Sunday, June 14, 2009

Having a Sunday fiddle

Topol's farewell tour.
Originally uploaded by misstraceynolan.

I probably should have dyed my hair blue this morning, to be adequately prepared for today's theater adventure. The average age of the audience members would easily have been 85. But it's little wonder really - the star of the show was the one, the only TOPOL in his farewell tour of "Fiddler on the Roof".

My sister was never far from my mind as I watched Topol shimmy across the stage in "If I were a rich man" (do be do be do) - Jem's version of this number is rather like the Sugar Plum Fairy on crack - yet she will perform it upon request...and sometimes completely impromptu.

Topol has performed the role of Tevye over 2500 times and you've got to give props to a guy that can do that. I don't know how old Topol is for sure, but the man still has "it". The energy is boundless and the deep, booming voice is at once calming and commanding. In some scenes, he sounded like Andre The Giant and so I got the giggles. The old ladies tsked me all around. More giggles from me.

I was not laughing, however, during intermission when I tried to get to the bathroom. Trying to get 3,000 eighty-five year old women to pee in the space of 10 minutes is like herding cats. This time it was MY turn to tsk. I am so impatient when I need to pee.

After the performance I was in the mood to be indulgent, so I called into the iconic Petterino's and had a cosmo. The barman was a genius, mixing up a delicious shaker full of pink fabulousness just for me - and while I thought better than to tell him about my afternoon spent with the Blue Rinse Brigade, I sat alone to savour my cocktail as the old ladies around me enjoyed their dinner. At 5pm.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Like sand through the hourglass

Originally uploaded by My Symbiosis.

In one week, I will finish work. I am very nervous about this for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I haven't been unemployed since I was 17. I'm not sure I'll be too good at it. Sure, I like slothing around as much as the next girl, but I get tired of it pretty quickly. And there's only so much daytime TV even I can take (sorry, Food Network, even you bore me after a while).

Secondly, finishing my job means that I'm almost leaving Chicago. One does not exist without the other. And the closer I get to my last day on the job, the closer I get to the last time I take the bus along glassy Lake Michigan, and the last time I stroll down the Magnificent Mile and the last time I...well, you get the picture.

My situation is nothing to pity of course. I chose to be in this situation - I'm not one of the unlucky ones to lose my job because of the financial slump the world is in, nor was I booted out for being naughty. I elected to put myself in this position - mea culpa and all that good stuff.

But don't the faceless "they" always tell you that you should leave a party while you're still having fun? Well that's what I'm doing - getting out while the getting is good.

I just wish my list of things to say goodbye to wasn't quite so long...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Domestic Bliss

Originally uploaded by Miss Gab.

Once I'd made the decision to resign from my job and move back home, I had thought the worst was over.

Then I started to have anxieties about not being able to sublet my apartment and that I would end up having to pay rent from overseas, financially bound to my gorgeous place until the end of my lease on November 1st.

After many weekends of showing my apartment to potential subletters (subleasers?), I got a call from my building manager to say that an applicant had been found. I was thrilled but the manager cautioned me against getting too excited. "Nothing's formalised until we approve them financially and you co-sign the papers," she said. There was that anxiety again, gnawing at my stomach lining.

Walking into the building office this afternoon to do my part, my head was spinning.

Who was the mysterious applicant, I wondered? Had I shown her my place on one of those crazy Saturdays when my apartment looked like a Chinese laundry, and dust balls swirled around our ankles like tumbleweeds? Or was the new tenant somebody who had seen the place when I wasn't here and when I didn't know they were coming; when I later went postal at the maintenance guys for letting her in without telling me? [Okay so that only happened once but it annoyed me.]

The sublease papers arrived in a fluoro pink envelope and were placed in front of me to sign. I read the name of the woman who would soon call my bachelorette pad her home, and I drew a complete blank. I had never seen that name in my life. My apartment was about to be signed over to a stranger.

I asked the building manager about the person, and she wouldn't tell me anything other than that they had been financially approved. Is that all people care about? I would have found out heaps more than that!

As I co-signed my name on the dotted line, I thought about my time as tenant in my lovely 1-bedroom from September 2007 up to now. This place gave me my first experience at living alone and having a bachelorette pad that I loved coming home to every day. In the heart of Boystown, my apartment was a quiet refuge for a crazy city girl.

Sure, the place may be beige, and it may be the very embodiment of Japanese minimalism (paricularly right now with the furniture all but cleared out), but I have loved it dearly. And I only hope that this complete, but financially-approved stranger will too.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Party in the city where the heat is on!

I'm a bit too young to remember "Miami Vice" so my story today starts with a TV show from my youth, shown in a more PG-friendly timeslot. Some of you out there may fondly remember the variety show on Australian TV called "Hey, Hey It's Saturday!". And before you ask, there are no prizes for guessing which night of the week it screened....

