FIRST 60+ DEGREE DAY IN CHICAGO, Spring 2003
9:46AM: get up. Feel satisfied with degree of soreness in triceps and elsewhere from yesterday’s yoga practice. But, elsewhere in the body, you are congested as always. Wonder why you tolerate sleeping in a bed that you seem to be allergic to. Wonder what can be done about this, anyway. Think, “65 degrees today! What will I do with it?”
9:50: flush. Water rises high in toilet. Curse. Wonder what the cat knocked in there this time. Imagine having to call the landlord again: um, my toilet is clogged again, Bill. Imagine him cursing you when you hang up the phone. Imagine him coming over again and uprooting commode from tile floor. Watch water slowly drain back down. Remain hopeful. Flush again. Water rises high, drains slowly back down. Reach for plunger, which is a miniature version and thus barely useful. Plunge. Flush. All seems to be working properly now. Hope for the best.
9:52: step on scale. Feel not too bad, but could feel better, about the numbers you see. Resolve to be good today. Wonder if the anticipated run will result in the disappearance of a pound.
9:59: check email, drink first cup of coffee. First email consists of short note from “Joe,” guy met via online dating, not yet met in person. He writes of working this past week in Alabama, and a Karaoke bar incident in which an old white guy in a cowboy hat attempted Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” Think this sounds very entertaining indeed. Maybe too good.
Wonder if he’s making it up.
Realize once again that you assume everyone is lying about everything these days. Curse ex-boyfriend again for causing pathological distrust. Allow yourself to loathe.
Second email is from a mailing list you wish you’d never signed up for, which is how you feel about 98% of the mailing lists you’ve ever signed up for. Delete without reading.
10:10: check weather and see that it’s only 43 degrees presently. Feel good because you’re not missing any true warmth yet. Do some “web research,” click “Send/Recv” on Outlook a few times obsessively, always hoping for a new missive to appear. Nothing. Give up, log off.
10:32: stare out front window. Watch girl in sassy leather jacket stride down sidewalk toward El stop. She’s got somewhere to be. You’ve got nowhere to be. You’re never sure which one you want to be true. Cats chase each other back and forth across apartment’s hardwood floors. Coffeemaker clicks, reminding you that there’s a cupfull left to drink, yet.
10:33: lay down on couch with most recent New Yorker and begin reading an article about a bulimic artist who’s made a lot of money making art about her disorder. She’s hooked into the fashion world. She has thick eyelashes, or so observes the writer. Touch your eyelashes and lament their extreme puniness. Wonder if you’re losing eyelash hair like men lose head hair. Remember pulling out an eyelash last night before bed, in an attitude of ‘what the fuck.’ You did this because that lash wouldn’t rest properly with the rest of its few brethren; it was at an odd angle. So, despite population scarcity, you plucked it off.
Wish you hadn’t done that.
Realize your attention has drifted from article. Resume reading.
10:38: article is momentarily blocked from view, due to cat’s butt in face. Take in an involuntary close-up of cat’s asshole. You are so tolerant. It feels a bit pathetic, honestly. Wait patiently for cat to settle on lap. Her weight and purr is a comfort, but now there’s even less chance you’ll get up.
Keep getting distracted by guilty thoughts. You shouldn’t be reading, cat on lap or no. You should be doing something, bustling even, getting dressed, doing sinkful of dishes, writing, something. But keep reading. Just a few more pages, maybe. You’ll get up soon.
Start to feel sleepy. Turn inward to rest magazine on couch’s back, curl up fetally. Know where this is going and feel angry at self for letting it.
Think about bulimia, and how you could never make yourself puke. What if someone forced you to? What would that be like? Think about what the scale said a half hour or so ago. Wonder if it will say something different if you go weigh again now. Know that this is absurd, but think about doing it anyway. Wonder if you’ve got a problem with this weighing thing.
Read a little more. Feel jealous of successful, monied artist with fancy house and fancy clothes. Decide to finish article later. Indulge in 3-minute waking nap, curled fetally on couch. Observe that this is what you’re doing with your life. Think about what an aeriel view of you (curled fetally on cat-fur-laden couch, with bathrobe on, feet bare, hair pulled back in messy half-ponytail) would look like. Implore yourself to get UP, drink that second cup of coffee, get dressed, do something. Decide today is the day for an itinerary.
Remember that you forgot you’d intended to masturbate yesterday. This is something to do, and there’s always time for a little self-love.
Bother puny eyelashes again.
Ponder line in article: “Discretion is a form of prudence.” Apply this to your own tendencies, and wonder if there’s a lesson to be learned, here.
11:15: rise from couch!!
