Thursday, June 29, 2006

Things you should never do with a sinus headache:

Airplane rides
Balloon animals
Barometric experiments
Clown-in-a-bucket circus acts
Decline bench presses
Down dog
Drum corps
French horns
Heavy lifting
Lace-up shoes
Navel gazing
Roller coasters
Self-administered pedicures
Tight hats
Trapeze practice
Vocal auditions
Weepy breakups

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Three little things

One. I finally found the perfect vase for the cactus clipping my friend Joanne gave me before she died. It’s small in size but huge in personality, with a beautiful color and a vibrant shine. I think she’d appreciate the metaphor. (I'd been holding out on repotting the clipping from its sad little cardboard vase because doing so made everything seem so final. But once I saw this vase smiling up at me from its display shelf I knew I was ready to celebrate her memory in glazed terra cotta. And it looks fabulous in my kitchen. Besides, it's nice to have her keep me company when I do the dishes.)

Two. My new running shoes have all but stopped giving me ankle and shin troubles—I ran 12 miles on Saturday with no problem, but last night’s 5-mile jaunt quickly devolved into a 2-mile walk of pain. And now one of the shoes has given me two blisters, one on each side of my right Achilles tendon. And for being so little, the damn blisters sure can cause a lot of pain. And blood. And they can quickly force you to realize how hard it is to take a picture of the back of your ankle. Especially a flattering picture of the back of your ankle.

Three. One of the curses that come with having a head of thick, luxurious hair is the fact that your hair is big enough and strong enough that it can do pretty much whatever it wants. Normal styling products are no match for my thick, luxurious mane, but I have found that Crew® Fiber™ Pliable Molding Creme holds it in place reasonably well. And since my hair is so short, it takes me a good six months to go through a container of the stuff.

Imagine my horror, then, when the last tub of Crew® Fiber™ Pliable Molding Creme available at my discount high-end hair salon last week had a label that wasn’t centered. As if I really have the emotional fortitude to spend the next six months performing my morning ablutions without the calming benefits of concentric circles.

Fortunately, I am a clever little kitty. And just as I was about to resign myself to living in the ghetto for the remainder of 2006, I realized I could put the concentric-circled lid from my old container of Crew® Fiber™ Pliable Molding Creme onto my new tub of Crew® Fiber™ Pliable Molding Creme. Check out the attached illustrated diagram for further clarification of this process.

And one big thing:
With the purchase of my dining room table last fall, I finally have all adult furniture in my house … except for my childhood desk, which I still use for storing stationery and pencils and other desky things and for playing on my computer. The desk doesn’t have rocket ships or bunnies on it, so there’s nothing that necessarily screams childhood about it, but it’s smallish in scale and a little precious in its 1970s neo-colonial detailing. It does everything I’d expect from a desk and it’s the perfect size for the space I have, though, so it seems silly to spend the money to replace it.

The desk includes a matching 1970s neo-colonial chair that has been slowly falling apart for the last decade. I’ve nailed and screwed and glued its broken parts back together repeatedly, but last night one of the legs snapped off (actually it wasn’t even that dramatic—the leg basically shrugged its little leg shoulders to show its complete indifference and quietly let go of the seat above it) in a way that just can’t be repaired. So now my precious 1970s neo-colonial desk has a mousy-gray folding chair in front of it, meaning I’m one tattoo and a meth habit away from marrying Britney Spears.

And the chair that’s cradled my butt through algebra problems, college applications, countless résumés and cover letters, endless free-lance projects, and four computers is now resting in peace at the bottom of the dumpster behind my building. But not before taking one last wobbly bow at my front door:

Monday, June 26, 2006

12 miles: a timeline

5:40 am Saturday. The alarm goes off. Swear words are muttered.

6:00 am. On the road to pick up my peeps and head to the south side for our training run. We normally run at Foster Beach, which is right outside my door, but another event there on Saturday pushed us down to somewhere in that completely foreign world south of the Loop. Which is great; new scenery = less boredom, especially on a long run.

6:45 am. Carbo load. Stretch. Pee. Rehydrate. Take a picture of New Running Buddy:

7:00 am. Announcements. Usually they’re about pledging updates and whose turn it is to bring treats next week. This week some barefoot man with a hippie beard also read a poem to us. A poem. To us. A poem inspired by the work of Rainer Maria Rilke, the effete, introverted inventor of the “object poem” who died (by some accounts) of an infection he got from pricking his finger on a rose. In short: the perfect inspiration for a group of endurance runners.

