Tuesday, January 31, 2006

It never fails.

You’re at Walgreens, stocking up on a few things: vitamins, photo albums, lotion, hand soap … and you’ll be damned if you can remember the fifth thing you told yourself you needed to buy.

You wander the aisles to try to trip your memory: Batteries? Nope. Hole puncher? Nope. Tampons? They’re out of the ones that that are lightly scented with Drakkar Noir. So nope.

As you stumble into the dental-hygiene aisle, you see that Walgreens now has its own store-brand version of Crest Whitestrips. For like $15 less. So you add a box of the things to your basket and head to the checkout because you’ve given up hope you’ll ever remember what the hell it was you actually needed.

You get home. You open the package. You discover that where Crest Whitestrips were dainty little slips of plastic that are almost invisible in your mouth, the Walgreens version is like a box of Drakkar Noir-scented tampons bulky mouth guards that football players wear.

You assume that when you blog about this, people will be impressed with your endless knowledge of sports trivia. ¿Quién es más macho?

You decide to try them out right then and there. And though they are as bulky as a cableknit sweater on a pie-eating contestant, they stay in place. And they’re wider than Crest Whitestrips, so your new, whiter teeth will extend farther back in your mouth. Assuming the damn things work.

The next morning you decide to multitask, so you wear your strips on the train as you commute to work.

Of course, you find yourself sitting next to a talker, who seems blissfully clueless that the protuberance under your nose is not a bad collagen injection or a mouthful of adult-onset braces. Because the discount whitestrips kind of make you drool, you decline to explain your predicament and just politely mumble yes-and-no answers to the talker’s endless questions. The talker doesn’t seem to notice.

You get off the train and race to work so you can take the damn things out of your mouth in the privacy of the bathroom.

You ride in the elevator with a coworker who really wants to hear about your weekend.

After you drool out a few words that sound like fluffleuaneluf, she finally asks you if there’s something wrong with your mouth.

You make it to the bathroom to remove the upholstered ottoman that seems to have taken residence in your head. But the bathroom is locked.

You head to the bathroom at the far end of the building and finally yank the things out over the sink, mere seconds before your toxic drool threatens to leave long, unsightly streaks of bleach down the front of your shirt.

As you rinse out the last bits of bleaching gel, you finally remember what it was you forgot to buy: Toothpaste.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Things to do on a rainy January weekend:

Sleep off the last of the flu that's been dragging you down all week.

Make homemade soup in your crock pot. Add lots of spices.

TiVo through a bunch of episodes of your new favorite show.

Fill your gas tank.

Have dinner and long conversations about architecture with a handsome friend. Then head to a drag-show fundraiser for the Chicago Spirit Brigade. Flirt with a cute blond in the audience. Leave with the blond's number. On half a dollar bill.

Meet an old friend for catching up and sharing scandalous gossip at Starbucks.

Buy photo albums and vitamins at Walgreens.

Do laundry.

Write a blog post that's actually not very interesting. Refuse to apologize.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Disney snapshots

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Snow White and the seven of us

We’re back! Three and a half days. Four parks. Two kids. Five adults. We had fun, but we packed so much into our vacation that we were all more than ready to come home this morning. Here are a few highlights:

• Disney rocks. Except for the occasional rides that need to be dragged out of the ’80s. But for the most part, we had the most awesome family vacation with great weather and almost non-existent lines (the end of January is THE time to be there).

• I got a late Christmas present when we got to the hotel: A shirt that says “Hello! I am Uncle Jake.” I also got a bunch of hugs to go with it. Best. Present. Ever.
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• There is no better feeling than walking with your family through Disney World and having a little hand reach up and grab yours. It says I trust you to take care of me and I like spending time with you and You are my hero all in one little gesture. And it almost makes me tear up every time.

• On the flip side, there is no worse feeling than being repeatedly gored in the balls by little elbows and fists and knees and feet. My niece and nephew—but mostly my niece—have an uncanny sense of balldar as they swing their arms and climb on laps and throw things, and Uncle Jake's jewels took quite a beating on this trip.

• My nephew has discovered Star Wars with a vengeance. Which is so weird to me because Star Wars will always be a relic from my junior high days, and here’s this six-year-old in 2006 who can recite entire lines of dialogue from movies I haven’t seen in 20 years. In any case, we took him on the Star Wars ride at Disney-MGM, which he thought was pretty cool:
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• While we waited for the magic carpet ride in the Magic Kingdom, I taught him all the lyrics I know (all two phrases) to the “Prince Ali” song from Aladdin. He grew to love this song very quickly. My sister almost killed me over this.

