Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Operation No More Yellow Hallway: The Update

Last weekend, we got one side (the easy side, truth be told) of our mile-long hallway scrubbed, primed and painted. For more than a year, every time we've made the arduous journey from our kitchen to our living room, we've had to swim through a churning sea of buttercup yellows, mysterious gouges, strange, un-scrub-away-able smudges and random splashes of potential replacement paint colors. But no more! As of about 11:00 pm last night, the new color has been picked (Ralph Lauren's "cinderblock," which is a bit greener than we'd anticipated), the last remaining touchups have been touched up and the entire east wall of our hallway is now a solid expanse of slightly verdant, masonry-hued drywall:

Obviously, the hallway hasn't been fabuloused up yet. We still need to hang pictures. And install new electrical switches and outlets. And set out irregularly shaped earthen vases arranged with clusters of dried eucalyptus, which is how gay men are contractually obligated to decorate. And, of course, we also have to paint the whole west side of the hallway as well, which will involve working around lots of doors. Which means painting lots of trim. Which is not exactly a bucket of kittens. But still: Progress!

The white door in the center of the picture—which is so thin you can hear people digging their keys out of their pockets on the other side of it—also has to be be removed, sanded and painted one of those dark colors currently taped up for our thoughtful evaluation. Then I'm going to strip and refinish the beautiful art deco door hardware, which had been painted over by some mouth-breathing cretin who probably doesn't decorate with eucalyptus, if you know what I mean. And before the door gets rehung, I'm going to install sound-blocking gaskets around its perimeter. Because we're tired of hearing our neighbors dig for their keys. And—if I can figure out how to do this—we also want to install a tufted-leather upholstered panel in the recessed part of the door in the hopes that it will offer further sound-blocking properties. But again, the door is so damn thin that I'm not sure what kind of mounting hardware I can use that won't poke through to the other side. And nobody wants to see mounting hardware sticking through our front door. Because it totally doesn't go with eucalyptus.

Ya sure, you betcha!

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The Inland North
The Northeast
The West
Philadelphia
The South
Boston
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Monday, March 24, 2008

Got your tickets yet?

It’s an election year, and what could be more election-y than a bunch of gay boys singing about American stuff?
The Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus is all geared up and ready to sing and dance you into a voting frenzy this spring. Our show is called Apple Pie (the “as American as …” flavor) and it’s packed with big-band swing, patriotic marches, barbershop quartets, anthems about marriage equality, American folk songs and some truly astounding works by Aaron Copland. Of course, we’re also peppering the show with splashes of our trademark irreverence. And we’re presenting it all to you in a dramatic flourish of blue jeans and bunting.

Get your tickets now. And don’t show up late! I choreographed the opening number, a high-energy swing medley of my two favorite Barry Manilow songs ever: “Jump Shout Boogie” and “Bandstand Boogie.”

Show dates and times are:
Friday, April 4 @ 8:00 pm
Saturday, April 5 @ 3:00 pm
Saturday, April 5 @ 8:00 pm

You can order tickets here or buy in person at the box office:
Athenaeum Theatre
2936 N. Southport

See you there!

Friday, March 21, 2008

ChicagoRound: Falling Ice

The moment we get even a hint of winter precipitation in Chicago, the sidewalks in front of every building over 10 stories tall immediately become littered with signs like this:


While these signs are obviously a CYA exercise for the buildings' insurers, in the seven winters I've lived here I've watched countless sheets of ice slide gracefully down the sides of our skyscrapers until they hit a windowsill or a bit of ornamentation that sends them tumbling out of control in every direction but up. Even the smallest chunks make a pretty impressive splat when they hit the awnings and planters and sidewalks below them. So I'm always wary of walking near tall buildings in the days after a huge snow or ice storm. And I'm surprised we don't get more falling-ice injuries or deaths in Chicago than the handful I read about every year.

It's almost the end of March, though, and we haven't had any significant snowfall for a couple weeks. So I was surprised to see this sign out on a sidewalk near the Magnificent Mile tonight as I walked to meet my friend Matthew for dinner. Then again we're in Chicago, where winter isn't officially over until they announce Best Musical. (If you have no idea what that means, you're probably new here. Welcome! One warning: In addition to falling ice, you also have to keep your eyes peeled here for dropping innuendo. And for the record, the Best Musical is the final Tony award, which is always announced on a Sunday night in early June.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

We're in business!