Here I am with NRB waiting patiently for the poem to end. My chin looks so fat here that my neck and head look like a thumb:

7:10ish am. Take off. Our route starts at 31st Street and heads north past Soldier Field, the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum all the way to Navy Pier, where we turn around and head back to 31st Street. But that is only eight miles. So we have to keep going two more miles south and head back to make 12 miles. The whole route gives us some breathtaking views of Chicago’s architectural landmarks and our beautiful skyline:

7:30ish am. Stop so the squirrel-bladdered in our group can pee. Make a face for Matthew’s camera while my camel bladder and I wait outside the restroom:

8:30ish am. Walk break. The AIDS Marathon training program has a run-walk component where we run for so many minutes and then walk for one minute. My pace groups does it at a 6:1 ratio. I thought I’d hate it, but I really kind of enjoy our short little walks; they theoretically help prevent injuries and they most definitely give us an opportunity to drink Gatorade without sloshing it all over ourselves:

9:15ish am. Cross the 12-mile line! Eat! Stretch! Eat some more! Eat even more! Pose for a picture:

10:30ish am. Post-run brunch. French toast dipped in corn flake crumbs. Mmm.

12:30 pm. Crash HARD. Sleep for four hours. Without even showering. Wake up in a pool of sweat and drool and the stench of my own exhaustion. Vow to boil the sheets before the neighbors call the police to report the smell of rotting flesh.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

What the hell do gay people
have to be proud of?

We’re proud because despite relentless persecution everywhere we turn—when organized religion viciously attacks and censures and vilifies us in the name of “morality,” when our families disown us, when our elected officials bargain away our equality for hate votes, when entire states vote us into second-class status, when our employers fire us, when our landlords evict us, when our police harass us, when our neighbors and colleagues and fellow citizens openly insult and condemn and mock and berate and even beat and kill us—we continue to survive.

We’re proud because pride is the opposite of shame—and despite what the Christian hate industry works so hard to make the world believe, there is nothing shameful about being gay.

We’re proud because more and more, we are able to live our lives openly and joyfully without fear of losing our jobs, losing our housing, losing our families and losing our lives.

We’re proud because we are smart enough to overcome the self-loathing that our increasingly venomous, mindlessly theocratic society forces on us, and we have the power to stop its destructive cycle by fighting back and by making intelligent choices involving sex and drugs and money and relationships and the way we live our lives.

We’re proud because after all we’ve been through, the world is starting to notice and respect us and emulate the often fabulous culture we’ve assembled from the common struggles and glorious diversity of our disparate lives.

We (and from this point on, I really mean “I” when I say “we”) are proud because we got up on Saturday at the ungodly hour of 5:40 to pick up our friends and get to the south side in time to eat and stretch and run 12 miles on what turned out to be a beautiful morning.

We're proud that our chorus show went off without a hitch, garnering two standing ovations in a row and many rounds of congratulations and high-fives.

We're proud that what had been an acrimonious relationship with our ex-boyfriend has quite suddenly reconciled itself into what feels like a very nice friendship.

We’re proud because we watched the World Cup AND the gay pride parade today with our New Running Buddy and his friends and we feel all butch and worldly and somehow culturally balanced now. And even after our 100th sweaty drag queen and our 200th sweaty attitude queen and our 500th drunken crack-whore queen, we could still see through the “pride” in the parade and enjoy the underlying Pride in the parade.

We're proud because when we were asked to dance shirtless on a float with a bunch of models and muscleboys, we had the presence of mind to know that while we may posess some physical charms, we would look ridiculous dancing all exposed next to people who make a living off their near-unattainable beauty. But we still got a little thrill out of being asked.

We’re proud that we enjoyed our mimosas and lychee martinis and cinnamon rolls and assorted junk foods in moderation today so we are able to climb into bed tonight not feeling fat and sick and full of regret.

Quite simply, we’re proud that we have so much to be proud of.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

How many basses does it take
to change a lightbulb?


No, four.

No, five.

No, one.

Even if you don’t get music humor, you’ll definitely get goosebumps at the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus concert this Friday and Saturday. We’re singing an all-Sondheim program packed with some of my favorite music of all time:

Not a Day Goes By, a declaration of love tempered by the resignation of fate that is so poignant and beautiful and achingly earnest that it’s easily my favorite song Sondheim’s ever written.

Losing My Mind, a heartbreaking torch song of lost love and melting composure. Packed with beautiful imagery and well-timed money notes. Easily my favorite song Sondheim’s ever written.

Our Time, a song of hope and friendship and love that can fill me with euphoria as it reduces me to tears. Easily my favorite song Sondheim’s ever written.

You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow / Love Will See Us Through, an intricate four-part tapestry of defeat and dissatisfaction in the name of love, woven in wonderfully discordant counterpoint. Easily my favorite song Sondheim’s ever written.

Sunday, a musical painting that translates George Seurat’s pointillist visual techniques into an aural canvas of transcendent color and light. Easily my favorite song Sondheim’s ever written.

You will kick yourself if you miss this concert. Mostly because you’ll miss out on my Tony-worthy choreography involving hand gestures, head tilts and facial expressions. (When you pack 80+ guys on risers there’s not a lot of room for battements and intricate port de bras.)

You’ll find all the details here, but I recommend buying your tickets at the door so you don’t get spanked by Ticketmaster.

Miss this concert? Everybody says don’t.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What have you been doing the last 20 years?