11:18: take mood-balancing pill with second cup of coffee. Take one of two remaining birth-control pills in last pack. Curse self again for not making Planned Parenthood appointment in time. Now a month will go by without pill-taking, and it promises to be the month that you’ll have sex after an 8 month lapse. Curse. Think: 8 months without a fuck! That, as your 9 year-old cousin would say, is so wrong. Look forward to getting laid again, pills or no pills.
11:20: step on scale again. Bathrobe adds pounds. Lame.
11:24: type words. Dribble coffee on bathrobe. Listen to cat vigorously sharpening claws on the doormat. Wish for the billionth time that you were a cat and had nothing to do but sharpen claws, eat, sleep, preen, get loving from and annoy human-companion, and chase sister cat back and forth across hardwood floors.
11:58: check email again. Amazing: there is one unread message! Results in small burst of glee.
12:02PM: reply cheerily to email from (hopefully) future subject of a literary profile. Revel in the sweet coincidence that it’s his website that inspired you to write this itinerary in the first damn place. You are always pleased by the way life arranges itself this way.
12:11: decide it’s high time to get dressed. Fuss with eyelashes again. Want to slap self for this. Feel a current running through you. Coffee seems to be kicking in. Time to get dressed, yes yes. But first....
12:30: take nude pictures of self with new digital camera. Know that you have a problem.
1:05: check email again. Nothing.
1:10: pull on last night’s clothes (they’re on the top of the pile, and just a little smoky), and go outside to check temp and fetch running shoes from car. Running shoes have been in car since August, you’re pretty sure. Realize that this says something about you, and it’s not necessarily about how much you exercise.
1:11: observe that it’s not really all that warm yet. Mounds of hardened black slush do not invoke springtime joy. Reconsider plan to run. Think about a nice long walk…in boots and jeans and headphones, instead of exercise togs and headphones.
1:15: do sinkful of dishes (enjoy almond-scented natural dishwashing liquid), and thus begin a short cleaning spree. Notice that thinking of it as “spring” cleaning helps. Wipe things down. Dustbust hardwood floors. Realize that watching tufts of fur get sucked up into Dustbuster is definitely one of the most satisfying sights you are provided on a regular basis. They seem drawn to it, as if by magnetic force. It seems to have nothing to do with the movement of air. It has everything to do with POWER.
Wonder if your lifestyle will ever be compatible with another person’s. A male person’s. A male lover person’s. A potential life partner person’s.
1:47: make lunch smoothie: raspberry-peach-banana with apple juice and two ice cubes. Make a new tray of ice cubes. While blender is doing its thing, clean litter box. Think I can say I made ice cubes today. And cleaned the litter box. I accomplished these things.. Imagine telling friends tonight, when asked what you did today, I made cubes and removed clumps. Think: My life revolves around felines and frozen fruit.
Take out the recycling and feel good about that. It seems to be getting warmer. Think more seriously about that walk. Or maybe the run after all.
1:55: check email. ONE NEW MESSAGE! Message is from another person who writes and has written a novel, and whom you will write flatteringly about soon. Resist the urge to add “instead of working on your own novel” to the former sentence. Sort of.
1:59: get your 23 vits and mins, calcium, and folic acid on in the form of a Luna bar of the Lemon Zest variety. Wonder if the bar + smoothie will keep you sated until dinner. Unlikely.
2:01: think about walking to Quimby’s. Or Target. Or Quimby’s and Target. That’d be one hell of a walk. Both are officially Dangerous Places.
2:05: think that whatever you do, it needs to take place out of this apartment, under the sun for several hours at the very least. Resolve to leave apartment no later than 2:45.
2:08: wonder what guy-you-will-probably-have-sex-with-soon is doing right now, in____, where he’s visiting his family. Wonder if he’s mentioned you to them.
2:16: click Send/Recv. Another message!
Bummed. It was just some Microsoft announcement that a virus was detected in an email you sent. Wonder how that could be. Delete.
3:20: finally leave apartment.
3:23: take pictures of self grinning. Feel retarded and self-satisfied all at the same time.
3:27: take picture of plastic bag stuck in bare tree branches. Consider a series of these: “Chicago-style foliage.”
3:29: note that it is warm enough to run, definitely. Oh well.
3:40: ambled down the sidewalks of Bucktown. Smile at strangers because it’s warm, it’s warm, it’s warm, and, well, that’s the kind of gal you are. Sing along with the music in your head and don’t give a damn if it sounds dumb. Resist urge to skip. Think about how more than one person has told you that you have a recognizable walk. Like to think it’s confident. Stride confidently, smiling. No skipping.
3:42: check out very cute girl walking dog. She’s got a Chan Marshall haircut. Wonder if that’s going to be all the rage now. Know that your haircut won’t change accordingly. Not now, and maybe never. Enjoy the sound of those words: “not now, maybe never.” Say them out loud. Get glance from man walking on opposite side of street. Raise eyebrow at him. Yeah, you’re fine with your haircut, just fine.
