Hello, happy campers! Here it is: post four (of six) that has been ripped from the cold, dead hands of my former blog. Re-posted here from 2007 for posterity, and may some relevant god have mercy on my sad soul. I give you Moral Turpitude. An Outrage.:

So, I was reading the RedEye this morning like a good little CTA rider, and I came across this small, glimmering gem of knowledge:

“One long-term study on rats showed that former binge-drinking rats—with a binge defined as exceeding the equivalent of a .08 blood alcohol level—had more trouble learning new things than rats that had never had a drop to drink. Tasked with swimming around a pool in search of a platform to stand on, the teetotaler rats were able to find the platform easily after it was moved, while the former binge drinkers—which had last been drunk three weeks earlier, the equivalent of six to seven human years—kept circling around the platform’s original location.”

Which just begs the question–if the average lifespan for a rat is 2-3 years, where are these rats being served? Clearly Chicago’s age enforcement for bars is not as stringent as we all thought. Shame on you, city enforcers. Shame on you. I move we discredit this study as unethical on the grounds that they must instead test on animals old enough to understand the effects of alcohol. Like turtles.

Rural Idealism Fruit

February 24, 2010

So, lately I’ve been lamenting the rural and suburban life after having moved out of my darling city into the Not So Great Beyond—the greater Jolietland area (Sounds weird, doesn’t it? Why do we say ‘greater Chicagoland area’?). And frankly, all my whining about it is actually nauseating me. I get it, I get it; it’s not as busy out here, not as walkable, more conservative, less possessing of independently owned restaurants or new things to do, I’m more conspicuous here, and nearly everyone moves at a glacial speed, regardless of what they’re doing. Yes, I know. It’s not a glittering metropolis and cultural haven.

The thing is, truthfully—it’s not so bad. In fact, parts of it are really nice. Especially when the crazy snow/ice/winter thing stops and the cabin fever ends, the daylight lasts longer, and I no longer have to wield a snow-scraping device of any kind for another 7 months. Probably.

It isn’t bad. It’s kind of…errrm…quaint. Kind of comfortable in a way the city is not. So. In the spirit of positivity, and in order to counter the darker parts of my brain that continually make lists of the things I loathe about residing outside of the city, I am going to list a few of the things I do actually really enjoy (I initially typed “brian” here instead of “brain” and almost kept it, because I sort of relish the idea of possessing a brian who has dark parts and makes lists for me of things that irritate him. But that would sadly be a lie. I do not possess a dark, list-making brian. Christmas? Anyone?).

1.) This morning I went into the gas station at an ungodly early hour to use the ATM during a commute of ridiculously bad traffic on Route 6 and another day of mind-numbing snowfall (thank you, February). On my way out, an older gentleman I don’t know was coming in, saw me, and held the door open for me. After I thanked him and was making my merry way out, he smiled warmly at me, and not in a quick hold-frozen-fake-smile-for-three-obligated-seconds smile—a genuine expression. Then he turned around before shutting the door to wish me a really nice day and to tell me to be careful not to slip out there; it’s an icy one. This does not happen in the city, and if it does, I’m convinced it’s rural people who’ve gone up there for one reason or another to gaze and reckon about.

2.) While you don’t generally have the convenience of walking everywhere, you always have the convenience of driving. And if this doesn’t sound as nice, consider this when you’re sick, when you need to get to someone who’s sick, when you have a headache, when you’re exhausted from work, or it’s 30 degrees, or 20, or 2, or you need to get somewhere fast. Think of always having some parking spot you can grab in a matter of minutes where your car won’t get towed. Think of no city tickets, no meters, no L seats with a hand-written sign on them that says “I think this is urine; Don’t sit!”. Think of leaving your windows down and cruising around in the summer with the radio going, not concerned about having your purse in a car with an open window. Think of driving for long, relaxing stretches of time when traffic isn’t slowing you down. Bloody fantastic.

3.) I can go to certain grocery stores out here and buy spices for a dollar each. A dollar!! And that is the tip of the frugal iceberg, my friends. The frugal, frugal iceberg.

4.) If you get antsy at night, most of the bartenders around here will remember your name and your drink, often as you are walking in, and beers are frequently $2.

5.) Community theater. I went to a play down at Bicentennial Park with my darling male escort last week, and it was great. I mean, you know…community theater…but great. Ah, how I miss it.

6.) I love country roads. I love looking at the cornfields for long periods of time. It is calming, restorative, quiet. Alternatively, if you’re not driving through fields, there is green everywhere. And I’m not an outdoors enthusiast by any means—most things that exist in nature will make me turn into a human Braille plate with hives if I touch them or breathe next to them too heartily. Nonetheless, the greenery is much more relaxing than concrete, no matter what soothing reaction the Art Deco statue on top of the concrete is meant to evoke.

