Monday, July 31, 2006

The wheels on the bus....can just bite me

Chicago Transit: Bus in Traffic
Originally uploaded by celikins.
When things don't work out for me, I am known to claim that I will write a sternly-worded letter to the appropriate authorities, in the hope that such an atrocity will not recur.

Up till now, those have always been empty threats.

But today I was jerked around by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) for the last time. While waiting patiently for the 135 - widely acknowledged as the most unreliable bus route in the City - I had endured enough 38 degree heat for one day - and I thought I'd cleverly jump on the next 156 bus that came along. A safe bet, I thought, given that 400 of them had already passed me in the 10 minutes I'd been waiting at my bus stop.

And though the 156 didn't take me close to my house, it did stop by the Gap store in my neighbourhood, and I could always treat myself to a few new summer 'gifts' at the store on the way home.

So I jump on the 156 bus that stopped dutifully in front of me, only to realise quite rapidly that it wasn't air conditioned. I melted into my seat, next to Mr SweatMonster, whose pores positively leaked.

Having sweltered on the bus for 40 minutes, all I could do was dream about the chocolate ice cream I'd enjoy on the walk home from Gap, fresh wardrobe purchases swinging happily from my arm.

"Excuse me ma'am," yells the driver from the front of the bus, "but you have to get off - this is as far as I go."

WHAT THE?! I was still 4 blocks from The Gap. She was making me get off, endure the heat, and change buses. Right, cheers.

I would have done a dummy spit after all this, but I was just too hot. So I did my best 'harrumph' and walked to a nearby bus stop to AGAIN await the 135 bus close to home.

I am therefore in mind to prepare a rather sternly-worded letter to Mr and Mrs CTA. Any suggestions on what I can write to draw attention to their summertime incompetence....?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

WANTED - One more room mate

Chez moi in Chicago
Originally uploaded by Miss Gab.

The pressure has been on this weekend to find a room mate to replace our lovely Irish friend, Emma. Sadly Ems has been called back to Ireland with virtually no notice to defend her scholarship and enrolment in her PhD program. Emma was only ever meant to be staying with us until October anyway, but now that her Professor has called her home, she'll need to leave ASAP and get back home months earlier than planned.

Of course Ems had no idea this would happen, so the bombshell has taken us all by surprise. But Lexie swung into action and placed a really well-written post on Craig's List, advertising for a new room mate. Within an hour, she was inundated with email queries from a really mixed bag of potentials. Whittling down the list as best we could, Lex and I met with 3 people on Saturday and a few others on Sunday, and we need to make a decision ASAP.

With any luck, by the middle of this coming week, I'll be able to introduce my new room mate to you. It has been hard going, meeting new people on this sweltering weekend, but it's gotta be done.

The 80s Throwback

Well he ain't Alex P Keaton, but it's close...

Your 80s Heartthrob Is

Jason Bateman

Friday, July 28, 2006

Don't think, just do

My phone rings today and it's Mel, my Aussie travel agent friend here in Chicago who is - quite by fluke actually - travelling back to Adelaide with me at Christmas with her American fiance.

Mel excitedly mentions an unbeatable offer for a 3-day, all-inclusive trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for only $349 and asked me if I wanted to go. Did I want to go?! So I called Caro straight away, hurriedly explained the deal and without even thinking twice, we booked in and paid up. After all, it's not often that such great ideas present themselves.

And the only catch as far as we can tell has to do with the strictness of the travel dates - leaving 31 August, back on 3 September. No worries for us, because Monday 4 September is the Labor Day long weekend, so it all fit in perfectly. SOLD.

I am so excited about this upcoming trip. Mexico wasn't exactly up there on my must-see destination list, but now I can't stop reading about it online and looking at photo after photo of smiley children, withered old grannies, and old men in enormous sombreros. I'm hooked.

And while Puerto Vallarta may be a touristy town, I'm certain that in the 3 days we'll spend there, Caro and I can mix old-town charm like this Church, with reclining on a deck chair, sipping authentic margaritas. And how!