• He also lost a tooth on our last day in the parks. Which we had to carry around so the Tooth Fairy could reward him for it the next morning. She gave him a collector set of pennies from around the world (she must have been at Epcot the same day we were—coincidence?) and a Florida quarter, though he had informed me he'd gotten $5 when he lost his tooth at his grandma's in California so he was expecting $10 for this tooth. He must know more about the California-Florida exchange rate than I do.

• My handsome friend Keith reserved us great seats for his show, Beauty and the Beast—Live on Stage, and even organized a meet-and-greet with Belle afterward for my niece. And my nephew. But mostly my niece, because my nephew is not gay. Unfortunately, our meet-and-greet photos came out kind of blurry:
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• Speaking of live stage shows: Tumble monkeys*. Mmm.

* Tumble monkeys are buff little gymnasts in orange monkey spandex who do all kinds of goofy stuff on trampolines and high bars and rings in the Festival of the Lion King show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. They’re … um … distracting.

• This little sign appears on any ride that moves faster than your average insurance refund for your dental work (three weeks and counting, guys … ahem). I’m not sure if it’s telling me to keep my hands and arms in the ride at all times or if there’s some sinister no-dancing-at-Disney movement afootloose:
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• This little sign appears over every sink in every Disney park bathroom. Seriously:
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• I’m pretty sure I was the only gay in the kingdom all week. Except for two lesbians in line ahead of us at the spectacular new Soarin’* ride that mimics a hang-gliding experience over California, complete with wind in your face and little squirts of pine and orange grove up your nose.

* Soarin’ is NOT to be confused with Søren, the hunky counselor at the Norwegian language camp I attended in junior high school. When I was going through puberty.

• I have seen the future of fashion, and it is filled with terrible hair. Big mounds of pre-Raphaelite, post-Loretta Lynn tendrils scooped like gloppy ice cream on what must be very warm heads and very sore necks. Booshy moostaches that jut out like well-worn push brooms, creating permanent frowns and—bonus!—catching wayward boogers and bits of oatmeal. Bowl cuts. Bangs. Pony tails sprouting from the tops of adult heads. Uneven streaks of color that say Hey, everyone! I just lost a bet!

• I have also seen the future of American excess, and it is filled with people so obese they have to drive around on scooters. Stock tip: Invest in those scooters. There is a lot of demand.

• Doing Disney with parents and grandparents and kids is way different from doing Disney with adult gay men. Gay men fill their pockets with mints, a wallet and a camera and they’re off to ride the rides. Adults with kids fill their pockets and backpacks and purses and fanny packs with snacks and schedules and band-aids and water bottles and lotion and anti-bacterial wipes … and they make sure they have room to stuff them further with princess sweatshirts and bulky Star Wars memorabilia and old teeth and any other souvenirs they acquire.

• Parents with kids also schedule us into princess breakfasts, where Belle and Jasmine and Cinderella and Snow White and a whole host of other nubile young ladies saddle up to your table and demand to have their pictures taken with your awestruck kids.

• I looked and looked, but I found no scheduled prince breakfasts. Handsome or otherwise.

• Two tips if you ever go to Disney World: Stay in one of the Disney hotels. They’re convenient, they’re filled with Disney magic, and there are free buses and boats and monorails that take you everywhere you want to go. And get the new Disney Dining Plan. For about $30 a day, it gives you a snack, a counter-service meal and a table-service meal—which is all you really need, and it will save you hundreds of dollars.

• It’s hard to ride the hardcore rides when you’re shepherding a 4- and 6-year-old through the parks. My niece is pretty fearless, though, and we got her to stand tall enough at those you-must-be-this-tall signs that we got her on Space, Splash and Big Thunder Mountains. Which she loved. My nephew inherited his uncle’s timidity regarding trying new things, but thanks to some selective descriptions from some unscrupulous adults, we tricked got him on most of the same rides. Which he loved as well.

• I read The Devil in the White City on the plane and in little fits and starts before bed every night. Coincidentally, it mentions that Elias Disney helped build the 1892 Chicago World’s Fair, which directly influenced his son Walt’s ideas about family entertainment. It also contains a lot of grisly, decidedly non-Disney murders. But I don’t think it lives up to all the hype I’d been hearing; I give it a B-.

• True to form, we ran into a friend of mine from junior high and high school in the bus line on our last night at Disney World. This happens to my family a lot when we go to Disney. The biggest unexpected run-in happened many years ago when my mom was there for a conference and ran into the girl who had been a foreign exchange student in our house years earlier. The girl was from Norway.

