The Tuesday Twelve: My Own Murtaugh List Tuesday, Dec 7 2010 

Hooray, the 90s party went off with nary a hitch.  Mr. Glib and I, six out-of-towners, and the city of Chicago at large seemed to survive our trip into a time of innocence and flannel. I had a great time staying up (way too) late, eating bad food, singing bad karaoke (what’s up, Destiny’s Child), and reflecting on the styling choices of one Brandon Walsh.  I was also, however, reminded of things left firmly in my own past.

Katy Perry, Ogden Nash, Jay-Z, and others may indeed be young forever, but I firmly accept that with age may not necessarily come better tastes or maturity, but will come a begrudging sense of responsibility that is supported by an enhanced desire for personal comfort and a decreased sense of patience.

On one legen…dary episode of How I Met Your Mother, the gang (who is incidentally supposed to be four years my junior) discussed their “Murtaugh List,” named after Danny Glover’s Lethal Weapon character who is prone to exclaim, “I’m getting too old for this sh*t.”  At 30, 35, and beyond, what have we outgrown?  For some of us (not me), it’s Taco Bell.  For others (also not me), it’s late bedtimes.  For me, it’s … well, these twelve things below, and a host of others.

12. Parties that include a keg of light/lite beer iced down in a bathtub. Even my youngster (25-ish) friends provide bottles and cans these days. We personally boast a kegerator, an unassuming refrigerated cabinet that houses two kegs of craft beers. Oh so classy.  And it doesn’t even need pumping.


11. Painful shoes when walking is on the agenda. I’ve invested in larger purses so that I can squirrel away tennis shoes or flip flops if I’m walking to a destination at which I’ll want heels.  I get there quicker and without blisters.  And who cares what I look like on the sidewalk outside, anyway?

10. NKOTBSB. Anyone – anyone! – in my high school graduating class knows how I loved the New Kids. I won’t get into how my obsession manifested itself. At 25 damn years old, I had a similar affection for the Backstreet Boys.  So you would think no one would be first in line for tickets to this nine-man monstrosity if not me. You would be wrong. I find the reunion touring a touch desperate, and while I applaud them for getting back out there to earn a living, they won’t be earning it from me.  Sorry, Joey Joe.  You’re still my favorite!

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The Tuesday Twelve: Worst Alcoholic Drinks Tuesday, Oct 12 2010 

So as I mentioned, we had a big family wedding over the weekend.  Weather was perfect, location was grand, and the bridesmaids’ dresses were actually flattering and fashionable (woo hoo!)  I’ve rarely seen a bigger party.  Part of this was due to the guests (service industry folks, the Glib family in general) but part of this was due to the alcohol that flowed.

Specifically, the shots that started hitting the fan in rapid succession after dinner was complete (per the sensible request of the happy couple).  Everyone’s shot of choice is the Grape Bomb – Red Bull mixed with grape-flavored vodka.  I am not a fan of this taste.  I feel it tastes slightly worse than Triaminic. But I’m a good sport, so I take a few a year as I’m forced.  Peer pressure is so cool!

With that lengthy introduction, I bring you the 12 worst alcoholic drinks. Correction: 12 worst drinks that I have personally tried (some on my 21st birthday).

12. Gorilla (a/k/a Gorilla Fart):  151 rum plus Jagermeister.  Equal parts.   Two wrongs don’t make a right.  If you mix two of the most disgusting products out there, guess what?  Still disgusting.

Gorilla

11. Candy Cane. Decent in concept, bad in execution.  4 oz Godiva liquor (white or dark), 4 oz Peppermint Schnapps, 4 oz vanilla vodka.  Problem: the Pepeprmint Schanpps is overpowering.  Additional powering: there is no mixer here, and one winds up drinking 12 ounces of alcohol.  If one has also eaten sushi that night, they will be revisiting little strips of sushi in the toilet later. Hypothetically speaking.  This one has promise but needs tweaking. 

Candy Cane (more…)

From Treasure to Trash: My Prized CD Collection Thursday, Sep 23 2010 

Oh, how I miss you. Sort of.

Mr. Glib and I are nearing the end of a large-scale construction project. On our end, one of our responsibilities was unloading a pre-fab storage shed and sifting through everything before re-loading everything into a permanent storage structure. It was fun re-discovering high-school yearbooks, old photographs, and that Bundt pan I never could locate. Also re-opened? The proverbial Pandora’s box containing the ghosts of music past: 2-1/2 cardboard boxes full of compact discs. (Oddly enough, Aerosmith’s Pandora’s Box isn’t among my discs).