Taking the glamorous plunge

The Red Carpet (redone)
Originally uploaded by torabisu.
I chose this photo to accompany my post today because for once it accurately captures how I feel.

Yesterday I received a letter from the Union League Club of Chicago accepting my membership application and welcoming me to its elegant bosom. The letter didn't actually say the words 'elegant bosom', but that was the gist of it.

Each time I think about what my membership means, I smile to myself. This probably makes my colleagues wonder what I'm up to, but that's too bad because I can't help it; I'm really excited about this. I have reviewed the social events that are coming up, and I've even looked into volunteering with one of the Club's fundraising bodies that supports young kids in Chicago. Quite the joiner, I know.

At the same time, my membership to the Club is a risk. It means I have to jump back into making new friends and putting myself out there amongst strangers. But I guess I'll be going to events with like-minded people (book fans, wine guzzlers etc) so we'll always have common interest areas to converse about, right?

I hope to be able to provide you with some photographs of the Club in due course. Covert photos of course, as I think there might be something tacky or touristy about taking photos inside. Leave it with me and I'll suss it out...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Sound of Silence

Nomad's Return
Originally uploaded by More Altitude.
My shiny silver laptop arrived yesterday and I was very excited about it. Cradling it home on the bus, I took comfort in the fact that I was (ironically) smart enough to take out "stupidity insurance" on the machine, lest I do something dumb like spill Diet Coke on the keyboard or something. You know me, and I know me, and that's not entirely out of the realm of possiblity.

But there is a lot to be said for human reliance on the internet in this modern age (and the prize for "Understatement of the Day" goes to...). But seriously. I turned my PC on last night, all ready to install the multitude of virus protection software and file backup thingies, and I couldn't get started. I needed to be connected to the internet to complete all the registration processes, and I couldn't work out how to do that. We have WiFi in our apartment, so I knew that the internal wireless card in my PC would work. But I didn't know which of the four wireless connections detected by my computer was the right one to use. And in any case, each connection was protected by an encryption password. Clearly I needed McGyver or Indiana Jones. Or perhaps just Lexie.

So I did what anyone in my position would have done. I ordered takeout and watched TV, waiting for Lexie to come home. When she did, it only took 3 nanoseconds to hook me up to the net, and I was (in the words of Taco Bell), "good to go".

Feeling pretty cocky by this point, I thought I'd download "Skype", knowing that my family and friends use it back home. For those not acquainted with Skype, it's basically online software that allows you to make cheap voice-to-voice calls online (to land phones or cell phones). Very cool.

On the face of it, the download and installation was a piece of cake. But then it came time to configure my Skype account. A pleasant South African-sounding woman's voice gave me step-by-step instructions about how to read a sentence outloud so that Skype could assess my microphone preferences and hook me up. So I obediently began shouting at the keyboard, to absolutely no avail. Again I tried, this time shouting the first half of the sentence at the left hand side of the laptop, and the second half of the sentence at the other side. Still nothing. Then it dawned on me that I had no idea where my computer's microphone is, or whether I have one at all. Turns out I don't have one. More shouting ensued, this time not at all related to Skype. I doubt Skype's voice-recognition library would be expansive enough to identify some of the words I shouted. I was hot, bothered, and not being heard.

So while the South African Skype lady didn't hear my cries, my neighbours certainly did. Sadly they could do little for me, except to shout back. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Get 'em out and bang 'em together

stomper dumming
Originally uploaded by kevin meredith.
Lexie does such great graphic design work that, as a token of appreciation, one of her managers gave her 2 tickets to see "Stomp" at the theatre last night. And being such a great room mate, she took me. Bless.

I hadn't seen the show before, but Lexie had. It's quite similar to the Aussie tapdogs troupe, in terms of amazing rhythms and dance and percussion with the most unlikely props. Last night for instance, the musicians made fantastic sounds with empty 11-litre spring water containers. And metal chairs. And even kitchen sinks.