My 20-year high-school reunion (ACK! When did I get so old?) is next month. I’m supposed to supply a little bio for the reunion booklet, which I can purchase for $3 (plus $5 if I want it mailed to me).

I should point out that I am in regular (meaning we exchange holiday letters) contact with exactly two people from my graduating class. I was shy and dorky and (in my mind, at least) somewhere between ignored and unpopular on the high-school social continuum—though I bet 80% of all high-school students put themselves in the same place, which would make for a pretty bottom-heavy continuum. I just love saying continuum. It’s like vacuum, but with more syllables. And more nerd cred. Plus, I totally just said bottom.

I wandered off topic. Imagine that. What was my point here? Oh, yeah: I have had all but zero contact with anyone from my graduating class in the last 20 years. So a big part of me couldn’t care less about this reunion. I’m not curious to know what anyone has been up to. I don’t feel the need to update anyone on my life. I know from my 10-year reunion (where I was just getting over the flu, so the whole weekend was kind of a fog) that the boys I had crushes on in high school are definitely straight … and not so cute anymore. And I obviously don’t have anyone to go to the reunion with, so if I go I’ll be wading into an ocean of long-dormant high-school paranoia all by myself.


But there’s something compelling about being asked to sum up your adult life in a neat little paragraph. (And hell, they didn’t even specify a word count. Maybe I should submit my whole blog. THEN let’s see them try to afford publishing a reunion book for only $3 apiece plus $5 postage.) So I wrote this:

* * * fanfare! dramatic lighting! * * *

What I’ve been doing the last 20 years
I found a job writing advertising copy soon after I graduated from the University of Iowa with my English degree and my shattered med-school dreams. It was just a placeholder job until I figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up, but now it’s 16 years later and I’m still here. After working in Cedar Rapids for 10 years, I moved to Chicago in 2000 and became an associate creative director at a big glamorous agency. It’s all very Darrin Stevens and Lynette Scavo, except without the witchcraft and bad creative. I did a ton of shows at Theatre Cedar Rapids and the Paramount when I lived in Iowa, and now I’m performing with and choreographing for the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. I started running about 10 years ago because I was terrified of getting old and fat and living alone with seven cats, and now I’m addicted. I’ve done two Pigman Triathlons and one half marathon so far, and I’m currently training for my third Chicago Marathon. And I’m too busy to be alone and I don’t have room for a litterbox in my overpriced Chicago one-bedroom, so I think I’ve successfully dodged THAT bullet. Dying to know more? Check out

* * * awkward bow! thunderous applause! * * *

Whaddya think? Trying too hard? Too braggy? Too wordy? Too boring? Dare I out myself so brazenly to 433 present and former Iowans (plus spouses) I haven’t seen in 20 years? Or should I maybe add more braggy stuff? Like this: Look at all I’ve accomplished, people! National ad campaigns! Industry awards! Seven skydives! 40 lbs more muscle than when you saw me last! Profiles in Chicago and Genre magazines! Letters published in every major newsmagazine and Hints from Heloise! Three tattoos! I once met Whoopi Goldberg! Back when she was famous! I was employee of the month! Twice! I can tie a bowtie! And drive a stick shift! And fold a fitted sheet! And make éclairs from scratch! And I can still fit in my high-school jeans! Not that I’d ever want to! But I can! And I bet you can’t! Because I still have all my own hair! Except there’s a bunch of it growing out of my shoulders now! But that’s gross so I won’t bring it up!

WHEW. I’m all bragged out.

Anyway, at this writing I’m not planning on attending my reunion. But I guess I’m not opposed to sending along a little blurb about myself. But only because it’s already written. And only once I get approval from every last one of my readers.

You have 10 minutes. Go.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Weekend adventures: the recap

See the post below for my pre-weekend schedule, with all its promise of fun and adventure and maybe even the opportunity to shoot Dick Cheney in the face. Then read this post to see how everything turned out.

4:30ish. Haircut.
Enter Joyce DeWitt. Exit Jake, Man with Hair from the 21st Century.

7:30. Dinner with the most random bunch of guys ever. Not what I’d expected. Three of our eight didn’t show up. I got there first and secured us a table outside, which meant that every breeze showered us with little flowery bits of tree poop. But I had a cosmo with pineapple vodka that went down as easy as melted tropical-fruit Jell-O. It was probably the fifth martini I’ve ever ordered, and definitely the first one I finished. I think I even got a tiny little buzz off it. But dinner was so disappointing (I’ve seen human toes bigger than the steak my friend Matt got) that we went down the street to Melrose Diner for our dessert. Which was actually pretty delicious.

7:00. AIDS Marathon training.
10 miles. In the heat. I didn’t do so well in the last two miles (I run in the heat as easily as I can say “Our country is in good hands with President Bush in charge” without giggling), but my team made it. And nobody died.

