Friday, August 29, 2008

Last chance!

The last workday before Labor Day is also the traditional last day of the season to wear nurse shoes:

Funny story about these shoes: I was in Montreal four years ago. (That’s not the funny part; I’m still getting to it.) When I travel, I tend to eschew knickknacks in favor of souvenirs like articles of clothing. Or soaps and shampoos. Or hookers. You know: things I can actually use.

So I was in Montreal and I passed this trendy shoe store called Aldo. I’d never heard of Aldo (I’d heard of Aldi, but they have a terrible shoe selection) so I decided to buy some unique, not-available-in-Chicago shoes there to remember my trip. With the exchange rate, these puppies were $110, but they were totally worth it because I’d be the only person in Chicago—hell, maybe even in the whole United States—to have clunky white sport shoes confidently detailed in stripes of navy blue.

Of course, I wore them on my first day back at work. And I was totally at the vanguard of international fashion. And that night, I noticed for the first time that right behind the bus stop where I’d waited for my bus for the last couple years is a shoe store. An Aldo shoe store. An Aldo shoe store with a window display of clunky white sport shoes confidently detailed in stripes of navy blue. For $70.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dramatis Personae

So I've been working out with my trainer for two months now. And I'm starting to notice some results. More importantly, so is the domestic partner. Rowr!

But that's not the point of this post. The point is that we just saw Tropic Thunder, and the domestic partner is no longer in danger of being dumped for Ben Stiller. Don't get me wrong; Ben Stiller is still pretty goofy-handsome (my favorite kind of handsome) and his arms look totally jacked in this movie, but for some reason he's just not carbonating my coin purse like he used to.

Actually, that's not the point of this post either. I just wanted to say "carbonating my coin purse."

The point of this post was supposed to be a listing of the regulars I recently noticed I've been seeing every Tuesday and Thursday morning on either side of my 7:00 workouts. But now that I've said "carbonating my coin purse," I think I may have lost some of you. But for those of you who don't get distracted by unseemly metaphor, I'll go ahead and list the supporting players in the award-winning reality series of my life:

Bus Driver Guy.
Unlike the normal rush-hour time that I catch the bus for a normal workday, the buses—and, apparently, the drivers—all run like clockwork at 6:15 am in Chicago. I see this driver without fail every workout morning. And he's always smiley and good-morningy and his passengers are always quiet and respectful (or maybe they're just groggy and disoriented) and we zip downtown in a mere handful of traffic-free minutes, and I really like the experience.

Panhandler Guy. He's ensconced at the same Loop corner a block away from my gym every morning. At 6:40 am. Before anyone who could give him money has even started venturing out into the streets. Seriously—at that hour, it's just me and like three other people scuttling along the sidewalk on our way to pre-work appointments. And while you may question this dude's timing, you really have to respect his work ethic.

Holy Shit Guy. This dude works out at my gym. And he's distractingly hawt: Smokin' body. Handsome face. Perfect V-taper. Total lack of interest in acknowledging my friendly nods hello. I told my hopelessly straight trainer that I want to look like this guy. And for a straight guy, my trainer is alarmingly good at picking up subtext. So now he uses this information to mock me: "You have to get these last two reps or your hawt guy will never notice you." And it totally works. (The finishing-the-last-two reps part, not the hawt-guy-noticing-me part. At least not yet.)

Milk Crate Guy. After my workout, I leave the gym and walk five blocks to my office amid the hundreds of people who just got off of the train. And this dude is always on the same corner, squatting on an upside-down milk crate with a couple newspapers at his feet. But he's not begging for money. Or bothering anyone. In fact, he's just sitting there watching everyone walking by. It's as if he just wanted a good seat for the rush-hour show.

Crazy Conversation Guy. This one stands on a corner two blocks later. And he's what we will euphemistically call "a character." He will say anything crazy to engage any passer-by in conversation. But he's not threatening-crazy or disruptive-crazy; he's wacky-sitcom-next-door-neighbor-crazy. And every morning I see someone stop to chat back with him. Crazy!