They fed off each others energy and it was contagious. I was bopping along in my seat, enjoying every minute. And when the audience was invited to clap along and contribute to the rhythm of the final 'number', I realised why I hate audience participation. We absolutely sucked. Individually we might have been able to keep up the pace but collectively, we were awful. Completely incapable of clapping in time. Fortunately the performers just bashed their drums louder to drown us out.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Hand me my fishnets and rollerskates, STAT

Nite in Ebina 104
Originally uploaded by locomojo30.
God bless Chicago for offering a plethora of social activities to inspire and delight every single citizen. I don't think that's being too generous either. Because even fans of the weirdest movies around are catered for, and I include myself in this category.

The Music Box, sitting comfortably on the Northside's cafe and bar mecca known as Southport, is hosting midnight screenings of "Xanadu" AND (wait for it, it gets better) "Rocky Horror Picture Show".

I'm so excited I can barely contain it. I don't know whether my love of rollerskating started with "Xanadu" or Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Starlight Express" but it hardly matters now. All I know is that Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly, both on rollers, make a pretty irresistible combination.

And of course who can ignore the deliciously camp Tim Curry donning the fishnets and mincing across the screen in high heels? What's not to love about a cult classic musical that was made for very little money, and makes very little sense?!

If I can sedate someone long enough to come with me, I'd love to go along to both. But I bet you I'll be hard pressed to find someone to endure this double billing with me. One movie perhaps, but surely not both...oh well, we'll see. Stranger things have happened -just ask Brad and Janet.

Monday, July 24, 2006

It's not a hangover, it's severe head trauma

Saturday morning was not pretty. To be fair, neither was Saturday afternoon. I maintain that my condition had little to do with the infinity-plus-one beers consumed with the girls at The Beer Bistro on Friday night, and more to do with the fact that I slept really hot. Either that or someone poisoned me. Well ok let's not jumpt to that conclusion just yet. But whatever the root of the evil, my afflictions required me to bail on the two friends I was meant to see on Saturday - one was a coffee date and the other, belated birthday drinks. Tendering my apologies from my death bed, both girls replied that it was no big deal and I know that I'll catch up with them again soon. Phew.

But I did have to chuckle to myself in the midst of my turmoil, and think about Joshua. Often when we used to work together, Josh would come barrelling into my office complaining that he'd been sitting down so long he had contracted deep vein thrombosis. Or if we'd ever had a particularly heavy night drinking, Josh would bemoan that he'd come down with pancreatitis or a shrivelled liver or his kidneys had packed up. Despite his constant claims to be only 17 years old, he had the body of a corpse and it was always, and actually remains to this day, priceless.

And despite his flair for the dramatics, I'm starting to realise what Josh means when he says it takes him 3 days to get over a night out. I am wretched after even a mediocre night. 7.30pm the next night and I'm already yawning like an old lady. What's happening to me? Groan.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Keeping Carrie Bradshaw out of it

Writer's Block
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.
Last weekend I attended a workshop at Chicago's heritage-listed Newberry Library. The building is beautiful and the workshop was actually pretty good too.

I'd signed up primarily because I have been curious for some time about what to do with this blog, if anything at all. Could I turn it into something more interesting? And if so, should I bother?

The workshop was about distilling the elements of memoir writing into its basic elements. In a continued effort to eliminate writers block, the idea is to take a story and focus your mind on the showing, not the telling. Identify the person, or the location, that needs to come out and then describe that - don't deviate from it until you're done.

Having been away from home for nearly 18 months now, there are certainly lots of stories that I haven't told (at least in full) and so I have a lot of material to share. Do I have the time and energy to devote to the story-telling though?

But today I celebrated my new vocation by purchasing a shiny silver Dell laptop. Of course I'd been thinking about this purchase for some time, and conducting some rather exhaustive online research to identify the best model for me. So I guess I'm on the right track to going back over my life so far and working out what warrants telling, and what should probably stay buried forever.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Turning left at Albequerque - and other stories

Bugs Bunny Maestro
Originally uploaded by satragon.
I have often commented on this blog about my sensational lack of any sense of direction. How I have managed to travel for so long and come so far is a riddle on par with that of the Sphinx.