When I was in college, nothing in the tangible realm was more important to me than my CD collection.  Moving into the dorm, apartment, or sorority house each August, I would mount my CD racks on the wall and unload my collection – alphabetically of course – before I’d even make my bed or dust off my puffy-painted picture frames. Step two to every move-in was hooking up the CD player (and dual-cassette deck). A great portion of my allowance went toward CDs – new and used, popular and fringe. God, how I loved diving into a new set of liner notes and the feel of ripping off the cellophane and peeling off those annoying stickers. Remember when CDs used to come packaged in long rectangular cardboard boxes? Well, I used them as decorations.  I may still have the back side of Ugly Kid Joe’s “America’s Least Wanted” tucked in a folder somewhere. (more…)

Nine years ago. Sunday, Sep 12 2010 

Yesterday, I read a handful of recollections from 9-11-01. The heroes.  The fortunate ones who, for whatever twist of perverse fate, narrowly avoided tragedy by being out of work that day.  Those who lost someone or someones. So I thought I would capture my story on the 21st-century equivalent of paper.

Fair warning: my story is boring. I was safely in the Midwest, as were all of my family members (except for those who were in the Deep South).  The friends of mine that were in New York or D.C. were out of harm’s way and quickly able to communicate via email. And yet, I remember my personal minutiae of that day as though it were nine hours ago.

Two months prior, I had moved five hours west from Cincinnati to St. Louis.  I was still having doubts about said move. It wasn’t for family or for a boy or even for a job; I was in fact keeping my same job and telecommuting from five hours away. I had just wanted to return to my roots and my dear old friends.

My dear old friends, while dear, were also at a different life point.  I, single, had an apartment in the city.  They, married, had homes in the suburbs.  They had husbands and bigger jobs and priorities that often didn’t include me, which was understandable. But my understanding of this didn’t exactly keep me from being lonely.  I had recently met a group of single, city-based girlfriends, but we weren’t exactly close just yet.  I was also very casually dating a guy I’d met at a bar at around 2:30 a.m. (when everyone does their best date-screening).  He was polite and generous and sweet and I didn’t care about him one bit.

So there’s the backdrop.  I was up early in my second bedroom-slash-office, hard at work writing about investment strategies. As was the custom at my old company, an email preceded by two asterisks (**) simply meant “the subject is all there is to the email; no need to open the mail.”  Around 8:50, an email comes from our CEO: “**AA plane has flown into the World Trade Center”  Oh-kay.  Horrific pilot error, everyone thought.  American Airlines stock will plummet.  My God.  The poor passengers.  Unsettled, I continue to work.

Fifteen minutes later: “**A second plane has flown into the World Trade Center.”  What the f*ck. No idea what’s going on in my office hours away but I had to get to a television.  Jogged out to my living room; phone begins to ring.  It’s my best friend, one of those for whom I’d moved to St. Louis, inquiring about whether our close Brooklyn-based friend worked in or near the WTC.  We didn’t think so.

Ignoring my computer, I sit with phone to my head and television on.  The towers collapse. I decide I need to get the f*ck out of my apartment. Not for fear, but for human, non-digital interaction.

I drove my car on a beautiful early-fall day to a local pub, Tom’s Bar and Grill. Bellied up to the bar.  Ate a taco salad.  One beer and several ice teas. Chatted for 3-4 hours with those who had come to do the same.  Mostly middle-aged men.  One bankruptcy lawyer and his friend.  These were my new best friends, and I knew I’d never see them again.  The guy I was halfway dating (who, my middle-aged friends advised me, needed dumping based solely on my obvious apathy) called me from his business trip to the West Coast and said he’d be on a flight home the next day.  Had he even been paying attention to the news, I thought? He ended up stranded for three more days before renting a car and driving cross-country.

My home the afternoon of 9/11

My home the afternoon of 9/11

I didn’t work for the rest of the week as the stock markets were closed. I cleaned and shopped and cooked. I called everyone that meant anything to me, no matter if they lived in Cincinnati or Tennessee or California.  I wore red white and blue topped by my ex-boyfriend’s Yankees cap that had an embellished American flag. People looked at me sympathetically as though I were a legitimate New York resident on vacation in the heartland. I felt like a poseur.

I felt shaken and sad and terrified but strangely alive and inspired by the patriotism that swelled universally. Everyone exchanged those sad smiles like you do at funerals. The restaurants and parks were full of people appreciating the company of loved ones. Revenge wasn’t even on the table; solidarity and survival were paramount.