And by "we" I mean "my sister and her husband." I originally said "we" because if this company makes my sister and her husband rich, they've promised to buy me lots of plastic surgery. And some gum.

Anyway, their first shipment of gluten-safe baking mixes from Norway has finished its trek across the Atlantic, passed two customs inspections with flying colors, and arrived safely in its Chicago warehouse. Which means it's all ready to be ordered by and shipped to you so you can start making gluten-safe yummy sounds in the privacy of your own kitchens.

Just click here to get started:

I know: Imported from Norway. Just in time for St. Patrick's Day.

(If any pro-gluten mercenaries have hacked into my blog and disabled the link, just visit tasteslikerealfood.com. Then send the URL to all your gluten-sensitive friends. Remember: yummy sounds.)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bear false witness much?

ONE
"The [Day of Silence] event brings attention to anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and discrimination in schools. Students observe the day in silence to echo the silence LGBT and ally students face every day."

—The dayofsilence.org web site. This year's Day of Silence will be held on April 25 in memory of Lawrence King, a California 8th grader who was shot and killed Feb. 12 by a classmate because of his sexual orientation and gender expression.

"By remaining silent, the intent of the pro-homosexual students is to disrupt the classes while promoting the homosexual lifestyle."
—Spiritual terrorism organization Mission:America, grotesquely distorting the function of Day of Silence in an inflammatory Internet alert last week. The alert further implied that it would be acceptable for parents to have their children call in sick on April 25 even if they were perfectly healthy. The group's page has since been changed to remove these two instances of outright calumny.

TWO
"What is truly outrageous here is that a Christian elected official can be vilified — even have her life threatened — over simply speaking about the Bible's view of homosexuality."
Gary Schneeberger, vice president for media relations at Focus on the Family Action, in response to public outcry over statements by Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern. In a clumsy, secretly recorded speech she made that has been broadcast all over the Internet, Kern trotted out much of the tired party-line slander the right wing regularly aims at gay people, including the concept of a "homosexual agenda," the supposed "deadly consequences" of being gay, and the ideas that gay people are "going after ... in schools ... two-year-olds ... so they can indoctrinate them" and "gays are infiltrating city councils." Kern further claims that homosexuality is "the biggest threat ... that our nation has ... even more so than terrorism." Contrary to Schneeberger's statements, Kern never once mentions the Bible in the recordings I've found.

"There are a lot of e-mails to the representative that say, 'You ought to die,' rather than, 'I am going to kill you.' I wouldn't characterize them as death threats."
—Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Jessica Brown. The OSBI was called to investigate after Kern alleged that she'd received death threats for her comments.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How to freak out a neighbor in 4 lines of dialogue

The setting: a snowy Saturday in our condo’s uncovered parking lot. I am busy brushing an inordinate amount of snow off my car. Enter a cute neighbor guy I’ve never seen before, who starts brushing snow off the car next to mine.

Cute Neighbor Guy I’ve Never Seen Before: Hi, I’m Mark.* I just moved in.

*Names have been approximated because I always suck at remembering names until like the 23rd time I’ve met you. Unless you are a character on a television show. I can spit out the first and last names of every character on Friends—though I rarely ever watched that show—but I have co-workers I see every day whose names refuse to anchor themselves in my brain.

Me: Nice to meet you. I’m Jake. How long have you lived here?

CNGINSB: Just a couple weeks. Do you like the building?

Me, too busy with my snow scraping to engage my don’t-be-creepy filters: We really like it. But we’re on the first floor and we both moved here from highrises, so we’re still getting used to the fact that we can’t walk around naked.

CNGINSB: [blink, blink] Um … what did you just say?

Me, still oblivious: Yeah. But we finally got some blinds. Though we always forget to close them. But old habits die hard, I guess.*

*The irony here is that we don’t walk around naked. Especially in the winter. We both occasionally walked around naked in our respective highrises where nobody could possibly see us, and we’ve joked that we can’t do that anymore in our courtyard walkup. But that's the total extent of it. Unfortunately, my brain and my mouth don’t seem to have gotten the memo that true or not, none of this is appropriate small talk for a first conversation with a new neighbor. No matter how cute he may be.