And it's not that I don't have instincts either, I do. It's just that I decide at the last minute to completely ignore them. My mind will be telling me to turn right, but my feet will go left. And my brain won't protest. That lingering self-doubt is always there. Or perhaps it's an ingrained sense of adventure, some unspoken pact between my body parts that figures "she'll be right, mate". And I always have been, so far.

But I have to laugh at myself when I call Lexie's cell and ask her to give me directions to a workshop I signed up for, only to find out that I was standing on the wrong side of the public square. Sure enough, a short walk along a path through the trees, and voila - there was the venue I'd been searching for. If I'd just taken that right turn, I would have found it first time.

Naturally there are times when I have no instinct whatsoever and I am simply lost. Emerging from the Red Line subway the other day was a classic example. I knew I was on the corner of Jackson & State, but I honestly didn't know whether I was meant to turn right or left. So of course I went the wrong way. For about 4 blocks. And when I realised my error and turned back around to re-orient myself, I did that I'm-not-lost-I-meant-for-this-to-happen purposeful walk, just in case 'someone' was paying attention. Pathetic, I know.

But hey, at least I make myself laugh, even if others shake their heads in disbelief. And you can laugh all you want, just don't follow me - for your own sake.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

All you can do is make lemonade

Originally uploaded by Muffet.
I found out today that "Petite Anglaise", a blog that I've been reading for over 18 months, got its author fired from her day job. Now of course she's turning right around and suing her employers, and has already been offered 2 book deals (to publish her blog, not to dish the dirt on her legal battles, though I suppose the two are now forever joined).

I am very careful when I blog about work. The only reason I detailed yesterday's blog with references to Mero and Biggsy is because they both complained that I never blog about them. If they hadn't have done that, there would rarely be a need to mention them by anything other than a fleeting reference. Quite aside from the inappropriateness of blogging about work, I don't ever need to. My life is full of enough 'bloggable' dramas and sagas that occur outside of the workplace to keep us entertained for a long while.

I do feel bad for Petite having to go through these legal wrangles, but I figure she'll emerge okay. Even if her professional reputation is in tatters, she can rest assured that her immediate future on the literary circuit is pretty sweet. After all, a scandal always helps book sales ("Da Vinci Code" and "A Million Little Pieces" anyone?).

Now if we could just get Petite Anglaise on Oprah's couch for a proper roasting, she'd be able to put all this silliness behind her.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Fine tuning the gay-dar

Originally uploaded by Amodiovalerio Verde.
Last night the Consulate threw a reception for the Aussie athletes in town for Chicago's Gay Games. From 6.30pm at a Downtown cafe owned by an Aussie, we entertained, schmoozed and boozed.

Mero asked Biggsy and me to be door bitches, which was fine with me. We welcomed every athlete and supporter that battled the heat and their own fatigue to join us in the cool cafe. I was madly ticking names off as people arrived and the next time I looked around, we had about 100 people there - a great turnout!

As is her way, Mero was being very humble about the event and attributing its success to all of us. But she did a great job spreading the word to the Aussies in town and making sure that they know we're here to keep them safe. Biggsy the Door Bitch was on full alert to forceably remove anyone who turned up without registering, but he didn't have to flex his muscles in the end. Everyone was well behaved.

And I've been asked to walk an Adelaide guy down the aisle at his wedding ceremony later this week. I was well chuffed. Unfortunately I have no confidence that he will have woken up this morning with any recollection of asking me. We shall see...

A sizzling suggestion

Spring branding
Originally uploaded by Big Sky Nik.
I had a breakfast meeting at the Union League Club of Chicago this morning, as the final stage of my membership application process. There were lots of interesting people in the room, and especially at my table. I was not seated with any young people but I did see some around the room. Many of them were young men and very cute, if I'm allowed to say so.