Here’s a pic of us being goofy (and frighteningly misshapen and unphotogenic) at the 5-mile turnaround:

And here’s a pic of us celebrating in the shade at the finish line. Nothing says happiness like not dying on a sweaty 10-mile run:

10:00ish. Breakfast. The AIDS Marathon organizers provided tons of finish-line fruit and bagels and other snacks after our run. But five of us went to Stella’s Diner in Boystown afterward and also gorged on one giant breakfast each PLUS a giant plate of berry pancakes we all shared. Because when you run insane amounts of miles in the heat, you can eat anything you want.

Noonish. Something fun I don’t want to blog about just yet. Now I’m ready. But let me start by saying “fun” is relative. Because getting a tattoo (I got a tattoo!) hurts more than Tom DeLay’s brain on Find Your Dignity Day. George and I had been thinking about getting tattoos since before we met, and we’d been talking about it incessantly since we became friends. So a couple weeks ago I announced we were getting them on June 17 (in keeping with my well-established tradition of getting tattoos on the day before or after a major or minor holiday). We marked our calendars, nailed down exactly what we wanted to get (see this post for my only-a-little-bit-clumsy Photoshop rendering) and marched into the tattoo place on Saturday armed with printed artwork, credit cards and the warm feeling that since I’d found free street parking we could keep getting tattoos all day and I’d never have to run out and plug a meter.

And despite the pain (and the fact that I had to hold my arms above my head for a whole hour to keep my 38-year-old canvas taut and my hands fell asleep so bad that they actually hurt worse than the needle) our tats turned out pretty freakin’ cool.

Here’s George's Gothic/Victorian/Kick-Ass design, whose significance I’ll let him explain on his own time in his own blog if he ever feels the need:

And here’s my awesome, a-bit-larger-than-I’d-anticipated-but-there's-nothing-I-can-do-about-it-now new tat, which so far has never missed the litterbox.

Fun fact: The tattoo parlor image library didn’t have the tiger I was looking for, but it had a black panther in the pose I wanted. So the tattoo artist traced the panther outline on me and free-handed the tiger stripes and coloring on his own. I can’t even draw crooked lines, so I’m more than a little impressed (and profoundly relieved) by his talent.

These pix were taken fewer than 24 hours after the tats were finished and bandaged up in what looked like sanitary napkins bought in bulk for heavy-flow days at the camel sorority. So they’re still pink and red and discolored and slightly bloody (and weepy in my case, which makes the tiger look like he just emerged from the sauna). So please withhold your critical analysis until they have a couple weeks to heal—and I have time to realize that HOLY SHIT! I JUST GOT A GIANT TRASHY TATTOO IN MY UNDERPANTS REGION!

8:00. Dinner with Matthew and Todd and George. It was lovely. We added George's friend Shaine to the guest list at the last minute, so I had to use one of my ghetto folding chairs, which totally don’t match the dining-room set. But I didn’t burn anything. And nobody died. So I chalk up the evening as a grand success.

11:00. Photo shoot.
My fledgling photographer friend Drew is doing a photo series on the theme of passion and he’s invited a bunch of his friends to model for him, so I packed up my knitting running gear and George packed up his giant kitten outfit yoga gear and we headed over to have our passions recorded on digital film. But we didn’t have the time we thought we’d have—and our oozing tats proved to be too interesting to pass up—so we spent two hours recording them on film instead (see above). Drew is also experimenting with color and light and composition, and he took some totally cool portraits of us together (like the one below, which turned out totally cool in a hug-your-friend-shirtless kind of way):

2:00. Seven-hour chorus rehearsal. We got through everything in six hours—including admiring my new tattoo, which I somehow managed to show to everyone in the room. (Did I mention I got a new tattoo? I GOT A NEW TATTOO! IN MY UNDERPANTS REGION!) The show is gonna be spectacular. Get your tickets here.

Friday, June 16, 2006

This weekend’s schedule:

4:30ish. Haircut.
I’m feeling kinda shaggy.

7:30. Dinner with the most random bunch of guys ever. New Running Buddy and a friend of his and I had eaten at a Corner Bakery over Memorial Day weekend, and we ended up sitting next to a guy I used to know way back when we both lived in Iowa. He was eating with his kinda BF and a friend of theirs and they were all pretty hot so we pushed our tables together and spent the next two hours having a delightful dinner party. We all exchanged business cards, and I decided a week later that we should have a Corner Bakery reunion, only at someplace nicer than Corner Bakery. So we all cleared our schedules for tonight, and we’re having a foo-foo dinner at a foo-foo restaurant in Boystown. Only my friend from Iowa suddenly canceled today. And his two friends haven’t gotten back to me for sure to say they’re coming. And my friend Matt just called to see what I was doing tonight, so I invited him. The randomness continues.

7:00. AIDS Marathon training.
We’re running 10 miles. It’s supposed to get up to the 90s, which is a welcome relief from the arctic monsoon conditions we ran in last Saturday. And I’m PSYCHED.

10:00ish. Breakfast. The best part of AIDS Marathon training is going out for food afterward with everyone. (Current diner we’re loving: Stella’s on Broadway.) My running group rocks. So do the hangers-on from the other groups who eat with us and who secretly resent us for being the coolest running group in the history of marathon training. Their jealousy is touching.