7.) The number of places I can legally walk barefoot (or at least where people hardly notice) is exponentially higher. Yes, I have hippie feet. No, I’m not a hippie. I just like maintaining a well-calloused foot; sue me. I assume I’m conditioning myself to swiftly climb trees in the event of a ground assault of some sort. Hey. I’ve seen When Animals Attack.

8.) I’m not terrified to listen to country or oldies music loudly or with the windows open when driving out here. Not that I listen to country much at all anyway (I pretty much just love the Chicks and a few others), though I do enjoy oldies quite regularly. It’s an irrational fear, probably, that keeps me from doing this in the city. I’m not sure why I’ve always felt that I couldn’t—I have this very convincing fantasy that I’d be parked at a stop light in the city, a song that seems glaringly out of place would come on my radio, and every pedestrian, bus driver, and car owner would turn to stare furiously at me. Possibly bullets would fly, and impassioned people would start mobbing my car’s feeble frame. I think when you get used to the great gaping anonymity that the city easily provides you, you get all comfortable holing up in it. And anything that breaks that anonymity is startling and sort of shatters this little mini-environment you maintain as a 50 or 100-yard radius around you wherever you go. This mini-environment you create to feel contained and at ease, to keep your stasis when lights, people, and blaring noises assault your senses at all conceivable moments. You learn to sort of tune them out of your immediate mini-environment, or tune them down, and go about your business without the notice or scrutiny of others. But breaking your anonymity also ruptures the boundaries of your environment, and everyone suddenly looking at you leaves you feeling alone at the mercy of the elements for awhile. Umm, that’s the best way I can explain it. Irrational fear of having loud country music is eliminated when out of the city. Big plus. Moving on.

9.) People only ever honk at you out here when they’re about to run you over. Consequently, I buy less ibuprofen.

10.) This area has the monopoly on people I love per square foot, and a few of them in particular. So, logically, I have a greater mathematical likelihood of running into someone who doesn’t piss me off me than up in the city (this, of course, takes into account my notion that I’ve probably met everyone I’m ever going to like already, and so all strangers count, for this equation, as people who would piss me off). Irrefutable logic.

There. A list of things I like about it. May I plant this seed of optimism into the…fertile soils of…collective consciousness and hope it bears fruit sooner than later. Rural idealism fruit. The…most…succulent of ALL fru—okay, I’m done.

The problem with Jackson

September 3, 2009

potato_art

So, every morning for the last week or so when I’ve decided to take the Jackson tunnel from the Red Line stop to the Blue Line stop, I have been greeted by an ad campaign in the tunnel. It’s an ad for Lays chips. And this is noteworthy because there are 19 double-sided billboards along this tunnel—virtually every few steps—which means I have the potential to be inundated with 38 brand messages in one 2 or 3-minute walk. I am never greeted by an ad campaign in the tunnel; I am showered with at least 10 repeating messages which I casually ignore and likely subconsciously file away. Which reminds me, I could sure go for some Starbucks, the country’s #1 best coffee! I wonder whether they’ve started delivering yet. Let me check Grubhub.com, where I can discover who delivers!

Yeah. It all filters in.

Lays bought every billboard in the tunnel. Both sides. The ad campaign with which Lays has covered the subway tunnel a whopping 38 times is as follows: Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Just the billboard, though.

Vague the first time you read it. This is the city. Potatoes generally aren’t grown in the heart of the Loop, to my knowledge. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Okay, still odd upon second reading. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Cryptic, now. What are they driving at? Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think.

Oooookaaaay, now I start to get paranoid. This tunnel has begun to stretch out before me like a bad trip. How close are their fucking potatoes grown? Why? Why should we care? Where are the potatoes?

Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think.

I glance anxiously behind me. Are the potatoes following me? Giant spuds tiptoeing, sneaking up behind?

Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think.

Now I begin to regret skipping that shower this morning because I was running late. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. I envision potatoes sprouting out of my austral regions, out of my ears, on the back of my neck, vines creeping out of my sleeve. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Dirt clinging stubbornly to my ankles and under my fingernails. What the hell are they talking about??? I’m suddenly way creeped out by Lays, and I don’t want their dirty city potato chips. If they are, in fact, grown closer than I may think, seeing as I live here in the city, they’re probably laden with glass shards, cigarette butts, gum, and traces of PCP. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think. Our Potatoes Are Grown Closer Than You May Think.

Leave me alone, billboards!!

And then I discover. They are supposed to have placed (though it is entirely absent from the Jackson tunnel) an image of potatoes growing through the ceiling of the subway, so it looks like they’re growing over you. They’re trying to make their brand seem local and appealingly tongue-in-cheek. Ohhhhhhhh.

Uh, hey guys, next time you pay for 38 billboard advertisements in a prime location, don’t forget to put up the part that makes it all not seem frightening, menacing, or darkly ominous. Thanks.