for those who are in or around sane

Monday, January 28

quality trash (my new blog name?)

this past weekend i walked down some old paths and was lucky enough to stumble on something new in the process. i went to mn for a friend's wedding celebration and took the opportunity to roam my beloved cathedral hill haunt in the blair arcade: nina's coffee shop. directly downstairs used to be an art shop that never looked very busy, but today it houses garrison keillor's new indie bookstore, common good books.

i love a good bookstore - especially a good indie bookstore. they are so much more personable and inviting than borders or b&n. i do have a borders rewards card (which got heavy mileage this christmas) and in the recent past i've spent hours comfortably reading at b&n. but i've been exposed to beautiful places like micawbers and birchbark books and i have yet to find their equivalent in chicago. so with mixed emotions i roamed the meandering aisles at common good books - fingering the gorgeous exposed stone walls, inhaling the reader recommendations sticking out of the shelves... and lamenting that i cannot do this on a daily basis. my old apartment is literally steps from this haven, and my new home is 400 miles away. alas, alack.

each section is marked with a hand-drawn sign that clearly states what you'll find: fiction = fiction, poetry = poetry, regional = regional, the head = psychology and my all-time favorite way to label the newest john grisham:

i wish this new bookstore good luck, and i renew my quest to locate a chicago indie bookstore haven (and wish myself luck...).

Friday, January 11

one good thing about texas's food...

... is that there's always plenty left over! tonite we went to rudy's country store and bbq, the self-proclaimed worst bbq in texas: "dont tell us how good it is, just come back again!"

by myself, i consumed a large sausage link (which was smoked in hickory), a large portion of brisket, a huge pork rib and sides of baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw and the best creamed corn i've ever had. please note that i havent had creamed corn in about 20 years, and this was the REAL DEAL - not that canned green giant crap i swallowed at warp speed as a child.

sop up the leftover bbq sauce and cream with a slice of squishy white bread (oh the SINFULNESS of it!!) and i was completely stuffed. we each polished off about this much food with two shiners a piece and still the leftover box was overfloweth.

the whole time we ate family-style at check cloth covered picnic tables using butcher paper for plates and styrofoam cups for bowls. i went through 3 napkins and will surely wake up smelling of glorious wood-chip smoke.

i am only beginning to understand how bizarre my dreams may be tonite if i dont digest enough before passing out...

Wednesday, January 9

one good thing about texas, besides the weather...

i am sorely tempted to continue writing about the weather here. every day brings some new form of pleasant sunniness or windiness or humidity or gorgeous sunset... this may be due to the fact that i have been sludging through the midwest highs and lows for so many years that anything to the contrary is eye-opening. it could also be possible that i'm trapped indoors chatting for dear life with any and all attendees, and that a breath of fresh air is, quite literally, a breath of fresh air. but, i'm going to branch out here for another good thing about texas.

wednesday was the end of confrence 1 and the start of 30 hours of freedom. i napped, worked, worked out and chatted with the sis. then i cabbed it into the city and meandered around the alamo. it's a nice historical point of interest that documents the spot of mass suicide and the end of davy crockett... but it also marks the spot where the americans of mid-1800's decided to stop taking spanish crap from mexico. in my head i thought this would be more of a spot of honor and over-glorification than a sanctuary for a historical truth. but, i'm happy to report, my head was wrong. yes the site was in memoriam to all that died for the cause of freedom, but the whole story was mapped across the entire place - these soldiers would rather have died for their cause than surrender.

i do have a hard time with this concept. for one, i'm a fighter in that if i believe in something, i'll support it til it's no longer there for me to support (and then i'll treasure it's memory)... but i also dont understand literally fighting for that belief. so i kept that in mind as i wandered both sides of the riverwalk.

its a beautiful place - almost european with it's arching walk-ways and old buildings that butt right up to the water's edge. there are numerous places to stop and grab a bite to eat along the way, where you sit outside and peer (up or down, depending on what level you're on) through the palms and live oak leaves and watch as the other tourists do the same as you... it appears to me, from this limited viewpoint, that this is a city for visitors.

later on in the evening, i find that this is partly true. san antonio thrives on commerce from visitors. my author (lifelong resident) tells me this over a bottle of malbec. he had me to his house for cocktails and treated me to a fabulous italian supper at a local secret spot. he, his wife, mother-in-law and i must have made quite the expedition (mom-in-law has an adventure of a time traveling with her sleek walker), but the four of us never lacked for conversation and i had some of the most amazing foccacia, pasta and malbec that i've had in a long time.

so it appears, that besides the weather, one good thing about san antonio is that it houses amazingly friendly people who want you have a good time in their adored city. back at the hotel that night, i fell asleep fast and easy - full of good folks and food.