Noonish. Something fun I don’t want to blog about just yet. But there will be pictures!

8:00. Dinner with Matthew and Todd and NRB. It’s my turn to host. And to cook. And I probably should clean a little too. So nobody gets ptomaine. Which is probably more fun to spell than to have.

11:00. Photo shoot.
(I sound like a total supermodel when I say that!) A friend of mine is an amateur photographer, and he has some kind of assignment for a class he’s taking and he wants me and NRB to be his models. He has enough disposable income that he’s set up an entire studio in his house, so with real lights and real cameras, the photos should turn out pretty cool. I have no idea what the theme of his project is (butterflies in motion? the working poor? skin lesions and firearms?), but knowing him I’m pretty sure we’ll end up with our shirts off.

2:00. Seven-hour chorus rehearsal. Which sounds worse than it is. Our show is next weekend. It’s packed full of Sondheim. It’s gonna be gorgeous. Get your tickets here.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Angry bus driver!

So I was wedged into the 147 last night, heading up Lake Shore Drive with 539 other Chicagoans. It was a beautiful evening, and I was half an hour from meeting New Running Buddy for our regular Wednesday run and dinner.

We were making good time when we suddenly screeched to a stop with horns a-blaring just south of the Belmont exit, which is habitually backed up sometimes a whole mile after work and on summer weekends. We were one lane over, which means last night’s backup shouldn’t have affected us, but Retarded Cab Driver in front of us apparently decided to stop cold and try to squeeze into the exit lane at the last possible minute.

Angry Bus Driver, who until this moment had just been Quiet, Unremarkable Bus Driver, was not pleased, and he sat on his horn for what felt like a good two minutes. Then he inched up to the point he was practically on the cab.

Then, as Retarded Cab Driver managed to squeeze into the exit lane and we started to squeeze around him, Angry Bus Driver opened his door, which I thought was just to facilitate standard driver-on-driver verbal abuse. But I overestimated Angry Bus Driver’s impulse control. Because as we passed Retarded Cab Driver, Angry Bus Driver threw what looked to be a gallon of water out the bus door and into Retarded Cab Driver’s open window. I have no clue where the water came from—I know if I were driving a lengthy bus shift I wouldn’t keep enough water on hand to necessitate building a Hoover Dam in my pants, and I didn’t see any window washers or clown-in-a-bucket circus acts in the front few rows—but Angry Bus Driver obviously had a lot of water at his disposal. And deadly aim.

Of course, the 539 other people on the bus just shrugged and went back to their reading/iPods/conversations/window gazing/surreptitious farting. Which is probably for the best—road rage is like Mary Cheney; if you acknowledge it and buy its book, it starts to get delusions of relevance. Besides, if you interrupt people’s bus farting, you make the commute more enjoyable. And nobody wants that.

Anyway, soon enough I was home and changed and pounding out seven miles with NRB. We were gonna do only five, but we felt great at the turnaround so we just kept going—and I wore the shoes I’d run last year’s marathon in, so I didn’t have any of that crushing shin and ankle pain that my new shoes have been causing me.

It was my turn to cook this week, and since I’m getting a little more confident in the kitchen I just made up a recipe on the spot: chicken breasts stuffed with a puree of spinach, garlic, feta and mozzarella and covered in olive oil and parmesan and baked with a bunch of cute little tomatoes; three-cheese biscuits (three-cheese motif!); steamed green beans; and nutmeg-sprinkled custard for dessert. Why am I telling you all this? I have no idea. But it was damn good.

And after a long run with a great guy, nothing beats cheese and breasts and custard. And a menu that requires semicolons.

Dude. I totally just said colon.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Cool things that have happened to me this week

I bought my new computer on May 10, and it came with a free printer of my choice (after mail-in rebate, of course). I finally got around to unpacking and setting up my new printer this weekend, and it is sweet. Not only does it print, but it scans and copies and resizes and prints photos directly from the camera and switches effortlessly between black and white and color … and it probably thaws chicken breasts and performs low-cost abortions and writes scathing retorts to whatever santorum drools out of Ann Coulter’s mouth every week, but I haven’t read that far in the manual yet.

I had some pretty expensive ($1,000+) dental work done in January, and I found out after the fact that 1) my creepy (now ex-) dentist had bullied me into getting a more expensive procedure than I really needed and 2) my dental insurance had a pretty common exclusion against that expensive, unnecessary procedure. So I ended up with about $100 in coverage. Ouch. And when I called my insurance company and my creepy (now ex-) dentist to see what could be done about it, I got the old “we’ll look into it for you” runaround from both of them. Except it wasn’t runaround! Someone actually looked into it for me—and even managed to fix the problem! Many, many months after the fact, I got a check for $360 this week from my insurance company, along with an explanatory letter that cited “new information” about my dental work. But even if that new information came from my creepy (now ex-) dentist, I’m still not going back to him. Not even if he takes an anger-management class and shaves off his booshy moostache. Because that man touched my teeth.