CNGINSB: Well … good for you two.

Cute Neighbor Guy I’ve Never Seen Before silently keeps scraping his car until I finally get in mine and drive away.

Exeunt and scene

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Oh, hi!

Remember me? I used to write a blog here. Back when I was brimming with time and ideas. Brimming! But for the last couple weeks I’ve just been brimming with deadlines. And 14-hour workdays. And that bloated, greasy feeling you get when you eat fast food twice in a row because you barely have time to wash all the pee off your hands, much less sit down for a decent meal.

Unfortunately, deadlines and 14-hour workdays aren’t exactly a wellspring of interesting blog content. Unless you want to hear about the web site and the branding guidelines and the relaunch collateral I’ve been writing. Which I’m pretty sure you don’t. Trust me. Brimming!

But! The fiancé and I did sneak off to Iowa this weekend to help celebrate my uncommonly photogenic nephew’s ninth birthday. And his idea of a celebration was a good old-fashioned roller-skating party. Which I think I was more excited about than he was. But only because I own Xanadu on DVD and he doesn’t. Yet.

Before the party, though, we all had to carbo-load, which we did by stuffing our bellies full of my sister’s delicious gluten-free sour cream waffles:
And why did we eat gluten-free? Because my sister is gluten intolerant. Which is exactly like being gay intolerant except without the lack of logic or the angry, unhinged diatribes on the local editorial pages. Click here if you want to buy some of my sister’s company’s delicious you’d-never-know-it-was-gluten-free gluten-free baking mixes. They’re gluten-hostile! But gay friendly! And the more you buy, the sooner my sister can surprise me with a nice retirement mansion in Barcelona.

Once we were coursing with gluten-free energy, we packed up and headed off to Super Skate, where I hadn’t stepped a single wheel-booted foot since my feathered hair and I had celebrated endless grade-school birthdays on its endless expanse of reasonably smooth flooring:

Super Skate, I was a little disturbed to discover, has not changed much since the late 1970s. The skating floor is still cracked. The carpet is still puckery. The check-in area still looks like the visitors’ lounge in a medium-security prison. The whole place still smells like mildew, wasted youth and spilled soda. And the giant macramé owl still hangs on the wall outside the bathrooms:
But—despite the deejay’s unforgivable lack of access to a recording of “Xanadu”—we had a blast. My nephew, who is usually pretty mild-mannered, proved himself to be a bit of a skating prodigy. But my normally fearless niece just could not convince herself that stiff-limbed marching plus a death grip on her uncle does not equal skating. She clung to me like Mike Huckabee to his hubris through the entire Hannah Montana songbook, threatening to bring me down every time the forces of inertia and gravity got the best of her. Eventually, I just realized I could hoist her off the floor whenever she was about to lose control and then lower her back once her frantic kicking stopped. It was just like Olympic pairs skating, except with dumber choreography. And fewer sequins. And no National Anthem at the end. But it was still awesome, though our time on the rink left me with the lingering LCL knee pain I usually get after a long training run.

That night we had a celebratory dinner at a place called Fiesta del Sol, which is español for “You have some nerve coming into our restaurant and asking us to bring you food. We are very busy right now doing things that, quite frankly, do not need to involve bringing you food. Things like leaving our Precious Moments® crèches on display in March. Right next to our creepy collection of dusty Mexican witch dolls. Which are really the remains of the last people who came into our restaurant and selfishly requested that we bring them food. Just like you! Let this be a lesson to you, you arrogant and disruptive food-asker-forers. By the way, we have exceptionally delicious blended strawberry margaritas with sugar on the rim.

Friday, March 07, 2008

No cavities!

I have been to the dentist. I have been scraped. I have been cleaned. I have been flossed. And I have been told once again that I am a paragon of responsible oral hygiene. Though apparently I'm not so much a paragon of good spelling; I had to try three times before I got cavities right in the headline of this post.