But just speaking briefly with some of the young guys this morning, a few of them mentioned that they are getting married later this year. Now I'm not the sort that starts talking to a guy and then takes a sneak peek at his wedding finger in search of a ring, but it started me wondering why the woman gets to wear an engagement ring to indicate her 'spoken for' status, and the guy gets to be a comparatively free agent?

I am as big a fan of diamonds as the next girl, so I'm not suggesting that women do without engagement rings. They represent that a woman is off the market, so to speak, but they are obviously also a token of someone's love for them. So why should a man not wear the same symbol? I 'propose' that a naked wedding finger should be the universal sign of singledom for both sexes.

I think an engagement ring would empower men. No longer would they have to contend with the flirtations of single women, and the uncomfortable "I'm sorry but I'm getting married" rejection. But it would also save a lot of headache (not heartache, mind you) for the single girl, whose affections would only have been wasted.

And male or female, who can't use a bit more bling?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Life is Short, just ask Martin

Originally uploaded by smackfu.
Chicago sweltered through a heatwave this past weekend and I was resolved not to sit around my un-airconditioned apartment to suffer through it. Instead, I decided that my Sunday would be better spent in the cool of the LaSalle Bank Theater, enjoying the final matinee performance of Martin Short's musical, "Fame Becomes Me".

Admittedly it was a bit self-indulgent buying a ticket to the show, but the hands-down best thing about buying a single ticket is that you tend to get the best seats in the house. Indeed, my seat was towards the end of the fourth row of the theater. Fabulous! At times I felt like I was standing out as a solo theater-goer (Nigel No-Friends meets Rhonda Rent-A-Crowd), but I tried not to dwell on that.

I was so immersed in the musical that I didn't realise that at one point in the show, Martin Short himself slid into the vacant seat next to me. And then on cue, he jumped into my lap with a big smile on his face, and then just as quickly stood up and shimmied along the row into the aisle to take the stage. Classic!

I'm not one for audience participation, but I got a kick out of that.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Allo Allo

Today is 14 July and it is Bastille Day, the French national holiday that commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris in 1789 and the subsequent creation of the nation of France. I know this because…

French Breakfast Eiffel Tower Paris

In honour of France’s “fete nationale”, I submit the following list of my own French memories. You can decide for yourself whether they fit under the “what’s hot” or “what’s not” heading:

  • Congestion at Charles de Gaulle airport and passageways that lead nowhere.
  • Buying chocolat framboises from the patisserie by Kate’s old apartment – and finding them nowhere else in the entire country.
  • Suppositories.
  • Buying wine in the supermarket for less than 2 euro a bottle.
  • And in contrast, being less than impressed with wines actually from Bordeaux.
  • Public displays of affection on the Metro…and everywhere else for that matter.
  • Dining at the Jules Verne up the Eiffel Tower – a once in a lifetime treat (so far!).
  • Bus strikes.
  • Train strikes.
  • Unemployed people strikes. Seriously.
  • Dogs in restaurants. And dog poo everywhere.
  • It seems like everybody smokes. Indoors.
  • The winding bohemian streets of Montmartre.
  • Peanuts in the shell washed down with kirs.
  • The ugly stepsisters who run the casino-type hotel in Lourdes in the off-season.
  • Eating a mountain o’ meat and sauerkraut in Strasbourg.
  • Bottomless cups of hot chocolate in a cozy tea room while the snow falls outside.
  • Paris losing the Olympic bid to London.
  • The Champs Elysees and its fabulous shops.
  • The pedestrian death-trap that is the Place de la Concorde.
  • Charming hotels with no elevators.
  • Fat hunks of brie cheese on fresh baguette.

I know I’ve forgotten some things, so I’d love to hear your best/worst French memories to help me round out the list. Bon journee a tous!

