Thursday, January 31, 2008

Quiet today

I am listening to: As I'm Leaving - David Gray
I am reading: Water for Elephants (Fabulous - thanks Judy!)
And I am: Quiet

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Sunday visit

“Hey buddy,” says Steve on the other end of the phone.

“HEY, how are you?” I say, so glad to hear his unmistakably friendly voice because I know what it means when he calls like this on a Sunday.

“We’ve had a busy weekend but we wanna come over and chill for a bit, sound good?”

“YES. Please. Come over NOW.”
The good news: You Swiffer’d the floor earlier. And showered.

Either of these accomplishments are iffy at best most weekends, so the fact that you managed to clean the floor and yourself on a Sunday is worth notifying the Vatican of this Minor Domestic Miracle.

You never bothered with make up, however, and you’re fairly certain you were wearing the same fashionable ensemble (jeans, Cubs hat, long-sleeved t-shirt, fleece vest) the last time they visited, but what the hell.

You check the first floor toilet for ass shrapnel. Thankfully the porcelain gods are smiling (perhaps because it is Sunday) and the bowl is clear. You give the whole thing a quick once over with a disinfecting wipe and it’s good to go, so to speak.

You gather up the half-dozen dog toys strewn about in a random yet obviously purposeful pattern by Gromit, Genius Dog.

You light a few candles to make the cold white kitchen a little cozier. You spray some air freshener.

Beer status in the fridge? Check. Snack status in the cupboard? Good.


Ready for the Sunday visit.
They make you smile every time you see them.

They make you feel like what’s going on in your life is important.

You listen. You laugh. They listen. They laugh.

You share the stories that you just can’t share with anyone else.

This time together is rare and precious because it doesn’t happen too often with all the working and living you do.

It makes you feel closer to everything that's really important in life.

More than any church. Better than any religion.

It's the Sunday visit. And it's a blessing.
I am listening to: The World Exploded Into Love – Bob Schneider
I am reading: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
And I am: Connected

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The unforgivable phone peeve

That irritating, unmistakable sound starts low and gets louder: Doodledee doodleDEE DOODLEDEE.



In a funeral home.

Two different people. Three calls.

Three times, in the quiet, somber minutes right before the multi-department firefighter walk through.

We’re human. We make mistakes. Forgetting to turn your phone to vibrate for funerals and movies and weddings is not an offense punishable by death.


But three times? C’mon people.

The first time your phone rings, you quickly switch it to vibrate or better still, off. Then you look around with that embarrassed, I’m-a-Pathetic-Idiot look on your face.

Hearing someone else make the unforgivable phone mistake typically prompts others in the vicinity to check their phones, ensuring we’re all in silent mode.

See? If we all work together, there should be no reason for three times in less than five minutes.

It's about respect. Consideration for others. Common fucking decency, people.
Lucky for them, these chuckleheads were hidden in the crowd.

Lucky for me, too, because beating someone to death with their Blackberry would’ve been somewhat disrespectful.

On the other hand, we’re in a funeral home surrounded by literally hundreds of firefighters and police officers grieving the loss of their fallen brother.

I’m guessing this particular crowd would understand.

And look the other way while the first ever Murder by Mobile Phone victim bleeds quietly in the corner.
I am listening to: Kid Rock – Rock n Roll Jesus (album)
I am reading: Nothing – Finished Follett’s WWE (amazing)
And I am: Still disgusted

Monday, January 28, 2008

The state of our union suit

3,940 dead (and counting) from a war based on a lie.

Oil is $91 a barrel.

And a world teetering on the brink of recession because of our housing crisis.

But hey, somebody's clapping. So he must be saying something worthwhile.

Meanwhile I'm upstairs sorting socks and underwear.

I figured it wasn't fair to criticize Bush's State of the Union address if the state of MY union wasn't in order first.

So I straightened up the house.

Infinitely more gratifying than listening to the Liar in Chief tell us the State of the Union is good, when we know goddamn well it isn't.
I am listening to: The talking heads, telling us what we're going to hear, what we're hearing and what we heard
I am reading: WWE by Ken Follett
And I am: A disgusted American

Phone peeves

Stricken with a rare flash of brilliance, I am compelled to call a co-worker and share the news.


“Hey, what’s up, I figured out the solution to your CRM problem and…”

“Could I call you back?" he interrupts. "I’m in the middle of something.”

Then WHY did you ANSWER the PHONE, ya silly little FUCK-NUT?
You’re in the middle of ‘something’.

Which means you’re taking a colossal dump or getting a hand job from Britney Spears or perhaps both, given that mangy twat's merry state of insanity.

The phone rings. And you answer it. Why?

This is number one on my list of phone peeves: People who answer the phone only to tell you they can’t talk to you.
There’s something perversely Pavlovian about a ringing phone.

If it rings we must answer. Like sad lonely dogs hungry for attention.