Wonder if you might really be bisexual; you notice cute girls just as much as cute boys. Think you can be attracted, but you couldn’t do a relationship. Relationships will be with boys, tormented or otherwise.
4:11: arrive at Quimby’s, the destination. Wish you could buy everything in sight. Wish even more that there was something with your name in or on it for sale. Grit teeth and think: there was once; there will be again!
4:13: find one of two items you came here for: David Rees’ Get Your War On. It’s a birthday present for your younger brother. You like to think that this gift will entertain but also enlighten. You smugly like to think about broadening your little brother’s horizons via underground lit. Realize that, like many gifts, this one is more about what you want than what the birthday boy wants.
4:16: the other item you came here for is not in stock. Think that this is your typical luck.
4:39: after wandering idly around store, looking at things but not really looking at them, feel bad thoughts creeping in. Question self, question worth, question plans for writing ventures. Wonder if you’re a gross opportunist. Wonder what’s happening, here: why are you getting on this questioning tip? Why is Quimby’s making you feel bad? What can be done about this?
4:42: spend twenty dollars and leave Quimby’s. Out into the air and sun, where you really want to be.
4:43: sunshine is blinding. Need shades. Feel aimless. Almost decide to walk home. Decide to reenergize with a cup of coffee at Filter instead.
4:45: run into E, a friendly acquaintance, and to your mind one of the most fabulous girls in Wicker Park. She owns her own flower shop, is younger than you, has stunning green eyes and a bitchin’ sense of humor. Can’t help thinking, as always when you run into E, that you should do some sort of article about her. But for whom; what angle? Feel embarrassed. Opportunistic again.
4:50: sit down with coffee. Two cute black women sit down across from you. One was just in Seattle last month for work, she tells her friend. Think about going to Seattle with boy-you-might-sleep-with.
Think that thought is a waste of time. (Is this whole day a waste of time?)
Try to feel happy about the sun.
4:52: observe another girl with Chan Marshall haircut.
4:55: wish you read the paper -- some paper -- every day.
Cute black girl is talking about plans to leave Chicago in about 3 years. Wonder how long you’ll be here. You never thought you’d still be here.
5:00: bother puny eyelashes.
5:02: eat mini-Luna bar, of “Nuts over Chocolate” variety. Realize that all the solid food you’ve ingested today is in Luna Bar form.
5:03: think about the many, many boutiques that come and go around here. You could keep track of time by their openings and closings. Even yuppies only need so many skin products and overpriced vintage clothes.
Realize sunlight is fleeting. Want to get back outside. Should have gotten a to-go cup. You came in here with the idea of reading for a while, but walking seems more important than reading, and easier accomplished.
Listen to women talk. They’re still talking about where to live. Feel comforted by the fact that this is an issue worth rambling about for someone other than yourself.
Ponder the verbs “to stay” and “to live.” The Sullivan High School kids you teach use the former in place of the latter, always. E.g.: I stay on the West Side with my auntie. Wonder why this linguistic pattern developed.
5:05: read one short piece in ____. It’s bad. You know the guy who wrote it. This makes you feel better. Feel hopeful.
Think about “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Juice Newton. It was stuck in your friend D’s head first; now it’s worming its way through yours. Remember how yesterday you said two words from the lyrics out loud--“Turn around”--and that was enough for a guy at the yoga studio to recognize it. And then later that evening, when you told this story to D, he guessed those two words without you even asking. This is crack-up worthy. This makes you smile. Be happy you know both D and guy at yoga studio. Wonder what D thinks and wants, regarding (what else?) you.
5:07: desire to go to Reckless and buy lots of new music. Can not fucking afford it.
5:07:30: think about awesome digital camera you just got. Think: I have naked pictures of myself in my pocket.
5:08: revel in the fact that you are beholden to no one today. Wonder if that’s sadness you feel, too.
5:10: read short piece by __ in __ and it’s not that great. Nothing you couldn’t do, at least. Feel totally reenergized. Time to walk again.
5:11: Reckless. Of course it’s too crowded. Of course the used bin area is dominated by some guy. Exeunt.
5:35: observe cool jar-of-water dioramas, kinda like snow-globes but not meant to be shaken, in window of gallery on North Avenue. It is good to see things, to be on foot. Take picture of slanted light in melting slush.
5:45: take picture of “One House,” a painting by one Eric B., age 7, on the door of the Easter Seals Society. A card affixed to the artwork reads:
Tell me about your drawing.
What color did you use?
[insert picture of One House here]
It is indeed red. It appeals to you immensely.
5:55: walk north on Western in the dying light and fading warmth. Love it all. Sing. Feel like doing drugs, getting drunk. Your feet are hurting a bit. Enjoy this.