Eiffel Tower Gab and Kate Nick's Dinner Party

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Karma, fate, still hurts

I think someone "up there" has it in for me. I have already regaled you with the story of how I slammed my finger in my bedroom door and, since you asked, my digit is still only slowly recovering. Then yesterday I rather brusquely introduced my shin bone to the bottom drawer of my work desk - OUCH. Then to cap it all, at lunch time I went to the bakery (to buy lunch DUH) and not-so-gracefully slid on my 2" heels. I hit the floorboards rather heavily sideways, and managed to crunch my shoulder in the process of putting my hand out to stop myself. This morning I feel like I need some rather industrious muscular manipulations in the general neck/shoulder area. Or perhaps I just a few extra hours in bed, fast asleep under the watchful eye of "Aunty Val" (aka Valium, for those of you monitoring the medicine cabinet).

I don't know how to remedy this clumsiness but God knows I want to. Is there some sort of antidote for bad karma? I haven't broken a mirror in the last 7 years, so we're not talking about traditional bad luck here. I am simply a walking disaster area. I am seriously considering erecting a pile of orange traffic cones around myself at all times, to serve as a warning to others.

Courts has even taken to calling me Liz Taylor, in recognition of the film star's own struggles with remaining vertical and subsequently shattering vital body parts. While I am yet to adopt Liz's penchant for pain killers and matrimony, I can see my friend's point. Maybe large diamonds will make me feel better. They certainly sped up Liz's recovery. I shall call it: "Tiffany Therapy".

As a post-script to this entry, I feel the need to reference a very amusing article I read on the Australian ABC's website. While none of these fall-down, self-mutilation incidents have occurred while intoxicated, I will neverthless heed the advice of the Suffolk police force, and ensure that my undergarments are ship-shape in future; just in case, you understand. Confused? Full text of the article can be found here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Chicago commuters breathe heavily

Originally uploaded by photo_rode.
If you've ever seen an episode of "ER", or the Sandra Bullock movie "While You Were Sleeping", you'll appreciate that Chicago is known for its elevated train system, affectionately termed "The El".

During yesterday afternoon's rush hour, the last carriage of one of the Blue Line subway trains (travelling in the direction of O'Hare airport) derailed and a small fire started, filling the subway tunnel and all the carriages with dense, black smoke.

Tuning into Fox TV in readiness for my daily fix of "The Simpsons", I was instead glued to the TV as the drama unfolded and stunned passengers were being evacuated into the streets via manholes. Before I'd heard any of the news coverage, the images I was absorbing took me straight back to London, one year ago. Confused commuters, organised chaos, ambulance sirens blaring.

But you know what? As the news desk crossed live to its reporter and the stories came flooding in, and despite every effort of the TV anchor to be alarmist and mentally will people to say the word "TERRORISM", no one was really that panicked. Sure they were stunned, but not panicked. Everyone who was interviewed was adamant that they had experienced a train derailment and expressed gratitude to fellow commuters that everyone cooperated well and helped each other. No one was jumping to any evil conclusions or suspecting foul play. It seemed only the TV anchor had these suspicions. And I was ready to call the network and have him sacked.

I suppose on the back of the recent Sears Tower terrorist plot that saturated the media the other week, Chicagoans are right to be 'alert but not alarmed'. But last night's public transportation drama just highlighted why Chicago rocks. In times of crisis and uncertainty, when confusion is reigning all around, people will join hands and help each other up a manhole.

Group hug everyone. Now back to work.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Put it away, you're not impressing anyone

Long exposure
Originally uploaded by Mr. Flibble.
I had a slower start today than usual, complicated by my complete incapacity to commit to an outfit. So I chose slimming all-black.

Unfortunately on the way to work, I walked past a window and caught a reflection of my a$$ and nearly passed out. Huge. So while I was obsessing about that, I didn't notice that the men standing on the bus around me had a perfect bird's eye view down my top.

Talk about head-to-toe wardrobe malfunctions!

Monday, July 10, 2006

"So why are you still single?"

Thus began my conversation with the Russian-American who rang me this morning, looking for Australian visa information. In addition to being curious as to why it is so hot in Sydney in December (I told him to blame El Nino, who I think he figured was some South American President), he was very curious to find out that I am single. And he quizzed me ad nauseum about my enduring spinsterhood. An excerpt from our conversation follows:

Me: I don't know why I'm single - but I'm sure it's a long and boring story.