So that's my list. Come back next week when I list every president in my coin purse.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Too ... tired ... to ... blog ...

Saturday morning: 20-mile run. Which was actually a 13-mile run for me. The heat felled lots of us.

Saturday afternoon: memorial service. It's the one-year anniversary of the domestic partner's brother's father-in-law's death.

Saturday evening: Dance for Life. It's an evening of pieces by every major dance company in Chicago, staged to raise money for AIDS service organizations. And it's the one fabulous Chicago event we splurge on every summer. Here's a picture of us at the foo-foo gay VIP reception before the performance:

Sunday morning: brunch with the ex-boyfriend. And his boyfriend. And the friend they're staying with in Chicago. And my domestic partner. Gay families can be so fabulous.

Sunday afternoon: 90-minute sports massage. I scheduled it to celebrate my 20-mile run. But I still went anyway. The massage therapist tried to kill me. With his bare hands.

Sunday evening: Huge barbecue with friends. I ate carbs. And ice cream.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Well, I didn't suck

Cabaret for Life went extremely well tonight. There was some amazing talent on the stage. I was up there too. And while I think I did a pretty good job, I very conspicuously squeaked on my money notes at the end of "Maybe This Time." Maybe next time I'll do better.

And I'm pretty sure people politely averted their eyes when I went back to my seat. But I didn't forget my words, and my topical humor went over well. And the two powerhouse singers went after me, which is far more preferable to me following them. And one of the waiters was totally hot. Which always counts for something.

The domestic partner even snapped a picture of me with his trusty (albeit flash-devoid) camera phone. He captured me mid-gesture (no doubt one of my gestures about watching football or driving tractors) but for some reason the gesture ended up making me look kind of gay:
Oh, yeah. The event was an AIDS Marathon fundraiser. The final numbers aren't in yet, but the early returns were $1,000 at the door and at least $500 in individual donations. Which is a pretty good haul.

And my friend Jeff—the brains (and the talent) behind tonight's adventure–has asked me to sing with him again. In a cabaret show featuring me and ... me. I'm not sure I have enough confidence in myself to seriously believe I could be my own headliner. But I'd certainly share the bill with someone else. I'll keep you posted. :-)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What good is sitting alone in your room?

My old neighbor Jeffrey Roscoe is running the AIDS Marathon with me this year. To participate, runners have to raise at least $1,400 (don’t worry — I’ve already hit my mark so I’m not hitting you up for a donation ... well, not exactly).

Jeff is an immensely talented musician and promoter who’s pretty big on the cabaret circuit in Chicago. So to raise his money, he’s staging a one-night show with with all his professional cabaret friends ... and he’s asked me to sing as well. In a big-name cabaret show. All by myself. Like I'm a real cabaret singer too. OHMYGOD!

Here’s all the info:
Thursday, August 21

7-9 pm

3160 N. Clark Street

$10 suggested donation at the door

We’re each singing two songs, and Jeff asked us to pick stuff that was upbeat or funny or just plain big and belty. So if you come, you won’t have to sit through any heartfelt renditions of “Hopelessly Devoted” or “You Light Up My Life.” At least not from me.

With all these big names (and one little name) sharing the same stage, the evening promises to deliver a fabulous (and rare) combo platter of extra-spicy Chicago talent. So if you're up for some Thursday night fundraising set to soaring melodies and the piano stylings of the inimitable Jeffrey Roscoe, come join us!

Friday, August 15, 2008

There's nothin' to it but to do it

After my little fake heart attack/ambulance ride/ER adventure last April—where the ER doctor determined that the excruciating pain radiating up my neck and down my left arm was probably temporary nerve damage from a microscopic rib crack—my regular doctor recommended that I get a stress test so we could 1) rule out some kind of cardiac event with more certainty and 2) put me through even more excruciating pain.

Thanks to my last false cardio alarm, I knew what a miserable experience a stress test is. So I told myself I should get some marathon training under my belt before I scheduled this test. So I waited. For four months. And a week. And one day. But I finally went yesterday after work. So I get some props (whatever the hell “props” are) for my conscientiousness.