We’re conditioned to respond to ringing phones and doorbells as if what we’re doing with our lives is trivial and meaningless until someone, ANYONE requires our attention.

I believe this with all my heart: Caller ID is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. With apologies to Ben Franklin, yet again.
I only answer the phone if I really feel like talking. To you.

And I would never answer the phone if I happen to be in the middle of ‘something’, which in my case is usually a colossal dump.

So naturally, I (wrongly) assume that everyone on the planet thinks the same way and if someone I know takes my call there might be a slight willingness to, I don’t know, TALK for a few minutes.
Occasionally I have to call people I don’t know for work. Lately it’s been to introduce myself to journalists who cover the trading software industry.

“Hi, this is Heather S______ from T_____, do you have a few minutes to talk about blah blah de blah blah?”

It’s a courtesy.

Nothing’s worse than a sales rep or some other ass-headed schmo who calls you and launches into a long-winded pitch without asking if you’re in the middle of ‘something’ or not.
There’s another version of this peeve that is equally, well, peeving:

“Hi, what’s up?”

“Hey, how are you?”

“Good, you called?”

“Yes, how are you?”

“Why did you call?”

“Just to talk.”

“Well I can’t talk right now, can I call you back?”

Then WHY the FUCK did you . . .oh never mind.
I am listening to: Sugar Ray – Answer the Phone
I am reading: WWE by Ken Follett
And I am: Peeved

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Death by dilation

"Is it supposed to be so blurry?" I ask my eye doctor this morning after popping in a fresh pair of contacts he provided.

"Yes, it'll be that way a while longer until your pupils go back to normal."

"Is it a good idea for me to drive like this?"

"You should be okay. Wear your sunglasses. That'll help."

First of all, I despise that ridiculous pupil dilation thing.

You lose an entire day waiting for your peepers to recuperate from a test for old people.

No matter how much they nag, I will not succumb to the pupil death test again until I am actually old. In five years.
Also, the receptionist at my eye doctor's office has a serious disability.

She always says the wrong thing. It's like she's having a conversation with you from a parallel universe.


"Your husband isn't here yet."

Jim has an appointment an hour after mine at 10:30. I'm guessing it's around 10:10 a.m.

"I'm sure he'll be here soon," I say, avoiding eye contact mostly because I'm BLIND from the fucking pupil test.

"We'll keep your secret safe."

Heh? What secret? Where am I? And why can't I SEE?
I drove home. Blind. Dangerously blind.

It's a goddamn good thing I know the route by heart and there were no random pedestrians on the shoulder. I think.

Feeling my way into the house, I promptly removed the lenses, thinking my eyes just needed to 'rest' a bit.
What is it about doctors that makes us trust them over our own instinct? Or in my case, my own eyes?

I knew something was wrong. But the doctor said I'd be okay driving.

So I drove.
Growing up, did your parents 'rest their eyes'?

"Are you sleeping?" I'd ask, catching Mom or Da snoozing on the couch.

"No, I'm just resting my eyes."

And that little bit of drool dripping down to your collar? Are you resting your mouth, too?
Anyhoo. After a few hours, I pop in the new contacts. Again.

Instantly blinded. Again.

It was the wrong prescription. The contacts were Jim's.
I am listening to: KT Tunstall - Suddenly I See
I am reading: WWE by Ken Follett
And I am: Having trust issues

Friday, January 25, 2008


“Did I tell you what SpareSomeChange lady did to me yesterday?”

“No,” says co-worker Josh, walking with me to Union Station last night.

“I walked by, she looked up at me and yelled ‘I HOPE you SLIPONTHEICE FALLINTHERIVER and DIE!’”

“She’s obviously nuts.”
Remember her? The homeless pretard who sits on the bridge and hollers:


She cursed me yesterday. And I have no clue why.
It was shocking.

So shocking that the people crowded around me looked over with a mixture of confusion and sympathy. One woman just shook her head and smiled.

Part of me wanted to go back to SpareSomeChange Lady, get right up in her ugly little wind-burned face and say What the Fuck.

Part of me really needed to be on the 5:04 train.

Do I call the cops? Is it harassment? An unprovoked verbal threat?

We know she has a cell phone.

Oh. My. God.

She's on the Internet. She did a search on "Crazy-Ass SpareSomeChange Bridge Lady" and found the blog.

By the time I got to the train I was in what is medically described as a Full Fucking Freak Out.
Okay, I’m pretty sure I was scowling.

But this is my standard issue Get Outta My Way I’m Walking to the Train face, made considerably worse by the fact that it was Freeze Yer Nips Off cold out.

Every tired commuter has this face. Trust me.