Him: What's wrong with you? Don't you like American men?

Me: Well there's nothing wrong with me, or American men for that matter.

Him: Ahh but you like Australian men too. Perhaps you miss them.

Me: Yes, I'm sure that's all it is.

Him: Perhaps you need a Russian man (insert devilish chuckle here)

Me: You think that would fix me? You know everything.

Him: Well that is the only solution, my dear. Russian men make the best lovers.

Me: I'm sure I've heard that before. Now didn't you call about a visa?

Him: (Devilish chuckle) You are a very sweet girl. I will like Australia I think.

Me: I bet you will. Remember to pack sunscreen.

And so it was that without even having to put make-up on or flirt up a storm at some dodgy bar, I discovered that the world's best lovers are Russian. Look out Australia, one's headed your way, with best wishes from yours truly!

TV rots your brain

Venetian canal
Originally uploaded by Miss Gab.
I should stop watching The Food Network; it’s really that simple. Over the weekend I think I managed to watch about 400 different Food Network programs, the vast majority of which focussed on Italy. Not only was I left feeling very hungry, but I was also incredibly homesick. Italy’s ultimate victory in the World Cup did not help matters.

When I moved to Chicago I had some very vivid dreams about living and working in Italy, which convinced me that my wanderlust had not entirely dissipated. I had the real sensation that I had not yet finished my global adventure and I know I still feel that. There is still something in me that needs to get back to Italy; the pull of that country is pretty strong for me. This is going to sound really wanky, but I can’t describe to you the comfort I feel sitting in St Mark’s Square in Venice, eating a slice of pizza and just ‘people watching’. Or how relaxed I can be riding Rome’s crowded Metro, emerging from the Colosseo station, walking up the stairs to come face-to-face with the unmistakable Colosseum.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the Windy City and, in the immortal words of Peter Allen, Hugh Jackman, and the entire QANTAS choir, “I still call Australia home”. But the pull of Italy is still there. After all, that beautiful boot-shaped nation is home to the Vatican; quality coffee taken al fresco in the summer sunshine; and perfectly-coiffed young men in Versace pants yelling “Ciao” as they motor by, sans helmet of course, on their vintage vespas. With this in mind, if I ever do win the lottery, I will be first in line to rent a spacious Tuscan villa and simply recline for a while and soak up all the atmosphere. No TVs allowed. Anyone care to join me?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Self-imposed exile is my kind of sentence

I am not in a good mood today, so perhaps this is not the best time to post. But there is something to be said for 'venting', so I've taken this opportunity to share some my gripes with you. Just suspend reality for two minutes, pretend you care, and ponder these rhetorical questions.

[Bear in mind that it's only 10.22am and all these questions are drawn from today's experiences.]

Why does the bus driver tell me that my transit card is inactive, AND still make me pay $2 for my bus journey, when the Chicago Transit Authority happily charges me $70+ per month to have the card in the first place?

Why does the US post office only put two women on the registers at 9am on a Friday when the line-up of customers is clearly out the door?

Why do pedestrians have to weave across the sidewalk, wander directly into my path, and then not apologise for nearly tripping me up?

Why is it impossible to order a coffee & two donuts from Dunkin' Donuts and still get the correct order?

Why do I have to be at work when it's such a beautiful day outside?

Why can't it be the weekend already, so I can put myself under house arrest and watch old movies for two days straight?

If you have given these questions even half as much consideration as I have this morning, you'll appreciate why it's impossible for me to concentrate on my job. So I think I'll just continue to stare out the window at the Chicago River. Sigh, blissful.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Some slammin' news

I was always a rather uncoordinated child. A klutz, if you will. The family joke seems to be that I was so clumsy, I would trip over patterns in the carpet. I think they suspect that I still would.

So it will probably come as no surprise to my family that on Monday night, five minutes before I was due to leave for the fireworks party, I slammed my finger in my bedroom door.