Writing this, I’m almost sadder on September 12, 2010 than I was on September 12, 2001. The palpable sense of hope that rose up from such tragedy has been completely eradicated in such a relatively short time.  Divided we fall, people.

Bright Lights, Big City, Close Sushi Saturday, Aug 28 2010 

Sweet home indeed.

About a month ago, as I think I mentioned, my high-school buddies, Mr. Glib, and I headed to the lakeside terrain of southwestern Virginia to converge upon the home of one JPK. We were instantly welcomed into his spotless, modern, and elegantly spare home, which contains any extravagance a fabulous lakehouse can hold.  Boat.  Jetskis.  Multiple, MULTIPLE places for outdoor lounging.  Plasmas/LCDs.  Karaoke.  Man-cave. Workout room.  Sauna.  Five-plus bathrooms.  Fire pit.  Etc. etc. Epic.

Of course, JPK is financially at a point in life where Mr. Glib and I are not (and may never be).  But it got me thinking about our condo in Chicago versus JPK’s lakehouse in a small town.  Sure, our Chicago real-estate money could stretch more there (maybe to, say, 3 bathrooms and one-quarter of a man cave).  Sure, the views were gorgeous and the mood was relaxed.  Sure, I have suggested (tongue in cheek … sort of) JPK hire me for a role with his company more times than is considered appropriate. But what does one sacrifice trading convenience for square footage?  It’s an eternal debate.  Here’s where I currently stand.

Chicago Minuses:

Public transportation and the stress it creates.  Will I just miss my train and half to run, Gwynth in Sliding-Doors style? Will I get a seat or have to stand with my 18 bags shrugged across me?

Real estate.  $300 per square foot and higher (much higher) is not an exaggeration, depending on neighborhood.

Suburban flight.  When faced with Chicago public schools vs. private tuition vs. a move to the distant suburbs, most young families choose the last option.  And are never heard from again.

Corrupt government.  Or so they tell me.  Ehhh .

Chicago Pluses:

Public transportation and the convenience it provides.  Never again worry about driving under the influence when busses, trains, and an abundance of cabs take you wherever you need to go.  Mr. Glib and I sold our car more than a year ago and only miss it when going OUT of town somewhere.

BYOB.  Bring your own bottle/booze/bubbly. Pick your cuisine – Mexican, Italian, Sushi, Thai, Indian, Moroccan, Argentinean – and pick your own drinks for the night out of your own fridge.  It cuts down on costs and allows for greater choice.  I love this about Chicago (and other big cities).  Even my bikini-waxing shop advertises itself as “BYOB.”

Following up on this reason, the abundance of restaurants – all cuisines, all good, many within walking distance – makes me very happy and content.  It also may explain why, despite my increased walking and physical activity levels, I’ve gained 10 pounds since moving up here.  D’oh!

Culture.  Improv clubs, theaters, venues of all sizes for artists to match. Countless museums. And a populace that appreciates it.

It’s a trade off for sure.  Comfort versus convenience, affordability versus choice. The latter is great in my youth but as I get older and less interested in BYOB Ethiopian, I may prefer a three-car garage and a nice corner pub to dine at.

Of course, there is always the middle ground – Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Austin, Seattle, San Diego.  Who knows where this life will take us next.

Salty or Sweet? Wednesday, Jul 28 2010 

Candy and Chips

Name your poison

I’m not talking about personality here, but rather what one craves when the snacking bug hits.  For some, it’s ice cream, brownies, or a Milky Way.  For others, it’s Doritos, Cheez-Its, and Chex Mix.  On a scale of 0 to 100, 0 being a marshmallow and 100 being an actual salt lick, I’m about a 96.  In fact, I had to get up from writing that last sentence to hunt down a salty snack.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have so much of the will power when it comes to the whole not snacking thing.  But today, I was able to quite easily turn down an offer of a free, luscious-looking cupcake from a new hip cupcakery.  My flavor of choice.  Had that cupcake been, instead, popcorn or even Saltines?  Much harder to refuse.

I’ve had a half-gallon of Breyer’s in my freezer, untouched, since February (should probably pitch that).  A bag of popchips from Whole Foods has been in my house for literally 90 minutes and is half devoured.

Some say this preference is because of genetics, but I have an entirely different theory … toilet training.  I’ve taking an informal survey, and while the results are certainly anecdotal at best, it appears as though toddlers rewarded with sweet snacks for a successful turn at the potty become sweet tooths.  My Mom saw the process more practically (rather than as a chance to reward me) so shoved pretzels down my throat so that, in the name of Cosmo Kramer, I would get thirsty quicker, drink more, and have more opportunities to practice my new skills.