one good thing about texas... on a tuesday

you can get a damn good margarita in texas. of course, i live in chicago, so i can get a damn good margarita on any old day... but for the majority of the country, jose cuervo and uber-sweet lime juice is the norm.

last night i went out on a whim on the shuttle that went into the city. it was too dark to really explore the riverwalk (leave that for wednesday), but i did enjoy a few margaritas with some instructors attending the confrence. i chose the "ultimate" as i'm wont to do: sauza with cointreau and grand mariner. salt, on the rocks, please. a couple hours later, a couple drinks later, and i headed back to the hotel tipsy and sated. i didnt realize how tired i was until i set foot in my room. sugar or no sugar, i passed out pretty darn quick.

cheers to free margs on a tuesday in san antonio!

Monday, January 7

one good thing about texas... encore

i end day two in san antonio exhausted, hungry and weary - but i did find another good thing about texas.

today i had to give an elevator pitch for our booth. i was not happy about this prospect two weeks ago, when it appeared on my agenda. i was even less happy about it when my boss started concocting a song about mgh that went along to the song "i'm a little teapot" (and yes, she wanted me to enact said song). however, my final pitch was a 30 second sorta clever, sorta prosaic, safe bet. and no, i did not die of embarrassment nor did i flub up my lines. it did, however, create undue stress and prompted me to soak in the outdoor whirlpool at the end of the day.

sitting in the whirlpool i tried to read my latest book club book (it kept getting wet) and i tried to meditate (which is really hard when you're starving) and finally, i just sat there soaking up the hot water and enjoying the breeze. i kept catching whiffs of something that smelled really good. i could tell that it was something in the natural air - not chemical or food or man-made in any way. which brings me to day two's good thing about texas: it smells really great in san antonio.

sort of a mixture of herbs - possibly sage and/or thyme - dirt and wind. i know, wind doesnt have a smell, but the current breeze is coming off of the gulf of mexico. it's very humid air, hangs heavy and can either chill you to the bone in cooler temps or bring a pleasant texture to the already sweet breeze. so there i sat, at peace for the moment.

after the bubble timer went off, it was time to head back to my room and order cheesy food and a bottle of wine. ahhhhhh.... cheers to a day well spent...

Sunday, January 6

one good thing about texas...

for the next seven days, you'll find me in the lone star state. i'm here to hock our latest wares and "enjoy my time" here. "time" is really the relevant word. i'm required to sit at my booth for hours a day, and also required to perform the usual day-to-day tasks (sans desk), so finding extra time is a bit of a squeeze. we'll see what i can get...

i've never had a hankering to visit texas. perhaps i'd go to austin for the film festival or music festival, but otherwise, i dont have a draw. since plane ticket and accommodations seem to have been thrust upon me, i may as well keep my eyes open for things of note. who knows when i'll be back again?

so, my first installation of "one good thing about texas..." is shiner bock beer. one of my many favorite things about traveling is tasting the local brews. wisconsin has spotted cow (ha - not what you thought i'd say, but it's by far the superior choice), pennsylvania has yuengling, and texas has shiner.

my first taste of shiner was a few months ago at one of the wine store's block parties. we had a full keg of the stuff, and after the event was over, had at least half of a keg of the stuff... and so, i enjoyed myself a lot of shiner bock. it's an amber beer, but lacks the metallic taste of red beers. its smooth and light, but full of taste. not too hoppy (not my favorite characteristic in beer) and definitely drinkable in mass quantities. and here i sit, in the brew's home turf. it's everywhere! say g'bye to calorie counting (and to miller lite - bleh) cuz that's my brew of choice for all events while in the lone star state.

so there you have it. i found one good thing about texas. knock on wood i'll have 7 more in the coming days...

Thursday, January 3

well, i just took at look at my postings from last january. even though i was over-stressed, i still found the time to post interesting and witty entries from time to time. i even put together a rather extensive overview of 2006. it made me hang my head and purse my lips: i've become a bad blogger.

in 2007, facebook emerged as the main source of connection between my friends, loved ones and co-workers. despite being harangued on a daily basis, i still do not have a facebook account. nor myspace. my defense was always "but i have a blog! if you want to see what i'm up to, just google me!" that worked well a few months ago... but now, oy... i'm a total slacker.