Once I got checked in—after sitting in a waiting room that uses those carry-around restaurant buzzers that buzz and vibrate so loudly that they ironically get your heart kind of racing—a very cool technician who laughed at my jokes got my chest all dolled up with stickers and tape and wires that ran through a little Jetsons fanny pack secured at my hip. And I was kind of excited that I'd be going through the childbirth-like pain of a stress test with someone fun in the room. But then she introduced me to the other technician. The one who ran the ultrasound machine. And he gave me nothing but cardiotude. Or maybe it was heartitude. (Which is funnier?)

Anyway, when I gave him my ER adventure backstory, he arched his brow and stabbed me with the question “In April?” THREE TIMES. Yes, I know I took a long time to schedule my stress test, Mr. Sarcasm Pants. But the more you ask me to clarify what month I rode in the ambulance, the more it sounds like you have comprehension disabilities. Then when he started looking at my heart with the ultrasound wand, he didn’t even crack a smile when I asked him if I was having a boy or a girl. The man’s sense of humor is clearly not as evolved as mine.

But I got to watch my heart beating on the monitor. Hell, I got visual proof that I do indeed have a heart. So I can safely skip track 8 on my Damn Yankees Broadway revival CD going forward.

And the two technicians told me that it was actually not a good idea to have a stress test so late in my marathon training. Since my resting heart rate is so low, it would take longer to get my heart rate up to where they needed it (meaning more time on the treadmill for me). And since my heart was conditioned to recover quickly from exertion, they’d have to move extra fast to get ultrasound readings before my heart rate fell once they got it up. But even though my procrastination kind of screwed things up, I felt like a total stud hearing what a specimen of physical perfection I’d become. Or something to that effect.

And after all my dreading, the stress test was far easier than I remember it being. It took 18 minutes to get my heart rate up to 177, but getting there was no worse than the hill sprints I do every Wednesday to get to 177, and those take 24 minutes. And my heart rate did indeed plummet quickly once I got on the table. Which was a very nice reward for all those 6:00 am runs. (For those of you who’ve never experienced the carefree magic of a stress test, here’s what happens: They put you on a treadmill to get your heart rate up to levels of gasping-for-breath exhaustion. Then they put you on a table and tell you to stop breathing so they can get a clear ultrasound picture of your heart. Which is kind of a bitch. But when your heart rate drops fast, the stop-breathing part is suddenly pretty easy.)

And when the doctor came in to read my results, he informed me that there was nothing wrong with me. Except for my sense of humor. But I think the second technician put something on my charts to make him say that.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The pièce de résistance!

(literally: "piece of crap I just hung on my wall")

My whole door adventure over the weekend transpired without the aid of my handy cordless drill/screwdriver, which the domestic partner had lent to his lesbian friend. I know! A lesbian without a cordless drill/screwdriver! It's like ... a gay man on a second date.

But as happy as I was with the door, it still needed a little something-something. Like a foo-foo filigreed shelf-shelf. Which I hung the moment I got my precious cordless drill/screwdriver back from the insufficiently tooled lesbian. And then I took a picture of it. And then I posted it here. Because my life is filled with the excitement of a thousand Love Boat episodes.

And now we begin our quest. Our quest for the perfect knickknack. To put on our shelf. So I have something more to blog about.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

This is our front door

Or rather, this was our front door ... before I took Friday off and spent most of the weekend making it look less like something out of the Martha Stewart Tenement™ Collection. Notice the 27 shades and finishes of brown that various condo association handypersons have used to touch it up over the last 80 years. Notice the three colors of metal on it. Notice how that sad little door knocker looks vulgar in a dog-penis kind of way.

Here is a closeup of our cool art-deco-meets-prairie-style escutcheon plate, which had been painted and varnished and horribly disrespected over the years. Notice how well it goes with the shiny gold lock, doorknob (which photographed kind of silver on my Verizon® Technology For The Colorblind™ camera phone) and deadbolt. And seriously, who actually likes shiny gold hardware? Besides Donald Trump, I mean.