6:15: stop in Family Thrift on Milwaukee. You have terrible luck with thrift stores, but you keep going, you always will. Find three shirts to try on, all in various shades of green. None fit. See cool stuff in some hipster’s cart and think about how it seems you always see cool stuff in some hipster’s cart. Always there right before you, claiming all the cool stuff.
Check for waffle irons. No waffle irons. But there’s a donut maker. A donut-maker! But you do not need one of those.
6:45: click Send/Rcv a few times, make dinner (penne rigate with Trader Joe’s Vodka sauce), take shower, fuss with hair and face, drink one Maker’s and Coke. Whatever else you do during these three hours is not worth delineating.
10:15: arrive at Gold Star. N and her friend are at bar already, with an empty barstool waiting for you. Nice. Chat.
Guy who knows N walks up and says to N, “Scott said you were gonna buy me a drink, N___.” N laughs it off, says that’s news to her. Hey, she’s unemployed, etc. Sorry, but no. You don’t tell someone to buy you a drink, etc. Guy, obviously drunk, persists.
Get annoyed look on face. Be obvious about it.
Guy calls out to bartender: “Leinenkugel. N___ said she’s paying for it.”
Get thoroughly disgusted look on face.
Bartender brings beer. N rightly refuses to pay for it. Drunk Asshole finally tosses a few bucks on the bar, but refuses to pick up beer bottle. N tries to hand it to him. He won’t take it.
You get guy sitting next to you to try handing the beer to Drunk Asshole. D.A. won’t take it from him, either.
Try to engage in normal conversation with N and her friend. Drunk Asshole lurks there behind the two of you.
10:32: Reach breaking point.
Turn and tell D.A. that you came here to talk to your friends, and he’s getting in the way, and would he please go back to wherever he came from (motion towards pool tables in back of bar).
10:33: get in verbal fight with Drunk Asshole. He keeps bringing it back to N___, even though you are the one getting pissed. He asks you why you’re “bickering.” You tell him this is not bickering; this is you ordering him to leave. Tell him to go look up “bicker.”
10:37:34: shove Drunk Asshole’s shoulder. Wonder what the hell has gotten into you. Feel your fingernails scrape lightly against his t-shirt.
10:37:37: wait to see if D.A. is in fact going to shove you back.
10:37:40: do not get shoved. Feel relieved.
10:39: watch as Drunk Asshole finally reaches to claim his beer, turns to walk away. Watch as he pours beer over N___’s head.
10:39: scream “You fucking asshole!” and watch, mouth agape, as N___ tries to smooth her beer-saoked hair.
10:45: bartender makes D.A. leave. Pleasant bar-hanging can resume. Your jeans have beer on them. The guy next to N has some beer on him. Most of the beer is on N. She handles it marvelously, but shivers.
Still wonder what the hell got into you. Wonder why the beer wasn’t spilled on your head. It should have been.
11:15: G, another guy you met online, shows up, as you invited him to do.
11:16: spend rest of the night talking to G. He’s got good taste in music, yes, but he’s shocked that you’ve never seen some dumb Hollywood comedy. And...well, there are other things. Decide you’re not that interested in taking this further. Observe that he’s rather drunk. Dread the “leaving” scenario.
1:49AM: part ways with G at your car, relatively painlessly. He fumbles to kiss you, and somehow there’s no way out of a brief one. Shut car door, insert keys in ignition, yank seatbelt. Feel slightly sad about the whole clumsy scene. You are on the cusp of 30; you just got an unwanted kiss. You lost your temper with some dumb loser in a bar tonight. You can’t wait to be home with the cats and the warm bed.
G stumbles off in the direction of Rainbo.
1:50: do NOT make a U-Turn to drive West on Division. That move -- one made a billion times before -- got you your third ticket in six months last weekend, at 2:30 a.m.. You are having some damn bad luck these days with the Chicago police. Then again, last weekend, you could have gotten a DUI. So, good luck was what you had, then. Remind self of this.
1:51: drive past G. walking down Division sidewalk. Swear you see him turn to look at your car out of the corner of your eye. Stare straight ahead. Know that you won’t talk to him again, at least not on purpose.
1:53: accidentally run through stop sign. Oops.
1:54: bus driver waves at you. Probably because you ran through that stop sign.
1:59: slow down on side street to let confused rat waddle across. Have no desire to kill rats or any living thing, no matter how pestilent.
2:12: check email. Nothing. Click “Send/Rcv” a few times anyway. Wish you’d stay up all night in a writing frenzy. Know full well that this just isn’t you.2:25--: sleep. Dream of ex-boyfriend. Yuck. But in the dream his hairline has receded significantly. Smile at this, in your dream and later, out of it. Leave your eyelashes be, for once.