Thursday, July 19, 2007

the highest caliber

on an early winter day six and a half years ago, having been tapped to introduce a performer at my undergraduate college, i was practicing my schpiel in the car with my new boyfriend as we drove to campus. i had written the whole grant proposal to get this musician to michigan from israel, and my professor totally screwed me by not even letting me have a lesson with the guy. instead, apparently, he thought i'd be satisfied getting to introduce him at some recital. which was total bullshit. nonetheless, i wrote a great introduction, and was rehearsing it in the car with b right before the recital when, for some reason, i slipped into the eastern european accent i'd been goofing around with the day before over drinks ... right as i was getting to ... "he is a violist of the highest caliber ..." it was at a point for us when everything was still so new, when we were reveling in those little inside jokes, things we thought we might keep in our pockets for ages, but we didn't quite know for sure. and for some reason, when i said "of the highest caliber" in a crazy eastern european accent, it was the funniest thing either of us had ever heard. i remember driving past the D&W, laughing so hard i was crying, yelling to b that he should pull over because he was laughing so hard.

it's been a phrase for us that has always been hilarious.

but today, today it took a turn.

i was sitting in my k street office, listening to congressional testimony being given by b's boss on cspan radio that i knew he'd written, rummaging through breach of contract cases and minding my own business, when i heard it.

"the staff will be of the highest caliber."

it was like someone came into my office and handed me a box with all the progress we've made, with a map of how far we've come, and shoved it into my arms. suddenly, six years seemed like no time whatsoever. six years ago we were a couple of kids in kalamazoo, busting our guts over some stupid line in a stupid speech about a stupid musician that i said in a stupid accent. all of a sudden, here we are. i'm sitting in my k street office, he's written it into congressional testimony. shit, i wrote congressional testimony a few weeks ago.

how. did. this. happen.

this summer, for me, has been an exercise in walking assertively through doors i'd never thought would be opened for me. literally, figuratively ... it's all the same. but there was something about hearing that phrase on cspan radio. it was like someone asked me, as i was walking into a restaurant that i'd never pay for, whether i belonged. like a doubletake. it was something, i don't know what, but it got to me.

and now i'm wondering - how many more times will we make our powerful bosses utter that phrase just to amuse the other person? or will i utter it in court just for a grin? now it's a challenge - and now i love those two college kids in kalamazoo even more than i did before.

(b's editorial response to my first reading of this: "that is a blog of the highest caliber." indeed.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

man v. wild

it had all the ingredients for a perfect sunday afternoon: a tigers game, a bottle of chateau chantal, a bottle of our old friend chuck , the best steak sandwiches b has ever made and no work to do. but then it happened. b reached that predictable stage when he's a little buzzed where he says, hm, how about a cigarette?

so out onto the balcony we go, after i have adequately pounded on the sliding glass door to make sure there is no pigeon hanging out behind the table top we have leaning against our balcony wall (the pigeons were landing on the table, so we just took the top off). nothing. b follows me out, and i ask him to scooch the table top back a little further, because apparently the 3" gap we inadvertently left between the table and the wall was not too small for the pigeons. obviously, you see where this is going. he picks up the table, and there is obviously a pigeon back there.


after regrouping (and hoping that the neighbors didn't hear me scream like a girl) (actually, who cares? i am a girl.) b decides to go back out, knock the table down and scare away the pigeon. i, of course, am concerned he may get a serious pecking, as is he, so he suits up. jacket, vest, hat, gloves, the whole nine yards. no one is pecking my beautiful husband, oh no. i gave him a quick kiss, told him good luck, and sent him into the battle field. he used the end of a broom to knock down the table top, and the pigeon scrambled but flew away. and then we saw it: the nest.

even fricking better.

so now obviously the pigeons are PISSED. daddy pigeon, we realize, has been sitting a couple balconies over this entire time. he's giving us the evil eye. and swearing at us under his breathe. meanwhile, b keep saying, if only we were italian, they'd be goners.*

at this point, i'm ready to throw in the hat. by that i mean, take our wine down to the courtyard and have a cigarette down there. and at first, b was with me. but as we're about to get on the elevator, he turns back.

dude, i'm just going to throw that nest away. i'll go out there, throw it in a trashbag, and be done with it.

are you KIDDING me?

no, i'm going to do it. or at least smash them or something so the pigeons will stay away.

ok, gross. no. what if the pigeon sees you?! they're going to peck the shit out of you. seriously.

s, you're being ridiculous. they're not going to peck me.

yes they are.

no they aren't.

yes. they. are.

ok, maybe they are.

let's just tell the management. we pay enough in rent for someone else to deal with this.

s wins. s also hopes that none of the neighbors have heard this bizarre argument that we've just had in the hallway from their apartments.

sitting down in the courtyard, we positioned our chairs so we could see our balcony. and it didn't take long before the pigeons started circling. eventually, momma hopped back onto the balcony, we hoped to kill the eggs and then leave, since we'd tampered with them or some shit. but no.

we got back to the apartment, and she was there sitting on the nest, daring us. we banged on the door a couple times, and she just yelled in to us, FUCK OFF ASSHOLES.

right after she called us assholes, b started to feel a little bad about the whole situation.

s, are we, like, impeding nature or something? i mean, she's just a bird with her eggs.

no we are not. nature doesn't count if it's gross. and that's gross.

fair enough.