And SpareSomeChange Lady sees it every day. On practically every face.
pretard n
1. someone who pretends to be retarded for financial gain or to avoid punishment

HedyBlog® World English Dictionary © 2008 HedyBlog Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for HedyBlog by Hedy Publishing Plc.
“Plus, I was nice to her once,” I remember as we approach the Jackson Street bridge. “I gave her five bucks at Christmas.”

“Well that explains the cell phone, moneybags,” says Josh.
Finally figured it out this morning.

I did it again. I reached into my pocket and faked her out again.

It was certainly not on purpose – totally subconscious.

I left the office in a hurry on Wednesday to make a chiropractor appointment. Halfway to the train station I panicked, thinking I’d left my security badge and keys behind.

Just as I was approaching SpareSomeChange lady’s spot on the bridge, I reached in my pocket.

Remember, she maintains this entirely affected ‘I’m a Helpless Idiot’ stare and only looks up if you make a move like you’re gonna give her something. That’s the only reason why she looked up. And then cursed me like the crazy-ass bitch she is.

Part of me wants to apologize and explain what happened next time I see her.

And part of me wants to reach into my fucking pocket every fucking time I see her for the rest of my ever-fucking life.
I am listening to: Bob Dylan – Things Have Changed
I am reading: World Without End by Ken Follett
And I am: Ready

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mentally mugged

Somebody’s gonna steal your bag. You need to hold on tight. Keep the wallet/keys/phone in the coat. Back up the Mac. Somebody’s gonna steal your bag.

These are the odd thoughts that have been crowding my gourd for the past two weeks. In fact, it’s all I’m thinking during the walks to and from the train stations in Aurora and Chicago.

There’s no rational explanation.

I haven’t heard or read stories of anyone being mugged at either end of my commute.
Of course there’s a rational explanation for it.

Two weeks ago I switched to my other computer bag, the one with the two short handles and no shoulder strap. I was tired of the way the backpack looked and felt and the other bag is lighter and easier to manage.

It’s also lighter and easier for someone to grab, if they were so inclined.
Last night a huge cop was stationed in the vestibule at the Jackson Street entrance to Union Station.

We're talking Huge. A Wall of Blue Beef.

He was yelling, “Watch your bags, ladies!” at the commuters rushing by.

This morning I switched back to the backpack.
The fact is, my irrational fear of being mugged had nothing to do with that beefy cop telling us to watch out. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed him if I hadn’t a) switched bags and b) been paranoid about losing it ever since.

Our minds tend to see only the things that reinforce our thoughts and beliefs.
I am listening to: Flo Rida - Low
I am reading: World Without End – Ken Follett
And I am: Safe

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pathetic vs. cool

I can’t decide if this is pathetic or cool: The last three new songs I’ve bought on iTunes have come from TV commercials.

First it was an ad for Target or JC Penney or Kohls around Christmas: All That I Want by The Weepies. A pretty, catchy, melancholy tune.

Then it was that Toyota Sequoia ad featuring Pete Droge’s Going Whichever Way the Wind Blows. Droge is the poor man’s Simon & Garfunkel.

Last night it was New Soul by Yael Naim, from Apple’s cool new MacAir thing. That song is like the frosting on a birthday cake made by your best friend.

The Weepies tune is the best of the lot.

But they’re all that kinda cool soothing music that always seems to be playing in the background everywhere you go.
It’s easy enough to find these songs.

Just catch a few words from the lyrics, send your request to the Googly-Eyed Internet Gods and voila: That One Song from the Truck Commercial on the Beach with Stars.
If you're like me, most of your new music just doesn’t come from the radio anymore.


I did download Flo Rida’s Low (a fabulous ass-shaker of a song) after a particularly funky Chicago cab ride last Friday. But that was the first one in a long, long time.

Most of my new tunes come from friends – Nelson recently introduced me to Josh Kelley and The Dilf forwarded excellent new Foo (The Pretender).

Where do you find new music?
Remember when we used to get pissed off if our favorite songs were used in commercials?

It must’ve been Kodak that stole Pictures of You by The Cure to hawk its digital photo printer. That was a heartbreaking, horrifying day lemme tell ya.

Then it was Lynrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama helping sell Kentucky Fried Chicken, for the love of Christ and Colonel Sanders.

Of course Led Zeppelin for Cadillac was undeniably the lowest.


What's more pathetic than the coolest rock band of all time selling out?
I am listening to: Matchbox Twenty – How Far We’ve Come
I am reading: World Without End by Ken Follett
And I am: Undecided

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hormonal snack attack

"I am in no way a violent person."

That's Amanda Monti.

She ripped off her ex-boyfriend's left testicle with her bare hands and tried swallowing it.

Okay, not violent.