This is what we've been looking at from the inside for a year and a half. I especially love how nobody in the last 80 years has made any attempt to hide the mounting hardware for the dog-penis door knocker. If you have lots of time on your hands, you can study the picture and choose your favorite paint sample color for the door. And then you can notice in the bottom left of the picture the tiny John Hancock Center statue I bought myself to celebrate moving to Chicago eight years ago. Also, take a moment to express your jealousy over the creepy reproduction graveyard angel that hangs menacingly over our door as though to smite you for thinking "dog penis" every time you cross our threshold.

The escutcheon plate on the inside was so caked in paint that it required lots of swearing before I could even pry it from the door. But when it's offset by the shiny gold doorknob, it looks extra-fancy, as though it came from the Donald Trump Country Farmhouse™ Collection.

As I fixed up our door this weekend I also wanted to restore our cool old escutcheon plates, but I had no idea how to strip them. I googled around and found out that it's easiest to boil them like a bunny on your married lover's stove. I found about 10 sites that recommend dumping all your crapped-up door hardware in an old pan or crock pot with a bunch of water, a bit of baking soda and a dash of dish soap and letting them cook all day on low heat. (The sites I read actually recommended simmering instead of boiling but boiling gave me a bigger wow factor in that earlier sentence. So I followed my journalistic instincts and went for the high-impact lead.)

If you wonder what kind of society would paint over totally cool art-deco-meets-prairie-style escutcheon plates, look no further than this ’70s-era orangy-brown wheat-themed fancy-fonted crock pot. Seriously, what were you people thinking back then? (In all seriousness, if you try this at home, the sites I read all stressed that once you use your cookware to strip paint you should never use it to prepare food again. Especially if it's ugly.)

After a day of simmering, you still have to do some scrubbing, but the majority of the paint pulls off like a facelift. To help the process along, I also used some Bar Keepers Friend® (which keeps our stainless steel sink looking shiny and fabulous) and some Brasso® metal polish. And the cheapo store-brand toothbrush I originally bought to help us scrub the grout in our shower.

The results are pretty cool, though 12 hours of simmering and scrubbing still didn't remove all the old paint. Unfortunately, I failed in my quest to find locks and doorknobs that match the gracefully aged (or, technically, recently boiled) patina of the escutcheon plates. Apparently they have to be special ordered from the same place that supplies John Edwards and John McCain with their respect for the institution of marriage. So for now our doors are still barricaded in Trumpian Gold®, which you can see here also comes with splashes of brown from clumsy condo association handypersons. But notice how the alligatory outside of the door is now all one uniform color and sheen. I pried loose an already-loose piece of quarter round and had the color expertly matched at my friendly neighborhood paint store (who, unfortunately, was actually not so friendly—my journalistic instincts here told me to forgo facts in favor of the easiest cliché for my lead—so even though they did a fabulous job using their spectrophotometer, the bitches don't get a shout-out by name).

The Trumpian Gold® knob on the inside of the door is so shiny you can kind of see I wore a black tank top when I took this picture. And while the trim is all now one uniform shade of white (which photographed pink on my Verizon® Technology For The Colorblind™ camera phone), it emphasizes how chewed up the door frame is. As though a dog exacted some kind of vengeance on the door in bitter retribution for an unnamed indignity.

Remember all those color samples that had been taped to our door? Did you pick a favorite? Too bad! I decided just to use the outside door color on the inside. Which is not only cheaper but it requires less thinking. But I didn't put the high-gloss polyurethane coating on the inside in an effort to mix things up and keep everything phresh, as the kids say. You can't see them here, but I also added quarter-inch rubber gaskets to the top and bottom of the door since it was way too freakin' small for the door frame. We also intend to find a way to upholster the recessed part of the door in tufted chocolate leather. Which we hope (along with the gaskets) will drown out the alarmingly loud noises in our hallway. And also hide the dog-penis mounting hardware. Which will soon be something-other-than-dog-penis mounting hardware; we just haven't found a replacement door knocker we like yet.

I also ran 18 miles on Saturday. For once, the weather was perfect, and I had a kick-ass run. Unfortunately, Matthew and his camera didn't run with us because they ran the Chicago Distance Classic half marathon instead this morning. So there are no pictures. Of me, at least.