I had another board meeting tonight for the nonprofit organization I’m board-membering on. This time it was at a very wealthy man’s very fabulous highrise in a downtown gated community that we all decided had piped-in flower-scented air because we smelled fabulous flowers all along the sidewalk, but we never saw any flowers anywhere we walked. And when I got inside and poked around to check out our host’s fabulous digs, I found little to-deal-with piles of bills and reading materials and knickknacks lying around in practically every room. Just like in my house. Which means, of course, that I’m living a very wealthy lifestyle on a middle-class income. Except without the breathtaking view. Or the 3,000 square feet of living space, plus balconies. Or the piped-in flower-scented air along my sidewalk.

Some of the cool kids on the board invited me to join them for half-price martinis at the Kit Kat Lounge after the meeting tonight. And I’m not exaggerating when I call them kids; they were all between 9 and 12 years younger than I am. On the plus side, we sat outside under a canopy of light-wrapped trees and enjoyed a beautiful evening together. And the kids were all fun … and extremely cute. And when I got up to leave (because some of us are almost 40 and we need our rest) and hug them goodbye, two of them totally copped a feel. Two of them. And nothing makes an older man feel sexier than a cute young guy’s wandering hands. On the minus side, though, every conversation—and I’m not exaggerating here: every conversation—we had tonight eventually landed on a kid’s story involving 1) drinking, 2) getting drunk, 3) passing out from being drunk and/or 4) puking from being drunk. And I had this weird paranoia all night that I'd developed a nose-hair problem, which is all but impossible to monitor in public without looking gravely suspicious. Good thing we were drinking in the dark. On the plus side again, though, the kids insisted on paying for my half-price, not-quite-half-finished French martini. And nothing makes a cheap older man feel sexier than cute young guys who cop a feel and pick up the tab.

There’s one more cool thing that happened to me in the last week that totally trumps the previous four cool things. It leaves me giddy and giggling like a schoolgirl with Jell-O in her bra. It gives me a sense of calm and purpose, like a napping kitten (a purposeful napping kitten, in the interest of keeping the metaphor from sounding toooo random) but without all the butt fur. It makes me want to sing show tunes on the bus. (Wait. I always want to sing show tunes on the bus.) It makes me want to be a better man. But you’re gonna have to fill in the blanks yourselves until I feel I’m ready to cough up more details. (You're free to guess, of course—that's the whole point of teasing you with vague details—but unless you're one of the tiny handful of people I've talked to about it directly, your best guess is still going to be only about a third correct.) In the mean time, I have to go make more Jell-O. The batch in my bra is getting all melty.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Ho. Ly. Shit.

Summer in Chicago has come and gone, and my AIDS Marathon group got up at 6:30 yesterday morning to run eight miles in freezing* rain. In the middle of June.

*How cold was it? When my shoe came untied in mile six, I couldn't make my fingers work well enough to retie it. In fact, the useless stumps I used to call hands didn't start demonstrating rudimentary dexterity again until a good hour after I got home and crawled back into bed.

The freezing-rain-in-June thing was especially ironic because I saw An Inconvenient Truth, the Al Gore documentary about global warming (Global warming, my frozen-fingered ass. [Wait. That came out wrong.]), Friday night with David and Alex and Bob, the latter of whom has been woefully lax in keeping up with my blog. Frozen-fingered irony notwithstanding, the movie is pretty interesting ... for what is essentially an hour and a half of footage of Gore giving a PowerPoint seminar to a bunch of concerned citizens. (And all for the low, low ticket price of $9.50 plus dinner and parking!)

Anyway, cold and rain and sickness and a planned vacation by New Running Buddy shrunk our group to six (from what seems to be averaging out to a total of twelve) yesterday morning. But we got two new people we weren't expecting, so we were able to keep up appearances in front of the other running groups.

Here is a lovely picture of our forzen corpses, plucked fresh from the Titanic wreckage after our run:

Of course, the skies cleared and the sun came out just like that stupid little red-haired girl predicted (though the temperature never got above what you'd expect in maybe late March) soon after we all thawed ourselves. And even though nobody wanted to go to breakfast after our run (the pussies!), I was able to gorge myself on chicken kebabs with some friends at the Andersonville street fair yesterday afternoon and then cheesy enchiladas and sopapillas at a fabulous little Mexican restaurant (whose name totally escapes me at the moment) with my friend Patrick last night.

And any day that ends with sopapillas is a good day in my book. Even if I can't use my fingers to eat them.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A run in my weekend

Here’s my AIDS Marathon running group after last week’s 7-mile training run. My friend Matthew (second from right) is perhaps the BEST team leader in the history of team leading. Not only is he preternaturally perky—even at six fucking thirty in the morning on a Saturday—but he remembers everyone’s names and he cheers on the other running groups as we leave them choking in our dust, and he brings his camera every week to record our smiling faces and our sweaty, stinking bodies.