Just hormonal. And really really hungry.
I am listening to: David Allan Coe - The Rodeo Song
I am reading: World Without End by Ken Follett (It didn't seem possible but this book is as good, if not better than Pillars)
And I am: Not hungry

Monday, January 21, 2008

It's black and white

"I think it is clear that what we need is somebody who can deliver change. And we don't need to be raising the false hopes of our country about what can be delivered." - Hillary Clinton
"Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’" - Martin Luther King, Jr.
The only blog that’s offered up a somewhat cogent defense of Clinton’s now infamous MLK statement is from Josh Marshall at the Talking Points Memo.

Marshall says: "It's an ambiguous statement. But her reference is to different presidents -- Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, one of whom inspired but did relatively little legislatively and Johnson who did a lot legislatively, though he was rather less than inspiring. Quite apart from the merits of Obama and Clinton, it's not a bad point about Kennedy and LBJ."

It's not a bad point. I suppose.

But JFK was only president from 1961 to 1963. I gotta believe that if he hadn't been assassinated after just two years in office, he might have had the opportunity to do a little more, legislatively speaking.

Same with Martin Luther King. He was just 39 years old when he was killed. Who knows what he could've done, had he lived.

Who knows? He could've been elected our first black president in 1992 instead of Bill Clinton.
Back to the point.

Hillary wasn't asked to compare and contrast two presidents. No. When she made her statement on MLK, it was in response to this excerpt from a speech by Barack Obama:

"False Hopes. Dr King standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial looking out over the magnificent crowd, the reflecting pool, the Washington Monument, sorry guys, false hopes, the dream will die, it can't be done, false hope, we don't need leaders who tell us what we can't do, we need leaders to tell us what we can do and inspire us."

Here's what she said:

"I would point to the fact that Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when he was able to get through Congress something that President Kennedy was hopeful to do, the President before had not even tried, but it took a president to get it done. That dream became a reality, the power of that dream became real in people's lives because we had a president who said we are going to do it, and actually got it accomplished." (full, unedited quote)

Like the New York Times and others, I can’t help but focus in on the “it took a president to get it done” part of that statement.

What are you saying Hillary?

It took a white president to get it done? That we should rely on black folks like Obama for the impassioned speeches but when it comes to doing the real spade work, it takes a hard-working, white, electable candidate to get it done?

It's pretty clear what she meant. In fact, it's black and white.
I am listening to: 14 new songs from Nelson
I am reading: World Without End by Ken Follett
And I am: Chilled out

Friday, January 18, 2008

Good, cheap fun

The message began: "Hello my Family and Friends..."

And it contained an intriguing request from my cousin Jamie:

I want to compile a quick set of things to do when I want to spend money, but shouldn't spend money. Take a brief moment to shoot out an idea of something free or very cheap (under $5) of things to do. Please help me ... my spending has gotten out of control and I am trying to remind myself that I don't need to spend money to have fun.
I love challenges like this: Be creative within certain parameters.

Here's what I sent back:
  • Walk through a cemetery and read the headstones. The older the cemetery, the more fascinating it can be
  • Give your cat or dog a massage
  • Read your cousin's blog: HedyBlog (sorry, had to do it)
  • If you live in Chicago you can visit the Garfield Park Conservatory; it's especially delightful in the middle of winter. Free admission.
  • Make a mix CD for someone you love from your music library
  • Write a letter to the editor of the local paper to educate people on a topic you care about
  • Make a list of every person you've slept with, then burn it.
  • Attend a service/mass/whatever at a church or synagogue or other place of worship. I go to Old St. Pat's just west of the Loop in Chicago occasionally, it's very peaceful. I'm not religious at all but it helps me understand the folks who are a little better.
  • Flip through a dictionary
  • Update your resume. Not fun so much, but time well spent.
  • Go out and get your favorite candy from when you were a kid. Think about the first time you had it. Smile. For me it was Whoppers.
  • Bounce a ball against a wall until someone complains
  • Climb a tree
  • Get picture postcards from your town. Write "Wish you were here" on them. Send them out to all your friends, near and far.
  • Look up an old high school teacher or coach or college professor and send them a thank you note for making a difference in your life.
That's all I have. Any more ideas for good, cheap fun?
I am listening to: Fergie - Clumsy
I am reading: World Without End - Ken Follett (keeps getting better every day)
And I am: Good, cheap fun

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Christmas Snail

There’s just no good way to say this, so here goes: Jim and I received a large blue glass snail vase for Christmas from a relative who shall remain nameless.


Large. Blue. Glass. Snail. Vase.

It’s supposed to be art. Made by a seriously misguided glass blower from Michigan.

Join me out on a limb for a moment here: Can we agree that snails are, by and large, not attractive creatures?

Let’s scoot out just a smidge more and state that any form of snail-based art would therefore not be attractive, either. Right?

So a vase. Shaped like a snail. Made out of blue glass. Is not good.


If Dr. Seuss had a dildo, it would look just like this.
The thing sat in its box for a week before I put it on the kitchen counter in hopes we might gain some shallow appreciation for this eclectic piece of invertebrate art.

Not so much.