*b has recently learned that italians eat pigeons.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

chicago (i fell in love again)

as a kid, i thought chicago had to be the biggest city on earth. and i used to love that it touched my lake ... the lake i swam in every day, back in my little town. i remember holding my breathe as we drove through gary, thinking that it was some kind of moat, some protection for this beautiful city, so that only the people who really wanted to be in chicago could get there.

when i was in college, just a few hours east on I-94, chicago became something of a center for self-realization. it was staring down a terminal in o'hare as my high school boyfriend walked away that i knew that relationship was over. and where, a year later, i boarded my first (ok, only) flight to europe. it was after a daytrip to chicago, as a college boyfriend slept and i drove us back to kalamazoo in my crappy cavalier, that i looked over at him and thought, what the hell am i doing with this chump? and not just because he basically made me pay for everything all day. there were a lot of little things wrong with him, all of which added up to him just not being a man.

and then there was that perfect june afternoon in chicago, six years ago, sitting by the chicago river in the few hours between being dropped off after a long drive back from a two week music festival and catching a train back to kalamazoo, my instrument and luggage stuffed into a locker at the train station. in my mind, i remember this day like one of those pictures where one person is standing still and the whole world around her is buzzing by. having the hurt still fresh from being stood up (again) and left sitting on the steps in front of the building where i was staying until 2am waiting (again), ashamed (again) to return to my room and my roommate, i finally got it. sometimes no matter how much shit you put up with or how badly you want a relationship to work, it can't. or maybe even if it could, it isn't worth it. i realized i didn't want to spend my whole life standing still, waiting, while everyone around me ... lived their lives. a girl has to stand up for herself, and that guy wasn't a man either. more importantly, even if i bought his excuses (again) and somehow it worked out, i didn't really want to live the life i'd have with him anyway. i wanted to fall in line with the suited, happy chicagoans bustling between their highrise office buildings, follow them back to their jobs where they got to think and work hard and laugh with their smart coworkers - and i wanted to leave that instrument in the train station locker, along with everyone's goals and expectations for my music career. i wanted to tell someone that i wanted out, but i had no one (yet). i knew, or at least in hindsight i'd like to think i knew, that i'd find my place and it wouldn't have anything to do with that expensive hunk of wood back at the train station.

i haven't been to chicago since that afternoon. until last weekend.

leaving chicago this time was not on an amtrak back to kalamazoo with my instrument, but asking the bellhop for my luxury hotel to please whistle me a cab to o'hare ... sleeping on the sticky leather bench seat in the back through traffic, and asking the driver for a receipt (so someone else could pay for it) ... watching the skyline disappear under me as my lake glimmered in the evening sun under the plane.

it was like leaving home, and it hurt like hell.

i've had a crush on chicago for a long, long time... and that weekend was the first time i really thought i had a chance with her. she's not out of my league. we are so in the same league. i could get a job, and we'd have enough money to see the lake from our condo, we could spend a random saturday on the michigan avenue side of my lake, gazing out on that big old childhood friend, whose gravity is tangible, like a lasso around my gut. walking through the gold coast neighborhood, i could see us there, with a dog and a newspaper tucked under an arm, looking for a restaurant to sit in front of all afternoon. those were our people - the smart young smiley ones enjoying the big city but (more likely than not) still close enough to home home to visit on weekends. to be a part of both worlds - city and home home.

but b's career path, as unclear and windy as i'm sure it will be, will by my estimates be long confined to the beltway. i like it here, and we can find a neighborhood in this city where we'll be content, where we'll find restaurants to sit in front of and drink away a saturday afternoon (evidence: yesterday). sure, we won't be near my lake, but luckily b is more magnetic. his lasso around my gut has a much, much stronger pull.

Monday, July 02, 2007

did you hear that? it was my my last shred of hope that there is justice in america being torn out of my totally unsurprised hands

dear neglected internet,

let me first be clear: there is no love lost between myself and paris hilton. i think she's a terrible excuse for a twenty-something woman, and i frankly find it insulting that my generation is associated with her. but having said that, all she did was drive without a license a couple times after being caught driving drunk. and initially i thought her jail sentence was totally fair. teach that girl a lesson, right? i mean, don't tell me that girl doesn't have a fine, fine lawyer who knows damn well what a suspended license is.

but then.

but then, today, someone who exposed a mother fucking CIA agent for political reasons got his goddamn sentence commuted.

he exposed a CIA agent. and he is not even serving as much time as paris hilton.

you have got to be fucking kidding me.