I'm at a loss to know how I only slammed one finger, and I'm certainly no physicist, but I imagine it has something to do with the vacuum created by my half-open bedroom window and the ceiling fan that was whirring only very slowly. Those elements dangerously combined to create enough suction to slam my bedroom door really hard. And because I didn't move my finger out of the way fast enough, it came an absolute cropper.

So today my middle finger on my left hand is swollen, and the nail is a deliciously gothic shade of purple/black. And if you're a touch-typist like me, you'll appreciate how uncomfortable it is to type Es, Ds, and Cs. Oh man.

The common remedy suggested by the amateur medical professionals around here seems to be to have it lanced with a hot needle and spurt blood everywhere in the process. Yeah, right. Of course that was also the advice of Courtney's aunt Gail, who is an actual doctor, but I pretended that she was under the influence of Courtney's cocktails at the time she said it. BAH, scaremongers.

[But just between you and me, if my finger keeps feeling the way it does today, I may have to visit a health care expert and demand that they administer some serious anaesthetic before beginning the lancing process. Surely they would not expect me to be conscious for such a heinous procedure?]

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

An earth-shattering kaboom!

IMG_4392 - Venetian Night Fireworks
Originally uploaded by Asten.
Yesterday was my first US-based Independence Day, and I'd like to say that Chicago was festive and celebratory. But to report this accurately, I would have to have left the house - and I didn't. Except to do the laundry of course; loads and loads of it. But at least Lexie and me managed to finish the first series of "Lost", which was the only goal we'd set ourselves for the day anyway.

But I think the relaxation was entirely deserved, given the celebrations that we'd participated in the night before. Given the public holiday on the 4th, a huge fireworks spectacular is organised for the night before, and millions of Chicagoans come out to watch them. The fireworks are let off from Grant Park, making for spectacular light shows reflecting off Lake Michigan.

Courts was kind enough to extend me and Lexie and invitation to her aunt's Lake-front apartment, that provided the perfect vantage point to watch the fireworks and see the crowds below. Perched on Gail's balcony, I joined the chorus of "ooh" and "aah" as the rainbow of colours exploded one after the other. We did spare a thought for Preston though, who we figured was probably trying desperately to unlock the front door and flee to quieter surrounds.

It was funny to look down from Gail's balcony and see Lakeshore Drive absolutely deserted, save for one line of very slow-moving vehicles being shepherded by police. Never in all my time here have I seen the Drive so quiet. One lone cyclist was making the most of the freedom and quiet, and riding snake-like, weaving across all the lanes, at his own pace. Normally such a bike ride is a white-knuckle experience!

Courts and Gail really did go all-out for the fireworks party, and the cocktails and canapes were being served by the truckload until the wee hours. I didn't get any photos of my own, but my friend Kat was taking some (and she's a professional photographer) so I might be able to get hold of some from her and share them with you.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Getting lost in a DVD

The pace of my life caught up with me yesterday and the only thing I was capable of doing (after escorting the girls to O'Hare in the morning) was to put my pyjama pants on and watch back-to-back episodes of the first season of "Lost".

Am I the last person on the planet to realise what a gripping and addictive show this is? Admittedly I had previously thought that the premise for the show was kind of dumb, and I wondered how long the writers and producers could stretch it out before it became a big farce. How quickly would the show become "Lord of the Flies" or worse, "Gilligan's Island"?

But just having watched a few episodes yesterday, I am absolutely addicted to the show. And very much in love with Dr Jack (aka Charlie Salinger from "Party of Five"....who's with me?). He's like McGyver with a medical degree. And he spends just the right amount of time with his shirt off. Sunscreen is scarce on the island, after all.

Lexie is at home today, ahead of the 4th of July public holiday, and she is fighting every urge in her body NOT to put the DVD on and sneak in one or two episodes without me. We have notionally agreed that our day off tomorrow will consist of doing laundry and watching "Lost", so I really hope she can hold up her end of that bargain.