Somehow the snail vase made his way upstairs to my side of the bathroom with several tampons artfully arranged in it.

I left him there, afraid of where he might go next.

The next day the tampons were gone and that silly little snail was holding my toothbrush.
His, Hedy? He? Him?

Yep. There’s no way something shaped like that could be female.
Okay, so this is how it’s going to be, I thought, tucking the snail neatly into Jim’s underwear drawer.

The damn thing was back downstairs peeking outta my computer bag the next morning.

So then the snail visited Jim’s new Christmas coffee maker.

“Where is it?” he asked, after the thing had gone missing for nearly three days.

“I don’t know but I do know that I’m returning at least one of your Christmas gifts.”

If Dr. Seuss had a bong (and I suspect he did), it would look just like this.
It's been going on for two weeks. For a snail, this ugly little dude sure gets around.

Yesterday, inspiration hit. Before leaving for work, I snuck the snail into Jim’s car, sitting him squarely on the console.

On the train a half hour later, my phone vibrates with a rare, early morning text from Jim:

“Mollusk scared the crap out of me.”

You know I normally relish that rare ride alone into the city. But yesterday it did me no good.

As I sat. Laughing maniacally. For the entire 50-minute trip to the city.
I am listening to: Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne
I am reading: World Without End by Ken Follett (unbelievably good)
And I am: Waiting for the Return of the Mollusk

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Alone trips

"So Hedy, tell us. Does Jim get to take trips with some chick friend of his?"

In theory, he could.

If he'd known the chick since the third grade. If they'd grown up in the same neighborhood. If they were best friends. If their Moms were best friends, too. And if said chick was just like a sister to him, only better – without all the ridiculous familial obligations and bullshit baggage that seem to go along with certain relatives.

Plus, she'd have to be butt-ugly.

Wait. Scratch that last part. Anyhoo.

Nelson is my oldest and dearest friend.

No matter where in the world he's living at the moment, he always comes to visit us in Chicago at least once during the summer.

Everyone who meets him, loves him. Everyone.
As soon as I left college and started working full time, I made a point to take a trip by myself once a year.

Well, technically, these vacations weren’t entirely alone because I’d always find a way to work in a few days visiting friends. Kyle on Nantucket. Lisa in Florida. Ann in San Diego.

And Nelson, wherever he happened to be.

These Alone Trips, as they came to be called, carried over into my married life. They help me recharge. They remind me who I was Before.

Before becoming a grownup. Before being responsible. Before getting married.

Too many people lose who they really are by trying to be what they think others need. I try to be what others really need by always remembering who I am.
I am listening to: KT Tunstall – Other Side of the World
I am reading: World Without End by Follett
And I am: Needing a beach

Monday, January 14, 2008

Wishing it away

"You know we have Martin Luther King day off, right?" says our office manager.

Nope. Didn't know that. Now I can't think about much else.

The holidays were rather craptastic this year because, for the first time since I worked at McDonald's in high school, I worked both Christmas and New Year's Eve. It sucked.

But MLK day, that's a treat. Never had that off before. So I woke up this morning thinking about how I'll be sleeping in next Monday.

In fact, all I'm thinking about is next weekend. And it's keeping me from being right here, right now.
I am not prone to wishing my life away because quite frankly life is pretty goddamn good most of the time.
But it seems to be happening a lot lately.
The first week in January I was constantly wishing to be in St. Martin with my friend Nelson. We were there in 2005, but I missed the trip in 2006 because of the damn fuck shit hell hurty back thing. And we planned on going back this year, but then the unexpected job change changed all that.
All week long I was thinking about being there, so I wasn't completely here.
A variation on this theme (and this drives me crazy) is tourists who are so busy recording everything on video cameras or camera phones that they never really fully experience the really great time they're having.
It's as if they're obsessed with recording the moment forever - for other people. Kills me.
Do you ever do that? Wish you were somewhere else and miss the moment? Or miss the moment because you're busy trying to record it for someone else to enjoy?
I am listening to: Traffic on Jackson
I am reading: World Without End - Ken Follett
And I am: Trying to be here now

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Warning, kiddies

This is what happens when you drink too much New Year's Eve and try to use Hershey's syrup to decorate your miniature snowman.

"Why didn't you just use Gromit's food?" asks Mom the next day.

That would've been way too easy.
I am listening to: Outer Limits
I am reading: World Without End by Ken Follett
And I am: Challenged

Friday, January 11, 2008

More than Pillars

You've probably noticed I’ve been reading Pillars of the Earth for a couple weeks now. I’m not a slow reader, it’s just a huuuuggge book.

And no, it’s not because of Oprah, a woman who recommends classic books as if she’s the first person on the planet to discover them, almost as if she’s written them herself.

I read Pillars for the first time 15 years ago. I’ve re-visited it two or three times since then; it’s one of those rare books that you actually can read again and again. It’s that good.
“It’s a book about church builders.”