My dentist's office is like a day spa—albeit a day spa where they sometimes make your mouth bleed. The decorating scheme falls right on that line between Urban Restraint™ and Sparkle Fabulous™. And the view from the waiting room is breathtaking, offering a dramatic look at the John Hancock Center, the Palmolive Building and Water Tower Place—all accented with a halo of light from the Sparkle Fabulous™ table lamp collection:
But it's late and I'm tired and it's been a long day. So it's time to stop showing off my pearly whites to random strangers on the sidewalk and get some sleep.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Song Chart Meme

Where pop music meets bored people with access to PowerPoint:
I clicked through these pretty quickly and found I didn't get the vast majority of them. Then again, I listen to pop music as often as Dubya listens to reason. And I'm almost 40. My milkshake brings the dogs to the Lactaid.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I left the house at 7:30 this morning

Since then, I've had a 45-minute bus ride, a 45-minute client meeting, an all-company meeting, two trips to our crowded kitchen for free doughnuts (Little-known fact: Free doughnuts are the lifeblood of the advertising industry. No free doughnuts, no advertising.) and probably seven smaller meetings with various members of my staff.

I finally found a moment to run to the bathroom just after noon. And as I walked up to the urinal, I discovered that my fly was already down.

Sigh.

But! I'm not gonna let a couple hundred Chicagoans admiring my superhero underpants get in the way of passing along my favorite seasonal humor:

What day of the year is a command to move ahead?
MARCH FORTH! HA!

Monday, March 03, 2008

$1,646!

That's how much you-all helped my team (The Social Climbers!) raise for the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago in our epic 94-story Hustle up the Hancock last weekend.

The fund-raising site just gives us a list of donor names and amounts, so if I don't personally know you I have no way of thanking you directly. If I do know you, we printed thank-you cards with our team photo and they're sitting on my table waiting to be written going to be in the mail very soon. But if I don't have any way of contacting you, you'll have to accept my group thanks through the ether. So thank you. Your generosity is admirable, and you're doing a great deal to help people who are struggling with asthma, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and a host of other debilitating lung diseases. Plus you helped me totally pump up my quads.

Here is a list of all the great people who donated directly to me or to my team as a whole:

J.P. A.
David W.
David P.
Jeffrey R.
Gare U.
Julia S.
Lisa F.
David B.
Jorge G.
Beyondhelp.net
Hope M.
Andy T.
Karla G.
Dop T.
Jane B.
Michael H.
Brandon V.
Chad R-P.
George M.
Brad K.
Marc M.
Todd P.
Sandra R.
Nick & Kay G.
Joe and Marina A.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Things I'm thankful for

The lump was nothing.
My little sister sits at the confluence of two family lines of breast cancer. On the plus side, it has yet to kill any of our forebears; our two grandmothers survived long enough to die of basic old-people diseases, and this October will mark our mom's 20th cancer-free year. So when my sister found a lump in her breast this week, she had legitimate cause for concern. Fortunately, she and I are of the Jake School of Worry, which dictates that we not waste time dwelling on potential bad news until it becomes actual bad news. I don't talk about it much, but we're a lumpy people anyway; I have six pilar cysts on my head that are nowhere near as grotesque as the ones in these pictures (mine are more like nipples—worthless Barbie-size head nipples that don't even do nipple-like things like alert me when it's cold out). Anyway, when my sister found a lump in her breast earlier this week, she calmly went in for a detailed checkup. And then calmly emerged with a clean—albeit slightly lumpy—bill of health.

The glove was found.
The fiancé was in scenic Islip, New York, early this week, so he took a train into Manhattan to see The Farnsworth Invention. By the time he left the theater, he discovered he'd lost his glove somewhere. He called me all forlorn and glove-bereft to tell me about it on his trudge back to Union Station. And then he called me half an hour later from the train to say he'd found his glove. He'd randomly entered the same car on the same train to get himself home, and his glove was actually still sitting on the seat where he'd left it.

It was only a flesh wound.
I was cutting some crusty bread for dinner a few nights ago with my freshly sharpened bread knife when whoops! I sliced right into the top of my thumb and across my thumbnail. It didn't bleed much, but it hurt like a Romney presidency. Once we determined the gash wasn't an immediate threat to my career as a hitchhiker or a concert pianist, we put a bandage on it and ate the part of our dinner that didn't have any blood on it. And now that the pain is gone, I'm mostly concerned about my sliced-up thumbnail catching on things until it grows out. So I'm still wearing a bandage, which is so bulky it's wreaking havoc on my typinb.