Haven’t been contributing much lately. I’ve had a headache that’s lasted for weeks, on and off now, and I’ve been curling up in a sleep hole every opportunity I’ve gotten. Who needs a vacation, huh?

I can say this—it doesn’t take too terribly much to make me happy right around this time of year, when Chicago winter is turning to Chicago spring (except maybe this headache kicking it and my brain going back to normal consistency for a brain. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s attempting to leak out my ears when it feels like this. Headache going away would make me deliriously happy. But since every time I get my brain fixed I just go ahead and break it again, this is clearly why we can’t have nice things). But, yes. Doesn’t take much to make me happy in April. It’s the little things, you know?

Yesterday I saw that all the restaurants in the city have put out their little dine-outside patio furniture for the season. It was, to my knowledge, the first day they did this. Seeing this puts me instantly in a better mood. This is like a big, warm brain hug. Maybe with more energy than a hug, though. Like being goosed. A big, warm brain goose.

Well, that just sounds like the freakiest animal ever.

Ahh, the promise and potential of a miserable, sweltering, wonderful summer to come. Happy spring, Chicago! Iiiiiiiii loves ya.

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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.

Follow closely

1. Yell “JERKOFF!” at top volume to the stopped driver in front of you as you pull into the parking lot, but before—this is key—remembering you had rolled down your window in anticipation of paying the parking lot attendant. And also before you can see that he was waiting for a pedestrian to cross. Extra points if she doesn’t walk so well.

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2. Wait for appalled early morning passersby to get a good look at your face. Extra points if the reason you are parking in this lot is so that you can sit uncomfortably on a train with them for the next hour and twenty minutes into work.

3. Pull into a spot where the car door of the person next to you is still wide open and taking up half your spot. By all means, do not wait for her to close it. It is very early, and you are very tired, and if you miss your train, you have to wait a ghastly ten minutes for the freaking next one. Pull into your (temporarily) half-space awkwardly, inching over into the next parking space to your right. Back up and pull back in again twice, and be certain to catch her eye as she shakes her head, grabs her purse, and closes her car door, leaving you all the room you would need should you have waited a few seconds. Park again.

4. Slip on a solid sheet of ice with your first step out the car door. But don’t just fall down and get back up. Prolong the spectacle for maximum parking lot viewership by grabbing onto the top of your open door as you slip. If at all possible, dangle helplessly from it while your frictionless little feet try in desperation to get a firm step on the ground. Flail, but don’t let go. Try to resemble Harold Lloyd hanging from the clock in Safety Last! as closely as possible. Extra points if you continue this for a good 10 seconds, until you finally fall on your anticipatory ass.

5. Get back up, and walk with dignity toward your train. The dignity is especially imperative, or you won’t look like such a complete fool when hitting another sheet of ice on a slight decline toward the street. Flail your arms, ice skate down (sans blades) gradually—slumped over at a varying 90° – 120° angles—and without grace or the ability to control your expletives.

6. Triumphantly make it to coarse ground again without falling down whatsoever this time. Straighten up, but make sure to do it quickly. Doing it slowly will signal to you far too soon that your back is in spasm.

7. Bellow in glorious pain, “Oh godinheavenjesuschristjesuschristnononono,” and drop your purse.

8. Bend down to pick it up, and lose the ability to turn your neck or otherwise make motions with your head.

9. Shrug in order to stop the rousing jolts of pain slicing ribbons into your consciousness. Now, hold that position.

10. Go sit on your train with everyone who’s been witness to your elegant ballet. Extra points if you limp the rest of the way to the train like a deranged hunchback.

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