While I was already sweaty and my nails were already caked with paint, I also installed a funky new ceiling fan in our living room on Sunday. The old fan was one of those all-white cheapies you can get by saving box tops, and it had all the style and elegance of a ’70s-era orangy-brown wheat-themed fancy-fonted crock pot. Plus, it had a horrible light fixture attachment that did little to elevate itself above being three bare lightbulbs. But that's all behind us! We now have a visually interesting ceiling fan with hidden light bulbs! And paint-free art-deco-meets-prairie-style escutcheon plates! And a one-shade-of-brown door! With a temporary gold-plated dog penis!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

How to start your day off bad


One of my favorite clients is in the office today. I ran into him first thing this morning as I was leaving our daily staff meeting. My hands were full. The client reached out to shake hands with me, and in the few seconds between his initiated gesture and our hand-to-hand contact, I got everything transferred to my non-shaking hand … except my pencil.

We made contact. I heard a slight snap. His eyes got big. He pulled his hand back as though I’d just wiped it on my moobs. I looked down and noticed my lead was missing.

And then: Awkwardness.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Apparently there was some kind of storm last night

I was busy watching a really disappointing Law & Order (the one where that guy got shot and everyone they interviewed gave conflicting stories and Angie Harmon looked really angular) and the louder the storm got, the more I just turned up the volume on my TV. Too bad there isn’t a button on my remote for turning up the interesting.

But I had a string of texts going back and forth with friends in Chicago who were thoroughly freaked out about the weather. And the brother-in-law who lives with us was hunkered down in his room with WWE on his TV and some weather-alert channel on his radio, and every five minutes (seriously … every. five. minutes.) he came running breathlessly into the front room with news about tornado threats, which I just casually dismissed so I could keep my attention span available in case Law & Order suddenly got interesting. The poor guy was probably just looking for someone to be freaked out with and I guess I’m too jaded to get worked up over a storm that to me didn’t seem so terribly bad.

I went to bed at 10:00 so I could be up at 5:45 this morning to meet my trainer. I guess the storm came back for a thunderous curtain call before midnight, but among my many magical powers is the ability to sleep through anything so I missed all the fun.

The storm was bad enough that it ripped the roof off a suburban high school and halted a friend’s enjoyment of The Dark Knight mid-movie and even sent 40,000 Cubs fans out into the streets to fight for cabs and trains and buses as the world threatened to crash down around them. But I didn’t care. I was safe at home with the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. Unfortunately, the guy who got shot and the suspects who lied to the cops weren’t that compelling, so I just wasn’t interested in their stories. Because in the consumer justice system, Jake’s interests are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the TV shows that exist solely for his entertainment and the remote for turning them off when they fail to be more interesting than a thunderstorm.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Uff da

I'm back from showing off the domestic partner this weekend at the every-other-summer reunion on the family farm in northeast Iowa. The farm was first settled by my Norwegian immigrant ancestors during the Civil War, and legend has it that they arrived too late in the summer that first year to get any kind of house built, so they dug a cave and lived there–even going so far as to give birth to my great grandfather in that cave in the middle of their first Iowa winter in their effort to set the Norwegian-martyr-card bar impossibly high from the get-go. Ever since I first heard that story, whenever I feel like the world is out to get me I remind myself that I'm not giving birth in a freaking cave in the middle of nowhere in a harsh Iowa winter. And then I feel a little better about myself. But just a little.

I thought I had a lock on minority show-and-tell this year by bringing my gay used-to-be-Catholic domestic partner to our hetero-Norwegian-Lutheran family reunion, but my jealous cousin had to trump me by bringing a black foster child. My domestic partner is pretty cute, but he just can't compete with an adorable black kid. Though the kid was only a few months old, so the domestic partner totally beat him in the math competition. Babies are stupid.

But we just drove six hours home on nothing but Diet Pepsi and Taco Bell, and I need my recovery sleep. I have only two years to think of a way to trump my cousin, so I have to get to planning and scheming bright and early tomorrow.