• We all made it home safely, though it bugged me greatly that the six most important people in my life were all on one plane together as they headed home to Iowa. Especially when their plane had to abort its takeoff because it was broken and they had to find a different plane.

• I didn’t buy any souvenirs, but I did come home with a pretty unpleasant case of the flu. But not the poopy kind; I have the achy, shivery, hot-to-the-touch kind that makes me a little goofy every time I stand up.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Opening new windows

My name's Jake (Hi, Jake!), and I'm no longer a virgin.

Now, before you get all excited for me and start giving me pointers about getting that fish taste off my tongue, I should clarify: I'm no longer a sushi virgin.

That's right. I, Jake, an almost 38-year-old man living in a major metropolitan city, had never eaten sushi. Until tonight. And it wasn't half bad.

And WHY had I never eaten sushi? No big reason, really. I've just always preferred beef and chicken over fish. And nobody's ever asked me to try it. And I really love my beef and chicken.

The straight tuna and salmon chunks—which my friends tonight said were more "hardcore" sushi—were actually my favorite. Right after the spicy tuna rolls. Which I almost could say I loved. I wasn't a fan of the crab and lobster rolls. And I can probably live a pretty happy life never eating another turtle roll.

And while I don't see myself actually craving sushi anytime soon, I can say I tried it. And I'll no doubt try it again.

It helped that I was with friends who promised to make my first time special painless. And that they promised not to laugh. And that one of them (a friend of my friend Bill, who organized the evening) was pretty hot and his knee kept touching mine under the table. Except the guy has said "nice to meet you" to me all four times we've hung out. So I don't get the feeling I'm really on his radar.

But there's more! While I was losing my virginity all over the place tonight, I decided to go whole fish hog and order an alcoholic beverage. Seriously. I have never ordered a drink before tonight, either. (Hell, I've probably consumed in aggregate the equivalent of two whole drinks in my entire life.) But I was with friends, I was feeling all grown-up … and the hot guy had already lost interest in me so there was no harm in letting him know what a social misfit I'd been for the last 37 and a half years. So I ordered a cosmo. And I drank half of it. And it was good.

And now I'm home drunk off my raw-fish-eating ass and packing my shorts and sunscreen because in 10 hours I'll be winging my way off to Florida for a family vacation—where my 4-year-old niece and 6-year-old nephew will experience the magic of Disney World for the first time. And they're almost as excited as their uncle Jake, who is such a lifelong Disney freak that he actually went and got a Mickey Mouse tattoo on his ankle. And we all know he wasn't drunk when he did it. Loser.

Be good while I'm gone!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Jets are gonna look real gay to ni-i-ight!

The year was 1985. I was a junior in high school, and our theater department (which was pretty kickin’—we did about five shows a year in two different theaters) did West Side Story.

Now, I’d grown up on my folk’s West Side Story soundtrack. (We never had the cast album until I bought it with my paper route money in junior high school.) I knew every word, every note, every fake Puerto Rican nuance of the soundtrack, though. Hell, I’d sung along and acted out every role in the show in the privacy of my sad, friendless little bedroom for the better part of a decade. So the day our theater director announced over the school PA system (with very dramatic, very gay fanfare, which I just ate up) that we were doing West Side Story as our spring musical, I … um …

Let’s just say my show of enthusiasm probably didn’t win me any macho points.

And the role I wanted more than anything? Action. The wild one. The loose cannon of the Jets. The role that would show the world that I was not, in fact, a sad, terminally bashful little homo who does victory dances in AP History class when he hears the theater department is doing his favorite musical. I didn’t care as much about playing the role, though, as I did about singing “Gee, Officer Krupke!” It’s a totally cool song, and it starts on that hard-to-hear tritone that I was certain I was the only male in the whole theater department who could be relied on to hit it right on the money night after night. I knew the song cold—tritone and all—which meant the role was rightfully mine.

Unfortunately, my audition was too much tritone and not enough loose cannon. And Joel, a hunky little straight guy who had the presence of mind to actually act at the audition, got the part. And I was crushed. Truly, deeply crushed.

But I persevered through rehearsals in my role as Third Jet From The Left, and I got a couple featured dance roles (tritones and battements dégagés—is there no end to my homosexuality talents?) and I let myself revel in all the magic that came along with Actually Being In West Side Story.