That’s our friend Chris. I made the mistake of recommending Pillars to him after finishing it for the first time. He abandoned it, from what I can recall, somewhere in the middle and has given me a hard time about it ever since.

Of course he’s a book-pussy who prefers James Patterson pabulum on plane rides and quite frankly, Pillars is simply too good for him. (That was me, throwing down the gauntlet in an attempt to get him to give it one more try.)

Sure, it’s a book about church builders.

But it’s a story – an amazing, frustrating, wonderful story with some of the most vivid, memorable characters ever written. Set in twelfth-century England, Pillars is an epic novel that completely immerses you in a very special time and place in history: when average, yet resourceful citizens were inventing new methods of commerce, new manufacturing processes, and of course, newer and more amazing forms of architecture.

Please read this book. You will love it.
I’m revisiting Pillars now because the author Ken Follett finally, finally published a sequel. It’s called World Without End. Santa brought it to me. I just can't wait to dive in.

There are just 30 pages to go in Pillars and then it's on to the new one. Today I planned ahead, carrying more than 6 lbs. of books (nearly 2000 pages) with me to work in anticipation of the train ride home.

Start with Pillars, then read World. You won't regret it.
I am listening to: Heather Nova – Walk This World
I am reading: Pillars
And I am: Ready

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Change, sparingly

“You’re not gonna believe this,” says co-worker Josh yesterday morning.

“SpareSomeChange lady was chatting on a cell phone last night.”

There’s a homeless woman who sits in the middle of the Jackson Street Bridge for the afternoon rush.

Her face is severely wind burned from years of living outside. She sports a somewhat affected blank stare as she yells to commuters heading for the train station:


The yell never varies. And there’s a unique cadence to it (okay honestly, it sounds semi-retarded but anyhoo) that carries for blocks. She says it every 30 seconds so if the wind is right you can hear it a good five or six times before making it into the merciful mayhem of Union Station.



“Where does the bill get sent?” I ask. “Care of homeless lady at Jackson on the river?”

“Maybe it’s a phone with pre-paid minutes.”

There were more questions.

Was she really chatting or was it an emergency? Did she need fresh socks and a weather report or was she bleeding? Nope. Nope.

I’ve written about this before. Remember the homeless dude with the shiny new headphones?

It’s all about marketing.

If you’re gonna beg for money, at least try to look like you need it.
Even though it is against my policy, I gave her some money at Christmas. I have no idea why, except that she was there as always and I happened to have $5 in my right coat pocket.

Actually it was my left pocket.

But I reached into the right one and SpareSomeChange lady swung into action: She perked right up and looked me in the eye, ready to (I thought) thank me.

Oops. Wrong pocket.

I kept walking, trying to find the five and she slumped back down.

I had a quick thought to keep walking but knew it would be cruel, so I went back and dropped the crinkled up bill into her grubby Styrofoam cup.

She didn’t thank me. And I was okay with that, having pulled the pocket psyche thing on her.
“Here’s a thought,” I tell Josh later. “Someone who really loves her pays for the phone so that they can check in on her. To hear her voice and know she’s okay.”

That’s what I’m going with.

We can choose to believe the worst or the best about people. This time I'm sure the answer is sitting somewhere in the middle.
I am listening to: INXS – Don’t Change
I am reading: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
And I am: Thirsty

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Driver 8

She's going to be here today I know it, he thinks.

Gotta be. Here today.

He can't remember exactly when he started seeing her on the train. His train. The 5:04. It was October, maybe later.

He stands outside the gate watching the crush of commuters rush by. He passes time talking with other folks working at the station.

One day she just appeared, smiling at him as if she'd been taking his train home for years and years.

My train, he thinks. She's on my train. Maybe today.

He checks his watch. It's 4:45. He knows it's too early for her, the girl with the light blue jacket and dark eyes. She usually comes down the escalator with just five minutes to spare.

He knows she likes it up top in the single seats. She does not like sitting too close to strangers.

Yet she smiles at him like she'd give him the world if he only bothered to ask.

It's 4:54. Let it be my train today, he thinks.

The few seconds it takes for her to pass are precious. Lately it's been 'Hello' instead of shared smiles.

She used to have monthly passes. She flashed the ticket, a smiling glance up from her book. Occasionally a quiet Thank You.

But lately she's switched to 10-rides. So like the smile-graduated-to-hello outside the gate, their interaction on the train is escalating.

He takes her ticket (always from her left hand, no ring, there's no ring, he thinks, hoping.) Punch once, hand it back. Hello again to her. Hello. Thank you. A flash of her promising smile. Again.

Okay, he thinks. A small sigh. It's 4:58. Maybe not today after all.


There she is. Rushing. Not smiling. That quick look over. The smile that could save him.

Today, he thinks. My train. She's on my train.

