Chicago

Nerd Love, Day 11: When nerds travel

luggage pickup Nerds want...

  1. ...free WiFi in all airports.
  2. ...more outlets to plug in...
  3. ...that actually work.
  4. ...people on cell phones to use their inside voice...
  5. ...or hang up.
  6. ...maps in the "L" cars.
  7. ...people watching movies on their laptops to use headphones.
  8. ...to be there when rude lady hogging outlet finds out five minutes after her three-hour flight takes off that outlet she was hogging was not getting any juice.

xxx c

Image by caribb via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

Nerd Love, Day 8: Nerds on Holiday!

canned goods

Chief Nerd and her hot Nerd Arm Candy are off to Chicago for the next four days, because nerds travel when:

  1. prices are low
  2. they feel like it
  3. they need a break from the relentless taskmistress that is the 21-Day Saluteâ„¢

Kidding on that last one.

There may be some posts of the canned variety until our return. No whining. It is, after all, winter in this part of the world. That's when you're supposed to have canned goods...

xxx
c

Image by never mind her via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

Nerd Love, Day 5: Score one for the Nerds

all my favorite Thanksgiving foods rhyme with d. lee Nerds with a secret are like little kids before Christmas: they cannot, CANNOT, I tell you, wait for the big day.

The big day, in this case, was supposed to be closer to baseball season. Or at least post-Stupid Bowl. But I could not, COULD NOT, I tell you, wait one more second. Because I finally got my old pal, Tim Souers, the genius I blogged about a year and a half ago, to start a blog.

True, there are only a few actual "posts" up there. But he's uploaded two seasons to the image galleries, two seasons, people!!! Hours and hours of chewy, arty goodness.

Of course, the beauty part is, not only have I given this outstanding gift to the world (via, well, you know, Tim's time, talent and effort), but Tim is cool! He is a Cool Person!!! Who has started a blog!!! Which means...

I actually converted someone to the Nerd Side!!!

Bwahahahaha!

I will get you all, my pretties...

xxx c

Scanning my #$@! photos, Day 6: Portrait of the blogger as a(n older) mercenary

gold coast art fair '73 Me, selling more pre-communicatrix art at a later (1973) Gold Coast Art Fair. Ponied up for the license this time, too. Paid for the framing, taxes on sales and everything, even though Doting Grandfather offered to pay the expenses and let me enjoy the profit. Not my style. That shirt I'm wearing? 100% hair!

And yes, my prepubescent hands are wandering disturbingly near my crotchal area yet again. What can I say? Give me the child until she is seven and I will give you the slut...

xxx c

What I learned on my trip to Chicago

  1. Airborne works pretty well.
  2. Chicago can still kick my immune system's ass.
  3. No matter how light it feels in the store, the 12" PowerBook morphs into an Acme anvil after two hours on your back.
  4. If you live in the Midwest, you resign yourself to a winter of frozen ears or Hat Head.
  5. Call me "pointy".
  6. Regardless of your will to pass him by, Manny, the shoeshine guy from Atlanta's, is stronger.
  7. It'll cost you $8 per person, standing up.
  8. Not including tip.
  9. If I had to move back, I'd want to live in Wicker Park.
  10. I probably couldn't afford it anymore.
  11. The best espresso in Chicago, oddly enough, may well be at the venerable Miller's Pub in the Loop.
  12. The chicken Kalamata at Athenian Room is still the greatest entrée in all the land.
  13. Especially after five single malt pours at Duke of Perth.
  14. Great friends are not location-specific.
  15. No matter how many exposés they run on the filth that lives in a hotel bedspread, I'm still going to contribute to it.
  16. For better or worse, Dell'Alpe has cornered the giardiniera market.
  17. I really do miss public transportation.
  18. I really do love L.A.
  19. Everyone loves The BF.
  20. Break your shoes in first.

xxx c

Shedding my ill humours

cw_wickerpark While my rancor towards a certain piggy software monolith is perfectly justified (viral marketing comment b.s. from monolith weasel-flunkies notwithstanding), I had found myself getting a wee bit cranky in general. Too much work is usually a good thing for me, especially when it involves a mix of the design and the acting varieties (the latter still pays better, by far), but too much holiday merriment and too much sunshine can only mean one thing: time to go to Chicago.

Right on cue, Chicago stepped up to the plate. When we landed here on Friday, it was overcast. When we left the hotel to train it up to Old Town for dinner, it was raining. When we got off the "L", it was, I shit you not, hailing on us. And when we finally tromped out of the steakhouse a few hours later, it was snowing like Christmas at the North Pole.

How can you not love it here?