And on opening night, when Joel (who was quite awesome in the part) went to sing my his big solo … he forgot the words. And I hung there (the set was all about scaffolding), three Jets in from the left, staring dumbfounded as he stumbled through his first verse. And I was filled with a weird mix of horror and pity and self-righteous indignation and even a little bit of Schadenfreude.

But that’s not actually the point of this post. The point is that I went through some old photo albums last weekend and I found a mountain of embarrassing pictures. And trust me: When you’re an awkward little homo in Iowa in the ’80s, every picture you take is pretty embarrassing.

But I’m 37 now and I can look back and laugh. On the outside. And I’ve been sneaking over to our scanning station at work whenever I could spare a few minutes the last few days, so my blog is going to be a very painful walk down memory lane over the next few weeks.

Here is the only picture I found from West Side Story. And man, there’s nothing sadder than a middle-class white gay boy pretending to be all butch and shit like he’s down with the PR kids, yo.
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That’s my dad’s jean jacket, which was way too big. But I rolled up the sleeves. To the elbow. Just like they do in the gangs. And if you look closely, you can see the moussed-up nightmare of waves and curls I somehow decided gave my hair 1950s New York street cred. And then there’s that smirk. That I-live-a-very-comfortable-life-in-a-town-with-great-schools-so-you-better-run-sucka smirk. The whole effect is pretty scary, but not in the way I intended.

That’s Beth next to me. I was always impressed with her acting, though I think she was little more than Third Jet Girl From The Left in our show. (The next year, she and I played the leads in Oedipus Rex. Which was far more exciting than starring in some stupid old blockbuster dance musical.) Beth told me at our 10-year reunion that she was in med school, so maybe she can surgically remove the last of my embarrassment if I see her at our 20-year this year.

Stay tuned for more of Jake’s A Dork And I Have The Pictures To Prove It!

Next up: my horrifying experiment in gymnastics leotards.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I’m too sexy

Check out this throbbing hunk of man meat:
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Nothing says high-class rent boy like an unbuttoned polyester Hawaiian shirt.

Nothing says my body is your playground like a poochy little tummy.

Nothing says 15 will get you 20 like the dubious charms of an awkward ninth-grade Lolito.

And nothing exudes sexual chemistry like the seductive chewing of a plastic lei—especially when it looks more like the lei is being vomited up than playfully licked.

This, I’m afraid to report, is what I looked like in 1983. Our class trip that year took us to St. Louis for a tour of the arch, some cheesy dinner theater on a boat and a day at Six Flags, where I coughed up way too much money (not to mention a green lei) for this picture in one of those put-yourself-on-a-magazine-cover photo booths. Worst of all, the shirt and the leis were smelly old props previously worn—and chewed—by legions of germy Midwestern tourists. I’m lucky to be alive even to talk about it.

And sorry, ladies: As much as my smoldering glare makes you want me to be the bananas in your cream pie, I’m as gay as a picnic on a Sunday afternoon. Worst of all, I even knew it way back when this picture was taken. Which makes me a pie tease bad choice from the dessert menu.

But I have been in the arch. If you know what I mean.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Things to do on a Sunday morning in January:

• Make your favorite bran muffins.
• Realize they taste like burned flesh.
• Discover the remains of a food spill—or possibly a hiding animal—at the bottom of your oven.
• Activate your oven's self-cleaning feature for the first time ever.
• Open all your windows and doors as your condo fills with smoke.
• Decide that, while you're running up your electric bill anyway, you might as well make homemade soup in your crock pot.
• Brown the stew meat you bought last night in the awesome new cookware you got for Christmas.
• Discover that, while you were shopping for ingredients, you were too stupid to notice the difference between beef bouillon and chicken bouillon.
• Make beef and vegetable soup with chicken bouillon anyway. As your punishment.
• Sort through the week's mail and discover that you somehow forgot to make your mortgage payment last month.
• Call your mortgage lender to see what you need to do to make amends.
• Punch enough phone buttons to start a nuclear war and finally reach a recorded voice that tells you you'll have to wait until after the three-day weekend to resolve the problem.
• Crawl back into bed. And hope the smoke doesn't asphyxiate you.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

What does it say about a man ...

when a woman he works with—a sweet, demure, heretofore completely professional colleague—goes to visit her family in Taiwan over the American holiday break and—though she and he have never exchanged gifts in the past—returns with a souvenir for him … and it looks like this:
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I think it says she knows me better than she lets on.