She hurries by, thinking. Always thinking.

And singing softly to herself: 'Take a break Driver 8, Driver 8 take a break, we've been on this shift too long.'

He can't hear it.

My train, he thinks. She's on my train today.
I am listening to: R.E.M. - Driver 8
I am reading: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
And I am: Always thinking

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Obama: Patriot’s Choice

“Did you hear Doug likes Obama?” says co-worker Josh yesterday afternoon.

“No way.”

Doug is old-school tough. He was a trader in the bond pit at the Chicago Board of Trade for 20 years. He’s all about the bottom line. And he’s a Republican.

“Yes,” Josh continues. “Doug says Obama might not be good for him personally, but he’ll be good for the country.”

That’s right.

Not necessarily what’s good for Doug, but what’s good for the country.

Isn’t that wonderful?

When was the last time you heard someone outside the military say that?

For most of us, voting is personal. I’m a fiscal-conservative, social-liberal, pro-choice, anti-tax Libertarian. And under normal circumstances you could expect me to vote that way because I’m an American, goddammit, and it’s all about what matters to ME.

But wherever you stand on the issues you have to admit this country is seriously broken. Broken by years of reckless corruption in Washington. Broken by traitorous politicians and lobbyists who have used the system and used the American people for nothing -- nothing but financial gain.

You may not agree with everything that he stands for, but you can believe that Obama is standing up to make a difference.

“Right. He says he’s for CHANGE. Every candidate says they’re for CHANGE. What the HELL does that MEAN?” screams Dilf, my friend to the north.

Dilf is right. He's whiny. But he’s right.

Change is ambiguous. Change could be good. Or it could be bad. We just don’t know.

But making a difference? That means something. It means positive change. And I believe Obama is about making a difference.

I don’t agree with him on everything. But I believe he is the best choice for our country right now.
And of course Hillary cried yesterday.

She cried. Campaigning.

Not upon hearing the tragic story of a cancer survivor hoping for healthcare reform. Not after listening to a military mom talk about losing her only son in Iraq.


Hillary cried because all of this campaigning is JUST SO HARD. And she CARES SO MUCH.

She didn't cry for someone else. She cried for herself.

Could you see McCain pulling something like that?

We all know why she did it. She’s got a personality problem.

And wouldn’t you love to know who convinced her that crying on the campaign trail was a good idea?

“Listen, Hill,” he starts.

Somehow I know it was a man. A weak-minded, needs-his-mommy man. No red-blooded American chick in her right mind would recommend something like that.

“People need to connect with you like they have with Obama. You’ve gotta show more of the real you.”

“What do you want me to do? Take a dump on national television?” she replies with a smirk.

“Well, no, but maybe if you cried a little people might think you’re actually human and not the Ice Queen from Planet Crotch.”
“C’mon, Hedy. You don’t know who the hell you want for president.”

Up until yesterday I didn’t.

Because I was thinking too much about what’s best for me and not enough about what’s best for the country.

We need to be inspired. We need to believe in our country again. We need true leadership.

Obama is the patriot’s choice. He is my choice.
I am listening to: The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry
I am reading: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
And I am: Relaxed

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A place called nope

Jim is forcing me to watch American Gladiators tonight.

It's payback for making him sit through nearly four hours of debates last night.

Did you watch?

Edwards and Obama ganged up on Clinton and it was kinda fun seeing her angry little head kersplode all over the stage. This statement was particularly enlightening:

“I think it is clear that what we need is somebody who can deliver change. And we don't need to be raising the false hopes of our country about what can be delivered."

Note to Hillary: If you had maybe just a smidge of personality, you could pull off the whole "I'm a realist with a record" thing. All of us hopeless idiots are responding to Obama because he's offering something other than fear and blame in his campaign. He's giving us something to believe in again.

Wonder what your hubby from a place called Hope feels about all this gloom and doom.
At 8:32 p.m.:

"They should call it American Cameltoe," says Jim.
The McCain/Huckabee attack on Romney was considerably less interesting.

Romney's explanation: "In sports, you always go after the guy holding the ball."

A better analogy would be something related to sharks and blood in the water.

Of course Romney did win the Republican caucus in Wyoming - so that's, what? Three more people solidly in the Mitt camp?
At 9:07 p.m. I realize American Gladiators is still on.

"Jeez, is this thing two hours?" I ask.

"Yep. It's like the debates. Only interesting."
In an interview on tonight's NBC Nightly News, Andrea Mitchell asked Hillary about Obama and the whole Inspirational vs. Experienced thing. Here's what she said:

"When they say to themselves, okay, I have a choice between a truly inspirational speaker who has not done the kind of spade work with the sort of, uh, experience another candidate has…"

Um, Hillary? Spade work? Is this a phrase you wanna use in reference to Obama?