Despite offers from my plugged-in friends to procure tickets to various carnivals, cultural events and carnivals masquerading as cultural events, I stood firm: I am here to stuff my face, see my friends, and purchase enough giardiniera to last us through the next trip back. This being Chicago, home of bar on every corner, or, more accurately, four bars at every intersection, there has also been a considerable amount of sport drinking, but the BF and I are kind of maxed out on alcohol now, so we'll probably just glut ourselves on Italian beef and Kalamata chicken (oh, god...that chicken...) for the rest of the stay.

What has been most lovely about this here stay (why is this visit different from all other visits?) is, I won't lie, having the BF in tow. (Or, on some occasions, being in tow of the BF.) Partly because it is wonderful being able to close the circle between your old friends and your new, but also partly because that boy takes some A-number-one photographs with his fancy-ass camera.

xxx c

Photo of me wearing all of my clothes at once by the BF.

Quotation of the Day: Vaguely Homesick Edition

chicago mashup "Chicago is one of those cities I've rarely heard anyone say a negative thing about. Sure, all big cities have their problems, but with Chicago the positives always seem to outweigh the bad. Chicago has it all , an established public transportation system, a downtown set on a grid, neighborhood parks, lakes and rivers, and that electric energy that only happens when thousands of people from every walk of life all live within a couple of square miles. Like Manhattan, Chicago simply feels alive when you walk through it. Yet unlike Manhattan (at least for me), Chicago feels unencumbered, and more spirited."

, Todd Dominey talking about (my) sweet home, Chicago, on his blog, What Do I Know?

Photo: GoogleMaps/Flickr mashup on the communicatrix's Flickr

Home, sweet home

Yes, I had a good time in Chicago. Yes, it was great seeing my peeps and scarfing down my chicken Kalamata and seeing the Christmas decorations in the windows of Field's Macy's on State Street (brought to you, like everything else, by Target). Despite my fears going into it, I also had a good time at the (god help me) debutante ball that was my nominal reason for flying back to single-digit temperatures during the worst travel time of the year: the girls looked beautiful, the Chicago Hilton and Towers looked beautiful, even the Cardinal looked rather fetching in his lovely ruby robes. (Note: when meeting a cardinal of the Roman Catholic church, do not kiss his ring or bow to the ground, but shake his hand and greet him either as "your Eminence" or "Cardinal So-and-so." Also, put down your drink before you approach the White Wall of Deb Gowns, or suffer the wrath of a really scary Deb Mom. No, I'm not kidding.) But I've got to face facts: I just don't like hassle anymore, and traveling by air, especially in the post-9/11 universe to a cold-weather destination during a peak travel time, is a gigantic hassle. Too much unzipping of too much luggage filled with too many coats and sweaters and everything else in your closet because your L.A. tenure has outlasted the life of your Chicago winter wear. Enough, I say! (And I did say, to all my beloveds: see me in L.A. or see me some other time of the year. Buh-bye.)

I also don't like people encroaching on my space. Maybe it's a form of mild claustrophobia (I still have nightmares about the time I was carried off in a crush of people waiting for a city bus in, you got it, sub-zero temperatures in Chicago). Maybe it's the noxious omnipresence of mile-high flatulence, that peculiar cocktail of disinfectant and methane filterered through foam cushions into poorly recirculated air. Maybe it's the loss of control (I'm always working on the control thing). But about halfway through the FOUR HOUR Chicago/L.A. flight, packed to the gills with people who never see the inside of a plane except on the four highest-volume travel days of the year, I wanted to beat the vodka-swilling, armrest-hogging pituitary case in the seat next to me senseless with his own oversized Dell laptop. The only thing that stopped me was the realization that if I did, he would not suffer the slow torture of hearing loss brought on by listening to Top 40 Pop at full volume on his shitty headphones.

Yes, I know I'm being unreasonable. Yes, I have a sense of my own intolerance and foolishness. (A healthy one, so back off, Jackson.) But last night, I also had the first really good night's sleep I've had in a week. I like my 12.5 cubic feet or whatever it is of personal space and I'm not zen-mistress enough to be a good sport when it's encroached upon and the reward at the other end is either a week of insomnia and cold extremities or a fruitless half-hour at the baggage carousel (nimrods stuck my bag on an earlier plane without telling me) and an hour in an overcrowded SuperShuttle ("no more than 3 stops," my Aunt Fanny).

But part of getting where you want to be is accepting where you are right now, and I accept that I am so happy with warm toes in my little apartment in Los Angeles that I could weep for joy. Except that...it's just that...

Sigh.