But what is up with my posture in this picture? It looks like I got my running bra hooked in the waistband of my pantyhose. And don’t get me started on my doughy white legs. The 225-lb squats are definitely adding bulk down there, but I gotta get me some of that ripped, veiny action going on if I’m gonna get the chicks. Of course, I had just run seven miles at probably the worst day of my eight-days-and-counting cold, so cut me some slack, willya?

See the shoes I’m wearing? They’re Brooks Adrenalines, the shoes I got custom-fitted for two marathons ago. They’re the shoes I’ve been buying over and over every 100 miles right off the rack with no problems whatsoever—they’ve never needed breaking in and they’ve never given me any pain. Until now. This is the fifth pair I’ve bought, and for some reason these new shoes are doing CRIPPLING things to my ankles and shins.

Of course, the problem could be in my pasty-white grandma legs or my human-question-mark posture, so I’m not gonna send the people at Brooks a cigar box full of human fingers just yet. (Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when your shoes don’t fit? I missed that episode of The Sopranos, so I’m never sure.)

Oh—and my New Running Buddy I’ve been spending so much time with lately? He’s the handsome fella right next to me. The one whose legs don’t look like they belong on a Biedermeier piano.

(P.S. Feel free to click on that red square under my mugshot and sponsor me—if not for the AIDS Foundation then at least for the Society for the Prevention of Questionable Posture.)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Midterm Election Initiatives

It’s an election year, and instead of tackling issues of substance and relevance and actual importance to the electorate, our humble public servants are discussing: the “threat” of gay marriage. Again. Even though there’s nothing threatening about it. Even though an anti-gay marriage amendment has no chance in hell of getting passed.

So since we seem to have education, healthcare, the economy, the war, our out-of-control theocracy and even the fact that Karl Rove should never wear corduroy pants under control in the months before a midterm election, I’m proposing a handful of common-sense bills that should be debated (minimally) and passed (unanimously) to fill our elected officials’ copious amounts of free time between now and November:

The Bathroom Privacy Amendment
All public restrooms must be equipped with poorly installed exhaust fans that make enough noise to mask the sounds of human bodily functions, splashing and errant humming.

The Upson-Downs Act
Elevator buttons must toggle on and off each time they’re pushed, allowing clumsy people a second chance if they hit a wrong button and punishing impatient people who think pushing a button repeatedly will somehow make an elevator appear more quickly.

The One-Smack Amnesty Act
United States citizens are allowed one act of hand-to-face violence per day toward a deserving person of their choice. Smackable offenses include (but are not limited to):
• loud and/or irritating cell-phone ringtones
• waddling slowly down the center of a busy sidewalk
• pushing elevator buttons repeatedly in the assumption you will make an elevator appear faster
• being Tom Cruise
• being Pat Robertson
• being on a reality TV show
• being that fifth dentist who doesn’t recommend Trident
• being one of the 28% of people who still give Dubya a favorable rating
• being Nick Lachey and not once appearing at my door in a towel demanding that I kiss you
• saying “dude” without the proper amount of irony
• thinking even for a second that there’s something wrong with gay people or our desire to marry
• thinking the pope looks like anything but a Disney villain
• purchasing or displaying Precious Moments figurines
• using quotes for no discernible reason in your writing
• keeping a hidden folder of shirtless Kevin Federline pix on your computer
• writing silly blog posts to hide the fact you have nothing of real interest to say
• wearing bangs
• giggling when you say “Nelly Furtado”
• humming in public restrooms

Monday, June 05, 2006

The benefits of being sick

You sound really macho on the phone.

You can put in an unproductive day at work and people will thank you just for coming in.

Seven words: Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese Meal, Please. And in your sicky state of mind you can honestly convince yourself that your fever will burn off the excess calories and fat.

You are all but expected to knock yourself unconscious each night with the drugs typically found in a rural meth lab.

You have newfound empathy for the chronically ill and the underinsured. Unless you’re too busy saving the world from the horrors of gay marriage.

You get to talk about the color of your snot with the nice lady at the doctor’s office. And if you’re lucky, you get to show her your butt. (Don’t believe her about the “little pinch” though.)

Since you know you won’t be making out with any supermodels (even if they ask, which they never do, the bitches) you don’t have to waste your time doing any of those little grooming “extras” like shaving your knuckles. Or wearing fancy underpants. Or brushing your teeth. Or putting on deodorant. Or letting your scabs heal.

Important distinction is the URL for a free Microsoft email service. Type it in your browser window and you’ll get a login page with lots of blue on it. And no red flags for your company IT department. is the URL for an escort site. Type it in your browser window and you’ll get a page featuring a giant womanbutt with a thong strap in its crack. You’ll also get a picture of two women in spandex dresses and overprocessed hair posed awkwardly at a bar. So if your company IT department isn’t horrified by the thongy womanbutt on your work computer, it will definitely be talking to you about viewing cheap stock photography with bad composition and ’80s-prom-slut clichés.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Being sick sucks ass.