Just asking.
I am listening to: My brain cells scream in agony
I am reading: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
And I am: Ready for Monday

Saturday, January 05, 2008

That New Hampshire moment

The Republican debate concludes and Charlie Gibson brings out the Democrats for a rare moment: All the major presidential candidates share the stage in New Hampshire.

It's smiles and hugs and asides all around.

"Wouldn't you love to know what they're saying to each other?" I say to Jim sitting next to me on the couch.

"I'm gonna kick your ass, you silly cunt. . .Fuck you, dickless. . .How does it feel to be beaten by a black man, asshole?"
I am listening to: The Democratic debate
I am reading: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
And I am: Giggly

Friday, January 04, 2008

A message from the dark side

First, a reading assignment for you:

Happy Introvert Day

Finally, someone explains the dark and mysterious world of introverts.

Finally, we have our holiday.

And I sure feel like celebratin'. Alone. With a good book, a cuddly blanket, and a Diet Pepsi.

My name is Hedy, and I am an introvert.

It doesn't mean I'm anti-social. It doesn't mean I don't like you and don't want to spend time with you.

It means that I'm better in small, couple-based situations versus large crowds. It means some days I just Don't Feel Like Talking. To anyone.

It means I need time alone to recharge. And if I don't get it, I become an Insufferable Bitch.
I really wish I'd written this: "Introverts crave meaning, so party chitchat feels like sandpaper to our psyche."

Diane Cameron is the woman who launched Introvert Day. Bless her solitary, dark heart. She'd be our Queen if all of us introverts actually thought we needed a leader.
"You? An insufferable bitch? Gee, Hed, that's hard to imagine."

"Fine. You don't want to spend time with us. Fine. We've got other friends. Fine. We'll never stop in again. Fine. We'll work off your Special Bitch Schedule."

Just a prediction.

If you're a friend or family member and you're thinking any of that right now, do me a favor would ya please? SHUT THE FUCK UP.

I've been an introvert my whole life and I know how/when to deal with overload.

Furthermore, if you've known me for more than a month, you know it, too. Because you've seen me shut down and disappear, not returning calls or e-mails. You also know that, like a stray mutt, I always come back around eventually.

Listen: One of the single greatest blessings of my life is that at any given moment, any number of friends, neighbors, kids, and pets might stop in for a visit. I love that. And there's no amount of alone time that could ever equal an unexpected afternoon with the people I love most.

I may be an introvert, but I'm not an idiot.
I am listening to: Nothing
I am reading: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
And I am: Quiet

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


There was the Year of Traveling Lightly. And 2007 was the Year of Making a Difference.

Now it’s YOM. The Year of Movement.

I have no idea what that means. Yet.

But I’ve been meditating on it since September and all I’m getting is movement. Something to do with movement.
move·ment n
1. an act of changing location or position
2. the way in which somebody or something moves
3. a collective effort by a large number of people to try to achieve something, especially a political or social reform
4. the people who organize themselves in order to achieve some political or social reform
5. the parts of a clock or watch mechanism that drive and regulate it
6. a change in the prices of traded securities
7. developments in the plot of a literary work
8. the illusion or suggestion of motion in a work of art, for example, a sculpture or painting
9. one of several self-contained sections that make up a large-scale musical work, often differentiated from one another by different tempos and characters
10. a tactical change in the position or location of a military unit
11. the cadence or rhythm of a piece of poetry
12. an act of emptying of the bowels, or the matter emptied.

Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
If we’re taking the movement theme at face value, it means I need to work out more. That’s a no brainer and I’ll do it. It always makes me feel better.

In my new industry, trade location is everything. All everyone cares about here is how the market is moving. I’m the only one who doesn’t.

In fact, it is all a big noisy distraction for someone like me who is mostly concerned with how well our customers are doing as traders and how that translates to marketing/sales opportunities. This means a) I will do really well here or b) I will fail miserably.

I haven’t figured it out yet.
How did YOMAD work out for ya, Hedy? Did you do everything you set out to do?

Nope. Not nearly as much as planned. I made a small difference in small ways to a small group of beings but not so much on a grander scale.

Maybe the Year of Movement means YOMAD continues into 2008. It’s certainly a great time to become involved somehow. There's a campaign headquarters for an extremely local candidate in the same strip mall as my chiropractor/tan/dry cleaner so I might give that whirl.

Because being involved is, after all, all about my convenience.
The literary definition of movement is interesting only because I am signing up for a fiction writing class at Northwestern. I am excited about taking a class purely for fun for the first time in my life. That will surely get my brain moving.

But somehow I think movement means something more this year.

It’s a mind/soul thing. A change in perspective maybe.

Of course I could be over thinking this whole thing and 2008 could be the Year of (the Bowel) Movement.

For your sake, I really hope not.
I am listening to: The Calling – Wherever You Will Go
I am reading: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
And I am: Ready to go