I miss Chicago already.

xxx c

Closer to Python: My Mike Nichols Day, Part I

The old McClurg Theatres are gone. It's kind of sad, among many other films, I remember seeing Lawrence of Arabia there (the re-release, sonny) as well as walking out of Ishtar. However, my disappointment was short-lived because they have been replaced a block away by the River East Theatres, a 20-count-'em-20, state-of-the-art theater complex with stadium seating (which is what happens when you finally let a short person design a movie house).

I dragged my friend, Jan, to see Closer. Well, not "dragged," exactly; I just warned her that I didn't think it was going to be very good, but that I wanted to see it anyway (we've been friends for over 40 years, so she's used to such perversity). Last year, I saw a stage production of Closer at my old acting studio in L.A. that was absolutely loathsome, not necessarily because of the performances (fairly strong) or production values (low-budget, but inventive and uniformly excellent) but because I felt the script was a modern example of a butt-naked emperor, albeit a well-spoken one. I remember leaving the theater that evening feeling not only vaguely unclean over my complicity in perpetrating a hateful, useless piece of "art," but with a gnawing feeling of anger that grew rather than dissipated with the passing days.

I am delighted to report that I feel precisely the same way about Mike Nichols's filmed version of the verbally facile Patrick Marber's play, Closer: it's a big fat shiny turd. (I'm mostly alone on this, but it's not the first time.)

The production values are superb, from the melancholic smart-and-lonely-loser songs of the soundtrack to the understated palette the designers use to dress and backdrop the actors. London itself has never looked more elegant, sad and chilly, in one scene where Natalie Portman is wearing a tank top in what you'd think would be summer, you want to throw a sweater over her little shoulders even before she mentions how cold she is. There is no respite to be had in any corner.

And that, I suppose some smarty-pants people will say, is the point: life is hard and love is brutal. To which I say "so what?" That's a revelation? That's a reason to drag my ass out in zero degree temperatures and pay $8.50 and give up two hours of my life?

Smarty-pants art is no longer acceptable. I don't care if you can write (really) pretty words and find (really, really) pretty people to say them. I need a little illumination with my non-news, thank you, along with some characters, even one character, I actually care about. If I want to see that life is hard (in London), I'll watch any Mike Leigh film. If I want to see that love is brutal, how about or Little Voice, The Lonely Passion of Miss Judith Hearne or even the original Alfie?

One note on the talents of the more visible people involved: they are uniformly top-notch. Each one of the cast delivers a pitch-perfect performance, and I have to say I was blown away by Julia Roberts who gives a far, far richer and more nuanced performance as Anna than she did as showy blowhard Erin Brockovich. And Mike Nichols has an excellent understanding of what motivates these people and how they interact with one another.

What I don't understand is his motivation for spending a year of his life on a project like this. I'm aggravated to have spent the two hours I did.

xxx c

*Which was, I realize now, a lovely piece of symmetry in that it was directed by Mike Nichols's former comedy partner, Elaine May.

Tale of two cities

It is freezing in Chicago.

No, literally: the temperature is freezing here in Chicago and should drop down to about 7, that's s-e-v-e-n, degrees Fahrenheit by Christmas. Without the wind chill.

This is a beautiful city, and never more so than around the holidays. The air is clear (a good wind will do that) and the fairy-lit branches of the trees flanking Michigan Avenue look magically delicious in a way Beverly Hills palms only dream of. There's the same old nonsense there is everywhere this time of year, with people overextending themselves both financially and time-wise, but the hustle and bustle is more picturesque when everyone is rushing around all bundled up against the elements.

It is one of the major reasons I think I am done with Chicago as a place to live (the Universe has kicked my ass enough times that I know never to say "never", even though I just did).

Yes, L.A. has earthquakes and mudslides and unavoidable traffic that grows more heinous with each passing year. But L.A. is warm, and as I'm staring down middle age, that is not to be discounted.

What's more interesting to me is the other reason I doubt I'll move back here: Chicago just doesn't feel like home, and hasn't for a long time. Whereas the first time I set foot in L.A. as an adult, I immediately felt at ease. Correction: I got a taste of what it would feel like to be at ease. Just getting over my homesickness took two years (yes, you can long for a place you don't really love and that is no good for you, and if you don't believe me, you clearly don't have enough girlfriends who get involved with lousy men). Really digging on L.A. took at least another five, plus a divorce; it's hard to be "out" about loving your city when your spouse openly despises everything about it.

But 12 years (and many litmus-test trips back "home") later, I realize that I love Chicago the way most people love L.A., for short stretches of time. I like to walk and I like to get my Kalamata chicken fix at Athenian Room and I really, really like that I can take public transportation from where I am to somewhere I actually want to go. And then I like to get on a plane and go home: the place where I feel most like myself, the place where most of my friends live, the place where I am free to release my inner wacko without fear.

And, oh, yeah, the place that's 65º and sunny right this very second.

xxx
c