I’ve had a 50-kleenex-a-day cold since Thursday morning, and I’m feeling quite sexy with my red nose and my hacking cough and my drool-stained pillows and my dragon breath. Somebody kiss me!

And even though my stuffy nose is waking me up every two hours with the threat of suffocation, I’ve gotten more sleep this weekend than I’ve had cumulatively in the last month. I managed to wake up at 6:30 on Saturday to run seven miles with the AIDS Marathon folks and then even go out to brunch with everyone afterward. But when I got home I crashed hard for a couple hours. Then I met my new running buddy (hi, new running buddy!) for a beach picnic with some of his friends, where I promptly became all antisocial and fell asleep again (thankfully under a protective coating of SPF 45).

After a brief detour to H2O+ where we stocked up on sale spa products, NRB and I got ourselves all cleaned up and he joined me and my friends for a rather disappointing dinner (cold food, clueless wait staff, no silverware, loud music) at a Mexican place not far from my house—a Mexican place that will hereafter be known as The Place Jake Had His First Margarita. (The verdict: yawn. I drank almost a whole glass, and I do not get the appeal of a beverage that tastes like lime Windex. Though I do know if I ever order one again it won’t be with salt.)

But my cold was not being my friend, and even after two power naps and an invigorating run I was pretty wiped, so after dinner we left my friends and had a quiet little nightcap together at a dessert place down the street, then I dropped NRB off with his friends again and headed home to bed, where I proceeded to sleep for a whopping 14 full-drool hours (minus a few suffocation breaks).

Unfortunately, I woke up at noon today—the exact time I’d promised to be at work to help put out a client fire. Fortunately, it’s a Sunday, so what the hell do I care if I’m late for work? I got all showered and steam-sinused and to my desk by 1:30, where I’ve been hacking and coughing and ostensibly working for the last six hours—with two more hours until I call it a day and meet Matt at IHOP for our Sunday-night fat-and-calorie ritual.

Apparently, though, I made too much of a fuss about being all sick and miserable today, because everyone at work was all “poor Jake” and “I’m sorry you have to work on a weekend when you’re sick” and “don’t touch my computer with your pestilent paws, you vile Typhoid Mary”—and sometimes all that pity is a little more nauseating than the cold itself.

The client fire is due to be put out by EOD Tuesday, so if I can hang onto my cold that long I can really stretch out the enjoyment of this unique combination of suffering.

Then on Wednesday, NRB and I have our regularly scheduled running-and-cooking date.

Oops. Did I just say date?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Brave new world

Somewhere in the last few days, I found the holy grail sought by every self-absorbed respecting blogger in the universe: 200,000 visitors! Or 200,000 hits from 500 visitors. Or maybe just 200,000 hits from me obsessively checking to see how many comments and hits I’ve gotten. I honestly never found out what actually makes the hit counts go up—unique hits or repeat visits or some esoteric blend of the two—but I’m now officially in the 200,000 club.

So yay, me. Woo-hoo. Party on. Have some dip.

Whew. Now that that’s out of my system, I can finally tell you why my pee stinks so bad today.

I did my weekly Wednesday night run with my new running buddy last night, see, only this time we left from his house in Boystown and he took me on a seven-mile (I was planning on running only five, and today it feels like seven might even be a conservative estimate) loop through cool old rich-people parts of Chicago I’d never explored. So not only was it new and exciting and different, but it was beautiful as well. (Fact: Rich people have nicer houses than you.)

And since we left from his house, it was his turn to make dinner afterward. And since I’m still very much a novice in the kitchen, I watched and learned as he cooked.

The things I learned:
• You can crush garlic with the blade of a knife. (I’ve always been hand-peeling it.)
• You can sautée chicken before you bake it. (This had never really occurred to me; I’ve always just baked it.)
Roux is fun to say. And impossible to research on google until you know the proper spelling, which I got from alert reader Mike after I made this post with the wrong spelling. The culinary arts will now roux the day I learned this word.
• Asparagus isn’t as gross as I remember. In fact, the asparagus he made last night was delicious. I’ve never really loved asparagus, so I can’t honestly remember when I last ate it—though I’d guess it’s been a good five years.

After dinner, we retired to his couch so he could show me his favorite movie: Girls will be Girls, which features all-drag females, candy-colored sets and costumes, the occasional shirtless slab of manbeef, and wholesome, family-friendly lines like “I’ve had more children pulled out of me than a burning orphanage.”

And when I woke up this morning, my dehydrated-runner-who-ate-asparagus pee smelled so bad it actually made me gag a little. Not to the point of throwing up in the back of my throat—which is the imagery all the bloggers were using a few seasons ago—but it smelled bad enough to knock a buzzard off a shit wagon, and I definitely made gagging sounds as I watched its caustic effluvium float out of my toilet and send paint peeling off my walls, underpants gnomes scampering for safety and Pat Robertson racing to his camera crew to publicly blame the gays for the ensuing carnage.

And that, my friends, is the kind of classy, high-minded, appropriate-for-every-audience writing that has kept you coming back for 200,000 hits.

All seven of you.