Of course, this could all hearken back to genetics somehow … perhaps mothers and fathers use tricks of the trade that they themselves prefer.  If I ever decide to reproduce, my kids will have access to salty snacks way more than they have access to ice cream.

So are you a salty or a sweet?  And if it’s not too personal, what was your reward for a job well done in the bathroom?

Fan of Unpopular Things, Part I Wednesday, Jul 14 2010 

Airplane Lavatory

Yes, please.

One person’s trash is another’s treasure. This applies to everything from Brussels sprouts to the smell of permanent markers to Howard Stern (my treasure, thank you). All of us have some quirky item on their list of “likes,” be it the secret shame of loving Zack and Cody’s Suite Life or dipping Twix bars into Cheez Whiz.

As for me? Believe it or not, I find comfort in the airplane lavatory. Not the facilities in the airport itself, mind you – that’s an uncomfortable place marred by lines, and dragging your bag into the stall, and dealing with your reflection after two hours of recirculated air.  I mean the airplane itself.

Sure, it’s cramped.  Yes, it is vaguely penal and sometimes not entirely fresh. Yes, I’ve been chastised for standing in the aisle to wait for said bathroom.  But once you’re in, it’s almost blissful.

After the crowds of the airport, the hassle of security, the waiting at the crowded gate, the anxiously drumming your foot in line as everyone boards, the shoving and prodding required to claim overhead space, and the aisle-dance needed to allow your row-mates access to their window and center seats (fly aisle or drive, that’s my motto), it’s nice to step away from one’s seat, leaving literal baggage behind, and experience that 2-3 minutes of solitude, allthewhile at 20,000 feet.

It helps that I also have the affliction of needing to use the bathroom every 45 minutes or so.  So maybe this quirky “like” that I have is just me, quite uncharacteristically, trying to see a silver lining.

Chivalry is Alive! In Exactly One Place. Tuesday, Jun 29 2010 

Let’s face it … the changing times, the advent of feminism (or as some may prefer, “Girl Power”), and a sea change toward utter apathy has resulted , of late, in a relative lack of chivalry. Perhaps it is because I am not as cute as I once was nor am I elderly enough to command respect and/or sympathy.  But no, rather, I think we’re in the throes of a changing tide. If you are a lady between the ages of 14 and 70 trying to wrestle a rollerbag into an overhead bin? Expect dudes in the surrounding rows to continue reading their USA Todays. Standing around waiting for a first-come, first-served table?  Watch out, because those Fred Durst wannabes will swoop the f*ck in before you and your girlfriends can spin on your high heels.  And it’s fine, really, because we’re independent, throw our hands up at you, etc. etc., but there is a certain thing as manners, and respecting the comfort of others.

One place where charity isn’t extinct, however, is on office-building elevators.  True story.  I work in an iconic building smack dab in the financial district and I would say at least 75% of the elevator riders each morning and lunch hour are of the XY chromosome variety.  And without fail, they always, always, allow me to board first, even if they are directly in front of the parting doors and I’m several steps away. The same is true for the elevator exit – they hate to see me leave, but they love to watch me go – HA!  In fact, this relic of proper upbringing is so prevalent that it becomes shocking in other elevator situations if I am not treated with the same courtesy.

Perhaps letting the womenfolk board and unboard first is just one way to miss out on 15 additional arduous seconds at the office, but I’ll  take what I can get.  And in a city life that recently involved getting slugged in a dodgy burrito joint 10 minutes after a massive and universal celebration of human rights, simple elevator preferential treatment seems like a lot.

Chubby Chasing Wednesday, Jun 23 2010 

What's the secret Monica diet?

Yesterday at worker, a co-worker said, “I would love to see one of those people who ate tons of junk food in high school and was still super skinny … what does that person look like now?” I spoke up.  “That person … was me!”  Duh-duh-DUH!

My daily intake my senior year in high school consisted of the following … two Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and a steaming cup of hot chocolate for breakfast (the school provided the seniors with breakfast as a perk).  Lunch was either the delicious, lard-based Southern cooking of my award-winning cafeteria (fried shrimp, fried ham-and-cheese turnovers in phyllo dough, richly cheesy chicken-and-broccoli casserole, all topped off by an orange/cream dreamsicle) or – if I left campus – Taco Bell.  Dinner, as I had to hang around for drama rehearsal, was often Taco Bell again or Chick Fil A.  The only exercise I got was P.E. twice a week and some heavy petting with my boyfriend (sorry, Mom).