Let me count the reasons I love this gift:
1. It's a toilet-paper dispenser!
2. Or maybe it's just a toilet-paper cozy.
3. When it's not dispensing toilet paper, it looks like a huggable, plush sex doll.
4. And if you take the toilet paper out of the hole in its butt, it makes a very disturbing puppet.
5. It's 100% American kitch, but it's made in China and sold in Taiwan.
6. It has blush and eyelashes. Which means it's classy.
7. It's well-made. And I'm a man who appreciates quality.
8. You could use it as a mitten. Or a hot pad. Or—in a pinch—maybe even a boxing glove.
9. When you peek in its bra (and you know you want to), you discover a perky little set of Muppet-like hooters.
10. I just said hooters!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Things I’ve had in my mouth today:

Orange juice.
A vitamin.
A banana.
A clementine.
A toothbrush.
The word “anathema.”
Effervescent creatine.
A peanut-butter sandwich.
Skim milk.
Another peanut-butter sandwich.
A toothbrush again.
A hygienist.
A dentist.
Tom Welling.
A camera.
A camera and a mirror.
A numbing gel.
Three shots of Novocain.
A rubber dam.
An O-shaped ring.
A bright light.
A suction thing.
A drill.
An audible whimper.
More Novocain.
More of the drill.
Even more of the drill.
Smoking, grainy bits of my own teeth.
My own dry, dough-like tongue.
Tooth-colored composite.
A bonding agent.
An agent named Bond.
Custom-fitted porcelain inlays.
Custom-fitted porcelain overlays.
A clamp.
Another clamp.
A white plastic implement.
A heat lamp.
A heat lamp guard.
A Buick.
An upholstered ottoman.
Another mirror/camera combo.
A lingering numbness.
Slurred speech.
A very sore jaw.
Homemade soup.
A happy “Mmmmm!” sound.
Tom Welling.

Fillings! Nothing more than … fillings!

Dr. B was a folksy, small-town dentist in the best sense of the word. He had a modest office decorated in dark paneling and wavy frosted glass and imitation Italian provincial furniture (hey, if it was good enough for the ’60s, it was good enough for all eternity). His receptionist and hygienist knew your name and where you went to school. He had Highlights magazine in the waiting room and a wooden barrel of cheap toys you could pick among to take home by the checkout. He talked you through what he was doing to your teeth and sometimes held your hand if you got scared. The gray terrazzo hallway outside his office smelled like rubbing alcohol. (I’m not sure how that last point supports my nice-small-town dentist description, but it’s a memory that lingers in my head to this day.)

And he took good care of my family’s teeth from before I was born until I was out of college. Every cleaning. Every filling. Every bit of basic maintenance and minor surgery.

And after he’d spent a lifetime building up his practice and taking care of his patients and planning his twilight years and finding someone equally compassionate to take over for him, he retired. And then the poor man promptly died.

And this afternoon, three of the fillings he put in my head when I was in junior high school are being replaced. By a big-city dentist I picked because he was in my insurance network and within walking distance to my office.

And, somehow, I feel sad that I’m erasing a bit of Dr. B’s legacy. Even though I’ll be replacing the silver amalgam with tooth-colored fillings, which will make me far more marketable as a teen model.

I also feel a bit apprehensive because I’m having three fillings replaced at once, but it seemed best to get them all over with at once instead of going through the fun three separate times.

In any case, I’ll be thinking about kindly old Dr. B and his rubbing-alcohol-scented office and the fillings he put in me that lasted more than 20 years as a strange new dentist is buried elbow-deep in my mouth today.

And I’d better get a toy when he’s done.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Things that irritate me for no useful reason


Example! Toilets with mirrors over them so you have to watch yourself pee. Really. What value does this add to a bathroom? I can see the argument that a wall o’ mirrors can make a room look bigger … but a pretend-bigger bathroom is totally trumped by a lifetime of never having to watch fluids cascade out of your business. (Am I right, ladies?)

Example! Toilets with mirrors across from them so you have to watch yourself poop. You’re crowning. You race to an unfamiliar toilet in an unfamiliar bathroom—perhaps at a dinner party or in a hotel room. You slam the door, drop trou, whirl around to sit down … and there you are. Watching. Yourself. Poop. Watching that whole cycle of bloated discomfort/eyes watering from the strain/shock and awe/shiver of relief/lean over to wipe/lean over to wipe a few more times just in case—all on your very own face.

Example! Doors with mirrors on the backs that totally face the toilets. This is probably the most horrifying because it’s a stealth offense (you have no idea the mirror is there until it’s too late), it’s unavoidable (you have to close the door when you’re pooping—it’s the law), and it offers you a full-body view of yourself looking both vulnerable and uncivilized. Kind of like Dubya at a press conference. And nobody wants to see that.