BUT there are many other things that i did and did not do in 2007 that are, in my opinion, pretty interesting.

did not:
  1. buy my own car (it fell into my lap, and i'm very very grateful for it)
  2. find my name in the phone book (and it'll stay that way if i can help it!)
  3. lose that extra 5 lbs
  4. have a hangover on january 1
  5. find my own apartment (yet)
  6. encourage my sister to keep the kitten (but she did anyway...)
  7. buy a new cell phone
  8. save as much moolah as i wished
  9. have second helpings at thanksgiving (except pirogies - but those dont count)
  10. continued to work at the wine store despite hectic scheduling

  1. paid off my credit card!
  2. read 31 books
  3. worked out regularly and indulged in yoga
  4. overworked myself
  5. cried more than usual - but in very healthy ways
  6. read the actual, physical newspaper cover-to-cover at least once a week for about 4 months (and going)
  7. cut down on nasty habits (just found out that grandma & grandpa read my blog so i'm now forever forbidden to indulge my readers upon said habits. thanks mom. sigh.)
  8. go sledding in the fishbowl
  9. get promoted
  10. purchase an adult wardrobe
i've also had quite a few indulgences over the last 5 months:
  1. regular yoga (up to 2 times per week!)
  2. regular work outs in an actual gym (thank you mom!)
  3. monthly massages
  4. mac & cheese w/ hot dogs (twice!!)
  5. made a batch of pirogies w/ gramma (hard work can be 100% rewarding)
  6. treated myself to time off, just because
  7. slept 9 hours a night for a solid week
  8. visited san diego for a purely pleasurable trip to see family
  9. drank amazing wine and sparkling wine - binny's tasting, a.t.o.v and temecula
  10. read books for pure pleasure
#10 may seem a bit... non-indulgent. but in my defense, i'm in two book clubs now. that means i have two books each month to read that are most likely not my choice. that said, what i did read in december was wonderfully indulgent!

book club #1 - no country for old men by cormac mccarthy
little has been said on our book club blog about this book b/c only two of us read it. i picked this one up b/c book club #2 read yiddish policemen's union, which was book club #1's pick a few months ago. i needed to do SOMETHING with my time...

ncfom is about a bag of money. many million dollars of money. moss finds it in a truck in the middle of the texas desert, bloodied and covered in coke - the only survivor of a drug exchange gone wrong (the bag, not moss). moss takes the money and brings it home. bounty hunter chigurh comes looking for the money. sheriff bell comes hunting for both men.

ok, it's really not about a bag of money. but the bag is the motivational force between these characters and their actions/reactions. each man is calculated and methodical, each comes from a different generation. each play with the notion of "chance" or, "free-will."

there are quite a few graphic scenes in this book, and therefore, i'm reluctant to see the movie. i hear it's fabulous, and very close to the book's plot. but the cold-blooded calculated chigurh freaked the bejebus out of me, and the desperation of moss and his wife clung to my heart a little too much. that may make me sensitive, but it does reveal that this is a powerful book. i definitely recommend it.

indulgence book #1 - you suck by christopher moore
the sequal to bloodsucking fiends, after only 20 years!!! well... more like one decade... but it's well worth the wait. moore's witticisms and sharp tongued characters are endearing as ever. tommy wakes up to find that jody has turned him into a vampire and the two newly dead have to figure out how to live together, in the night, with a hunger for blood in sunny san francisco.

moore always has a few characters from other novels that pop up in various stories. this is no exception - a few folks from a dirty job play their rolls nicely. i always recommend moore's books to those with an open, yet dirty mind... highly enjoyable fodder!

indulgence book #2 - the golden compass by philip pullman
after reading four pages of this book i realized that i had, years ago, started this series out of sheer boredom. i became completely engrossed in the book and promptly started searching for it in bookstores everywhere. could not find the fucker anywhere. lo and behold, here it is today - a shiny new movie starring nicole kidman.

immediately the recognized treasure became my heart's desire. i tore through this novel with voracious speed. b/c i have not read the next two books in the series i will not talk about the "plot of atheism" that religious groups everywhere are frowning upon. it does have negative opinions of organized religion, but in this first book, we're simply treated to getting to know our heroine, lyra.

lyra is a spunky girl who apparently has quite a future in store for her. in epic style, we follow lyra through many self realizations that lead her into many sticky situations. i fell in love with lyra - she's exactly the type of little girl i always wanted to be when i was a kid. adventuresome, intuitive, friendly and tenacious... plus, i'd love to have my own little daemon running beside me at all times.

anyway, yes, i recommend this series. and here i sit, with baited breath, awaiting the library to call with a hold for the 2nd book.

indulgence book #3 - bridget jones' diary by helen fielding
yes, i've listened to this audiobook every year in december since i bought it in 2003. is there anything wrong with that? do you care to argue with me? no? good.

and so... i guess this will conclude my uber-long entry for post-2007 wrap up... no resolutions for me, but i do hope that i am able to post more entries in the future. cheers to all!