And what do I look like now? I’m 25 pounds heavier. Now, this isn’t a Nicole-Eggert-worthy shocking change, and I’m certainly far from obese.  But as my older friends always warned me would happen, my metabolism hit a wall right around 30.  To merely maintain that 25-pounds-heavier frame? I eat relatively healthy – no meat, no fast food, moderate snacking, lots of fruits and veggies, little-to-no alcohol during the weekdays. If I were to revert to my 1992 diet, I’d be in a world of hurt. Perhaps fused to my own couch.

So I’m not one of those gals who has “always struggled with her weight,” but because I was previously disposed to skinnyness despite my bodily abuse, I do continue to struggle with my will power. Yes, I do eat healthy most of the time, but if I’m in “diet” mode, I still have to occasionally snack (even if that snacking consists of healthy things).  And attempts to commit to a workout program have been pathetically, well, pathetic.  When it comes to certain things – quitting socially smoking, for example (sorry again, Mom) or cutting meat out of my diet – the power is there.  When it comes to throwing on the workout shorts and heading out for a run after a soul-sucking day at the office, well, I’d just rather watch TV or play online, comforted by a big bowl of calorie-light-but-sodium-rich Asian rice crackers.

So here I am, 35 and a little chubby in parts (as a misguided Lothario once told my very curvy friend, “You’ve got love in all the right places.”) Not fat, not where the boys from Stand By Me would call me “lard ass,” but not waif-thin like I was in high school.  Youth (and metabolism) is wasted on the young.

How do y’all get off your duff and onto the elliptical?  Because simply looking in the mirror isn’t working for me just yet.

The sad deterioration of my musical knowledge Monday, Mar 22 2010 

NSYNC

Lance? Totally not gay.

I had a good thing going for about 20 years.  From 1982 until 2002, my finger was firmly on the pulse – the PULSE! – of pop music.  From avid New Wave fan (in elementary school) to teeny-bopper obsessed with pop, Open House Party, and everything on Casey’s countdown (junior high, early high school) to an early adopter of Nirvana (late high school), to a DJ and music director at my college radio station, to an all-around fan of staying current, from the Backstreet Boys to the Butthole Surfers.  And now? I know noth-ing.

At work today, on my streaming Slacker.com, I listened to a station called “Indie Hits.”  Oh, the dozens of bands with clever names I’d never heard of.  Even the bands I thought I sort of “knew,” such as Of Montreal or And You Shall Know Us By the Trail of the Dead (really? seems so cumbersome) would begin to play and I didn’t recognize the song.  Okay, fine, you say, that’s what “indie” rock is all about, and after all I am listening to this station to spread my horizons.

So I come home, plop on the couch with a box of Triscuits, and dig into the latest Rolling Stone – Jimi Hendrix on cover … I think I may have heard of him.  Flip to the back page, and lo and behold, my favorite feature – From the Vault – the cover and the top hits of many years ago (in this case, 10 years).   And I could hum any of them to you right NOW.  Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name.”  CELINE’s “That’s the Way It Is.”  Sisqo’s “Thong Song.”  Hey – they may not be good, they may not be classics, but they are firmly in my memory.  On the March 30th, 2000 RS cover?  Why, the lovely boys of NSYNC.

I peek above to the current top-10.  I know … four of them and haven’t even heard of all the artists.  And three of the four songs with which I’m familiar are simply f*cking sh*t-yourself awful.  Justin Bieber dominates Twitter every damn hour of every damn day and OK Go has only sold 25K of its latest album.  People are putting punctuation marks in their names, and not in the cool way that Wham! did.  I furrow my brow.

Am I ignorant, or just curmudgeonly?  Or maybe the descent into apathy began when I stopped driving everywhere and began devoting the majority of my headphone time to Stern instead of Seacrest.  Perhaps we are all just overstimulated with CHOICES now … Internet radio, satellite radio, build-our-own channels, NPR, iTunes single of the week … Or perhaps music today, at least the “popular” tracks, aren’t worth knowing.  Will Jason Derulo’s “In My Heart” have the staying power of “All Right Now” or even “One Thing Leads to Another” or even “Damn, I Wish I Was [sic] Your Lover?”  Is music really this bad, or am I just this old?  Can we ever hope that one artist can swoop in and radically change the landscape so much that a new renaissance is born (thank you, Kurt, and R.I.P. always)?  Or must we choose one of two paths … the Pitchfork-loving, obscure-act-seeking, blog-cruising fan of “alternative”rock, or the Top-40 statistician?  I remember when it was possible to be both.

Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.

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