Example! Faucets that reach only a couple inches over the sink. Once you’ve finished watching yourself poop and pee, you’re gonna want to wash your eyes hands. But if you keep banging those hands against the side of the sink because it was installed with faucets that are too short, you’re gonna get irritated. And soapy. And bruisey. And you’ll splash water all over the walls, which will loosen the mirrors from their moorings and they’ll come crashing down in a dramatic display of crashing-downiness and then how the hell are you supposed to watch yourself go to the bathroom?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Gettin’ rid of the ugly

I love my bedroom. I love the color I painted it. I love my bed. I love my bedspread. I love the crap on my walls. But I’ve never really loved my side table.

At first blush, the table looks pretty decent—though up close it’s full of gouges and water stains and related evidence that the thing is 40 years old. And that’s the other problem: While the stuff in my house is definitely eclectic, nothing I own really embraces 1960s colonial. Especially orange maple 1960s colonial. Which is just gross.

But damn if the table isn’t well-made—with real wood and actual dovetailing and sturdy legs and not a single scrap of laminated particleboard. Still, I never really liked it. Replacing it seemed like a waste of money, though, and refinishing it seemed like a waste of effort since it would still be orange maple 1960s colonial. Which is just gross.

Then I had a great idea: painting it—just like they do on TV! I found an ultra-dark blue paint (“midnight mist” or “urban decay” or “subdural hematoma” or something like that)—and one light sanding, one coat of primer and three coats of paint later (because “one-coat paint” is as big a myth as “intelligent design” and “Tom Cruise’s dignity”), I had myself a museum-quality piece of furniture. I dressed it up with a new knob, a vase from the handsome Nate Berkus™ collection and a brooding, masculine box of facial tissue—and just look how sexy it became:
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(I know: Visible electrical cords are just gross. So are shiny white outlet covers on dark walls. But you see these things only when you’re squatting in front of my side table with a camera. The rest of the time (i.e., when you’re standing up) they’re naturally hidden. And if your standing-adult perspective doesn’t do the trick, there’s usually a huge pile of shoes there to help.)

Sunday, January 01, 2006


There is no easier way to set yourself up for failure than to give yourself a massive list of new year’s resolutions. Here’s mine:

Take a tap class with some regularity. I found one Chicago studio with a convenient schedule but an inconvenient location and another studio with an inconvenient schedule but a convenient location. They did that just to make my resolution harder to keep, of course.

Practice the piano more. Or maybe I should have a more specific goal: Learn a new piano piece from scratch. Possibly something by Chopin, whose works I’ve never really studied.

Read ten books. I’ve been on a book-buying (and -receiving) spree over the last year or so. I’ve read two of them, and of the 15 remaining, I hope to have two-thirds knocked off by 2007:
American Gothic: A Life of America’s Most Famous Painting, Steven Biel
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Walter Isaacson
The Blood of Strangers: Stories from Emergency Medicine, Frank Huyler
The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, Erik Larson
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: A Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Lynne Truss
John Adams, David McCullough
A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-Examined as a Grotesque Crippling Disease, Cintra Wilson
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention May to September 1787, Catherine Drinker Bowen
Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants, Robert Sullivan
Virtually Normal: An Argument About Homosexuality, Andrew Sullivan
Why Do Men Have Nipples?, Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg, M.D.
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Gregory Maguire
Wobegon Boy, Garrison Keillor

Stop saying it’s 2007. It’s been 2006 (I think) for only 20 hours, and already I’ve said and written and thought that it’s 2007 about 2007 times.

Travel someplace fun. Last year I hit Madrid, Paris, New York and London. And Iowa. There are already tentative plans underway this year for Greece. And Iowa.

Decide once and for all if I’m on the right career path. And then follow up on that decision. (There are, however, potential career opportunities in Europe with my current company. But at this writing, the prospect of living with a social anxiety disorder and a language barrier doesn’t sound very appealing.)

Keep shooting for my four-hour marathon goal. Maybe in New York this year. But probably in Chicago, because 1) it’s easier to commute to Chicago when you’re already in Chicago and 2) I really dig knowing that there are people watching the race who actually know me by name.

Find a bigger condo. Now that I have this one looking almost exactly the way I want.

Add at least five pounds of muscle to my upper body. These saggy old-man tits are not making me feel pretty as I sneak up on my 38th birthday. Man, the older you get, the harder you have to work to reach your dream of becoming a teen model …