolittle, eat your heart out!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The nearer your destination, the more you're slip sliding away

Originally uploaded by X-travalueMeal#2.
I have an awkward head. I look silly in a beanie, or hats of any kind for that matter. I've never taken a poll to determine how widespread this assessment is shared, but I neverthless feel like an idiot when I don any piece of headwear. Perhaps it comes from having to wear straw hats at high school during the summer, and then berets in winter. Maybe I'm scarred, I don't know. But fortunately I've been able to avoid putting anything on my head since my schoolgirl days. At least, that is, until this morning.

The snow was falling quite heavily this morning, and settling well on the powdery whiteness that had covered the ground overnight. From my peek outside, I just knew that this was the sort of morning that meant my head would feel super cold if left exposed to the elements. It's weird actually. It is possible for the weather to be TOO cold to snow, but somehow (to me anyway) it actually feels colder when it DOES snow. Maybe it's a state of mind thing.

So I squeezed my egg head into a red knitted beanie and tried not to look at myself in the mirror as I left the house. I have been told that "Chicago in the winter time is not about fashion". Good advice, I thought, and I plan to quote that to anyone who sniggers at me today.

Setting foot outside my apartment, I nearly took a sliding tumble on the concrete footpath. White powdery snow can be damn slippery. When one is wearing knee high stiletto boots that is (as I'm sure many of you are well aware). So as I was cursing my oddly-shaped head, I was equally cursing myself for not having made it to Marshall Fields to buy snow shoes yet.

But somehow I made it to work without falling down (not counting the near misses though), and no one laughed at my head or my beanie - but I have to admit to chuckling at my own hat hair. If you can't laugh at yourself from time to time, what hope is left for you?

Tonight I have made a vow to myself to visit a snow shoe emporium on Michigan Avenue before I head to the premiere of the new Jim Carrey movie. I am not going to suffer the indignity of risking a fall on my butt in the middle of the street - wearing a beanie is bad enough.