Anyway, one of the segments on the show was called "Red Faces" and contestants of all ages and all "talents" competed against one another for cash (I think, or maybe it was just prizes). The whole point was to get through your act before Red Symonds (of "Skyhooks" fame) hit the giant gong and struck you out.

I must have watched so many contestants on "Red Faces" in my time, but one that will forever stick out is a young boy who decided he wanted to sing Will Smith's hit - of the time - "Going to Miami". The boy had the audience vote already because he was adorable but unfortunately for everyone, he was also tone deaf and had absolutley no sense of rhythm. And being the complete sadist that he was, Red Symonds refused to gong the kid. So we all had to sit there and endure the wailing, off-beat, off-tempo, and generally just OFF performance.

But even a tuneless kid on "Red Faces" in the early 90s couldn't have put me off going to Miami. I just hadn't had the occasion until this past weekend. And so to put us all in the mood for the rest of this post, do yourself a favour and click on the "Going to Miami" video - the way Will Smith intended it be heard...

There now. Don't you feel better already?

The first thing that hit me about Miami was the heat. Then the humidity and then possibly the heat again. Flying in from a city that has 'enjoyed' a winter that doesn't seem to want to quit, the intense heat of Miami was a really welcome change. I'm not one to enjoy humidity really but after Chi-town's cool, I wasn't going to complain.

But my weekend did not give me a single thing to complain about anyway. I met K at Miami airport around 2am (her plane had been delayed and it was nothing to just wait around) and we shared a cab to our fabulous accommodation, the Gansevoort South. There we met up with three of K's other NYC-based friends (2 Aussies, one Swede) and we crashed fast asleep. No surprise there.

I had battled a nasty cold last week and the air con in our hotel room left me congested and snuffly come the morning. So I woke semi-early and took myself off in search of coffee. Thankfully Cafe Bustelo had set up shop right next door to the Hotel, and I made myself at home to people-watch and ease into the weekend's warm weather.

One by one the other girls surfaced and joined me at coffee. When we were all assembled, three of us made the plan to find brunch. Off we went down Collins Ave (lined with every manner of gorgeous boutique and art deco retro hotel) and we turned onto Lincoln Avenue Mall. The pedestrian mall was overrun with restaurants, but not many of them served breakfast or brunch. Perhaps Floridians don't know about brunching, we mused. But we finally found a place and settled inside (under the air conditioner) to enjoy our first meal in Miami. It was so large, we almost didn't feel like ANOTHER meal in Miami! The portions were huge and none of us ate everything on our plates - but we agreed across the board that everything was delicious. Particularly the fruit juices - must be all that sunshine.

As the grey clouds and thunderstorm rolled in, we walked back to the Hotel with a view to swimming around for a couple of hours in the gorgeous pool - conveniently located on the same floor as our hotel room! Self-conscious as I was about laying around in a bikini, I have to confess I was very interested in being a sloth on the pool chairs with my large fashionista sunglasses and a good book (and a great margarita, if one could be arranged).

And so it was that I donned the bathing suit (and old grandma cover-up) and blazed a trail out to the pool. The heat was intense but the pool offered welcome respite and I rejoiced in the knowledge that it was perfectly okay (nay, EXPECTED) to consume one's cocktail while partially submerged in the cool waters. It was blissful.

Some minutes later, and wrinkled like the satisfied human prune that I was, I retired to the pool lounge to dry off, read my book, and close my eyes to the sensation of freshly-made strawberry margarita working its way through my bloodstream.

I found it rather amusing that the pool had a sign that said, "No Lifeguard on Duty"; however there were several pool attendants bearing cocktail trays milling around the guests. Miami is a town of interesting, if not inspiring, priorities. And really, when you're in the market for a restaurant recommendation, isn't it easier to ask a pool cocktail waitress than a lifeguard? I think so too.

Fast forward a couple of hours and we ended up at Sardinia Enoteca & Ristorante in Miami Beach, a place that boasts traditional southern Italian cuisine and great service. We didn't have a reservation and that seemed to anger the hostess, but no one else had a problem with it, and we had a wonderful dinner together.

By the time we got back to the Hotel, we were all exhausted. The combination of sleep deprivation, sun, fresh air, cocktails, great food, and big laughs had knocked us all out. So we retired to our rooms and got some sleep.

Awoken to my last day in Miami, I was again all stuffed up and snuffly thanks to an over-zealous (but highly necessary) air conditioner. K headed off to the beach for a while and I got re-acquainted with the coffee shop. Only this time, I also tried some croquetas, basically just Cuban croquettes that are quite delicious. I bought them at the coffee shop, so I'm positive they were not the most authentic or tasty morsels available in Miami; however I wanted to say I'd tried them. I had one filled with chorizo and one with ham and cheese, and coupled with my enormous coffee, they constituted quite a nice breakfast.

Having checked out at 12.30pm, we left our bags with the concierge and walked along Collins Avenue to Ocean Road, the haunt of the rich and truly fabulous. Yes we walked in the searing heat and sweaty humidity, but it was totally worth it.

We took the advice of a couple of friends and ate at The Front Porch Cafe, which is a dining institution in South Beach and located in the lobby of the Penguin Hotel. Again, we didn't have a reservation but the crowd moved fairly quickly and we were seated in less than 10 minutes. Feeling restored by a delicious cocktail and a huge breakfast/lunch, we headed off for a walk along Ocean Road, past the Versace Mansion and restaurants, bars and cafes galore.

Being bikini-phobic, one of the things that struck me almost immediately was just how confident people seemed in Miami, to walk around semi-clad and strutting their stuff - whether they had stuff to strut or not. Even the mannqueins in the store windows had larger-than-normal boobs to show you just how those skimpy fashions should be worn to best effect. It's terrible when you're envious of a store mannequin.

Reminiscent of the end of "Oceans 11", the girls left one by one, and pretty soon only Kate and I were left. Without the supervision, we were resigned to bar hopping along Collins Ave, escaping from the heat into the cool of the cocktail lounges in the art deco hotels we had admired so much from the street. It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon.

As we got back to the Hotel en route to the airport, the weather turned ugly again and we were worried our flights would be delayed. As it turned out, we got to the airport just fine and my flight was the only one with problems - somebody left the heaters on in the plane and the whole aircraft became unbearable and needed to be aired out. Figures. But I was home in bed around midnight, so happy that I got to spend a wonderful couple of days in the Miami sunshine. I may even have got a bit of a tan for my efforts and with any luck, I may have bought some of the good weather back to "sweet home Chicago" with me.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

This little piggy is going to Miami

Princess Peach
Originally uploaded by deanonessimo2005.

I don't tend to go in for any of that fear mongering when it comes to disease outbreaks or global epidemics. In the case of the current H1N1 influenza outbreak, I have been taking good care of myself and so far, things have been coasting along well.

So last Friday when I swallowed some Diet Coke and my throat started to hurt, I knew I was coming down with something, and admittedly my thoughts didn't turn to the piggy flu until I wasn't able to get out of bed on Monday morning. Tuesday rolled around without much improvement and I guess I figured it would not surprise anyone in my life to find out that I had indeed succumbed to the stinky pig flu.

I took myself off to the doctors this morning and had an ill-timed coughing fit on the bus. The man opposite me regarded me rather suspiciously, removed his handkerchief from his pocket and proceeded to cover his face with it.

Way harsh.

So try as hard as I might to stem the cough, it would not be silienced. More mucus, more heaving, more watery eyes - I was one sexy bus passenger, sitting all alone in as much quarantine as the Chicago Transit Authority will allow.

After a painful blood test and an even more invasive throat swab, the diagnosis from the doctor is that I simply have a very bad cold. Fortunately I'm no longer contagious and I'm 100% cleared to travel to sunny Miami this weekend. More on that later.

Wouldn't you know it? The positive visit to the doctor, and the subsequent mass medication purchase at Walgreen's has left me already feeling a great deal better. It's back to work tomorrow but at least this little piggy is feeling a little more like her old self again.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Home Stretch

I haven't started counting down the days yet but I will be heading home for good on July 7 and so little by little, I've been wrapping up my life here. It's hard to believe that I've amassed so much stuff in the nearly 4 years that I've lived here, but it's true.

After much to-ing and fro-ing on the advertising front, I believe I've finally sublet my apartment but I'm just waiting for the paperwork to arrive. A little while ago I made the decision to sell off or give away anything in my apartment that wasn't a gift, and thus began a steady revolving door of furniture removals and cash-in-hand purchasing. Although it sounds like it went rather smoothly, it was pretty exhuasting trying to manage all of the moving. And I still have some items to sell and an apartment to clean from top to bottom before I can, in good conscience, clear out.

Resigning from my job brought its own angst too. I had never resigned in person before and was not really sure what I was going to say, what the bosses were likely to say, or what would happen once the proverbial cat was out of the bag. As it turned out, the level of support has been great and so I'm in the real home stretch to tie up all my office-based loose ends too.

Amidst all this change, my system has decided to freak out and I've been at home the last 2 days with a really bad cold. I'm hoping it's not the dreaded oink-oink flu that's been going around, partly because that would be really embarassing, but also because I'm supposed to be flying to Miami this Friday to spend the weekend with Kate and a couple of her friends from NY. If I get diagnosed with the flu, I have to go into quarantine and I won't be allowed to fly. That would suck on so many levels, I can't even begin to describe them. So let's just hope that the doctor's appointment tomorrow will yield happy news - and lots of delicious pharmaceuticals!

So barring weeknds away, for-sale furniture, and suspect germs circulating in my system, I am making final plans to leave this wonderful City. I've even made a list (in pencil) of the must-see and must-do things. Hopefully over the coming weeks I'll be able to write postings - and even include photos? - of my efforts to work through the list...bring it on!